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The Great Filter

The Great Filter | Amazing Science |

The Great Filter, in the context of the Fermi paradox, is whatever prevents "dead matter" from giving rise, in time, to "expanding lasting life" in the universe.[1] The concept originates in Robin Hanson's argument that the failure to find any extraterrestrial civilizations in the observable universe implies the possibility something is wrong with one or more of the arguments from various scientific disciplines that the appearance of advanced intelligent life is probable; this observation is conceptualized in terms of a "Great Filter" which acts to reduce the great number of sites where intelligent life might arise to the tiny number of intelligent species actually observed (currently just one: human). This probability threshold, which could lie behind us (in our past) or in front of us (in our future), might work as a barrier to the evolution of intelligent life, or as a high probability of self-destruction. The main counter-intuitive conclusion of this observation is that the easier it was for life to evolve to our stage, the bleaker our future chances probably are.

The idea was first proposed in an online essay titled, "The Great Filter - Are We Almost Past It?" written by economist Robin Hanson. The first version was written in August 1996 and the article was last updated on September 15, 1998. Since that time, Hanson's formulation has received recognition in several published sources discussing the Fermi paradox and its implications.

According to the Great Filter hypothesis at least one of these steps - if the list were complete - must be improbable. If it's not an early step (i.e. in our past), then the implication is that the improbable step lies in our future and our prospects of reaching step 9 (interstellar colonization) are still bleak. If the past steps are likely, then many civilizations would have developed to the current level of the human race. However, none appear to have made it to step 9, or the Milky Way would be full of colonies. So perhaps step 9 is the unlikely one, and the only thing that appears likely to keep us from step 9 is some sort of catastrophe or the resource exhaustion leading to impossibility to make the step due to consumption of the available resources (like for example highly constrained energy resources). So by this argument, finding multicellular life on Mars (provided it evolved independently) would be bad news, since it would imply steps 2–6 are easy, and hence only 1, 7, 8 or 9 (or some unknown step) could be the big problem.[3]

Although steps 1–7 have occurred on Earth, any one of these may be unlikely. If the first seven steps are necessary preconditions to calculating the likelihood (using the local environment) then an anthropically biased observer can infer nothing about the general probabilities from its (pre-determined) surroundings.

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Google Strikes Smart Contact Lens deal to track Diabetes and Cure Farsightedness

Google Strikes Smart Contact Lens deal to track Diabetes and Cure Farsightedness | Amazing Science |

With Glass and Android Wear, Google has already invested a lot of time and resources into developing the next-generation of wearables, but it's another of its eye-focused projects that has today received its first major boost. The search giant's secret Google[x] team has confirmed that it's licensed its smart eyewear to healthcare specialist Novartis, which will develop the technology into a product that can improve eye care and help manage diseases and conditions.

As part of the agreement, Google[x] and Novartis' eye care division Alcon will create smart lenses that feature "non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics" and focus on two main areas. The first will provide a way for diabetic patients to keep on top of their glucose levels by measuring the sugar levels in their tear fluid, feeding the data back to a smartphone or tablet. The second solution aims to help restore the eye's natural focus on near objects, restoring clear vision to those who are only farsighted (presbyopia).

Google's role will be to develop the tiny electronics needed to collect data and will also take care of the low-power chip designs and fabrication. Alcon, on the other hand, will apply its medical knowledge to develop commercial versions of the smart contact lens. "Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people," says Google co-founder Sergey Brin. "We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true."

Via TechinBiz, Farid Mheir, Sílvia Dias
Farid Mheir's curator insight, July 17, 10:44 AM

Strangely I never wrote about this but it certainly is worth a mention because Google has now made very strong moves towards "atoms and not bits" as Sergei Brin put it a few days ago, stating that Google has invested in search (bits) for a long time and is now complementing its focus to physical devices (atoms) such as the self driving car or here the contact lens.

This story is of particular importance as it shows that Google is not in the business of making contact lenses (or cars) but providing the R&D to disrupt industries that are not making the radical shifts they can by using digital technology.

Also consider:.

[INFOGRAPHIC] The Existing Wearable Technology Landscape via @WearableWorld

IV Technology's curator insight, July 18, 8:18 AM

siguiente paso es hacer diagnosticos con scaner y que se prenda una luz roja para que vayamos al servicio.... Hospital

Rossana Moreno's curator insight, July 22, 6:58 AM

Propuesta interesante

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Kardashev Scale: Alien Civilization Types From I To VII

Kardashev Scale: Alien Civilization Types From I To VII | Amazing Science |

The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring how advanced a civilization really is. It relies on energy consumption of the whole civilization and then applies it to the universe. A Soviet Russian astronomer named Kardashev thought of it in 1964.

Our own civilization is just at the beginning of this scale (Type 0). Most of our power use is still from natural resources, oil, gas and coal – which as we all know we can’t renew.  We are only just thinking about using solar power, geothermal power, wind power and similar. Our civilization is around 0.73 on the Kardashev scale and slowly climbing.

There is speculation that we will reach type 1 civilization status in 100 to 200 years. It’s all big jumps and achievements that move a type 1 civilization up the scale after this. As we rise up through the civilization types we begin to learn more and more and move up the scale exponentially. Remember that it took over 3,000 million years for humans to evolve to this state today.

Type 0 Milestones:

1 The discovery of fire.

2 The development of stone tools.

3 The industrial revolution.

4 The technological expansion of the 19th century to the 20th century.

5 Nuclear weapons and fission power.

6 Achievements from the late 20th century to the early 21st century.

7 Fusion power and Space elevators.

8 Up to the Type I technological breakpoint, with either civilization destruction or survival.

Type 1 Milestones:

1 Near space industry and colonization.

2 Asteroid mining.

3 Planet Mining for fuels and energy.

4  First Interstellar travel.

5  Culture Orbital


7  Construction begins on Dyson Sphere or Alderson disk.

8  Civilization extends to the entire Solar System.

9 One nation without boundaries on Earth.

Type 3 Milestones:

1 Space time manipulation control of the energy output of a galactic supercluster.

2 Star Wars type civilization (debatable).

3 Ability to survive the end of the Universe.

4 Controls the whole galaxy and has controlled it for millennia.

Type 4 Milestones:

Extra-dimensional beings but not Gods although they may seem like it to type 0. The Star Trek character Q would fit into this category. There is possible harnessing of Dark Energy.

Type 5 Milestones:

Energy control over the entire universe. Such a civilization approaches or surpases the limits of speculation based on current scientific understanding, and may not be possible. Frank J. Tipler’s Omega point may ocupy this level.

Type 6 Milestones:

Energy control over multiple universes, a power level that is technically infinite. The civilization may have gained the ability to alter physical laws across multiple universes. These civilizations can escape a dying universe, and thereby become eternal, it is possible that less advanced civilizations can do so as well.

Type 7 Milestones:

This would be a God  or a deity, able to create universes at will, using them as an energy source, and a large one at that. Type 7 though is well beyond the stage of understanding that humans can incur beyond a technological singularity.

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How Will We Know When Computers Can Think for Themselves?

How Will We Know When Computers Can Think for Themselves? | Amazing Science |

Headlines recently exploded with news that a computer program called Eugene Goostman had become the first to pass the Turing test, a method devised by computing pioneer Alan Turing to objectively prove a computer can think.

The program fooled 33% of 30 judges into thinking it was a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy in a five-minute conversation. How impressive is the result? In a very brief encounter, judges interacted with a program that could be forgiven for not knowing much or speaking very eloquently—in the grand scheme, it’s a fairly low bar.

Chat programs like Eugene Goostman have existed since the 1970s. Though they have advanced over the years, none yet represents the revolutionary step in AI implied by the Turing test. So, if the Eugene Goostman program isn’t exemplary of a radical leap forward, what would constitute such a leap, and how will we know when it happens?

To explore that question, it’s worth looking at what the Turing test actually is and what it’s meant to measure.

In a 1950 paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Alan Turing set out to discover how we might answer the question, “Can machines think?” Turing believed the answer would devolve into a semantic debate over the definitions of the words “machine” and “think.” He suggested what he hoped was a more objective test to replace the question.

Turing called it the imitation test. The test involved three participants, an interrogator (of either sex) and a male and female subject. The interrogator would try to discover which was male and which female by asking questions. The man would try to fool the interrogator and the woman would try to help him. To avoid revealing themselves by physical traits, the subjects and interrogator would ideally communicate by teletype from separate rooms.

Now, Turing said, substitute the participant trying to fool the interrogator with a computer. And instead of trying to discover which is a man and which a woman—have the interrogator decide which is human and which a computer.

Turing suggested this test would replace the subjective question, “Can a machine think?” and, later in the paper, suggested how well a computer might play the imitation game at the turn of the 21st century.

“I believe that in about fifty years’ time it will be possible, to programme computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning. The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion.”

Russ Roberts's curator insight, July 14, 11:47 AM

Something to ponder as you automate your amateur radio station. Perhaps hams will be replaced with a "cyborg" creature that will make our schedules, imitate our voice and key strokes, and even erect our antennas.  We're pretty close to that situation already.  Be careful what you wish for.  Aloha de Russ (KH6JRM).

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Bionic Human: The latest of realistic, artificial body parts

Bionic Human: The latest of realistic, artificial body parts | Amazing Science |

From lab-grown lungs to mechanical eyes, the latest, and most realistic, artificial body parts.

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Soon, decayed teeth may repair themselves

Soon, decayed teeth may repair themselves | Amazing Science |
British scientists have discovered a technique which can make a decayed tooth repair itself.

The technique, developed at King's College, London, effectively reverses decay by using electrical currents to boost the tooth's natural repair process.

This path-breaking treatment could be available in three years, according to the British researchers who created it.

The two-step method developed first prepares the damaged part of the enamel outer layer of the tooth and then uses a tiny electric current to 'push' minerals into the tooth to repair the damaged site.

The defect is remineralized in a painless process that requires no drills, no injections and no filling materials. Electric currents are already used by dentists to check the pulp or nerve of a tooth; the new device uses a far smaller current than that currently used on patients and which cannot be felt by the patient.

The technique is known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization.

The researchers said, "Dentists could soon be giving your teeth a mild 'time warp' to encourage them to self-repair . It aims to take the pain out of tooth decay treatment by electrically reversing the process to help teeth 'remineralize' ."

Nigel Pitts from the Dental Institute at King's College London said, "The way we treat teeth today is not ideal - when we repair a tooth by putting in a filling, that tooth enters a cycle of drilling and re-filling as, ultimately, each "repair" fails. Not only is our device kinder to the patient and better for their teeth, but it's expected to be at least as cost-effective as current dental treatments. Along with fighting tooth decay, our device can also be used to whiten teeth."

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Stephen Hawking: 'Implications of artificial intelligence - are we taking AI seriously enough?'

Stephen Hawking: 'Implications of artificial intelligence - are we taking AI seriously enough?' | Amazing Science |
With the Hollywood blockbuster Transcendence playing in cinemas, with Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman showcasing clashing visions for the future of humanity, it's tempting to dismiss the notion of highly intelligent machines as mere science fiction. But this would be a mistake, and potentially our worst mistake in history.

Artificial-intelligence (AI) research is now progressing rapidly. Recent landmarks such as self-driving cars, a computer winning at Jeopardy! and the digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race fuelled by unprecedented investments and building on an increasingly mature theoretical foundation. Such achievements will probably pale against what the coming decades will bring.

The potential benefits are huge; everything that civilisation has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools that AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease, and poverty would be high on anyone's list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.

Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. In the near term, world militaries are considering autonomous-weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets; the UN and Human Rights Watch have advocated a treaty banning such weapons. In the medium term, as emphasised by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in The Second Machine Age, AI may transform our economy to bring both great wealth and great dislocation.

Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains. An explosive transition is possible, although it might play out differently from in the movie: as Irving Good realised in 1965, machines with superhuman intelligence could repeatedly improve their design even further, triggering what Vernor Vinge called a "singularity" and Johnny Depp's movie character calls "transcendence".

One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? Wrong. If a superior alien civilisation sent us a message saying, "We'll arrive in a few decades," would we just reply, "OK, call us when you get here – we'll leave the lights on"? Probably not – but this is more or less what is happening with AI. Although we are facing potentially the best or worst thing to happen to humanity in history, little serious research is devoted to these issues outside non-profit institutes such as the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, the Future of Humanity Institute, the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, and the Future of Life Institute. All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks.

Tekrighter's curator insight, May 19, 6:58 AM

Do we need to control it, or learn to coexist with it?

oliviersc's comment, May 19, 1:01 PM
Partagé dans la Revue de blogs : Olivier-SC =
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Bioprinted 3D liver-mimicking device detoxifies blood

Bioprinted 3D liver-mimicking device detoxifies blood | Amazing Science |

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a 3D-printed device inspired by the liver to remove dangerous toxins from the blood. The device, which is designed to be used outside the body — much like dialysis — uses nanoparticles to trap pore-forming toxins that can damage cellular membranes and are a key factor in illnesses that result from animal bites and stings, and bacterial infections.

The findings were published May 8 in the journal Nature Communications.

Nanoparticles have already been shown to be effective atneutralizing pore-forming toxins in the blood, but if those nanoparticles cannot be effectively digested, they can accumulate in the liver creating a risk of secondary poisoning, especially among patients who are already at risk of liver failure.

To solve this problem, a research team led by nanoengineering professor Shaochen Chen created a 3D-printed hydrogel matrix to house nanoparticles, forming a device that mimics the function of the liver by sensing, attracting and capturing toxins routed from the blood.

The device, which is in the proof-of-concept stage, mimics the structure of the liver but has a larger surface area designed to efficiently attract and trap toxins within the device. In an in vitro (lab) study, the device completely neutralized pore-forming toxins.

“One unique feature of this device is that it turns red when the toxins are captured,” said the co-first author, Xin Qu, who is a postdoctoral researcher working in Chen’s laboratory.  “The concept of using 3D printing to encapsulate functional nanoparticles in a biocompatible hydrogel is novel,” said Chen. “This will inspire many new designs for detoxification techniques since 3D printing allows user-specific or site-specific manufacturing of highly functional products,” Chen said.

Chen’s lab has already demonstrated the ability to print complex 3D microstructures, such as blood vessels, in mere seconds out of soft biocompatible hydrogels that contain living cells.

As previously reported, Chen’s biofabrication technology, called dynamic optical projection stereolithography (DOPsL), can produce the micro- and nanoscale resolution required to print tissues that mimic nature’s fine-grained details, including blood vessels, which are essential for distributing nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.

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‘Heart disease-on-a-chip’: Merged stem cell and "organ-on-a-chip" technologies

‘Heart disease-on-a-chip’: Merged stem cell and "organ-on-a-chip" technologies | Amazing Science |
Harvard scientists have merged stem cell and “organ-on-a-chip” technologies to grow, for the first time, functioning human heart tissue carrying an inherited cardiovascular disease. The research appears to be a big step forward for personalized medicine, because it is working proof that a chunk of tissue containing a patient’s specific genetic disorder can be replicated in the laboratory.

The work, published in the journal Nature Medicine, is the result of a collaborative effort bringing together scientists from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering,Boston Children’s Hospital, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and Harvard Medical School (HMS). It combines the “organs-on-chips” expertise of Kevin Kit Parker and stem cell and clinical insights byWilliam Pu.

Using their interdisciplinary approach, the investigators modeled the cardiovascular disease Barth syndrome, a rare X-linked cardiac disorder caused by mutation of a single gene called Tafazzin, or TAZ. The disorder, which is currently untreatable, primarily appears in boys, and is associated with a number of symptoms affecting heart and skeletal muscle function.

The researchers took skin cells from two Barth syndrome patients, and manipulated the cells to become stem cells that carried the patients’ TAZ mutations. Instead of using the stem cells to generate single heart cells in a dish, the cells were grown on chips lined with human extracellular matrix proteins that mimicked their natural environment, tricking the cells into joining together as they would if they were forming a diseased human heart. The engineered diseased tissue contracted very weakly, as would the heart muscle of a Barth syndrome patient.

The investigators then used genome editing, a technique pioneered by Harvard collaborator George Church, to mutate TAZ in normal cells, confirming that this mutation is sufficient to cause weak contraction in the engineered tissue. On the other hand, delivering the TAZ gene product to diseased tissue in the laboratory corrected the contractile defect, creating the first tissue-based model of correction of a genetic heart disease.

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Constructing the first designer yeast chromosome opens door to reengineering cells

Constructing the first designer yeast chromosome opens door to reengineering cells | Amazing Science |

Demystifying the intricate underpinnings of genetic processes has been, for many years, a "look, don't touch" endeavor for biologists.  Genetic material and the complex machinery within cells that direct these processes are delicate and complicated. Tampering with these elements has proven difficult, both to alter and track the cells as they pass on their genes to their daughter cells.

Scientists have constructed synthetic bacterium and virus genomes, but have never before succeeded in creating a chromosome from more complex cells like yeast from scratch.  Unlike much simpler bacteria, known to scientists as prokaryotes, the genomes of eukaryotic cells are larger and more complex; their DNA is twisted tightly into multiple tiny packages called chromosomes. Bacteria, on the other hand, usually contain just one compact loop of DNA,  which are often easier to work with and replicate, due to their simpler structure and smaller size. 
The synIII chromosome is the first entirely man-made designer chromosome in a complex cell. This marks a major milestone for the international team behind this study, who will use these methods to construct an entire synthetic eukaryotic genome, Sc2.0 (, creating a complete artificial yeast genome from scratch to implant into a host cell.
S. cerevisiae is used as a model organism by investigators seeking answers about the interactions between genes in more complex cells.  The S. cerevisiaegenome includes about 6,000 genes, which produce proteins with similar functions to that of more complex cells-including those in multicellular organisms like humans.
Approximately 5,000 of the 6,000 genes in the S. cerevisiae genome have been found to be "nonessential" - that is, the yeast can survive even when these genes are mutated so as to be nonfunctional (researchers determined this by observing the gene's expression when they were turned off individually). Even though the majority of the yeast's genes are nonessential, they may impart selective advantages that allow them to persist.  In putting together the synIII chromosome, the researchers sought to identify which of these individually nonessential genes could be safely deleted after accounting for multiple gene interactions.
Jef D. Boeke, Ph.D., and his team at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, used a computer to rearrange and delete extra DNA segments that did not code for proteins.  They drew a rough sketch of what their desired synthetic chromosome might look like after altering stretches of the native chromosome, causing the genes to "scramble" when treated with a hormone called estradiol.  This allowed the team to control the evolution and size reduction of the S. cerevisiae genome.
With the simulated synIII model as a reference, undergraduate students enrolled in the "Build-A-Genome" course at JHU used DNA 'building blocks' to piece together larger strings of DNA (called 'minichunks'). Other sequences of artificial DNA were used to track the nonessential genes as they were added to the synthetic chromosome.  After 11 rounds of inserting new genes into the host yeast cell, the smaller, streamlined synIII sequence was all that remained.
Despite a few slight differences between the predicted sequence and the resulting synIII, yeast colonies implanted with the artificial chromosome grew as rapidly and were as genetically stable as the unmodified S. cerevisiae colonies; they were essentially indistinguishable.
Though a major objective of the study was to create a catalog of possible genes that could be deleted while still allowing the yeast to to survive under specific conditions, the research team faced challenges when they scrambled the individually nonessential genes. The team will need to make some modifications to gain greater control over rearrangement, but the fact that genome biologists can now design and construct human-made eukaryotic chromosomes is an important step in designer genome science.
Dr. Boeke and his team have demonstrated the feasibility of overhauling the yeast genome without affecting its ability to survive and reproduce. As they proceed in synthesizing the 15 remaining yeast chromosomes we will see how in the future we might reengineer genomes in more complex organisms.  Aside from this technology's clear applications in industry-S. cerevisiae can be used to produce biofuels-one day we might design and implant synthetic human chromosomes as gene therapies, or perhaps even replace complete genome sets to mend disease-causing mutations.

Via idtdna
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It's a computer inside a cockroach: DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living animals based on calculations

It's a computer inside a cockroach: DNA nanobots deliver drugs in living animals based on calculations | Amazing Science |

A swarm of nanobots made of DNA can store molecules in their folds and deliver them to specific cells by performing complex calculations.

Nano-sized entities made of DNA that are able to perform the same kind of logic operations as a silicon-based computer have been introduced into a living animal. The DNA computers – known as origami robots because they work by folding and unfolding strands of DNA – travel around the insect's body and interact with each other, as well as the insect's cells. When they uncurl, they can dispense drugs carried in their folds.

"DNA nanorobots could potentially carry out complex programs that could one day be used to diagnose or treat diseases with unprecedented sophistication," says Daniel Levner, a bioengineer at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

Levner and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, made the nanobots by exploiting the binding properties of DNA. When it meets a certain kind of protein, DNA unravels into two complementary strands. By creating particular sequences, the strands can be made to unravel on contact with specific molecules – say, those on a diseased cell. When the molecule unravels, out drops the package wrapped inside. The team has now injected various kinds of nanobots into cockroaches. Because the nanobots are labelled with fluorescent markers, the researchers can follow them and analyse how different robot combinations affect where substances are delivered. The team says the accuracy of delivery and control of the nanobots is equivalent to a computer system.

"This is the first time that biological therapy has been able to match how a computer processor works," says co-author Ido Bachelet of the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar Ilan University. "Unlike electronic devices, which are suitable for our watches, our cars or phones, we can use these robots in life domains, like a living cockroach," says Ángel Goñi Moreno of the National Center for Biotechnology in Madrid, Spain. "This opens the door for environmental or health applications."

DNA has already been used for storing large amounts of information and circuits for amplifying chemical signals, but these applications are rudimentary compared with the potential benefits of the origami robots.

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Futurists plan worldwide 24-hour discussion to celebrate Future Day on March 1

Futurists plan worldwide 24-hour discussion to celebrate Future Day on March 1 | Amazing Science |

On March 1, Future Day, six international futurist organizations will come together to conduct a 24-hour conversation about the world’s potential futures, challenges, and opportunities, according to Millennium Project CEO Jerome Glenn and Humanity+ Secretary Adam A. Ford.

In addition to The Millennium Project, the organizations are: Association of Professional FuturistsClub of AmsterdamHumanity+World Future Society, and the World Futures Studies FederationFuture Day events worldwide are already scheduled in more than 20 cities around the world.

This year, Glenn decided to help extend Future Day as a global online event and start a new tradition that could eventually help humanity “think itself together for a more beautiful future.”

“Wherever you are in the world, you are invited at 12:00 noon in your timezone to click on the Future Day button at the Millennium Project website or Global Futures Day to join this global video conversation about the future,” says Glenn. If the limit of interactive video conference participation is reached, new arrivals will be able to see and hear, but not have their video seen and voice heard. However, they can send a tweet including @MillenniumProj #FutureDay that can be read live in the video conference. As people drop out, new video slots will open up. “This is an open, no-agenda discussion about the future, but in general, people will be encouraged to share their ideas about how to build a better future,” notes Glenn.

The idea for Future Day originated with Humanity+ Vice Chair Ben Goertzel at a Second Life conference on September 15, 2011, according to Ford, who has been coordinating Future Day in 2012 and 2013 and is founder and president of Humanity+ Australia and Science, Technology & the Future. “Future Day each year gives us an ongoing opportunity to focus our energy on inventing the future we want,” he says. “We encourage schools, organizations, clubs, and groups of people to organize their own Future Day events globally and let us know at Future Day about their activities.”

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Miniaturized hearing aids that will fit into the ear canal

Miniaturized hearing aids that will fit into the ear canal | Amazing Science |
Fraunhofer researchers pack a total of 19 hearing-aid components (left) into their new microsystem (right). System-on-chip integrated circuit, high-frequency

The technology is also suitable for implants, pacemakers, and insulin pumps. This all means that the system uses only a fraction of the energy required by conventional devices, keeping cumbersome battery changes to a minimum. “Ideally, patients should not even be feeling of wearing the hearing aid over long periods of time,” says Dr. Dionysios Manessis from Fraunhofer Institute of Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin.

With dimensions of just 4 mm by 4mm by 1 mm, the new microsystem is fifty times smaller than the current models. To achieve this, the project partners first developed especially small components such as innovative miniature antennas, system-on-chip integrated circuitry and high frequency filters, then integrated the 19 discrete components in a single module, using a modular 3D stacking concept that saves extra space.

Hearing aids worn behind the ear are powered by a 180mAh  (milliampere hour) battery, which must be either replaced or recharged approximately every two weeks. The aim is to minimize the system’s energy consumption to around one milliwatt (mW) to extend battery life up to 20 weeks.

The development is part of the EU WiserBAN project. Project partners are also looking to optimize energy management. The WiserBAN project partners are also developing special antenna and wireless protocols that can communicate information such as pulse, blood pressure, or glucose levels straight to a physician’s tablet or smartphone. The resulting WiserBAN wireless system makes obsolete the relay station — an extra device that patients have previously been obliged to wear to extend the communication range.

Another advantage is that the wireless protocols developed within the WiserBAN project are based on the reliable IEEE 802.15.4 and 802.15.6 standards. Conventional devices have ordinarily relied on Bluetooth, where there are often issues with interference with other devices.

It is hoped that the new technology will act as the springboard for more comfortable, more reliable healthcare products in the future — from long-term electrocardiography to insulin pumps. Furthermore, there is the potential to use the microsystem in implants and pacemakers.

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Who's your daddy? Researchers program computer to find out

Who's your daddy? Researchers program computer to find out | Amazing Science |
A University of Central Florida research team has developed a facial recognition tool that promises to be useful in rapidly matching pictures of children with their biological parents and in potentially identifying photos of missing children as they age.

The work verifies that a computer is capable of matching pictures of parents and their children. The study will be presented at the nation's premier event for the science of computer vision - the IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Columbus, Ohio, which begins Monday, June 23. Graduate Student Afshin Dehfghan and a team from UCF's Center for Research in Computer Vision started the project with more than 10,000 online images of celebrities, politicians and their children.

"We wanted to see whether a machine could answer questions, such as 'Do children resemble their parents?' 'Do children resemble one parent more than another?' and 'What parts of the face are more genetically inspired?'" he said.

Anthropologists have typically studied these questions. However Dehghan and his team are advancing a new wave of computational science that uses the power of a mechanical "mind" to evaluate data completely objectively – without the clutter of subjective human emotions and biases. The tool could be useful to law enforcement and families in locating missing children.

"As this tool is developed I could see it being used to identify long-time missing children as they mature," said Ross Wolf, associate professor of criminal justice at UCF.

Wolf said that facial recognition technology is already heavily used by law enforcement, but that it has not been developed to the point where it can identify the same characteristics in photos over time, something this technology could have the capability to do. Dehghan said he is planning to expand on the work in that area by studying how factors such as age and ethnicity affect the resemblance of facial features.

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Scientists Believe Finding Life Beyond Earth is Within Reach

NASA’s quest to study planetary systems around other stars started with ground-based observatories, then moved to space-based assets like the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Kepler Space Telescope. Today’s telescopes can look at many stars and tell if they have one or more orbiting planets. Even more, they can determine if the planets are the right distance away from the star to have liquid water, the key ingredient to life as we know it.

The NASA roadmap will continue with the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS) in 2017, the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb Telescope) in 2018, and perhaps the proposed Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope – Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST-AFTA) early in the next decade. These upcoming telescopes will find and characterize a host of new exoplanets — those planets that orbit other stars — expanding our knowledge of their atmospheres and diversity. The Webb telescope and WFIRST-AFTA will lay the groundwork, and future missions will extend the search for oceans in the form of atmospheric water vapor and for life as in carbon dioxide and other atmospheric chemicals, on nearby planets that are similar to Earth in size and mass, a key step in the search for life.

“This technology we are using to explore exoplanets is real,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The James Webb Space Telescope and the next advances are happening now. These are not dreams — this is what we do at NASA.”

Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has dramatically changed what we know about exoplanets, finding most of the more than 5,000 potential exoplanets, of which more than 1700 have been confirmed. The Kepler observations have led to estimates of billions of planets in our galaxy, and shown that most planets within one astronomical unit are less than three times the diameter of Earth. Kepler also found the first Earth-size planet to orbit in the “habitable zone” of a star, the region where liquid water can pool on the surface.

“What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 percent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone,” says Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever. It is going to take a continuing partnership between NASA, science, technology, the U.S. and international space endeavors, as exemplified by the James Webb Space Telescope, to build the next bridge to humanity’s future.”

This decade has seen the discovery of more and more super Earths, which are rocky planets that are larger and heftier than Earth. Finding smaller planets, the Earth twins, is a tougher challenge because they produce fainter signals. Technology to detect and image these Earth-like planets is being developed now for use with the future space telescopes. The ability to detect alien life may still be years or more away, but the quest is underway.

Said Mountain, “Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe.”

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The Brain Is Not Computable: Why Singularity Will Not Happen and Humans Will Assimilate Machines

The Brain Is Not Computable: Why Singularity Will Not Happen and Humans Will Assimilate Machines | Amazing Science |
A leading neuroscientist says Kurzweil’s Singularity isn’t going to happen. Instead, humans will assimilate machines.

Miguel Nicolelis, a top neuroscientist at Duke University, says computers will never replicate the human brain and that the technological Singularity is “a bunch of hot air.”

“The brain is not computable and no engineering can reproduce it,” says Nicolelis, author of several pioneering papers on brain-machine interfaces.

The Singularity, of course, is that moment when a computer super-intelligence emerges and changes the world in ways beyond our comprehension.

Among the idea’s promoters are futurist Ray Kurzweil, recently hired on at Google as a director of engineering, who has been predicting that not only will machine intelligence exceed our own, but people will be able to download their thoughts and memories into computers (see “Ray Kurzweil Plans to Create a Mind at Google—and Have It Serve You”). 

Nicolelis calls that idea sheer bunk. “Downloads will never happen,” he said during remarks made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Sunday. “There are a lot of people selling the idea that you can mimic the brain with a computer.”

The debate over whether the brain is a kind of computer has been running for decades. Many scientists think it’s possible, in theory, for a computer to equal the brain given sufficient computer power and an understanding of how the brain works.

Kurzweil delves into the idea of “reverse-engineering” the brain in his latest book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, in which he says even though the brain may be immensely complex, “the fact that it contains many billions of cells and trillions of connections does not necessarily make its primary method complex.”

But Nicolelis is in a camp that thinks that human consciousness (and if you believe in it, the soul) simply can’t be replicated in silicon. That’s because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cells, Nicolelis says.

“You can’t predict whether the stock market will go up or down because you can’t compute it,” he says. “You could have all the computer chips ever in the world and you won’t create a consciousness.”

The neuroscientist, originally from Brazil, instead thinks that humans will increasingly subsume machines (an idea, incidentally, that’s also part of Kurzweil’s predictions).

In a study published last week, for instance, Nicolelis’s group at Duke used brain implants to allow mice to sense infrared light, something mammals can’t normally perceive. They did it by wiring a head-mounted infrared sensor to electrodes implanted into a part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex.

The experiment, in which several mice were able to follow sensory cues from the infrared detector to obtain a reward, was the first ever to use a neural implant to add a new sense to an animal, Nicolelis says.  

Bernhard H. Schmitz's comment, July 16, 11:33 AM
I agree that too many people think it would be sufficient to plug a bunch of neurons together and consciousness will happen. Ridiculous. But I am convinced that it is not necessary to simulate a brain or reverse engineer it. Brains are developed by random incidents and evolution - and it's a mess. I am strongly convinced that a conscious mechanism will be developed from scratch. And it will outwit us.
Bernhard H. Schmitz's curator insight, July 16, 11:37 AM

I agree that too many people think it would be sufficient to plug a bunch of neurons together and consciousness will happen. Ridiculous. But I am convinced that it is not necessary to simulate a brain or reverse engineer it. Brains are developed by random incidents and evolution - and it's a mess. I am strongly convinced that a conscious mechanism will be developed from scratch. And it will outwit us.

Marco Bertolini's comment, July 16, 11:52 PM
@ Bernard Schmitz : I think you have a point there and I like the verty elegant way you put it : a conscious mecanism coming out from the chaos.
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Researchers regrow human corneas in mice

Researchers regrow human corneas in mice | Amazing Science |

A restored functional cornea following transplantation of human ABCB5-positive limbal stem cells to limbal stem cell-deficient mice.

Limbal stem cells, which reside in the eye’s limbus, help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. Their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness.

In the past, tissue or cell transplants have been used to help the cornea regenerate, but it was unknown whether there were actual limbal stem cells in the grafts, or how many, and the outcomes were not consistent.

In this new study, researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute (Mass. Eye and Ear), Boston Children’s HospitalBrigham and Women’s Hospital, and the VA Boston Healthcare System used a molecule known as ABCB5, which acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells.

ABCB5 allowed the researchers to locate hard-to-find limbal stem cells in tissue from deceased human donors and use these stem cells to regrow anatomically correct, fully functional human corneas in mice.

“Limbal stem cells are very rare, and successful transplants are dependent on these rare cells,” says Bruce Ksander, Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear, co-lead author on the study with post-doctoral fellow Paraskevi Kolovou, M.D. “This finding will now make it much easier to restore the corneal surface. It’s a very good example of basic research moving quickly to a translational application.”

ABCB5 was originally discovered in the lab of Markus Frank, M.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Natasha Frank, M.D., of the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (co-senior investigators on the study) as being produced in tissue precursor cells in human skin and intestine.

In the new work, using a mouse model developed by the Frank lab, they found that ABCB5 also occurs in limbal stem cells and is required for their maintenance and survival, and for corneal development and repair. Mice lacking a functional ABCB5 gene lost their populations of limbal stem cells, and their corneas healed poorly after injury.

“ABCB5 allows limbal stem cells to survive, protecting them from apoptosis [programmed cell death],” says Markus Frank. “The mouse model allowed us for the first time to understand the role of ABCB5 in normal development, and should be very important to the stem cell field in general.” according to Natasha Frank.

Markus Frank is working with the biopharmaceutical industry to develop a clinical-grade ABCB5 antibody that would meet U.S. regulatory approvals.

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MIT ranking of 10 New Breakthrough Technologies in 2014

MIT ranking of 10 New Breakthrough Technologies in 2014 | Amazing Science |

Technology news is full of incremental developments, but few of them are true milestones. Here we’re citing 10 that are. These advances from the past year all solve thorny problems or create powerful new ways of using technology. They are breakthroughs that will matter for years to come.

Agricultural Drones

Relatively cheap drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage.

Ultraprivate Smartphones

New models built with security and privacy in mind reflect the Zeitgeist of the Snowden era.

Brain Mapping
A new map, a decade in the works, shows structures of the brain in far greater detail than ever before, providing neuroscientists with a guide to its immense complexity.

Neuromorphic Chips
Microprocessors configured more like brains than traditional chips could soon make computers far more astute about what’s going on around them.

Genome Editing
The ability to create primates with intentional mutations could provide powerful new ways to study complex and genetically baffling brain disorders.

Microscale 3-D Printing
Inks made from different types of materials, precisely applied, are greatly expanding the kinds of things that can be printed.

Mobile Collaboration
The smartphone era is finally getting the productivity software it needs.

Oculus Rift
Thirty years after virtual-reality goggles and immersive virtual worlds made their debut, the technology finally seems poised for widespread use.

Agile Robots
Computer scientists have created machines that have the balance and agility to walk and run across rough and uneven terrain, making them far more useful in navigating human environments.

Smart Wind and Solar Power
Big data and artificial intelligence are producing ultra-accurate forecasts that will make it feasible to integrate much more renewable energy into the grid.

Marc Kneepkens's curator insight, June 20, 5:22 PM

Very interesting information on what is happening with cutting edge science and technologies.

Russ Roberts's curator insight, June 21, 10:46 PM

A fascinating look at our future, a time dominated by artificial intelligence, robots, digitral wizardry.  I'm not sure I'm ready for all of this.  Interesting and somewhat frightening, especially if this technology falls into the wrong hands.  Something to think about.  Aloha de Russ (KH6JRM).

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DARPA's Z-Man Program Demonstrates Human Climbing Like Geckos

DARPA's Z-Man Program Demonstrates Human Climbing Like Geckos | Amazing Science |

DARPA’s Z-Man program has demonstrated the first known human climbing of a glass wall using climbing devices inspired by geckos. The historic ascent involved a 218-pound climber ascending and descending 25 feet of glass, while also carrying an additional 50-pound load in one trial, with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles. The novel polymer microstructure technology used in those paddles was developed for DARPA by Draper Laboratory of Cambridge, Mass.

Historically, gaining the high ground has always been an operational advantage for warfighters, but the climbing instruments on which they’re frequently forced to rely—tools such as ropes and ladders—have not advanced significantly for millennia. Not only can the use of such tools be overt and labor intensive, they also only allow for sequential climbing whereby the first climber often takes on the highest risk.

DARPA created the Z-Man program to overcome these limitations and deliver maximum safety and flexibility for maneuver and rapid response to warfighters operating in tight urban environments. The goal of the program is to develop biologically inspired climbing aids to enable warfighters carrying a full combat load to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials.

“The gecko is one of the champion climbers in the Animal Kingdom, so it was natural for DARPA to look to it for inspiration in overcoming some of the maneuver challenges that U.S. forces face in urban environments,” said Dr. Matt Goodman, the DARPA program manager for Z-Man. “Like many of the capabilities that the Department of Defense pursues, we saw with vertical climbing that nature had long since evolved the means to efficiently achieve it. The challenge to our performer team was to understand the biology and physics in play when geckos climb and then reverse-engineer those dynamics into an artificial system for use by humans.”

Geckos can climb on a wide variety of surfaces, including smooth surfaces like glass, with adhesive pressures of 15-30 pounds per square inch for each limb, meaning that a gecko can hang its entire body by one toe. The anatomy of a gecko toe consists of a microscopic hierarchical structure composed of stalk-like setae (100 microns in length, 2 microns in radius). From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae (approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest) branch out and contact the climbing surface.

A gecko is able to climb on glass by using physical bond interactions—specifically van der Waals intermolecular forces—between the spatulae and a surface to adhere reversibly, resulting in easy attachment and removal of the gecko’s toes from the surface. The van der Waals mechanism implied that it is the size and shape of the spatulae tips that affect adhesive performance, not specific surface chemistry. This suggested that there were design principles and physical models derived from nature that might enable scientists to fabricate an adhesive inspired by gecko toes.

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Cambrian Explosion of Technology: Stephen Wolfram Wants To Inject Computation Everywhere

Cambrian Explosion of Technology: Stephen Wolfram Wants To Inject Computation Everywhere | Amazing Science |

At the 2014 SXSW Conference, Stephen Wolfram introduced the Wolfram Language, a symbolic language.  His video presentation shows some of  the profound implications of this new technology.

Imagine a future where there's no distinction between code and data. Where computers are operated by programming languages that work like human language, where knowledge and data are built in, where everything can be computed symbolically like the X and Y of school algebra problems. Where everything obvious is automated; the not-so-obvious revealed and made ready to explore. A future where billions of interconnected devices and ubiquitous networks can be readily harnessed by injecting computation.

That's the future Stephen Wolfram has pursued for over 25 years: Mathematica, the computable knowledge of Wolfram|Alpha, the dynamic interactivity of Computable Document Format, and soon, the universally accessible and computable model of the world made possible by the Wolfram Language and Wolfram Engine.

"Of the various things I've been trying to explain, this is one of the more difficult ones," Wolfram told Wired recently. What Wolfram Language essentially does, is work like a plug-in-play system for programmers, with many subsystems already in place.  Wolfram calls this knowledge-based programming.

Wolfram Language has a vast depth of built-in algorithms and knowledge, all automatically accessible through its elegant unified symbolic language. Scalable for programs from tiny to huge, with immediate deployment locally and in the cloud, the Wolfram Language builds on clear principles to create what Wolfram claims will be the world's most productive programming language.

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Transistors that wrap around tissues and morph with them

Transistors that wrap around tissues and morph with them | Amazing Science |

Electronic devices that become soft when implanted inside the body and can deploy to grip 3-D objects, such as large tissues, nerves and blood vessels have been created by researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Tokyo.

These biologically adaptive, flexible transistors might one day help doctors learn more about what is happening inside the body, and also could be used to stimulate the body for treatments.

The research, published in Advanced Materials, is one of the first demonstrations of transistors that can change shape and maintain their electronic properties after they are implanted in the body, said Jonathan Reeder, a graduate student in materials science and engineering and lead author of the work.

“Scientists and physicians have been trying to put electronics in the body for a while now, but one of the problems is that the stiffness of common electronics is not compatible with biological tissue,” he said.

“You need the device to be stiff at room temperature so the surgeon can implant the device, but soft and flexible enough to wrap around 3-D objects so the body can behave exactly as it would without the device. By putting electronics on shape-changing and softening polymers, we can do just that.”

Shape memory polymers (plastics) developed by Dr. Walter Voit, assistant professor of materials science and engineering and mechanical engineering and an author of the paper, are key to enabling the technology.

The polymers respond to the body’s environment and become less rigid when they’re implanted. In addition to the polymers, the electronic devices are built with layers that include thin, flexible electronic foils first characterized by a group including Reeder in work published last year in Nature.

The Voit and Reeder team from the Advanced Polymer Research Lab in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science fabricated the devices with an organic semiconductor but used adapted techniques normally applied to create silicon electronics that could reduce the cost of the devices.

“We used a new technique in our field to essentially laminate and cure the shape memory polymers on top of the transistors,” said Voit, who is also a member of the Texas Biomedical Device Center. “In our device design, we are getting closer to the size and stiffness of precision biologic structures, but have a long way to go to match nature’s amazing complexity, function and organization.”

Russ Roberts's curator insight, May 14, 12:38 PM

Some fascinating research in the field of implant surgery.  Thanks to what is called "shape memory polymers", electronic bodily implants using transistors can be more widely used in medical diagnosis and treatment.  According to research done at the University of Texas and at the University of Tokyo, the successful union of transistors and special polymers "is one of the first demonstrations of transistors that can change shape and maintain their electrical properties after they are implanted in the body."  This is "cutting edge" technology at its best.  Aloha de Russ (KH6JRM).

Keith Wayne Brown's curator insight, May 15, 6:39 AM

A necessary step for posthumanity.

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A groundbreaking competition: X Prize launches an artificially intelligent TED presentation contest

A groundbreaking competition: X Prize launches an artificially intelligent TED presentation contest | Amazing Science |

On March 20, 2014, from the TED 2014 stage, Chris Anderson and Peter Diamandis joined forces to announce the AI X Prize presented by TED, a modern day Turing test to be awarded to the first AI to walk or roll out on stage and present a TED Talk so compelling that it commands a standing ovation from you, the audience. The detailed rules are yet to be created because we want your help to create what the rules should be.

Sample prize rules | Draft prize concept. This is for example purposes. Elements of this concept may or may not be used. We’d like to hear your ideas. In advance of TED, a group of judges develop 100 different TED talk subjects.

During TED, the TED audience chooses one of these subjects (or the subject is randomly chosen), and then the competing AI is given 30 minutes to prepare a compelling 3 minute TED talk.

The team could decide how their AI would present on stage — would it be a physical robot that walks out to present? Or a disembodied voice?

After the talk, the audience would vote with their applause and, if appropriate, with a standing ovation.

Next, the AI would need to answer two questions from Chris Anderson, and then a panel of experts would also add their votes.

Each year at TED, an interim prize would be offered for the best AI presentation until such time that an AI truly delivers a spectacular TED Talk, and the TED X Prize winner is crowned.

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14 Intriguing Ways To Detect Signs Of An Alien Civilization In Deep Space

14 Intriguing Ways To Detect Signs Of An Alien Civilization In Deep Space | Amazing Science |

For the past 50 years, our efforts to detect extraterrestrial civilizations have largely focused on the search for radio emissions. But this is hardly the only strategy at our disposal. Here are 14 intriguing ways we could prove that aliens really exist:

  1. Radio Signals
  2. Optical Signals
  3. Microwave Signatures
  4. Artificially Appearing X-Ray and Gamma Ray Bursts
  5. Neutrino Communication
  6. Gravitational Waves
  7. Industrial Waste Signatures
  8. Calling Cards
  9. Dyson Spheres and Niven Rings
  10. Exoplanets That Appear Out of the Ordinary
  11. Artificial Illumination
  12. Transiting Space Habitats
  13. Spacecrafts
  14. Von Neumann Probes
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Perfect memory, enhanced vision, an expert golf swing: The future of brain implants

Perfect memory, enhanced vision, an expert golf swing: The future of brain implants | Amazing Science |
How soon can we expect to see brain implants for perfect memory, enhanced vision, hypernormal focus or an expert golf swing? We're closer than you might think.

What would you give for a retinal chip that let you see in the dark or for a next-generation cochlear implant that let you hear any conversation in a noisy restaurant, no matter how loud? Or for a memory chip, wired directly into your brain's hippocampus, that gave you perfect recall of everything you read? Or for an implanted interface with the Internet that automatically translated a clearly articulated silent thought ("the French sun king") into an online search that digested the relevant Wikipedia page and projected a summary directly into your brain?

Science fiction? Perhaps not for very much longer. Brain implants today are where laser eye surgery was several decades ago. They are not risk-free and make sense only for a narrowly defined set of patients—but they are a sign of things to come.

Unlike pacemakers, dental crowns or implantable insulin pumps, neuroprosthetics—devices that restore or supplement the mind's capacities with electronics inserted directly into the nervous system—change how we perceive the world and move through it. For better or worse, these devices become part of who we are.

Neuroprosthetics aren't new. They have been around commercially for three decades, in the form of the cochlear implants used in the ears (the outer reaches of the nervous system) of more than 300,000 hearing-impaired people around the world. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first retinal implant, made by the company Second Sight.

Both technologies exploit the same principle: An external device, either a microphone or a video camera, captures sounds or images and processes them, using the results to drive a set of electrodes that stimulate either the auditory or the optic nerve, approximating the naturally occurring output from the ear or the eye.

Laura E. Mirian, PhD's curator insight, March 22, 8:00 AM

Is this really necessary when we live only 100 years or less?

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Is vibration energy the secret to self-powered electronics in the near future?

Is vibration energy the secret to self-powered electronics in the near future? | Amazing Science |

A multi-university team of engineers has developed what could be a promising solution for charging smartphone batteries on the go — without the need for an electrical cord.

Incorporated directly into a cell phone housing, the team's nanogenerator could harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface, such as the passenger seat of a moving vehicle, into power for the phone. "We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics," says Xudong Wang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The nanogenerator takes advantage of a common piezoelectric polymer material called polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF. Piezoelectric materials can generate electricity from a mechanical force; conversely, they also can generate a mechanical strain from an applied electrical field.

Rather than relying on a strain or an electrical field, the researchers incorporated zinc oxide nanoparticles into a PVDF thin film to trigger formation of the piezoelectric phase that enables it to harvest vibration energy. Then, they etched the nanoparticles off the film; the resulting interconnected pores — called "mesopores" because of their size — cause the otherwise stiff material to behave somewhat like a sponge.

That sponge-like material is key to harvesting vibration energy. "The softer the material, the more sensitive it is to small vibrations," says Wang.

The nanogenerator itself includes thin electrode sheets on the front and back of the mesoporous polymer film, and the researchers can attach this soft, flexible film seamlessly to flat, rough or curvy surfaces, including human skin. In the case of a cell phone, it uses the phone's own weight to enhance its displacement and amplify its electrical output.

The nanogenerator could become an integrated part of an electronic device — for example, as its back panel or housing — and automatically harvest energy from ambient vibrations to power the device directly.

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