Alex Torex Blog

SciTech oriented blog

Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space

Is this ET? Mystery of strange radio bursts from space – space – 31 March 2015 – New Scientist

BURSTS of radio waves flashing across the sky seem to follow a mathematical pattern. If the pattern is real, either some strange celestial physics is going on, or the bursts are artificial, produced by human – or alien – technology.

Telescopes have been picking up so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) since 2001. They last just a few milliseconds and erupt with about as much energy as the sun releases in a month. Ten have been detected so far, most recently in 2014, when the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, caught a burst in action for the first time. The others were found by sifting through data after the bursts had arrived at Earth. No one knows what causes them, but the brevity of the bursts means their source has to be small – hundreds of kilometres across at most – so they can’t be from ordinary stars. And they seem to come from far outside the galaxy.

The weird part is that they all fit a pattern that doesn’t match what we know about cosmic physics.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

IBM Creates The Super Digital Crystal Ball

IBM Creates The Super Digital Crystal Ball | TG Daily

Today IBM made a rather interesting announcement with the Weather Company.  This was coupled with the formation of an IOT organization and the result should be the creation of something like a Digital Crystal Ball.  No, wait a moment, that isn’t really accurate.  They are creating something better than a Digital Crystal Ball because their offering will automatically provide answers to the questions you should have asked not just the ones you did ask.

The Problem With Analytics

In many ways Analytics strive to be the equivalent of a Digital Crystal Ball.   They look at the ever more massive amount of data that is collected from an ever wider dataset, now increasingly including massive numbers of sensors, and use this to answer the questions Data Scientists come up with.   

Part of the problem with current systems is that the folks that really need the answers are line and staff executives and the vast majority of executives aren’t Data Scientists.  So you have someone that needs an answer and they need to go to someone else, else with a very different background, to translate their question into a form the Analytics system can understand, the system provides an answer, then the Data Scientist translates this answer into something the executive can understand. 

Related: The Internet of Things: increasing the security nightmare

There are huge areas for error in both the translation of the question and the answer and the time and annoyance tied to this process means that a lot of the questions that need to be asked aren’t or they are asked and the answer that comes back is either useless or wrong because the translations weren’t accurate.  

IBM’s Watson is one of a growing number of AI systems designed to address this first question allowing the executive to ask the question directly to Watson and have Watson directly accept the question and provide the answer.  This would be like a Digital Crystal ball.  However this is only half of the problem.

The other half is knowing when to ask a question and what to ask. 

Adding IOT

With IOT tied to an intelligent system the system can learn what questions to ask and provide the answers unprompted.  In other words by being able to increasingly perceive what is going on in the real world and using an ever smarter AI the Watson System can grow to anticipate when a question needs to be answered and simply provide the answer. 

Related: The Five Reasons Dell Beats HP in the Technology Market

In the context of this announcement it can better anticipate weather events and provide advice to First Responders, Utilities, and Retailers with regard to what they need to do and when.  For instance a coming storm might generate a series of alerts that recommended where to place resources, how to shift utility loading, and even what kinds of goods to shelve and promote to best take advantage of the event. 

In short rather than just getting a weather alert you get a series of recommendations with regard to what to actually do to both limit damage and increase benefits from the event.

Wrapping Up:  The Super Digital Crystal Ball

This is just the start and as systems like Watson mature their ability to provide necessary unasked for advice timely will improve.   You see while it might be nice to know if you will marry the person you are dating far better would be to know that such a marriage would end badly.   It is this extra level of information this next generation of intelligent systems will begin supplying.  Not just understanding what you know you want, but understanding what you may not know you need and providing that more critical piece of information before you need it. 

This is kind of a Super Digital Crystal ball and, once it matures, I doubt there will be any company large or small that will be able to effectively compete, or even survive, without it.  

March 31, 2015 Posted by | AI | Leave a comment

Yale University study shows important smartphone metals running out

Yale University study shows important smartphone metals running out | Daily Mail Online

  • Researchers assessed the ‘criticality’ of 62 metals on the Periodic Table
  • Criticality looks at which materials will become harder to find, which will have the highest environmental costs and which are irreplaceable
  • Paper found that supplies of gallium, arsenic and selenium are high-risk
  • These compounds are needed for circuit boards, batteries and more  

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Mobile phone battery life could one day be 10 YEARS thanks to super-efficient chip

Mobile phone battery life could one day be 10 YEARS thanks to super-efficient chip | Daily Mail Online

During a demonstration of the microcontrollers at this year’s CES, Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s director of product marketing demonstrated how he could power a radio by placing his hand on a panel.  

This panel recognised a change in temperature between the hand and the room and this was harvested to create charge. Mr Eieland said this is based on piezoelectric materials. 

The material is able to produce an electric charge when it stretches and is subjected to mechanical stress.
As Ars Technica’s Sean Gallagher explained, the processor isn’t powerful enough to run a computer desktop, for example, but does come with enough power and memory to stream media from a USB stick, send alerts from smart alarms and lights and run multiple apps.
The firm said that the microcontroller itself can run for years on a single charge, but the battery life of the devices it is added to will depend on how much they are used.

Atmel’s current model is designed for smart household devices and other gadgets that use relatively low power, but the technology has the potential to one day run on more power-hungry gadgets such as phones and tablets.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Asian solar spending helps drive renewable energy boom

Asian solar spending helps drive renewable energy boom – tech – 31 March 2015 – New Scientist

Almost half of global investment in new electricity generation last year was in renewables, thanks to a hike in investment by developing countries, says a UN report.

Global investment in green energy rose 17 per cent, but developing countries saw a surge of 36 per cent. The big spending was on solar power in Asia, as well as on wind turbines in the North Sea.

Chinese investment – up 37 per cent at $83 billion – again beat the US. But Brazil, India and South Africa were all in the top 10 investors, while Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya and Turkey all invested more than a billion dollars in green electricity in 2014.

Japan was third and, for the second year running, the UK beat Germany into fourth place, says the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment report from the UN Environment Programme.

Europe, once the green pioneer, dominated only one sector: offshore wind, where it launched seven projects worth $1 billion or more. Among these was a $3.8 billion North Sea wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands – the largest non-hydro renewable energy plant to get the go-ahead anywhere in the world in 2014.

In the US, the 103 gigawatts of renewable electricity generating capacity that came on stream last year equalled that provided by the country’s nuclear power plants.

Excluding large hydro-plants – which have environmental drawbacks – 9.1 per cent of the world’s electricity was generated using renewable sources in 2014, up from 8.5 per cent the previous year. This rise cut carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes, says the report.

A key factor behind the boom in green electricity was the continuing fall in the price of renewables technology, said Udo Steffens of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in Germany, who co-authored the report’s foreword. The boom was unaffected by the falling price of oil, which is mostly used for transport rather than generating electricity. “Oil and renewables do not directly compete for power investment dollars.”

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Technology - Green | Leave a comment

We must pull together to grasp consciousness

We must pull together to grasp consciousness – opinion – 31 March 2015 – New Scientist

Are robots with human-like intelligence just around the corner? Are we close to understanding consciousness? In the run-up to the New Scientist Live Consciousness and the Extended Mind event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on 7 April, Liz Else spoke to Margaret Boden, one of the participants, about the real state of the art

Big money is being spent on initiatives like the European Union’s Human Brain Project. Will people hoping to learn about consciousness be disappointed?
Absolutely. From what I hear, some of that project’s neuroscientists are disappointed because it isn’t nearly strong enough in asking cognitive questions. It is asking the basic, materialistic questions – such as which cells connect with what, or which chemicals are diffusing – but these basic questions aren’t the only important ones.

So are we much closer to grasping consciousness than when you started work on it, four decades ago?
Not very. I think the fundamental problems aren’t just scientific – knowing what’s going on in the brain when we’re conscious and so forth – but philosophical questions, and in particular about the phenomenon of consciousness. This concerns the so-called hard problem of how conscious experience emerges from matter, and why we experience, say, the redness of red or feel pain. It isn’t just that we’re not sure what scientific questions to ask; it’s that we don’t know what questions to ask because we don’t know what we’re talking about.

What about brain imaging studies. Don’t they help?
Most work going on in brain imaging is of no scientific value. It looks for correlations between behaviour or experience and activity in the brain, but it’s rarely guided by theoretical questions. Maybe in 100 years, it will fit into a neuroscientific theory. Right now I regard it as natural history rather than science, in the sense that Darwin turned natural history into theoretical biology in On the Origin of Species. Most imaging work is at that natural-history stage.

So where have we seen progress?
One area is in understanding functional consciousness, such as decision-making. And we understand more about how systems in the brain cooperate and integrate to make conscious or unconscious decisions.

Would you ever expect to see the sort of human-like artificial consciousness of Ex Machina or Chappie?
I don’t think it’s impossible in principle, but if it does happen, it’s going to be very far in the future. Apart from requiring very powerful computers – and soon some computers will match our brain’s processing power – we have to understand the brain’s information-processing well enough to make a system that can do it. We simply don’t.

How does this limit research?
In terms of AI, it means you have to pose strictly specified problems before coming up with systems tailored to solve them. In many cases you can solve such problems far better than any human can, and your solution will have amazing applicability – but only in a very, very narrow sense.

How do you get round this narrowness?
The brain and consciousness, like climate change, is one of the few areas where people realise that different disciplines have things to contribute. This must be encouraged. The problem comes with publishing results – if you don’t keep within recognised research boundaries, what you’re doing is not recognised.

But you bucked that trend?
I had a very strange educational background and this is partly why I’ve been able to make a reasonably unique contribution. My first degree was in medical sciences, then I studied philosophy, and social and cognitive psychology, and picked up AI. These days people like me might not get a job.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Mortal Kombat X: All Fatalities and X-Rays So Far in 1080p 60fps

▶ Mortal Kombat X: All Fatalities and X-Rays So Far in 1080p 60fps – YouTube

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Games | Leave a comment

Bugs breakthrough paves way for ‘super deodorant': Bacteria behind body odour finally identified meaning sprays that leave people smelling sweeter for longer could be on the way

Bugs breakthrough paves way for ‘super deodorant': Bacteria behind body odour finally identified meaning sprays that leave people smelling sweeter for longer could be on the way  | Daily Mail Online

  • Body odour occurs when bacteria feast on the sugary proteins in sweat
  • This releases foul-smelling chemicals called thioalcohols in the process
  • Scientists have now discovered which bacteria produce worst effect  
  • Paves way for a ‘super deodorant’ which will target these specific bugs

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Biology | Leave a comment

‘Nanoneedles’ generate new blood vessels in mice, paving the way for new regenerative medicine

‘Nanoneedles’ generate new blood vessels in mice, paving the way for new regenerative medicine | KurzweilAI

Scientists have developed “nanoneedles” that have successfully prompted parts of the body to generate new blood vessels, in a trial in mice.

The researchers, from Imperial College London and Houston Methodist Research Institute in the USA, hope their nanoneedle technique could ultimately help damaged organs and nerves repair themselves and help transplanted organs  thrive.

In a trial described in Nature Materials, the team showed they could deliver nucleic acids DNA and siRNA to back muscles in mice. After seven days there was a six-fold increase in the formation of new blood vessels in the mouse back muscles, and blood vessels continued to form over a 14 day period.

The nanoneedles are tiny porous structures that act as a sponge to load significantly more nucleic acids than solid structures. This makes them more effective at delivering their payload. They can penetrate the cell, bypassing its outer membrane, to deliver nucleic acids without harming or killing the cell.

The nanoneedles are made from biodegradable silicon, meaning that they can be left in the body without leaving a toxic residue behind. The silicon degrades in about two days, leaving behind only a negligible amount of a harmless substance called orthosilicic acid.

Generating new blood vessels

The hope is that one day scientists will be able to help promote the generation of new blood vessels in people, using nanoneedles, to provide transplanted organs or future artificial organ implants with the necessary connections to the rest of the body, so that they can function properly with a minimal chance of being rejected.

“This is a quantum leap compared to existing technologies for the delivery of genetic material to cells and tissues,” said Ennio Tasciotti, Co-Chair, Department of Nanomedicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute and co-corresponding author of the paper.

“By gaining direct access to the cytoplasm of the cell we have achieved genetic reprogramming at an incredible high efficiency. This will let us personalize treatments for each patient, giving us endless possibilities in sensing, diagnosis and therapy. And all of this thanks to tiny structures that are up to 1,000 times smaller than a human hair.”

The researchers are now aiming to develop a material like a flexible bandage that can incorporate the nanoneedles. The idea is that this would be applied to different parts of the body, internally or externally, to deliver the nucleic acids necessary to repair and reset the cell programming.

Ciro Chiappini, first author of the study suggested that in the future it may be possible for doctors to apply flexible bandages to severely burnt skin to reprogram the cells to heal that injury with functional tissue instead of forming a scar. “Alternatively, we may see surgeons first applying the nanoneedle bandages inside the affected region to promote the healthy integration of these new organs and implants in the body. We are a long way off, but our initial trials seem very promising.”

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Health - Regenerative Medicine | Leave a comment

Facebook says the world is an ILLUSION

Facebook says the world is an ILLUSION | Daily Mail Online

Michael Abrash, chief scientist from Facebook-owned virtual reality (VR) experts Oculus said The Matrix provides the best sense of what virtual reality could someday be like.

And he used optical tricks to prove that we are merely ‘inference machines’ and the world we see now is already an illusion. 

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Graphene light bulbs to go on sale this year and should last 10% longer than LEDS

Graphene light bulbs to go on sale this year and should last 10% longer than LEDS | Daily Mail Online

  • Bulb contains a filament-shaped LED coated in ultra conductive graphene
  • Wonder material is strong, durable and thinner than a human hair
  • Bulb was developed at University of Manchester and will be sold in months
  • Claims to cut energy use by 10%, last longer and be ‘competitively’ priced

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Technology - Green | Leave a comment

The Earth is getting GREENER, researchers reveal

The Earth is getting GREENER, researchers reveal | Daily Mail Online

The world’s vegetation has expanded, adding nearly 4 billion tonnes of carbon to plants above ground in the decade since 2003, thanks to tree-planting in China, forest regrowth in former Soviet states and more lush savannas due to higher rainfall.

Scientists analysed 20 years of satellite data and found the increase in carbon, despite ongoing large-scale tropical deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia, according to research published on Monday in Nature Climate Change. 

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Science | Leave a comment

Researchers find garlic can slow down ageing and protect the brain from disease

Researchers find garlic can slow down ageing and protect the brain from disease | Daily Mail Online

It may be handy for killing vampires, but garlic can keep humans alive in more ways than one, researchers have found.

They say a nutrient in garlic offers the brain protection against ageing and disease.

It could even prevent age-related neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Health - Anti-aging | Leave a comment

Almost 3,000 atoms entangled with a single photon

Almost 3,000 atoms entangled with a single photon | KurzweilAI

Now Vuletic and his colleagues have successfully created a mutual entanglement among 2,910 atoms, virtually all the atoms in the 3,100 atoms ensemble, using very weak laser light — down to pulses containing a single photon. The weaker the light, the better, Vuletic says, as it is less likely to disrupt the cloud. “The system remains in a relatively clean quantum state,” he says.

The researchers first cooled a cloud of atoms, then trapped them in a laser trap, and sent a weak laser pulse through the cloud. They then set up a detector to look for a particular photon within the beam. Vuletic reasoned that if a photon has passed through the atom cloud without event, its polarization, or direction of oscillation, would remain the same.

If, however, a photon has interacted with the atoms, its polarization rotates just slightly — a sign that it was affected by quantum “noise” in the ensemble of spinning atoms, with the noise being the difference in the number of atoms spinning clockwise and counterclockwise.

“Every now and then, we observe an outgoing photon whose electric field oscillates in a direction perpendicular to that of the incoming photons,” Vuletic says. “When we detect such a photon, we know that must have been caused by the atomic ensemble, and surprisingly enough, that detection generates a very strongly entangled state of the atoms.”

Vuletic and his colleagues are currently using the single-photon detection technique to build a state-of-the-art atomic clock* that they hope will overcome what’s known as the “standard quantum limit” — a limit to how accurate measurements can be in quantum systems. Vuletic says the group’s current setup may be a step toward developing even more complex entangled states.

“This particular state can improve atomic clocks by a factor of two,” Vuletic says. “We’re striving toward making even more complicated states that can go further.”

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Physics | Leave a comment

Why food is rarely the simple pleasure it once was

Why food is rarely the simple pleasure it once was – life – 28 March 2015 – New Scientist

Joanna Blythman explains how far manufacturers will go to produce cheap foods that taste consistent, while retaining that “just-cooked” feel.

Her page about salami, for example, features company literature describing a meat glue made from the enzyme transglutaminase, blended with animal protein and vitamin B9: “Salami Dry Express B9 decreases ripening time by up to 20 per cent, creates a more… appealing colour in less time, offers improved casing peeling and… sausage aroma. Improved slicing properties reduce wastage by up to five per cent, while shorter processing and storage times also provide financial advantages.”

Each promise listed sounds reasonable. But taken together, they suggest an approach to food that can only disgust consumers. And this, chiefly, is why the food processing industry is growing ever more secretive, ever more insincere, and, more worryingly still, ever more removed from the real science of nutrition. Its prime concern is not food, but keeping up appearances.

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Health - Nutrition | Leave a comment

Quantum experiment shows the measurement of a photon affects its location

Quantum experiment shows the measurement of a photon affects its location | Daily Mail Online

The report adds that while other experiments have shown entanglement with two particles, the new study entangles a photon with itself.

This phenomenon is the strongest yet proof of the entanglement of a single particle, an unusual form of quantum entanglement that is being increasingly explored for quantum communication and computation.

‘Einstein never accepted orthodox quantum mechanics and the original basis of his contention was this single-particle argument,’ said Professor Wiseman.

‘This is why it is important to demonstrate non-local wave function collapse with a single particle.

‘Einstein’s view was that the detection of the particle only ever at one point could be much better explained by the hypothesis that the particle is only ever at one point, without invoking the instantaneous collapse of the wave function to nothing at all other points.

‘However, rather than simply detecting the presence or absence of the particle, we used homodyne measurements enabling one party to make different measurements and the other, using quantum tomography, to test the effect of those choices.’

‘Through these different measurements, you see the wave function collapse in different ways, thus proving its existence and showing that Einstein was wrong.’

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Physics | Leave a comment

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050 | KurzweilAI

High-performance computing and genetic engineering could boost crop photosynthetic efficiency enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

“We now know every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in plants such as soybeans and maize,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, who wrote the report with colleagues from Illinois and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute of Computational Biology in Shanghai.

Improvement strategies

“We have unprecedented computational resources that allow us to model every stage of photosynthesis and determine where the bottlenecks are, and advances in genetic engineering will help us augment or circumvent those steps that impede efficiency. Long suggested several strategies.

Add pigments. “Our lab and others have put a gene from cyanobacteria into crop plants and found that it boosts the photosynthetic rate by 30 percent. ” But Long says we could improve that. “Some bacteria and algae contain pigments that utilize more of the solar spectrum than plant pigments do. If added to plants, those pigments could bolster the plants’ access to solar energy.

Add the blue-green algae system. Some scientists are trying to engineer C4 photosynthesis in C3 plants, but this means altering plant anatomy, changing the expression of many genes and inserting new genes from C4 plants, Long said.   “Another, possibly simpler approach is to add to the C3 chloroplast the system used by ,” he said. This would increase the activity of Rubisco, an enzyme that catalyzes a vital step of the conversion of atmospheric carbon dioxide into plant biomass. Computer models suggest adding this system would increase photosynthesis as much as 60 percent, Long said.

More sunlight for lower leaves. Computer analyses of the way plant leaves intercept sunlight have revealed other ways to improve photosynthesis. Many plants intercept too much light in their topmost leaves and too little in lower leaves; this probably allows them to outcompete their neighbors, but in a farmer’s field such competition is counterproductive, Long said. Studies headed by U. of I. plant biology professor Donald Ort aim to make plants’ upper leaves lighter, allowing more sunlight to penetrate to the light-starved lower leaves.

Eliminate traffic jams. “The computer model predicts that by altering this system by up-regulating some genes and down-regulating others, a 60 percent improvement could be achieved without any additional resource — so 60 percent more carbon could be assimilated for no more nitrogen,” Long said.

In silico simulation. “The next step is to create an in silico plant to virtually simulate the amazingly complex interactions among biological scales,” said U. of I. plant biology professor Amy Marshall-Colon, a co-author on the report. “This type of model is essential to fill current gaps in knowledge and better direct our engineering efforts.”

30 years lead time

The work should be undertaken now, Long said. “If we have a success today, it won’t appear in farmers’ fields for 15 years at the very earliest,” he said. “We have to be doing today what we may need in 30 years.”

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Genetics | Leave a comment

Could SACCHARIN help beat Cancer? Researchers say it could inhibit cell growth

Could SACCHARIN help beat Cancer? Researchers say it could inhibit cell growth | Daily Mail Online

Saccharin could help beat cancer – despite first being though to cause it, researchers have found.

University of Florida Health researchers have found that the artificial sweetener can inhibit cancer cell growth.

They say it could be used to slow the cancer’s growth, providing the opportunity for radiation or chemotherapy to be more effective at killing off the cancer cell.

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Health - Oncology | Leave a comment

Black holes cause BLASTS in the cores of galaxies

Black holes cause BLASTS in the cores of galaxies | Daily Mail Online

  • University of Maryland scientists present theory for galaxy cores
  • They say supermassive black holes are causing blasts of material
  • This leads to the formation of thousands of stars ever year
  • And the huge outflows could also dictate the size and shape of galaxies 

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Astronomy | Leave a comment

100 times more likely to get ill after from unpasteurised dairy, claims study

100 times more likely to get ill after from unpasteurised dairy, claims study  | Daily Mail Online

The trend for fresh, local, unprocessed foods could be putting people at risk if they opt to drink raw milk.

This is according to a new study that claims raw milk makes people 100 times more likely to get ill than the pasteurised version.

Raw milk is associated with more than half of all milk-related food borne illnesses, even though only an estimated 3.5 per cent of the population in the US drink it.

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Health - Nutrition | Leave a comment


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