science + technology news

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Scientists report first detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding neutron stars

A cosmic sound-and-light show
October 16, 2017

Astronomers detect gravitational waves and a gamma-ray burst from two colliding neutron stars. (credit: National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet)

Scientists reported today (Oct. 16, 2017) the first simultaneous detection of both gravitational waves and light — an astounding collision of two neutron stars.

The discovery was made nearly simultaneously by three gravitational-wave detectors, followed by observations by some 70 ground- and space-based light observatories.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist and are formed when massive stars explode in supernovas.

MIT |read more

Using ‘cooperative perception’ between intelligent vehicles to reduce risks

October 13, 2017

Networked intelligent vehicles (credit: EPFL)

Researchers at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have combined data from two autonomous cars to create a wider field of view, extended situational awareness, and greater safety.

Autonomous vehicles get their intelligence from cameras, radar, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors, and navigation and mapping systems. But there are ways to make them even smarter. Researchers at EPFL are working to improve the reliability and fault tolerance of… read more

Ray Kurzweil + Peter Diamandis: Disruptive Technologies, Mind-Boggling Predictions, and ‘Dangerous Ideas’

October 13, 2017

Kurzweil-Diamandis ft

Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis presented an Abundance 360 webinar on Friday, October 13 on mind-boggling predictions and transformative (even “dangerous”) ideas.

The open-access video is here.

Controlled by a synthetic gene circuit, self-assembling bacteria build working electronic sensors

October 11, 2017

bacterial create a pressure sensor ft

Using a synthetic gene circuit, Duke University researchers have programmed self-assembling bacteria to build useful electronic devices — a first.

Other experiments have successfully grown materials using bacterial processes (for example, MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots). However, they have relied entirely on external control over where the bacteria grow and… read more

3D ‘body-on-a-chip’ project aims to accelerate drug testing, reduce costs

Initial system uses micro-sized 3D liver, heart, and lung "organoids"
October 9, 2017

Scientists created miniature models of hearts, lungs, and livers and combined them into an integrated "body-on-a-chip" system, fed with nutrient-rich fluid to mimic blood (credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

A team of scientists at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and nine other institutions has engineered miniature 3D human hearts, lungs, and livers to achieve more realistic testing of how the human body responds to new drugs.

The “body-on-a-chip” project, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, aims to help reduce the estimated $2 billion cost and 90 percent failure rate that pharmaceutical companies face… read more

Teleoperating robots with virtual reality: getting inside a robot’s head

Jobless video-gamer alert
October 6, 2017

VR system from Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory could make it easier for factory workers to telecommute. (credit: Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL)

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a virtual-reality (VR) system that lets you teleoperate a robot using an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive VR headset.

CSAIL’s “Homunculus Model” system (the classic notion of a small human sitting inside the brain and controlling the actions of the body) embeds you in a VR control room with multiple sensor displays, making it feel… read more

Fast-moving spinning magnetized nanoparticles could lead to ultra-high-speed, high-density data storage

May help solve data-storage problems in the zettabyte era
October 4, 2017

Artist's impression of skyrmions (credit: Moritz Eisebitt)

An international team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach has demonstrated a practical way to use “skyrmions” to create a radical new high-speed, high-density data-storage method that could one day replace disk drives — and even replace high-speed RAM memory.

Rather than reading and writing data one bit at a time by changing the orientation of magnetized… read more

New transistor design enables flexible, high-performance wearable/mobile electronics

"Can scale to industry-level production right away"
October 2, 2017

Advanced flexible transistor developed at UW-Madison (photo credit: Jung-Hun Seo, University at Buffalo, State University of New York)

A team of University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW–Madison) engineers has created “the most functional flexible transistor in the world,” along with a fast, simple, inexpensive fabrication process that’s easily scalable to the commercial level.

The development promises to allow manufacturers to add advanced, smart-wireless capabilities to wearable and mobile devices that curve, bend, stretch and move.*

The UW–Madison group’s advance is based on a BiCMOS (bipolar complementary… read more

Ray Kurzweil on The Age of Spiritual Machines: A 1999 TV interview

October 2, 2017

Ray Kurzweil on Harold Hudson Channer

Dear readers,

For your interest, this 1999 interview with me, which I recently re-watched, describes some interesting predictions that are still coming true today. It’s intriguing to look back at the last 18 years to see what actually unfolded. This video is a compelling glimpse into the future, as we’re living it today.

Enjoy!

— Ray

Dear readers,

This interview by Harold Hudson… read more

Intel’s new ‘Loihi’ chip mimics neurons and synapses in the human brain

Automatically gets smarter over time
September 29, 2017

Loihi chip (credit: Intel Corporation)

Intel announced this week a self-learning, energy-efficient neuromorphic (brain-like) research chip codenamed “Loihi”* that mimics how the human brain functions. Under development for six years, the chip uses 130,000 “neurons” and 130 million “synapses” and learns in real time, based on feedback from the environment.**

Neuromorphic chip models are inspired by how neurons communicate and learn, using spikes (brain pulses) and synapses capable of learning.

The idea is… read more

Why futurist Ray Kurzweil isn’t worried about technology stealing your job — Fortune

September 27, 2017

Ray Kurzweil and Stevie Wonder ft

Last week, Fortune magazine asked Ray Kurzweil to comment on some often-expressed questions about the future.

Does AI pose an existential threat to humanity?

Kurzweil sees the future as nuanced, notes writer Michal Lev-Ram. “A lot of people think things are getting worse, partly because that’s actually an evolutionary adaptation,” Kurzweil said. “It’s very important for your survival to be sensitive to bad news. …… read more

Human vs. deep-neural-network performance in object recognition

... and how they can teach each other
September 27, 2017

bathroom

Before you read this: look for toothbrushes in the photo above.

Did you notice the huge toothbrush on the left? Probably not. That’s because when humans search through scenes for a particular object, we often miss objects whose size is inconsistent with the rest of the scene, according to scientists in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara.

The scientists are investigating this phenomenon… read more

Neuroscientists restore vegetative-state patient’s consciousness with vagus nerve stimulation

September 25, 2017

pre vs post VNS ft

A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness after neurosurgeons in France implanted a vagus nerve stimulator into his chest — challenging the general belief that disorders of consciousness that persist for longer than 12 months are irreversible.

In a 2007 Weill Cornell Medical College study reported in Nature, neurologists found temporary improvements in… read more

Artificial ‘skin’ gives robotic hand a sense of touch

September 22, 2017

robotic hand with touch sensors ft

A team of researchers from the University of Houston has reported a development in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin, allowing a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold, and also offering advantages for a wide range of biomedical devices.

The work, reported in the open-access journal Science Advances, describes a new mechanism for producing stretchable electronics, a process that relies… read more

A battery-free origami robot powered and controlled by external magnetic fields

September 22, 2017

Wirelessly powered and controlled magnetic folding robot arm can grasp and bend (credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Harvard University researchers have created a battery-free, folding robot “arm” with multiple “joints,” gripper “hand,” and actuator “muscles” — all powered and controlled wirelessly by an external resonant magnetic field.

The design is inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami (used to transform a simple sheet of paper into complex, three-dimensional shapes through a specific pattern of folds, creases, and crimps). The prototype device is capable of complex,… read more

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