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 Friday April 13, 2012
Weekly edition 
News and Blog Headlines

Udacity announces four new free online university computer-science courses
New MRI technique may predict rate of progress and prion-like spread of dementias
The dark side of working nights
The tiny, lethal weapon that viruses use to kill bacteria
Cooperation and the evolution of intelligence
Breakdown of white-matter pathways affects decisionmaking as we age
Building a smarter forest using drones, robots, and algorithms
Data mining opens the door to predictive neuroscience
Decoding DNA folding patterns
A step toward the ‘quantum Internet’
Copper-gold nanoparticles convert CO2, may reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Scientists and bankers — a new model army
Converting skin cells to neurons more efficiently
The amazing trajectories of life-bearing meteorites from Earth
Whole-genome sequences of supercentenarians reveal longevity clues
McAfee hacker says medtronic insulin pumps vulnerable to attack
Printable houses are coming
World’s smallest full-page color scanner
Where is intelligence located in the brain?
Wellcome Trust joins ‘academic spring’ to open up science
Chips as mini Internet
How to cool electronic devices more efficiently
Graphene liquid cell allows high-resolution atomic imaging of specimens in liquid
The computing trend that will change everything
Functional magnetic resonance imaging is growing from showy adolescence into a workhorse of brain imaging
‘Nanobubbles’ deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells
‘Super-Turing’ machine learns and evolves
Salk scientists find cellular switches for the body’s biological clock
Novartis compound spurs cartilage in arthritic mice
Could CISPA Be the Next SOPA?
Is neuroscience the new ‘Freakonomics’?
Navy builds 50,000 square foot lab to simulate desert, jungle to test military robots
A computational model of human tissue
Species explorers propose steps to map uncharted biosphere
Proposed satellite would beam solar power to earth

Latest News

Udacity announces four new free online university computer-science courses
April 13, 2012

Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google Inc. will teach The Design of Computer Programs (credit: Google) This just in from Udacity: beginning April 16, Udacity will be offering four new courses, in addition to re-offering CS101: Building a Search Engine and CS373: Programming a Robotic Car: CS212: The Design of Computer Programs Peter Norvig will help students develop good taste as programmers by learning how to identify elegant solutions to problems. … more…


New MRI technique may predict rate of progress and prion-like spread of dementias
April 13, 2012

White matter in human brain (credit: David Shattuck, Arthur Toga, Paul Thompson/UCLA Lab of Neuro Imaging) A new technique for analyzing brain images may make it possible to predict the rate of progression and physical path of many degenerative brain diseases, using just one magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) image, report scientists at the San Francisco VA Medical Center ( SFVAMC) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The technique, developed by SFVAMC scientists … more…


The dark side of working nights
April 13, 2012

night-shift Working the graveyard shift can increase the risk of developing diabetes via two separate mechanisms, according to a Harvard Medical School study, The double whammy of sleep deprivation and a sleep/wake schedule that’s out of sync with the body’s internal biological clock reduces the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas as well as the … more…


The tiny, lethal weapon that viruses use to kill bacteria
April 13, 2012

virus_needle EPFL scientists have measured a one-nanometer needle-like tip that some viruses use to attack bacteria. A family of bacteriophage viruses called φ92, which attacks salmonella and coliform bacteria, uses a needle-like tip that pierces its victim’s membrane. EPFL scientists have measured this miniscule weapon at a single nanometer. This discovery will allow researchers to better … more…


Cooperation and the evolution of intelligence
April 13, 2012

cooperation_evolution_intelligence Trinity College researchers have constructed an artificial neural network model that demonstrates that human intelligence evolved from the need for social teamwork. The high levels of intelligence seen in humans, other primates, certain cetaceans, and birds remain a major puzzle for evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists. It has long been held that social interactions provide the selection … more…


Breakdown of white-matter pathways affects decisionmaking as we age
April 13, 2012

Brain scans showing the white-matter pathways involved in everyday learning: Top, the pathway shown in red that connects the medial prefrontal cortex to the ventral striatum and, bottom, the pathway shown in blue that connects the medial prefrontal cortex to the thalamus (credit: of Gregory Samanez-Larkin) A Vanderbilt University brain-mapping study has found that people’s ability to make decisions in novel situations decreases with age and is associated with a reduction in the integrity of two specific white-matter pathways. The pathways connect an area in the cerebral cortex called the medial prefrontal cortex (involved with decision making) with two other areas deeper in … more…


Building a smarter forest using drones, robots, and algorithms
April 13, 2012

(credit: Wikimedia Commons) Cutting-edge tech — algorithms, robots, and drones — could save lives during natural disasters. That’s the argument made by computer scientists M.P.Sivaram Kumar and S. Rajasekaran in a recent article in the Journal of Computing entitled “Path Planning Algorithm for Extinguishing Forest Fires.” The vast majority of forests are destroyed by wild forest fires, and … more…


Data mining opens the door to predictive neuroscience
April 12, 2012

in_situ_model_human_brain Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) researchers have discovered rules that relate the genes that a neuron switches on and off to the shape of that neuron, its electrical properties, and its location in the brain. The discovery, using state-of-the-art computational tools, increases the likelihood that it will be possible to predict much of the fundamental … more…


Decoding DNA folding patterns
April 12, 2012

Schematic illustrating topological domains and resulting directional bias ( Using a powerful DNA sequencing methodology, researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research have investigated the three-dimensional structure of DNA folds in the nucleus of a chromosome. “With the knowledge of how DNA folds inside the nucleus, we now have a more complete picture of the regulatory process of genes,”said Dr. Bing Ren, Member … more…


A step toward the ‘quantum Internet’
April 12, 2012

Quantumstate transfer The first elementary quantum network based on interfaces between single atoms and photons has been developed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ). It consists of two coupled single-atom nodes that communicate quantum information via coherent, reversible exchange of single photons. Besides giving insights into fundamental questions in physics, the finding could … more…


Copper-gold nanoparticles convert CO2, may reduce greenhouse gas emissions
April 12, 2012

An electron microscopy image of hybrid gold/copper nanoparticles (credit: Zhichuan Xu) MIT researchers have come up with a way to reduce the energy needed for copper to convert carbon dioxide: nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold. They coated electrodes with the hybrid nanoparticles and found that much less energy was needed for these engineered nanoparticles to react with carbon dioxide (converting it to methane or methanol), compared to nanoparticles of … more…


Scientists and bankers — a new model army
April 12, 2012

450px-New_York_City_Stock_Exchange_NYSE_03 Bankers must surrender more information on their activities to scientists to use it to build better system-wide financial models, says John Liechty, director of the Center for the Study of Global Financial Stability and Professor of Marketing and Statistics at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Existing financial models failed to predict the crisis of … more…


Converting skin cells to neurons more efficiently
April 12, 2012

nerve_cells_from_skin_cells Researchers at the University of Bonn Institute of Reconstructive Neurobiology have converted skin and umbilical cord cells directly into nerve cells for disease research, cell replacement, and development of active substances. Background There was much excitement surrounding cell reprogramming with the breakthrough of Shinya Yamanaka. In 2006, the Japanese scientist was able to reprogram skin cells for the first … more…


The amazing trajectories of life-bearing meteorites from Earth
April 12, 2012

Earth_ejecta The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago (10 km in diameter, mass greater than 1 trillion tons) must have ejected billions of tons of life-bearing meteorites into space. Now Kyoto Sangyo University physicists have calculated this could have seeded life in the solar system and even as far as Gliese 581,  Technology Review Physics arXiv … more…


Whole-genome sequences of supercentenarians reveal longevity clues
April 11, 2012

genome_supercentenarians A team of researchers has analyzed the complete genomic sequences of male and female supercentenarians, both over 114 years old. Surprisingly, the researchers showed that the DNA sequences are largely comparable to existing non-supercentenarian genomes, and the two individuals do not appear to carry most of the well-established human longevity-enabling variants already reported in the literature. … more…


McAfee hacker says medtronic insulin pumps vulnerable to attack
April 11, 2012

medtronic Some Medtronic insulin pumps are vulnerable to a hacking attack that could let someone break into the devices from 300 feet away, disable security alarms, acquire the serial number, and force them to dispense fatal insulin doses directly into diabetics’ bloodstreams, according to McAfee Inc. computer-security researcher Barnaby Jack. Research from a consortium of academics in 2008 found … more…


Printable houses are coming
April 11, 2012

Italian inventor Enrico Dini, chairman of Monolite UK Ltd, has developed a huge three-dimensional printer called D-Shape that can print entire buildings out of sand and an inorganic binder. The printer works by spraying a thin layer of sand followed by a layer of magnesium-based binder from hundreds of nozzles on its underside. The glue turns the sand to solid stone, which is built up layer-by-layer from the bottom up to form anything from a sculpture to a sandstone building. (Credit: Monolite) The first “printed homes” will be coming soon, says World Future Society blogger Thomas Frey. One construction technology that has great potential for low-cost, customized buildings is “contour crafting — a form of 3D printing that uses robotic arms and nozzles to squeeze out layers of concrete or other materials, moving back and forth over a set path … more…


World’s smallest full-page color scanner
April 11, 2012

ScanStik (credit: Planon) The $160 pen-sized ScanStik just announced by PlanOn System Solutions is a compact portable color scanner for mobile professionals and students. Unlike other pen-sized scanners, which only scan a line at a time, ScanStik scans the whole page in one sweep, like a flat-bed scanner, in just four seconds, the company says. It has a MicroSD memory … more…


Where is intelligence located in the brain?
April 11, 2012

Brain Structures University of Illinois scientists have mapped the physical architecture of intelligence in the brain in one of the largest and most comprehensive analyses so far of the brain structures vital to general intelligence and to specific aspects of intellectual functioning, such as verbal comprehension and working memory. “We found that general intelligence depends on a … more…


Wellcome Trust joins ‘academic spring’ to open up science
April 11, 2012

800px-Scientific_journals One of the world’s largest funders of science  the Wellcome Trust, the largest non-governmental funder of medical research after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now behind a growing campaign to break the stranglehold of academic journals and allow all research papers to be shared online. Nearly 9,000 researchers have already signed up to a boycott of … more…


Chips as mini Internet
April 11, 2012

(credit: Christine Daniloff) The data-routing techniques that undergird the Internet could increase the efficiency of multicore computer chips while lowering their power requirements, MIT computer scientists suggest. Li-Shiuan Peh, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, wants cores to communicate the same way computers hooked to the … more…


How to cool electronic devices more efficiently
April 10, 2012

(credit: iStockphoto) A North Carolina State University researcher has developed a more efficient, less expensive way of cooling electronic devices: use a “heat spreader” made of a copper-graphene composite, attached to the electronic device using an indium-graphene interface film. “Both the copper-graphene and indium-graphene have higher thermal conductivity, allowing the device to cool efficiently,” says Dr. Jag Kasichainula, … more…


Graphene liquid cell allows high-resolution atomic imaging of specimens in liquid
April 10, 2012

graphene_magnifier Scientists can now observe processes occurring in liquid media at a scale less than a nanometer (billionth of a meter). Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) scientists confined an ultra-thin liquid film between layers of graphene, for real-time and in-situ imaging of nanoscale processes in fluids, with atomic-level resolution, by a transmission electron … more…


The computing trend that will change everything
April 10, 2012

computer_trend_600 The electrical efficiency of computing (the number of computations that can be completed per kilowatt-hour of electricity used) has doubled every year and a half since the dawn of the computer age. The power needed to perform a task requiring a fixed number of computations will continue to fall by half every 1.5 years (or a factor of 100 … more…


Functional magnetic resonance imaging is growing from showy adolescence into a workhorse of brain imaging
April 10, 2012

MRI Head Neuroscientists are seeking ways to improve the spatial and temporal resolution of brain signals so they can build more detailed models of the brain’s organization, networks and function. New functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) methods include sophisticated statistical techniques to pick out detailed patterns from fMRI scans, use of stronger magnets, and injecting molecules that are easier to … more…


‘Nanobubbles’ deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells
April 10, 2012

Plasmonic_nanobubbles In tests on drug-resistant cancer cells, researchers have found that delivering chemotherapy drugs and and genetic payloads with “plasmonic nanobubbles” injected directly into cancer cells was up to 30 times more deadly to cancer cells than traditional drug treatment and required less than one-tenth the clinical dose. “We are delivering cancer drugs or other genetic cargo … more…


‘Super-Turing’ machine learns and evolves
April 9, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto) Computer scientist Hava Siegelmann of the Biologically Inspired Neural & Dynamical Systems (BINDS) Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, an expert in neural networks, has taken Alan Turing’s work to its next logical step. She is translating her 1993 discovery of what she has dubbed “Super-Turing” computation into an adaptable computational system that learns and evolves, using input … more…


Salk scientists find cellular switches for the body’s biological clock
April 9, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto) The discovery of a major gear in the biological clock that tells the body when to sleep and metabolize food may lead to new drugs to treat sleep problems and metabolic disorders, including diabetes. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, led by Ronald M. Evans, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, showed … more…


Novartis compound spurs cartilage in arthritic mice
April 9, 2012

Scientists at Novartis AG have discovered a compound that spurred cartilage growth from stem cells to fix damaged joints of mice, a finding that may point to a novel therapy for the arthritis that afflicts most elderly. Researchers tested 22,000 drug-like molecules using a robotic screen, applying each one to bone marrow stem cells in … more…


Could CISPA Be the Next SOPA?
April 9, 2012

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) bill introduced to the House of Representatives late last year could become the centerpiece of the next SOPA-style struggle between the tech community and Washington, D.C. The bill already has over 100 co-sponsors and the backing of some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies, including Microsoft and Facebook. CISPA … more…


Is neuroscience the new ‘Freakonomics’?
April 9, 2012

The new generation of business thinking culls insights from the cutting edge of neuroscience, says The Washington Post Innovations blog. We are, as a society, experiencing a profound reappraisal of traditional economics and its shortcomings. The world is suddenly a lot more irrational than we ever thought, full of black swans. This new thinking about … more…


Navy builds 50,000 square foot lab to simulate desert, jungle to test military robots
April 9, 2012

LASR-tropical-high-bay_21-12r_372x233 The 50,000 square foot Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR) at the Naval Research Laboratory  in Washington, D.C. is a real-world testing lab for robots, where they’ll be tested in sandstorms, jungle humidity, and water. It can be used for small autonomous air vehicles, autonomous ground vehicles, and the people who will interact with them. … more…


A computational model of human tissue
April 9, 2012

brain_tissue Computer scientists and biologists in the Data Science Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have uncovered a new computational model called “cell graphs” that links the structure of human tissue to its corresponding biological function. The tool is a promising step in the effort to bring the power of computational science together with traditional biology … more…


Species explorers propose steps to map uncharted biosphere
April 9, 2012

plant An ambitious goal to describe 10 million species in less than 50 years is achievable and necessary to sustain Earth’s biodiversity, according to an international group of 39 scientists, scholars and engineers who provided a detailed plan, including measures to build public support. “Earth’s biosphere has proven to be a vast frontier that, even after … more…


Proposed satellite would beam solar power to earth
April 9, 2012

Space-based energy factory, SPS-ALPHA --- the Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array (credit: John Mankins) A NASA-funded new approach to power-beaming solar-power satellites has been developed by John Mankins, who led the first NASA solar-power-satellite development team in the 90s. Called the SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array), this “first practical solar-power satellite concept” uses a novel “biomimetic” approach. Mankins said that this project would make possible the construction … more…

New EVENTS

life-extension  Life Extension Foundation Free Webinar: Life Saving Blood Tests Your Doctor Won’t Order

Dates: Apr 20, 2012
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CEP logo  MIT Clean Energy Prize Program 2012

Dates: Apr 30, 2012
Location: Boston, Massachusetts

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CrickChalkboardFCMC_BruegelD  Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals

Dates: Jul 7, 2012
Location: Cambridge, UK

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index_html  ICOMP’12 – The 2012 International Conference on Internet Computing

Dates: Jul 16 – 19, 2012
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

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index_html  ICWN’12 – The 2012 International Conference on Wireless Networks

Dates: Jul 16 – 19, 2012
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

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New VIDEOS

Purdue Rube Goldberg machine  World Records Academy | Purdue team set new world record for Rube Goldberg machine

Latest Kurzweil Collection posts

Kurzweil’s ‘Singularity’ makes Kaku’s predictions seem modest

Investment Watch Blog logo  Source: Investment Watch Blog — March 28, 2012

The famed futurist Ray Kurzweil’s “Singularity” makes Kaku’s predictions seem modest. Kurzweil postualtes that somewhere around the middle of this century, Artificial Intelligence will have progressed to the point that it exceeds human intelligence. Additionaly, the AI will be able to improve itself at exponential speeds. Thus, huge advances in technology will be (are, in … more…

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