science + technology news

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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, 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 with… 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

Integrated circuits printed directly onto fabric for the first time

Your future smartphone may be woven into your machine-washable clothes
November 10, 2017

This is a sample circuit printed on fabric. (credit: Felice Torrisi)

Researchers at the University of Cambridge, working with colleagues in Italy and China, have incorporated washable, stretchable, and breathable integrated electronic circuits into fabric for the first time — opening up new possibilities for smart textiles and wearable textile electronic devices.

The circuits were made with cheap, safe, and environmentally friendly inks, and printed using conventional inkjet-printing techniques.

The new method directly prints graphene inks and other two-dimensional… read more

New silicon ‘Neuropixels’ probes record activity of hundreds of neurons simultaneously

Promise to have a major impact on neuroscience
November 8, 2017

A Neuropixels probe, containing nearly 1,000 electrical sensors positioned along a probe thinner than a human hair but long enough to access many regions of a rodent’s brain simultaneously (credit: Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

In a $5.5 million international collaboration, researchers and engineers have developed powerful new “Neuropixels” brain probes that can simultaneously monitor the neural activity of hundreds of neurons at several layers of a rodent’s brain for the first time.

Described in a paper published today (November 8, 2017) in Nature, Neuropixels probes represent a significant advance in neuroscience measurement technology, and will allow for the most precise understanding yet of how large… read more

Scientists decipher mechanisms in cells for extending human longevity

A sirtuin-dependent intermittent pattern of chromatin silencing during yeast aging that is crucial for longevity
November 6, 2017

Aging cells periodically switch their chromatin state. The image illustrates the "on" and "off" patterns in individual cells. (credit: UC San Diego)

A team of scientists at the University of California San Diego led by biologist Nan Hao have combined engineering, computer science, and biology technologies to decode the molecular processes in cells that influence aging.

Protecting DNA from damage

As cells age, damage in their DNA accumulates over time, leading to decay in normal functioning — eventually resulting in death. But a natural biochemical process… read more

New magnetism-control method could lead to ultrafast, energy-efficient computer memory

November 3, 2017

A cobalt layer on top of a gadolinium-iron alloy allows for switching memory with a single laser pulse in just 7 picoseconds. The discovery may lead to a computing processor with high-speed, non-volatile memory right on the chip. (credit:  Jon Gorchon et al./Applied Physics Letters)

Researchers at UC Berkeley and UC Riverside have developed an ultrafast new method for electrically controlling magnetism in certain metals — a breakthrough that could lead to more energy-efficient computer memory and processing technologies.

“The development of a non-volatile memory that is as fast as charge-based random-access memories could dramatically improve performance and energy efficiency of computing devices,” says Berkeley electrical engineering and computer sciences (EECS) professor Jeffrey Bokor,… read more

Daydreaming means you’re smart and creative

It also enables you to switch to "autopilot" for routine tasks like driving
November 1, 2017

MRI scan showing regions of the default mode network (CC)

Daydreaming during meetings or class might actually be a sign that you’re smart and creative, according to a Georgia Institute of Technology study.

“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” said Eric Schumacher, an associate psychology professor who co-authored a research paper published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

Participants were instructed to focus on a stationary… read more

A tool to debug ‘black box’ deep-learning neural networks

Brings transparency to self-driving cars and other self-taught systems
October 30, 2017

left or right turn ft

Researchers at Columbia and Lehigh universities have developed a method for error-checking the reasoning of the thousands or millions of neurons in unsupervised (self-taught) deep-learning neural networks, such as those used in self-driving cars.

Their tool, DeepXplore, feeds confusing, real-world inputs into the network to expose rare instances of flawed reasoning, such as the incident last year when Tesla’s autonomous car collided with a truck it mistook for… read more

Researchers watch video images people are seeing, decoded from their fMRI brain scans in near-real-time

Advanced deep-learning "mind-reading" system even interprets image meaning, providing high-level categories (face, bird, etc.)
October 27, 2017

neural encoding and decoding ft

Purdue Engineering researchers have developed a system that can show what people are seeing in real-world videos, decoded from their fMRI brain scans — an advanced new form of  “mind-reading” technology that could lead to new insights in brain function and to advanced AI systems.

The research builds on previous pioneering research at UC Berkeley’s Gallant Lab, which created a computer program in 2011 that translated fMRI brain-wave patterns… read more

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