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Aug 13, 2015

Our Aging Immune System: Can Antioxidants Combat The Decline?

Posted by in category: life extension

The decline of the thymus, responsible for the upkeep of our adaptive immune system, might be due to oxidative damage and insufficient antioxidant mechanisms to combat it.

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Aug 13, 2015

Quantum computing advance locates neutral atoms

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics

For any computer, being able to manipulate information is essential, but for quantum computing, singling out one data location without influencing any of the surrounding locations is difficult. Now, a team of Penn State physicists has a method for addressing individual neutral atoms without changing surrounding atoms.

“There are a set of things that we have to have to do quantum computing,” said David S. Weiss, professor of physics. “We are trying to step down that list and meet the various criteria. Addressability is one step.”

Quantum computers are constructed and operate in completely different ways from the conventional digital computers used today. While conventional computers store information in bits, 1‘s and 0’s, quantum computers store information in qubits. Because of a strange aspect of quantum mechanics called superposition, a qubit can be in both its 0 and 1 state at the same time. The methods of encoding information onto , ions or Josephson junctions—electronic devices used in precise measurement, to create quantum computers—are currently the subject of much research. Along with superposition, quantum computers will also take advantage of the quantum mechanical phenomena of entanglement, which can create a mutually dependent group of qubits that must be considered as a whole rather than individually.

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Aug 13, 2015

Microsoft’s new AI is capable of spotting a good joke

Posted by in categories: computing, humor, robotics/AI

As great as computers are at crunching their way through millions of numbers in just a few seconds, they’re not well known for having deep emotions or a sense of humour — until now. A new artificial intelligence system developed by Microsoft has been trained to spot the funniest submissions to the ongoing New Yorker cartoon caption competition. Indeed, the software has been developed partly out of necessity, with so many entries flooding in that the human editors can’t cope.

“The process of looking at 5,000 caption entries a week usually destroys [my editorial assistant’s] mind in about two years, and then I get a new one,” the New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff explained to Bloomberg. “It’s a little bit daunting. It’s like going snow blind; you go humour blind.”

That’s why Mankoff has been working alongside Microsoft researchers Dafna Shahaf and Eric Horvitz in developing the new humour-sensitive AI software. Of course, the program needs to be trained in what’s funny and what isn’t, because it doesn’t have an innate sense of what makes something witty: by feeding in thousands of previous submissions, the AI gets a large database of previous responses to work from.

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Aug 13, 2015

Brain-to-brain communication has arrived. How we did it

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, cyborgs, neuroscience

You may remember neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis — he built the brain-controlled exoskeleton that allowed a paralyzed man to kick the first ball of the 2014 World Cup. What’s he working on now? Building ways for two minds (rats and monkeys, for now) to send messages brain to brain. Watch to the end for an experiment that, as he says, will go to “the limit of your imagination.”

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Aug 13, 2015

Dropbox now lets you log in with a USB key for universal 2nd factor authentication

Posted by in category: security

Dropbox today announced that it has started to allow users to log in using USB keys as a universal second factor (U2F) of authentication.

U2F, a protocol promoted by the FIDO Alliance, isn’t the most trendy form of secure authentication for consumer web services. What’s far more common is two-factor authentication that you can sign on with by entering a code that’s sent to your phone. Dropbox already allows its users to do that, but now it’s gone further.

“After typing in your password, just insert your key into a USB port when you’re prompted, instead of typing in a six-digit code,” Dropbox’s Patrick Heim and Jay Patel wrote in a blog post today. “And unlike two-step with a phone, you’ll never have to worry about your battery going dead when you use a security key.”

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Aug 13, 2015

The makers of the Roomba just got government approval for a robot lawn mower

Posted by in categories: futurism, robotics/AI

It’s been nearly a decade since the earliest whispers suggested iRobot, makers of the Roomba, were building a lawn mower. But we seem to be a bit closer to the future we were promised: the FCC has granted approval to iRobot to build a hands-free mowing-bot, Reuters reports.

Although we don’t know all of the specifics, the mower, according to Reuters, would operate through stakes in the ground that wirelessly connect to a mower and map out where it should cut. That approach required a waiver from the Commission, which was granted despite objections from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The observatory argued the mower’s signal would interfere with telescopes, but the FCC sided with iRobot, saying its limitations would insure astronomers‘ work wasn’t harmed.

But a mower still doesn’t sound like it will be available to consumers imminently. According to Reuters, iRobot says the waiver will let it “continue exploring the viability of wideband, alongside other technologies, as part of a long-term product exploration effort in the lawn mowing category.”

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Aug 12, 2015

MIT designs small, modular, efficient fusion power plant

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering, nuclear energy

A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor (credit: MIT ARC team)

MIT plans to create a new compact version of a tokamak fusion reactor with the goal of producing practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource in as little as a decade.

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, involves fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms together to form helium, accompanied by enormous releases of energy.

Continue reading “MIT designs small, modular, efficient fusion power plant” »

Aug 12, 2015

Robot builds its own children, mimics evolution

Posted by in categories: evolution, robotics/AI

A robot mama built robot babies, taking what was best from her first generation to build better and more mobile bots. Yes, now’s a good time to panic.

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Aug 12, 2015

Overcoming Scarring: Cell Signalling Pathway Could Promote Regeneration

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Research on a cell signalling pathway common to mammals has now uncovered a signalling pathway and specific protein, which might act as a regulator in regeneration.

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Aug 12, 2015

MIT designed an inexpensive fusion reactor that boosts power

Posted by in category: energy

We’re not quite in the fusion age yet, but this is promising. For 50 years, researchers have been saying we’re 25 years away from practical fusion. Now they’re saying 5 years.

The small, modular, efficient, less expensive ARC reactor could help to bring the long-sought power source closer to reality.

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