science + technology news

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An artificial synapse for future miniaturized portable ‘brain-on-a-chip’ devices

MIT engineers plan a fingernail-size chip that could replace a supercomputer
January 22, 2018

epiRAM ft

MIT engineers have designed a new artificial synapse made from silicon germanium that can precisely control the strength of an electric current flowing across it.

In simulations, the researchers found that the chip and its synapses could be used to recognize samples of handwriting with 95 percent accuracy. The engineers say the new design, published today (Jan. 22) in the journal Nature Materials, is a major step toward building portable,… read more

Amazon’s store of the future opens

January 22, 2018

(credit: Amazon)

Amazon’s first Amazon Go store opened today in Seattle, automating most of the purchase, checkout, and payment steps associated with a retail transaction and replacing cash registers, cashiers, credit cards, self-checkout kiosks, RFID chips — and lines — with hundreds of small cameras, computer vision, deep-learning algorithms, and sensor fusion.

Just walk in (as long as you have the Amazon Go app and an Amazon.com account), scan a QR… read more

Remote-controlled DNA nanorobots could lead to the first nanorobotic production factory

"Five orders of magnitude [hundreds of thousands times] faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems"
January 19, 2018

Robotic DNA arm ft

By powering a self-assembling DNA nanorobotic arm with electric fields, German scientists have achieved precise nanoscale movement that is at least five orders of magnitude (hundreds of thousands times) faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems, they suggest today (Jan. 19) in the journal Science.

DNA origami has emerged as a powerful tool to build precise structures. But now, “Kopperger et al. make an impressive stride in this direction… read more

Tracking a thought’s fleeting trip through the brain

Why people sometimes say things before they think
January 17, 2018

tracking the brain in real time

Repeating a word: as the brain receives (yellow), interpretes (red), and responds (blue) within a second, the prefrontal cortex (red) coordinates all areas of the brain involved. (video credit: Avgusta Shestyuk/UC Berkeley).

Recording the electrical activity of neurons directly from the surface of the brain, using electrocorticograhy (ECoG)*, neuroscientists were able to track the flow of thought across the brain in real time for the first time. They showed… read more

Deep neural network models score higher than humans in reading and comprehension test

"Update your AGI predictions"--- Prof. Roman Yampolskiy, PhD‏ @romanyam
January 15, 2018

(credit: Alibaba Group)

Microsoft and Alibaba have developed deep neural network models that scored higher than humans in a Stanford University reading and comprehension test, Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD).

Microsoft achieved 82.650 on the ExactMatch (EM) metric* on Jan. 3, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. scored 82.440 on Jan. 5. The best human score so far is 82.304.

“SQuAD is a new reading… read more

Scientists map mammalian neural microcircuits in precise detail

January 12, 2018

The researchers tested the NEM technique with a specific microcircuit, the olfactory bulb glomerulus (which detects smells). They were able to identify detailed, long-range, complex anatomical features (scale bars = 100 micrometers). (credit: D. Schwartz et al./Nature Communications)

Neuroscientists at the Francis Crick Institute have developed a new technique to map electrical microcircuits* in the brain at far more detail than existing techniques*, which are limited to tiny sections of the brain (or remain confined to simpler model organisms, like zebrafish).

In the brain, groups of neurons that connect up in microcircuits help us process information about things we see, smell and taste. Knowing how… read more

How to grow functioning human muscles from stem cells

... and microscale robot exoskeleton muscles from graphene and glass
January 10, 2018

A stained cross section of the new muscle fibers. The red cells are muscle cells, the green areas are receptors for neuronal input, and the blue patches are cell nuclei. (credit: Duke University)

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have grown the first functioning human skeletal muscle from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). (Pluripotent stem cells are important in regenerative medicine because they can generate any type of cell in the body and can propagate indefinitely; the induced version can be generated from adult cells instead of embryos.)

The engineers say the new technique is promising for cellular therapies, drug… read more

DARPA-funded ‘unhackable’ computer could avoid future flaws like Spectre and Meltdown

UPDATE 1/9/2018: Microsoft Windows update "bricks" computers with AMD processor
January 8, 2018

(credit: University of Michigan)

A University of Michigan (U-M) team has announced plans to develop an “unhackable” computer, funded by a new $3.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal of the project, called MORPHEUS, is to design computers that avoid the vulnerabilities of most current microprocessors, such as the Spectre and Meltdown flaws announced  last week.*

The $50 million DARPA System Security Integratedread more

Researchers hack cell biology to create complex shapes that form living tissue

The next step beyond 3D-printed tissues and organs
January 5, 2018

Shapes of Living Tissue ft

Many of the complex folded and curved shapes that form human tissues can now be programmatically recreated with very simple instructions, UC San Francisco (UCSF) bioengineers report December 28 in the journal Developmental Cell.

The researchers used 3D cell-patterning to shape active mouse and human embryonic cells into thin layers of extracellular matrix fibers (a structural material produced by human cells that make up our connective… read more

Brainwave ‘mirroring’ neurotechnology improves post-traumatic stress symptoms

Brain "listens" to itself, re-balances its brainwave activity between hemispheres
January 3, 2018

HIRREM process infographic ft

You are relaxing comfortably, eyes closed, with non-invasive sensors attached to your scalp that are picking up signals from various areas of your brain. The signals are converted by a computer to audio tones that you can hear on earbuds. Over several sessions, the different frequencies (pitches) of the tones associated with the two hemispheres of the brain create a mirror for your brainwave activity, helping your brain reset itselfread more

Will artificial intelligence become conscious?

December 22, 2017

(Credit: EPFL/Blue Brain Project)

By Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oklahoma State University

Forget about today’s modest incremental advances in artificial intelligence, such as the increasing abilities of cars to drive themselves. Waiting in the wings might be a groundbreaking development: a machine that is aware of itself and its surroundings, and that could take in and process massive amounts of data in real time. It… read more

A breakthrough low-light image sensor for photography, life sciences, security

DARPA-sponsored research project allows for capturing single photons, replaces time exposure
December 20, 2017

Quanta Image Sensor ft

Engineers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering have created a radical new imaging technology called “Quanta Image Sensor” (QIS) that may revolutionize a wide variety of imaging applications that require high quality at low light.

These include security, photography, cinematography, and medical and life sciences research.

Low-light photography (at night with only moonlight, for example) currently requires photographers to use time exposure (keeping the shutter open… read more

How to program DNA like we do computers

Researchers program DNA molecules to follow specific instructions to create sophisticated molecular machines for medical and research uses
December 18, 2017

This is a chemical oscillator. (credit: Image courtesy of Ella Maru Studio and Cody Geary)

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have programmed DNA molecules to follow specific instructions to create sophisticated molecular machines that could be capable of communication, signal processing, problem-solving, decision-making, and control of motion in living cells — the kind of computation previously only possible with electronic circuits.

Future applications may include health care, advanced materials, and nanotechnology.

As a demonstration, the researchers constructed a… read more

A new low-cost, simple way to measure medical vital signs with radio waves

December 15, 2017

A radio frequency identification tag (credit: Cornell)

Replacing devices based on 19th-century technology* and still in use, Cornell University engineers have developed a simple method for gathering blood pressure, heart rate, and breath rate from multiple patients simultaneously. It uses low-power radio-frequency signals and low-cost microchip radio-frequency identification (RFID) “tags” — similar to the ubiquitous anti-theft tags used in department stores.

The RFID tags measure internal body motion, such as a heart as it beats… read more

Video games and piano lessons improve cognitive functions in seniors, researchers find

December 13, 2017

(credit: Nintendo)

For seniors, playing 3D-platform games like Super Mario 64 or taking piano lessons can stave off mild cognitive impairment and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study by Université de Montréal psychology professors.

In the studies, 33 people ages 55 to 75 were instructed to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five days a week for a period of… read more

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