science + technology news

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Scientists remove one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots

3D-printable, synthetic soft muscle can mimic natural biological systems, lifting 1000 times its own weight
September 20, 2017

(L) The electrically actuated muscle with thin resistive wire in a rest position; (R) The muscle is expanded using low power characteristics (8V). (credit: Aslan Miriyev/Columbia Engineering)

Researchers at the Columbia Engineering Creative Machines lab have developed a 3D-printable, synthetic soft muscle that can mimic natural biological systems, lifting 1000 times its own weight. The artificial muscle is three times stronger than natural muscle and can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight — no external devices required.

Existing soft-actuator technologies are typically based on bulky pneumatic or hydraulic inflation of elastomer… read more

New system allows near-zero-power sensors to communicate data over long distances

Could make low-cost remote medical monitoring and the "internet of things" practical
September 18, 2017

A flexible epidermal medical-data patch prototype successfully transmitted information at up to 37500 bits per second across a 3,300-square-feet atrium. (credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)

University of Washington (UW) researchers have developed a low-cost, long-range data-communication system that could make it possible for medical sensors or billions of low-cost “internet of things” objects to connect via radio signals at long distances (up to 2.8 kilometers) and with 1000 times lower required power (9.25 microwatts in an experiment) compared to existing technologies.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects … for… read more

Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body

Future uses could include creating programmable drugs or delivering them when a specific signal is received in the bloodstream or cells
September 15, 2017

DNA nanorobot cargo carrier (credit: Ella Maru Studio)

Caltech scientists have developed a “cargo sorting” DNA nanorobot programmed to autonomously “walk” around a surface, pick up certain molecules, and drop them off in designated locations.

The research is described in a paper in the Friday, September 15, 2017 issue of Science.

The major advance in this study is “their methodology for designing simple DNA devices that work in parallel to solve nontrivial tasks,”… read more

Miniature MRI simulator chip could help diagnose and treat diseases in the body at sub-millimeter precision

September 13, 2017

Illustration of an ATOMS microchip localized within the gastrointestinal tract. The chip, which works on principles similar to those used in MRI machines, is embodied with the properties of nuclear spin. (credit: Ella Marushchenko for Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a “Fantastic Voyage” style prototype microchip that could one day be used in “smart pills” to diagnose and treat diseases when inserted into the human body.

Called ATOMS (addressable transmitters operated as magnetic spins), the microchips could one day monitor a patient’s gastrointestinal tract, blood, or brain, measuring factors that indicate a patient’s health — such as pH, temperature, pressure, and sugar concentrations — with… read more

‘Fog computing’ could improve communications during natural disasters

September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma at peak intensity near the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 6, 2017 (credit: NOAA)

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a system that uses edge computing (also known as fog computing) to deal with the loss of internet access in natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, and floods.

The idea is to create an ad hoc decentralized network that uses computing power built into mobile phones, routers, and other hardware to provide actionable data… read more

These fast, low-cost medical technologies will replace ultrasound and X-rays for specific uses

September 8, 2017

Smartphone heart diagnosis (credit: Caltech)

A radical software invention by three Caltech engineers promises to allow your smartphone camera* to provide detailed information about a critical measure of your heart’s health: the “left ventricular ejection fraction” (LVEF) — the amount of blood in the heart that is pumped out to the blood system with each beat. This figure is used by physicians as a base for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.

You’ll simply hold… read more

A cooling system that works without electricity

Electricity needed to cool a Las Vegas building reduced by 21 percent in a model
September 6, 2017

A fluid-cooling panel designed by Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and former research associates Aaswath Raman and Eli Goldstein being tested on the roof of the Packard Electrical Engineering Building. This is an updated version of the panels used in the research published in Nature Energy. (credit: Aaswath Raman)

Stanford University scientists have developed a high-tech mirror-like optical surface that uses “radiative sky cooling” to dramatically lower the energy required for air conditioning and refrigeration.

The system cools water (flowing through pipes connected to an air-conditioning system) without requiring electricity by radiating excess heat from water into cold space. Panels covered in specialized optical surfaces reflect about 97 percent of the sunlight while simultaneously emitting the surface’s thermal… read more

Leading AI country will be ‘ruler of the world,’ says Putin

"When one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.”
September 3, 2017

Autonomous drone swarms (credit: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday (Sept. 1, 2017) that the country that becomes the leader in developing artificial intelligence will be “the ruler of the world,” reports the Associated Press.

AI development “raises colossal opportunities and threats that are difficult to predict now,” Putin said in a lecture to students, warning that “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position.”

Future wars will be… read more

A single-molecule room-temperature transistor made from 14 atoms

September 1, 2017

Columbia researchers wired a single molecular cluster to gold electrodes to show that it exhibits a quantized and controllable flow of charge at room temperature. (credit: Bonnie Choi/Columbia University)

Columbia Engineering researchers have taken a key step toward atomically precise, reproducible transistors made from single molecules and operating at room temperature — a major goal in the field of molecular electronics.

The team created a two-terminal transistor with a diameter of about 0.5 nanometers and core consisting of just 14 atoms. The device can reliably switch from insulator to conductor when charge is added or removed, one electron at a time… read more

Astronomers detect 15 high-frequency ‘fast radio bursts’ from distant galaxy

Were these powerful bursts used by an extraterrestrial civilization to power exploratory spacecraft?
August 30, 2017

Greenbank Radio Telescope (credit: Geremia/CC)

Using the Green Bank radio telescope, astronomers at Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, have detected 15 brief but powerful “fast radio bursts” (FRBs). These microwave radio pulses are from a mysterious source known as FRB 121102* in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth, transmitting at record high frequencies (4 to 8 GHz),… read more

Will AI enable the third stage of life?

By Max Tegmark, PhD
August 29, 2017

life-30-cover

In his new book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, MIT physicist and AI researcher Max Tegmark explores the future of technology, life, and intelligence.

The question of how to define life is notoriously controversial. Competing definitions abound, some of which include highly specific requirements such as being composed of cells, which might… read more

Single-molecule-level data storage may achieve 100 times higher data density

Imagine storing more than 25 terabytes of data in a device the size of a U.S. quarter or British 50p coin
August 28, 2017

(credit: iStock)

Scientists at the University of Manchester have developed a data-storage method that could achieve 100 times higher data density than current technologies.*

The system would allow for data servers to operate at the (relatively high) temperature of -213 °C. That could make it possible in the future for data servers to be chilled by liquid nitrogen (-196 °C) — a cooling method that is relatively cheap compared to the… read more

Black Mirror Season 4 coming to Netflix

August 25, 2017

Black Mirror ft

Netflix has announced the episode titles for “Black Mirror’s” fourth season, to premiere on the streaming service later this year: “Arkangel,” “Black Museum,” “Crocodile,” “Hang the DJ,” “Metalhead,” and “USS Callister” (an apparent Star Trek takeoff).

 

How to design a custom robot in minutes without being a roboticist

August 25, 2017

Full Robot Set ft

MIT’s new “Interactive Robogami” system will let you design a robot in minutes and then 3D-print and assemble it in about four hours.

“Designing robots usually requires expertise that only mechanical engineers and roboticists have,” says PhD student Adriana Schulz, co-lead author of a paper in The International Journal of Robotics Research and a researcher in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “What’s… read more

Flexible ‘electronic skin’ patch provides wearable health monitoring anywhere on the body

August 23, 2017

Mobile Application of the Soft Electronic Skin ft

A radical new electronic skin monitor developed by Korean and U.S. scientists tracks heart rate, respiration, muscle movement, acceleration, and electrical activity in the heart, muscles, eyes, and brain and wirelessly transmits it to a smartphone, allowing for continuous health monitoring.

KurzweilAI has covered a number of biomedical skin-monitoring devices. This new design is noteworthy because the soft, flexible self-adhesive patch (a soft silicone material about four centimeters or 1.5… read more

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