Alex Torex Blog

SciTech oriented blog

Cheetah robot leaps over hurdles

▶ Cheetah robot leaps over hurdles – YouTube

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Robotics | Leave a comment

Google’s Project Soli radar gesture tracking looks awesome

Google’s Project Soli radar gesture tracking looks awesome – The Tech Report

Project Soli might just be the most intriguing thing to come out of Google I/O. It’s being developed by Google’s advanced technologies group, which has spawned the Ara modular smartphone and the 3D-scanning Tango. With Soli, the advanced technology is radar-based motion tracking contained within a tiny silicon chip.

May 30, 2015 Posted by | Gadgets | Leave a comment

Modern humans spread out of Africa from Egypt new study finds

Modern humans spread out of Africa from Egypt new study finds | Daily Mail Online

The first modern humans to arrive in Europe and Asia migrated north out of Egypt around 55,000 years ago, according to new genetic research.

The study has answered a long standing question about the route early Homo sapiens took when spreading from the African continent.

It shows most Europeans and Asians living today are more closely related genetically to people living in Egypt than in Ethiopia.

 

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Evolution | Leave a comment

Lost memories recovered in mice with a flash of light – health

Lost memories recovered in mice with a flash of light – health – 28 May 2015 – New Scientist

Memories that seem to be lost forever may be lurking in the brain after all, ready to be reawakened. The finding, based on experiments in mice, could eventually give us a way to revive memories in people with Alzheimer’s or amnesia.

When we learn something, sets of neurons in the brain strengthen their mutual connections to lay down lasting memories. Or at least that’s the theory. Susumu Tonegawa and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to put it to the test.

The team first developed a clever technique to selectively label the neurons representing what is known as a memory engram – in other words, the brain cells involved in forming a specific memory. They did this by genetically engineering mice so they had extra genes in all their neurons. As a result, when neurons fire as a memory is formed, they produce red proteins visible under a microscope, allowing the researchers to tell which cells were part of the engram. They also inserted a gene that made the neurons fire when illuminated by blue light.

Mild electric shocks were then used to instil fear in the mice of a particular cage.

To mimic memory loss, some of the mice were given a drug that blocks the strengthening of connections between neurons. This made the animals forget their fear of the cage.

Telltale red

But the telltale red proteins allowed Tonegawa’s team to work out which neurons had been involved in storing the fear memory. They then attempted to reactivate just these neurons using blue light. Sure enough, after the engram had been reactivated, the mice again acted as if they were afraid of the cage.

The findings suggest that once we’ve learned something, a trace of that memory lurks in our brains, even if we think we have forgotten it because we can’t access it.

This makes sense to James Bisby, a neuroscientist at University College London. Most of us will at some point feel we’ve completely forgotten something, only to have the memory come flooding back when we see or hear a cue or reminder, he says. “It’s not surprising that they could trigger the memories, but it is a cool way to do it,” he says.

Stronger connections

In other experiments, the group found that the mice not given the “forgetfulness drug” developed stronger connections between neurons in the memory engram. In the forgetful mice, these connections were no stronger than connections between neighbouring cells not involved in storing the memory.

This implies that strengthened neuronal connections are not essential for forming new memories. Instead, they might be important for retrieving memories, says Tonegawa. “It was a surprise because it goes against the dogma,” he says.

Tonegawa thinks that his forgetful mice represent memory loss in people with amnesia, and the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He hopes to be able to develop a way to reactivate forgotten memories in such individuals before the brain tissue itself is damaged, as is often the case in dementia.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Biodegradable Semiconductors Might Ease Burden On The Environment

Biodegradable Semiconductors Might Ease Burden On The Environment

It looks like the advent of an age where wooden computer chips abound could be a reality, although practically speaking, such an age would still take quite some time to arrive. Scientists have already come up with a biodegradable semiconductor chip that is comprised of wood – mostly, anyways, as part of an effort to ease the burden on the environment due to electronic devices.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Technology - Green | Leave a comment

Robots Get a Grip on Meat and Vegetables

Robots Get a Grip on Meat and Vegetables | MIT Technology Review

Advances in robotics make it possible to automate tasks such as processing poultry and vegetables.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Robotics | Leave a comment

Take the online test to see if YOU are a super multitasker

Take the online test to see if YOU are a super multitasker | Daily Mail Online

  • The test asks you to focus on audio recordings and letters on the screen
  • Research has found that most of our brains are not wired for multitasking 
  • Supertaskers – who can carry out several tasks without compromising on performance – only make up two per cent of the population  

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Nasa’s next mission to Mars is GO: Radical lander could finally find out what lies beneath the red planet’s surface

Nasa’s next mission to Mars is GO: Radical lander could finally find out what lies beneath the red planet’s surface | Daily Mail Online

  • InSight will be the first mission to study the interior structure of Mars
  • It will be able to dig to a depths of 9 to 15 feet (2.7 to 4.5 metres)
  • This could reveal how rocky planets, like Earth, formed and evolved 
  • Car-sized lander is due to launch in September 2016 from California 

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Science | Leave a comment

New tech keeps your smart phone charged for 30 percent longer

New tech keeps your smart phone charged for 30 percent longer | KurzweilAI

Our technology is based on harvesting energy directly from the source, explained Robert Lee, professor of electrical and computer engineering. By Lee’s reckoning, nearly 97 percent of cell phone signals never reach a destination and are simply lost. Some of the that energy can be captured.

The idea is to siphon off just enough of the radio signal to noticeably slow battery drain, but not enough to degrade voice quality or data transmission. Cell phones broadcast in all directions at once to reach the nearest cell tower or Wi-Fi router. Chen and his colleagues came up with a system that identifies which radio signals are being wasted. It works only when a phone is transmitting.

Next, the engineers want to insert the device into a “skin” that sticks directly to a phone, or better, partner with a manufacturer to build it directly into a phone, tablet or other portable electronic device.

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Brain implant that decodes intention will let us probe free will

Brain implant that decodes intention will let us probe free will – health – 27 May 2015 – New Scientist

…we are now able for the first time to record the brain activity underlying intentions while asking about a person’s conscious experience. For example, Andersen’s team has already started to repeat classic free will experiments in which researchers try to use brain activity to predict a person’s decisions before they are consciously aware of making any.

“We will be able to look carefully into big philosophical questions of whether a person’s future decisions can be decoded from their neural activity before the individual is aware of having formed them – and what that all means for our ideas on free will,” says Diedrichsen. “It really captures the imagination.”

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Brain implant that decodes intention will let us probe free will

Brain implant that decodes intention will let us probe free will – health – 27 May 2015 – New Scientist

…we are now able for the first time to record the brain activity underlying intentions while asking about a person’s conscious experience. For example, Andersen’s team has already started to repeat classic free will experiments in which researchers try to use brain activity to predict a person’s decisions before they are consciously aware of making any.

“We will be able to look carefully into big philosophical questions of whether a person’s future decisions can be decoded from their neural activity before the individual is aware of having formed them – and what that all means for our ideas on free will,” says Diedrichsen. “It really captures the imagination.”

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Neuroscience | Leave a comment

‘Vaccine’ stops mice feeling stress – but should people take it?

‘Vaccine’ stops mice feeling stress – but should people take it? – health – 27 May 2015 – New Scientist

Even though the ketamine-taking mice had been chronically stressed, when they were dropped in a pool of water – a one-off stressful event – they were unperturbed and swam to an exit. Mice not given the drug made no attempt to escape, a classic sign of depression in rodents.

There was also no change in the ketamine-taking animals’ cognitive abilities or metabolism – both of which are altered in human depression. “It’s really remarkable,” says Brachman. “They basically look like mice that haven’t been stressed.”

A single dose of ketamine protected mice from developing the symptoms of depression after stressful events for four weeks. But the drug only seemed to stop the symptoms of depression – some of the animals still exhibited anxiety behaviours. “It seems to protect against depression rather than anxiety,” says Brachman, who controversially describes it as a depression “vaccine”. The work will be published in Biological Psychiatry.

If the findings translate to humans, the idea that ketamine could protect us from depression after stressful events is very exciting, says Gerard Sanacora at Yale University.

The drug’s usefulness will depend on how long the effects last, and how well you can predict whether someone’s life is about to get really stressful, says Brachman. “It could be useful for soldiers, or people working in natural disaster environments,” she says. Sanacora adds that it might also be useful for people who have just been diagnosed with a chronic illness.

But not everyone is convinced. Military personnel currently receive psychological training to boost their resilience, but all approaches are experimental, and none has been shown to be particularly effective, says Charles Figley, a trauma psychologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

And even if we could protect someone from the effects of stress, we might not want to, he says. Stress is a normal part of most people’s lives, and can even be beneficial in some cases. Children who have dealt with stressful experiences tend to be better at dealing with stress later in life, says Figley. “The concern is that we’re medicalising normal behaviour.”

Figley thinks that if a drug were available, it would be almost impossible to know who to give it to. Ian Anderson, a psychiatrist at the University of Manchester, UK, agrees. He points out that debates rage over whether to treat teenagers who show the vague behaviour changes that precede the delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenia. Many who have these symptoms don’t develop schizophrenia, so doctors are divided on whether they should be treated with drugs.

“If you knew someone was going into a very stressful situation, if you could find people who were vulnerable and protect them, that would be very useful,” says Anderson. “But you’d have to be selective – you couldn’t just give it to anyone willy-nilly.”

Then there’s the use of ketamine – a well-known party drug – itself. Ketamine has been used as an anaesthetic since the 1960s, and has recently been explored as an antidepressant. Most existing drugs take weeks to act, whereas ketamine gives rapid results. It does, however, have downsides: it can bring on hallucinations, and chronic use can damage the brain and bladder.

Because the idea behind it as a way to build resilience to stress is to only take it sporadically, in anticipation of stressful events, you would only experience the drug’s negative effects for a few hours, says Brachman.

Ketamine is clinically approved as an anaesthetic so could be used as soon as it is proven to work in people, she says. While Brachman plans to start testing this, she says she will also look for other drugs with similar effects but without the downsides.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Health - Brain | Leave a comment

Robots learn to recover from damage in minutes: Machines with ‘wounded limbs’ adapt like animals to carry on walking

Robots learn to recover from damage in minutes: Machines with ‘wounded limbs’ adapt like animals to carry on walking | Daily Mail Online

  • Engineers made robots that adapt to injuries in less than two minutes
  • Six-legged robots can work out a new way to walk with two broken legs
  • This is down to a new ‘Trial and Error’ learning algorithm
  • Discovery could lead to more autonomous search ans rescue machines

May 27, 2015 Posted by | AI, Robotics | Leave a comment

Are your children naughty? They may have the ‘CEO gene': Genetic sequence linked to mild rule breaking is found in good leaders

Are your children naughty? They may have the ‘CEO gene': Genetic sequence linked to mild rule breaking is found in good leaders | Daily Mail Online

A new study claims naughty schoolchildren may have what’s been called the ‘CEO gene’ making them more likely to head up a major company in the future. 

Scientists claim that a particular gene sequence associated with ‘mild’ rule breaking in children is the same one that leads to leadership qualities found in successful high-flying chief executives.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Genetics | Leave a comment

Leak claims Skylake Xeons have up to 28 cores, new memory architecture

Leak claims Skylake Xeons have up to 28 cores, new memory architecture – The Tech Report

The new Xeons will purportedly be part of a Purley platform that’s billed as the “biggest platform advancement since Nehalem.” According to the slides, they will have up to 28 cores with Hyper-Threading support—an increase from the 22-24 cores expected in comparable Xeons based on Broadwell. They’ll also feature new AVX-512 instructions. Thermal envelopes will reportedly span 45-165W.

On the memory front, the leak shows six channels of DDR4. One of the slides also mentions an “all new memory architecture” that possibly refers to the NVDIMM standard announced yesterday. NVDIMMs allow non-volatile storage to intermingle with system memory using the same slots, either as a backup for volatile DRAM or as SSD-like storage.

If EXPreview’s information is accurate, Skylake Xeons will have up to 48 PCIe Gen3 lanes built in. Intel’s Omni-Path Fabric is apparently part of the platform, along with quad 10-Gigabit Ethernet controllers. One of the slides also lists “optional integrated accelerators” that can assist with encryption, compression, media transcoding, and potentially other tasks.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | IT Hardware | Leave a comment

Dynamically reprogramming matter

Dynamically reprogramming matter | KurzweilAI

Now we are trying to achieve an even more ambitious goal,” reveal Gang: “Making materials that can transform so we can take advantage of properties that emerge with the particles’ rearrangements.”

The ability to direct particle rearrangements, or phase changes, will allow the scientists to choose the desired properties — say, the material’s response to light or a magnetic field — and switch them whenever needed. Such phase-changing materials could lead to radical new applications, such as dynamic energy-harvesting or responsive optical materials.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Audi is the first to offer synthetic gasoline

Audi is the first to offer synthetic gasoline

Just weeks ago Audi produced their first batch of synthetic diesel and now they are the first to offer synthetic gasoline which is petroleum free and clean burning with the name of e-benzin. The fuel comes from Global Bioenergies, a partner of Audi.

Global Bioenergies set up a fermentation unit in 2014 with the aim of producing gaseous isobutene from among other things corn derived glucose. This can be refined in many fuels, plastics and other applications. They then run it through purification and conditioning process and stored it in liquid form under pressure. Some of it was converted into isooctane fuel thereby creating 100 octane gasoline that was pure.

The CEO of Global Bioenergies said that it was an historic moment for the company as it was the first time that real gasoline has been produced from plants.

At the moment Isooctane is being used to improve the quality of the fuel but there is nothing stopping it from being used as a standalone fuel. The fuel is high grade and can be used to power engines as it uses high compression ratios which offer more efficiency.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Technology - Green | Leave a comment

Fetal cells injected into a man’s brain to cure his Parkinson’s

Fetal cells injected into a man’s brain to cure his Parkinson’s – health – 26 May 2015 – New Scientist

A man in his mid-50s with Parkinson’s disease had fetal brain cells injected into his brain last week. He is the first person in nearly 20 years to be treated this way – and could recover full control of his movements in roughly five years.

“It seemed to go fine,” says Roger Barker of the University of Cambridge, who is leading the international team that is reviving the procedure.

The treatment was pioneered 28 years ago in Sweden, but two trials in the US reported no significant benefit within the first two years following the injections, and the procedure was abandoned in favour of deep brain stimulation treatments.

What these trials overlooked is that it takes several years for fetal cells to “bed in” and connect properly to the recipient’s brain. Many Swedish and North American recipients improved dramatically, around three years or more after the implants – long after the trials had finished. “In the best cases, patients who had the treatment pretty much went back to normal,” says Barker.

After the fetal cells were wired up properly in their brains, they started producing the brain signalling chemical dopamine – low levels of this cause the classic Parkinson’s symptom of uncontrolled movements. In fact, the cells produced so much dopamine that many patients could stop taking their Parkinson’s drugs. “The prospect of not having to take medications for Parkinson’s is fantastic,” says James Beck of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation in the US.

Because the early trials missed this improvement no one had received fetal brain cells since the 1990s. But the man treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on 18 May did not receive a full treatment, because the team only had enough cells to treat one half of his brain.

The transplant depends on fetal cell donations from women terminating pregnancies, so the researchers don’t know when cells are likely to be available. It takes cells from at least three fetuses to treat each half of the brain, and four earlier attempts to treat the same man had to be stopped due to a lack of cells.

Lack of cells

But Barker hopes to treat the other half of the man’s brain soon. “We would expect that if we do both sides, he will see an improvement in around six months to a year,” says Barker. But the maximum benefits are predicted to happen in three to five years’ time, and should then be sustained for more than a decade, he says.

The team plans to test the treatment in a further 19 people, in a trial split between Cambridge and Sweden.

Barker sees the revival of the technique as a stepping stone to injecting dopamine-producing cells made by stem cells (see “Stem cells – the next step”, below). Trials of such treatments are expected as early as 2017, and Barker hopes lessons learned from the fetal cell transplants will guide how to apply and assess them once they are ready.

“We are now on the road towards a 2.0 version of the cell therapy paradigm,” says Lorenz Studer of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He thinks future treatment will eventually involve the use of dopamine neurons that come from stem cells rather than fetal cells, which will permanently resolve the supply problem.

Members of the Parkinson’s Disease Global Force met in New York last week to discuss the progress of this stem cell work. When Barker announced that his team’s first patient had just left the operating theatre, the meeting’s attendees burst into spontaneous applause.

“There’s a real sense within the community that this is a collaborative effort to make cell treatments work, and that there’s real potential to change the lives of hundreds of people worldwide,” said Barker.

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Health - Brain | Leave a comment

Robot Learns From Its Mistakes

Robot Learns From Its Mistakes | Ubergizmo

A bunch of scientists at UC Berkeley has successfully programmed a robot to have it learn basic tasks through trial and error, in the same way as that of a human. The robot itself is nothing new, as we have seen how a Willow Garage PR-2 has worked in the past in different situations, but being equipped with the new Deep Learning artificial intelligence, you can say that the PR-2 has “gained” a select brand of primitive learning ability.

This robot has been given the nickname of BRETT, (Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks), where it will make use of both visual and sensory information concerning itself, its environment and the objects located right before it, building them up like LEGO and figuring out how things work. Pretty neat, don’t you think so?

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Robotics | Leave a comment

If Managed Right, China’s Coal Habit Could Be Less Damaging than You Fear

If Managed Right, China’s Coal Habit Could Be Less Damaging than You Fear | MIT Technology Review

China has rapidly cleaned up its coal plants. Now comes the hard part

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Technology - Green | Leave a comment

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