science + technology news

Could the net become self-aware?

May 1, 2009

“The Internet behaves a fair bit like a mind,” says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute. “It might already have a degree of consciousness…. The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful Internet mind develops.”

If the effort that has gone into developing social networking sites goes into developing Internet consciousness, it could happen within a decade,… read more

Could synthetic fuels eliminate entire US need for crude oil, create ‘new economy’?

December 7, 2012

Graphical representation of the locations of selected facilities for 50% replacement of petroleum fuels. The facilities are represented by dark brown circles with corresponding sizes. The amounts of coal, biomass, and natural gas feedstock in the United States are represented by the proposed color scheme in the map legend. (Credit: Josephine A. Elia, Richard C. Baliban, and Christodoulos A. Floudas/Princeton University)

The U.S. could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas, and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton researchers has found.

Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse emissions by as much as 50 percent in… read more

Could stretching a thin crystal create a better solar cell?

Stretched molybdenum disulfide crystal could absorb more solar energy than conventional solar-cell materials
June 26, 2015

This colorized image shows an ultra thin layer of semiconductor material stretched over the peaks and valleys of part of a device the size of a pinkie nail. Just three atoms thick, this semiconductor layer is stretched in ways enhance its electronic potential to catch solar energy. The image is enlarged 100,000 times. (credit: Hong Li, Stanford Engineering)

Stanford University researchers have stretched an atomically thin Molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) semiconductor crystal to achieve a variable bandgap (defined as the amount of energy it takes to move an electron in a material).

That could lead to solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun by being sensitive to a broader spectrum of light, and could also find applications in next-generation optoelectronics.

Crystalline semiconductors like silicon… read more

Could stem cells repair damaged cones in retinas, allowing for daylight color vision?

Yet another awesome zebrafish story.
February 4, 2013

Zebrafish cone photoreceptor mosaic (credit: Brittany Fraser et al./PLOS ONE

University of Alberta (UA) researchers have discovered that a zebrafish’s stem cells can selectively regenerate its damaged photoreceptor cells.

UA lead researcher Ted Allison says that for some time geneticists have known that stem cells in zebrafish can replace damaged vision cells.

Rods and cones are the most important photoreceptors. In humans, rods provide us with night vision while cones give us… read more

Could ‘solid’ light compute previously unsolvable problems?

An "artificial atom" makes photons behave like exotic matter
September 12, 2014

Oscillations of photons create an image of frozen light. At first, photons in the experiment flow easily between two superconducting sites, producing the large waves shown at left. After a time, the scientists cause the light to 'freeze,' trapping the photons in place. Fast oscillations on the right of the image are evidence of the new trapped behavior. (Credit: Princeton University)

Researchers at Princeton University have “crystallized” light. They are not shining light through crystal — they are actually transforming light into crystal, as part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors.

The researchers locked together photons so that they became fixed in place. “It’s something that we have never seen before,” said Andrew Houck, an associate professor of electrical engineering and… read more

Could smart traffic lights stop motorists fuming?

February 13, 2008

Romanian and US researchers have shown that future “smart” traffic lights that wirelessly keep track of vehicles might reduce the time drivers spend waiting at intersections by more than 28% during rush hours.

Could ‘smart skin’ made of recyclable materials transform medicine and robotics?

How to create sophisticated sensors in your kitchen with aluminum foil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges and a $25 computer
February 19, 2016

smart skin disposable pH sensor-ft

Here’s a challenge: using only low-cost materials available in your house (such as aluminum foil, pencil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges), build sensitive sensors (“smart skin”) for detecting temperature, humidity, pH, pressure, touch, flow, motion, and proximity (at a distance of 13 cm). Your sensors must show reliable and consistent results and be capable of connecting to low-cost, tiny computers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi devices.

The… read more

Could robots become ‘aware’ of their own limitations?

April 3, 2013

(credit: Allegra Boverman and Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT researchers have developed software for robots that enables them to be more “aware” of their own limitations, such as knowing the whereabouts of an object, or its own location within a room.

Most successful robots today tend to be used either in fixed, carefully controlled environments, such as manufacturing plants, or for performing fairly simple tasks such as vacuuming a room,

But carrying out complicated sequences… read more

Could PTSD be cured by sleep-based therapies?

October 19, 2012

The_Scream

Traumatic memories can be manipulated in sleeping mice to reduce their fearful responses during waking hours.  The finding, announced by  Stanford University researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, suggests that sleep-based therapies could provide new options for treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Nature News Blog reports.

Currently, one of the most common treatments for PTSD requires the… read more

Could plasma light extend Moore’s law?

July 2, 2012

uw_plasma

University of Washington lab says it can produce light with enough power to be used in manufacturing microchips.

The lab has been working for more than a decade on fusion energy, harnessing the energy-generating mechanism of the sun.

But in one of the twists of scientific discovery, on the way the researchers found a potential solution to a looming problem in the electronics industry.

“To… read more

Could nanowires be the LEDs of the future?

June 25, 2015

(a) Sketch of an LED nanowire showing the onion-like structure of the layers; (b) Finite element method simulation of strain distribution (credit: Tomas Stankevic, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen)

LEDs made from nanowires with an inner core of gallium nitride (GaN) and a outer layer of indium-gallium-nitride (InGaN) — both semiconductors — use less energy and provide better light, according Robert Feidenhans’l, professor and head of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

The studies were performed using nanoscale X-ray microscopy in the electron synchrotron at DESY in Hamburg, Germany.… read more

Could nanomachines be tomorrow’s doctors?

April 29, 2004

Scientists have built a tiny biological computer made of DNA that might be capable of medical diagnosis and treatment.

The biocomputer senses abnormal messenger RNAs produced by genes involved in certain types of lung and prostate cancer (as a proof of principle) and releases an anticancer drug, also made of DNA, which damps expression of the tumor-related gene. Billions of the computers could easily fit inside a human cell.… read more

Could lasers zap away dangerous asteroids?

March 20, 2007

Lasers may be able to detect asteroids from 10 times farther away than current radar observatories, and deflect them away from Earth, too.

Could lab-grown meat soon be the solution to the world’s food crisis?

January 25, 2012

lab meat

Scientists are producing small quantities of “cultured meat” in research laboratories. Mark Post of Maastricht University, one of the pioneers in the field, claims he will be able to produce a cultured burger by the end of the year.

Instead of getting meat from animals raised in pastures, he wants to grow steaks in lab conditions, directly from muscle stem cells. If successful, the technology will… read more

Could killer horse virus spread among humans?

July 25, 2008

Australia is suffering the biggest outbreak of the highly virulent Hendra virus since the disease was identified in 1994.

Now a change in its symptoms is raising fears that new strains may have emerged — and even that a strain capable of spreading from human-to-human could appear.

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