science + technology news

NSA’s top secret technology can tap/infect computers even when not connected to the Internet

January 15, 2014

COTTONMOUTH

The NSA has used secret technology to input and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden, computer experts, and American officials, The New York Times revealed Tuesday.

The technology uses radio signals generated in tiny circuit boards and inside USB cables inserted surreptitiously into the computers by a spy, manufacturer, or unwitting user,… read more

Delayed aging is better investment than cancer, heart disease research, says study

October 9, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

A new multi-university study shows that research to delay aging and the infirmities of old age would have better population health and economic returns than advances in individual fatal diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

With even modest gains in our scientific understanding of how to slow the aging process, an additional 5 percent of adults over the age of 65 would be healthy rather than… read more

How to find time travelers

January 8, 2014

Is Jay-Z a time traveler? --- desusnice (Buzz Feed) (credit: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/New York Public Library)

If there were time travelers among us, how would you find them?

That question occurred to astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff, a professor at Michigan Technological University. So he and his team developed a search strategy based on what they call “prescient knowledge.”

If they could find a mention of something or someone on the Internet before people should have known about it, that could indicate that whoever wrote it… read more

AI software smart as a 4-year-old

July 16, 2013

682px-Child_drawing

Artificial and natural knowledge researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have IQ-tested one of the best available artificial intelligence systems to see how intelligent it really is.

About as smart as the average 4-year-old, they will report July 17 at the U.S. Artificial Intelligence Conference in Bellevue, Wash.

The UIC team put ConceptNet 4, AI software developed at… read more

If you give people virtual superpowers, will they use those abilities for good or evil?

February 4, 2013

superman

Researchers at Stanford recently investigated the subject by giving people the ability of Superman-like flight in the university’s Virtual Human Interaction Laboratory (VHIL).

While several studies have shown that playing violent videogames can encourage aggressive behavior, the new research suggests that games could be designed to train people to be more empathetic in the real world.

To test this hypothesis, the group — which… read more

Why wind — and soon solar — are already cheaper than fossil fuels

August 24, 2015

Cost of energy from renewables expected to fall drastically over the next years (credit: Citigroup)

Citigroup has published an analysis of the costs of various energy sources called “Energy Darwinism II.” It concludes that if all the costs of generation are included (known as the levelized cost of energy), renewables turn out to be cheaper than fossil fuels and a “benefit rather than a cost to society,” RenewEconomy reports.

“Capital costs are often cited by the promoters of fossil fuels as… read more

‘Robo Brain’ will teach robots everything from the Internet

August 26, 2014

Robo Brain (credit: Saxena Lab)

Robo Brain is currently downloading and processing about 1 billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos, and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals, all being translated and stored in a robot-friendly format.

The reason: to serve as helpers in our homes, offices and factories, robots will need to understand how the world works and how the humans around them behave.

Robotics researchers like Ashutosh Saxena,… read more

86 civil liberties groups and Internet companies demand an end to NSA spying

June 12, 2013

nsa-square

A bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies — including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union — are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to… read more

How a choice of social learning networks can make us smarter

November 15, 2013

Experiment 1 - GIMP

The secret to why some cultures thrive and others disappear may lie in our social networks* and our ability to imitate, rather than our individual smarts, according to a new University of British Columbia study.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences (open access)shows that when people can observe and learn from a wider range of teachers, groups can better maintain technical skills… read more

Artificial Superintelligence: A Futuristic Approach

July 1, 2013

artificial_superintelligence_futurist_approach

Indiegogo fundraiser for Roman V. Yampolskiy‘s book. The book will present research aimed at making sure that emerging superintelligence is beneficial to humanity.

Many philosophers, futurologists and artificial intelligence researchers have conjectured that in the next 20 to 200 years a machine capable of at least human level performance on all tasks will be developed.

Since such a machine would among other things be… read more

Another Earth just 12 light-years away?

December 19, 2012

alpha_centauri_planet_eso

Astronomers have discovered what may be five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, the closest single star beyond our solar system whose temperature and luminosity nearly match the sun’s, Science Now reports.

If the planets are in fact there, one of them is about the right distance from the star to sport mild temperatures, oceans of liquid water, and even life, and slight changes in Tau Ceti’s… read more

Elon Musk donates $10M to ‘keep AI beneficial’

January 15, 2015

FLI

Elon Musk has decided to donate $10M to the Future of Life Institute (FLI) to run a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

Musk, who warned last August that “we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes,” said there is now a “broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society… read more

Discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness

January 16, 2014

Structure of a microtubule. The ring shape depicts a microtubule in cross-section, showing the 13 protofilaments surrounding a hollow center. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in  Elsevier’s Physics of Life Reviews (open access) claims that consciousness derives from deeper-level, finer-scale activities inside brain neurons.

The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level… read more

Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation

Initial focus: the almost 400,000 people who die from lung disease, including cancer, each year
May 7, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) is teaming up with United Therapeutics Corporation subsidiary Lung Biotechnology Inc. to use synthetic genomic advances to develop humanized pig lungs.

The collaboration will focus on creating organs that are safe and effective for use in human patients in need of transplantation, with an initial focus on lung diseases — addressing specifically the urgent need… read more

DARPA shows off 1.8-gigapixel surveillance drone, can spot a terrorist from 20,000 feet

January 30, 2013

ARGUS view from 20,000 feet (credit: DARPA)

DARPA and the US Army have taken the wraps off ARGUS-IS, a 1.8-gigapixel video surveillance platform that can resolve details as small as six inches from an altitude of 20,000 feet (6km), ExtremeTech reports.

ARGUS is by far the highest-resolution surveillance platform in the world, and probably the highest-resolution camera in the world, period.

ARGUS, which would be attached to some kind of unmanned UAV (such as… read more

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