science + technology news

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AlphaZero’s ‘alien’ superhuman-level program masters chess in 24 hours with no domain knowledge

Like a robot building a Ferrari from thousands of metal bits and parts, but no knowledge of a combustion engine
December 11, 2017

AlphaZero vs. Stockfish chess program | Round 1 (credit: Chess.com)

Demis Hassabis, the founder and CEO of DeepMind, announced at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NIPS 2017) last week that DeepMind’s new AlphaZero program achieved a superhuman level of play in chess within 24 hours.

The program started from random play, given no domain knowledge except the game rules, according to an arXiv paper by DeepMind researchers published Dec. 5.

“It doesn’t play like… read more

3D-printing biocompatible living bacteria

Applications include skin transplants and nanofilters that break down toxic substances
December 8, 2017

Printing Bacteria ft

Researchers at ETH Zurich university have developed a technique for 3D-printing biocompatible living bacteria for the first time — making it possible to produce produce high-purity cellulose for biomedical applications and nanofilters that can break down toxic substances (in drinking water, for example) or for use in disastrous oil spills, for example.

The technique, called “Flink” (“functional living ink”) allows for printing mini biochemical factories with properties… read more

New technology allows robots to visualize their own future

December 6, 2017

robot imagines future

UC Berkeley | Vestri the robot imagines how to perform tasks

UC Berkeley researchers have developed a robotic learning technology that enables robots to imagine the future of their actions so they can figure out how to manipulate objects they have never encountered before. It could help self-driving cars anticipate future events on the road and produce more intelligent robotic assistants in homes.

The initial prototype focuses on… read more

Why (most) future robots won’t look like robots

Plus: soft robots get superpowers (equivalent to a duck lifting a car)
December 4, 2017

Material-enabled robotics. A future robot’s body may combine soft actuators and stiff structure, with distributed computation throughout. (credit: Nikolaus Correll/University of Colorado)

Future robots won’t be limited to humanoid form (like Boston Robotics’ formidable backflipping Atlas). They’ll be invisibly embedded everywhere in common objects.

Such as a shoe that can intelligently support your gait, change stiffness as you’re running or walking, and adapt to different surfaces — or even help you do backflips.

That’s the vision of researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Colorado, Yale University, and… read more

Using light instead of electrons promises faster, smaller, more-efficient computers and smartphones

December 1, 2017

Trapped light (credit: Imperial College London)

By forcing light to go through a smaller gap than ever before, a research team at Imperial College London has taken a step toward computers based on light instead of electrons.

Light would be preferable for computing because it can carry much-higher-density information, it’s much faster, and more efficient (generates little to no heat). But light beams don’t easily interact with one other. So information on high-speed… read more

New nanomaterial, quantum encryption system could be ultimate defenses against hackers

November 29, 2017

Physically unclonable cryptographic primitive ft

Recent advances in quantum computers may soon give hackers access to machines powerful enough to crack even the toughest of standard internet security codes. With these codes broken, all of our online data — from medical records to bank transactions — could be vulnerable to attack.

Now, a new low-cost nanomaterial developed by New York University Tandon School of Engineering researchers can be tuned to act as… read more

Space dust may transport life between worlds

A hypervelocity bioparticle from Earth could have reached identified potential habitable planets
November 26, 2017

Imagine what this microscopic (0.2 to 0.7 millimeter) milnesium tardigradum animal could evolve into on another planet (credit: Wikipedia)

Life on our planet might have originated from biological particles brought to Earth in streams of space dust, according to a study published in the journal Astrobiology.

A huge amount of space dust (~10,000 kilograms — about the weight of two elephants) enters our atmosphere every day — possibly delivering organisms from far-off worlds, according to Professor Arjun Berera from the University of Edinburgh School of… read more

Using microrobots to diagnose and treat illness in remote areas of the body

November 24, 2017

Spirulina algae coated with magnetic particles to form a microrobot. Devices such as these could be developed to diagnose and treat illness in hard-to-reach parts of the body. (credit: Yan et al Science Robotics 2017)

Imagine a swarm of remote-controlled microrobots, a few micrometers in length (blood-vessel-sized), unleashed into your body to swim through your intestinal track or blood vessels, for example. Goal: to diagnose illness and treat it in hard-to-reach areas of the body.

An international team of researchers, led by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is now experimenting with this idea (starting with rats) — using microscopic Spirulina algae coated… read more

Take a fantastic 3D voyage through the brain with immersive VR system

Plus a "journey to the center of the cell" with 360 VR movies
November 23, 2017

lightsheet brain

Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering/Lüscher lab (UNIGE) | Brain circuits related to natural reward

What happens when you combine access to unprecedented huge amounts of anatomical data of brain structures with the ability to display billions of voxels (3D pixels) in real time, using high-speed graphics cards?

Answer: An awesome new immersive virtual reality (VR) experience for visualizing and interacting with up to 10 terabytes (trillions of bytes)… read more

Disturbing video depicts near-future ubiquitous lethal autonomous weapons

The technology described in the film already exists, says UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell
November 18, 2017

slaughterbots

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots | Slaughterbots

In response to growing concerns about autonomous weapons, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of AI researchers and advocacy organizations, has released a fictional video that depicts a disturbing future in which lethal autonomous weapons have become cheap and ubiquitous worldwide.

UC Berkeley AI researcher Stuart Russell presented the video at the United Nations Convention onread more

How to open the blood-brain-barrier with precision for safer drug delivery

November 17, 2017

controlled ultrasound ... ft

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a safer way to use focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier* to allow for delivering vital drugs for treating glioma brain tumors — an alternative to invasive incision or radiation.

Focused ultrasound drug delivery to the brain uses “cavitation” — creating microbubbles — to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier. The problem with this method has been that if these bubbles… read more

Consumer Technology Association inducts Ray Kurzweil, 11 other visionaries into the 2017 Consumer Technology Hall of Fame

November 16, 2017

Gary Shapiro (left) and Ray Kurzweil (right) (credit: CTA)

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) inducted Ray Kurzweil and 11 other industry leaders into the Consumer Technology (CT) Hall of Fame at its 19th annual awards dinner, held Nov. 7, 2017 at the Rainbow Room, atop 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

CTA, formerly Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), created the Hall of Fame in 2000 to honor industry visionaries and pioneers.

A noted inventor, author, and futurist, Ray Kurzweil was… read more

Nearly every job is becoming more digital — Brookings study

"Not everybody needs to go to a coding boot camp but they probably do need to know Excel"
November 15, 2017

The shares of U.S. jobs that require substantial digital knowledge rose rapidly between 2002 and 2016 --- mostly due to large changes in the digital content of existing occupations. (source: Brookings analysis of O*Net, OES, and Moody's data)

Digital technology is disrupting the American workforce, but in vastly uneven ways, according to a new analysis of 545 occupations in a report published today by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

The report, “Digitalization and the American workforce,” provides a detailed analysis of changes since 2001 in the digital content of 545 occupations that represent 90 percent of the workforce in all industries. It suggests that acquiring digital… read more

Mapping connections of single neurons using a holographic light beam

New technique triggers individual neurons for mapping precise connections in real time
November 13, 2017

The researchers used an opsin protein called CoChR, which generates a very strong electric current in response to light, and fused it to a small protein that directs the opsin into the cell bodies of neurons and away from axons and dendrites, which extend from the neuron body, forming “somatic channelrhodopsin” (soCoChR). This new opsin enabled photostimulation of individual cells in mouse cortical brain slices with single-cell resolution and with less than 1 millisecond temporal (time) precision --- achieving connectivity mapping on intact cortical circuits without crosstalk with neurons. Regions of stimulation are highlighted by magenta circles. Scale bar: 20 micrometers.  (credit: Or A. Shemesh et al./Nature Nanoscience)

Researchers at MIT and Paris Descartes University have developed a technique for precisely mapping connections of individual neurons for the first time by triggering them with holographic laser light.

The technique is based on optogenetics (using light to stimulate or silence light-sensitive genetically modified protein molecules called “opsins” that are embedded in specific neurons). Current optogenetics techniques can’t isolate individual neurons (and their connections) because… read more

New method 3D-prints fully functional electronic circuits

November 10, 2017

inkjet-printed miniature car ft

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed a method for rapidly 3D-printing fully functional electronic circuits such as antennas, medical devices, and solar-energy-collecting structures.

Unlike conventional 3D printers, these circuits can contain both both electrically conductive metallic inks (like the silver wires in the photo above) and insulating polymeric inks (like the yellow and orange support structure). A UV light is used rapidly solidify the inks).… read more

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