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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Elon Musk is raising half a billion in cash for SpaceX - and there are 3 epic projects to spend it on

Elon Musk is raising half a billion in cash for SpaceX - and there are 3 epic projects to spend it on | Amazing Science |

Elon Musk's rocket company, SpaceX, is likely raising about $500 million in new funding. The cash investment would be a boon to SpaceX, which is chasing three incredibly ambitious projects in the coming decade. Those plans include (i) a global satellite-internet network, (ii) a spaceship to explore and colonize Mars, and (iii) the world's fastest transportation system.


Starlink satellite internet

One of SpaceX's biggest new initiatives is called Starlink. The plan, which the US Federal Communications Initiative approved in March, is to surround Earth with 12,000 internet-providing satellites. That's more than twice the number of all spacecraft launched by humanity. The ultimate goal of the project is to achieve global broadband coverage with speeds more than 178 times as fast as the current worldwide average. In 2015, according to Akamai's "State of the Internet" report, that was 5.6 megabits per second; Starlink's goal is 1 Gbps. Musk also plans to bring the web to those who can't afford it. "If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served," he tweeted in February.


SpaceX has already built a satellite factory in Redmond, Washington, and it launched two experimental Starlink satellites on February 22. But manufacturing thousands of spacecraft and launching them into low-Earth orbit — even dozens at a time with the Falcon Heavy rocket — will require serious capital.


"Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach," Ajit Pai, the FCC's chairman, previously said of SpaceX's plans.


Big Falcon Rockets for Mars and beyond

SpaceX has achieved a swath of feats since its founding in 2002, not least of which is disrupting an expensive and relatively stagnant space industry. Musk even recently called for a "new space race." On February 6, just after SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy — the world's most powerful operational rocket — Musk said most of the company's engineering resources were shifting toward a system called BFR.


The Big Falcon Rocket, BRF, is a 348-foot-tall reusable launch system designed to ferry up to 100 people and 150 tons of payload toward Mars at a time. The BFR design has two main sections: a rocket and a spaceship. The 191-foot-tall rocket would push the spaceship into orbit around Earth, then the 157-foot-long spaceship would fly toward the moon or Mars. Everything would run on liquid methane and oxygen. The BFR would land itself and be fully reusable — a scheme that could slash the cost of access to space thousandfold. The first uncrewed launch to Mars is optimistically slated for 2022, followed by a crewed launch in 2024.


Due its presumable low cost — the system would be used over and over like a jet aircraft, rather than a one-off rocket — Musk envisions BFR as a replacement to all of the company's offerings over time. "We want to have one system, one booster and ship, that replaces Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon," Musk said in September 2017. "If we can do that, then all the resources that are used for Falcon 9, Heavy, and Dragon can be applied to this system." Business InsiderSpaceX recently secured a lease for a historic yet derelict site at the Port of Los Angeles. There, the company is about to build a 200,000-square-foot factory to make the spaceships and booster rockets that comprise BFR. The location is just 14 miles south of the company's headquarters and an ideal place to ship the rockets by water to its Texas-based test and launch facilities.


Musk also recently unveiled an enormous 30-by-40-foot tool to build the system's spaceship out of carbon-fiber composite. SpaceX is bringing other BFR tooling to the port to start building spaceships as well. This work and the future test launches in Texas (scheduled for sometime in early 2019) will not be cheap. Half a billion dollars could help make it happen, though. Shotwell, SpaceX's president, said at the 2018 TED Conference on Wednesday that she "might out-vision Elon" with her goals for BFR.


"Mars is fine, but it's a fixer-upper planet," Shotwell said. "I want to find people, or whatever they call themselves, in another solar system."


The world's fastest transportation system

SpaceX's big rocket system wouldn't just be useful for reaching destinations far from Earth. "If we're building this thing to go to the moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well?" Musk previously said.


A BFR spaceship could fly more than 4.6 miles per second, according to SpaceX, which is more than 12 times as fast as the now-retired supersonic Concorde jets. That would make it the world's fastest transportation system. Passengers might fly from Los Angeles to New York in just 25 minutes, Bangkok to Dubai in 27 minutes, London to New York in 29 minutes, and Delhi to San Francisco in 40 minutes, according to a SpaceX video.


"This would not be for the faint of heart, and it is difficult to see how this would be inexpensive," Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut, previously told Business Insider of SpaceX's goals. "But the one thing I've learned from observing Elon is not to count him out."

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Google Is Working on Its Own Blockchain-Related Technology

Google Is Working on Its Own Blockchain-Related Technology | Amazing Science |
Google is working on blockchain-related technology to support its cloud business and head off competition from emerging startups that use the heavily-hyped technology to operate online in new ways, according to people familiar with the situation.


Companies use blockchain and other so-called digital ledgers to securely record transactions and process other data over the internet -- a service Google could use, for example, to reassure customers that their information is protected when stored on the giant network of computer servers that power its cloud services.


The Alphabet Inc. unit is developing its own distributed digital ledger that third parties can use to post and verify transactions, one of the people said. Although the timing of any product release is unclear, the company plans to offer this to differentiate its cloud service from rivals. It will also provide a white-label version that other companies can run on their own servers, the person added.


The internet giant has also been acquiring and investing in startups with digital ledger expertise. Many of the deals haven’t been announced, the person said. Still, Alphabet was a leading corporate investor in the field last year, ahead of Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to research firm CB Insights.


Several people in Google’s infrastructure group, which reports to cloud chief Diane Greene, have been tinkering with blockchain protocols in recent months, according to another person familiar with the company. Other Google insiders said recently that the cloud business is a natural place for blockchain-related services. The people asked not to be identified talking about the subject because the company isn’t ready to make an announcement yet.

“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential uses of blockchain but it’s way too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans,” a Google spokesman said.


In 2016, Google started a trial for developers testing blockchain services on its cloud. The company is now exploring much more expansive ways to deploy the technology, the people said. Digital ledgers like blockchain power Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They are databases that are updated regularly across thousands of computers over the internet. Each entry is confirmed by these machines, which can be part of public networks or run privately by companies. There are different kinds of digital ledgers -- blockchain is only one. Data crunched by this technology range from transactions to supply-chain updates to digital cats.

Via Ben van Lier
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Conservationists use astronomy software to save species

Conservationists use astronomy software to save species | Amazing Science |

Researchers are using astronomical techniques used to study distant stars to survey endangered species. The team of scientists is developing a system to automatically identify animals using a camera that has been mounted on a drone. It is able to identify them from the heat they give off, even when vegetation is in the way. Details of the system were presented at the annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society in Liverpool, UK.


The idea was developed by Serge Wich, a conservationist at Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Steve Longmore, an astrophysicist at the same university. He says that the system has the potential to greatly improve the accuracy of monitoring endangered species and so help save endangered species.


"Conservation is not only about the numbers of animals but also about political will and local community supporting conservation. But better data always helps to move good arguments forward. Solid data on what is happening to animal populations is the foundation of all conservation efforts".

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Next-gen optical disc has 10TB capacity and a six-century lifespan

Next-gen optical disc has 10TB capacity and a six-century lifespan | Amazing Science |

Scientists from RMIT University in Australia and Wuhan Institute of Technology in China have developed a radical new high-capacity optical disc called “nano-optical long-data memory” that they say can record and store 10 TB (terabytes, or trillions of bytes) of data per disc securely for more than 600 years. That’s a four-times increase of storage density and 300 times increase in data lifespan over current storage technology.


According to IDC’s Data Age 2025 study in 2017, the recent explosion of Big Data and global cloud storage generates 2.5 PB (1015 bytes) a day, stored in massive, power-hungry data centers that use 3 percent of the world’s electricity supply. The data centers rely on hard disks, which have limited capacity (2TB per disk) and last only two years. IDC forecasts that by 2025, the global datasphere will grow exponentially to 163 zettabytes (that’s 163 trillion gigabytes) — ten times the 16.1ZB of data generated in 2016.


Examples of massive Long Data:

  • The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope produces 576 petabytes of raw data per hour.
  • The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to map the human brain is handling data measured in yottabytes (one trillion terabytes).
  • Studying the mutation of just one human family tree over ten generations (500 years) will require 8 terabytes of data.


IDC estimates that by 2025, nearly 20% of the data in the global datasphere will be critical to our daily lives (such as biomedical data) and nearly 10% of that will be hypercritical. “By 2025, an average connected person anywhere in the world will interact with connected devices nearly 4,800 times per day — basically one interaction every 18 seconds,” the study estimates.

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Alter-Ego: Intelligence-augmentation device lets users ‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking

Alter-Ego: Intelligence-augmentation device lets users ‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking | Amazing Science |

MIT researchers have invented a system that allows someone to communicate silently and privately with a computer or the internet by simply thinking — without requiring any facial muscle movement.


The AlterEgo system consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular subvocalizations — saying words “in your head” in natural language. The signals are fed to a neural network that is trained to identify subvocalized words from these signals. Bone-conduction headphones also transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear to convey information to the user — privately and without interrupting a conversation. The device connects wirelessly to any external computing device via Bluetooth.


A silent, discreet, bidirectional conversation with machines


“Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?,” says Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab who led the development of the new system. Kapur is first author on an open-access paper on the research presented in March at the IUI ’18 23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces.


In one of the researchers’ experiments, subjects used the system to silently report opponents’ moves in a chess game and silently receive recommended moves from a chess-playing computer program. In another experiment, subjects were able to undetectably answer difficult computational problems, such as the square root of large numbers or obscure facts. The researchers achieved 92% median word accuracy levels, which is expected to improve.  “I think we’ll achieve full conversation someday,” Kapur said.

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Engineered and coated with magnetic nanoparticles, bacteriophages can find and separate bacteria from food or water

Engineered and coated with magnetic nanoparticles, bacteriophages can find and separate bacteria from food or water | Amazing Science |

Certain viruses, called bacteriophages or just phages, naturally latch onto bacteria to infect them (SN: 7/12/03, p. 26). By tweaking the phages’ DNA and decking them out with magnetic nanoparticles, researchers created a tool that could both corral bacteria and force them to reveal themselves. These modifications can boost the sensitivity and speed of rooting out bacteria in tainted food or water, the researchers reported March 20 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.


“You’re taking the power of what evolution has done … to bind bacteria, and then we’re just helping that out a little bit,” said Sam Nugen, a food and biosystems engineer who leads the team designing these phages at Cornell University.


Competing technologies for detecting bacteria use antibodies, the product of an immune response. But these are expensive to produce and work best in a narrow temperature and pH range. In contrast, phages “exist everywhere,” making them potentially more broadly useful as bacteria hunters, Nugen said. “They've had to evolve to bind well in much broader conditions than antibodies.”


Phages identify and grab bacteria using proteins on their leglike tail fibers, which form a strong bond with compounds on the bacterial cell surface. To infect the cell, the phage injects its genetic material. This hijacks the cell, forcing its machinery to produce phage clones.


Nugen and collaborators programmed phages to tag E. coli bacteria. The team’s engineered phages contained extra DNA that told the bacteria to make an easily detectable enzyme. When the infection caused the bacterial cells to rupture and release the new phages, a chemical reaction involving the enzyme produced a measurable signal: light, color or an electric current. For example, the phages exposedE. coli in milk and orange juice by turning the liquids red or pink.


The researchers also loaded the phages with nanoparticles with a magnetic iron and cobalt core. Once the phages latched onto the bacteria, researchers could use a magnet to round the bacteria up even before the bacteria ruptured and announced their presence. This allowed the researchers to detect low concentrations of bacteria: less than 10 E. coli cells in half a cup of water. Conventional methods grow the bacteria into colonies to find them, which can take up to two days. But using the phages, Nugen and his colleagues skipped this step and found the cells within a few hours.


Using phages for magnetic separation would be “really nice for food and environmental samples because they tend to be really dirty,” said Michael Wiederoder, a bioengineer at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts, who was not involved in the research. The salt, sugar and fats in food can slow the reactions of antibody-based tests, he said.

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Smart robot smashes Rubik’s Cube solving record with an amazing 0.38-second solve

Smart robot smashes Rubik’s Cube solving record with an amazing 0.38-second solve | Amazing Science |

Hardware hackers Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik's cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637. "We noticed that all of the fast Rubik's Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors," Di Carlo wrote in a blog post.


A custom-built motor controller allows a single turn of the Rubik's Cube to be completed in around 10 milliseconds. With a a typical Rubik's Cube solution taking 19 to 23 turns, that should allow a cube to be solved in around 0.25 seconds—but the pair say the current iteration of the machine makes a move every 15 milliseconds instead.


"The machine can definitely go even faster, but the tuning process is really time consuming since debugging needs to be done with the high-speed camera, and mistakes often break the cube or blow up FETs," Katz wrote on his blog. "For the time being, Jared and I have both lost interest in playing the tuning game, but we might come back to it eventually and shave off another 100 ms or so." While a human player would be inclined to loosen the cube up to make it easier to turn, Katz says they found the opposite approach works better for robot solving.


"When the cube is loose (like it would be if a person were trying to solve it fast), the outer faces just cam outwards when you try to turn the center faces quickly," Katz wrote. "It took tightening the cube way past what intuitively felt appropriate in order to stop the cam-cording action from happening."


To detect the current state of the cube, Katz and Di Carlo acquired a pair of Playstation 3 Eye webcams for $7 each. They positioned them at opposite corners of the cube, allowing each camera to observe three faces. The cameras had trouble distinguishing red and orange faces, so they painted the orange faces black to make them stand out better.


"The software identifies all the colors, builds a description of the cube, and passes it to the min2phase solver," Di Carlo wrote. The solution is then sent out via a serial cable to the six motors, one for each face of the cube. The whole process—from capturing the image to sending the instructions to the motors—takes around 45 milliseconds.


There's even more detail on the project on Katz and Di Carlo's blog posts.

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Is It Possible? Will You Soon be Able to Replace Your Glasses And Contacts With Nanoparticle Eyedrops?

Is It Possible? Will You Soon be Able to Replace Your Glasses And Contacts With Nanoparticle Eyedrops? | Amazing Science |

A revolutionary, cutting-edge technology, developed by researchers at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), has the potential to provide a new alternative to eyeglasses, contact lenses, and laser correction for refractive errors.


The technology, known as Nano-Drops, was developed by Dr. David Smadja (Ophthalmologist from Shaare Zedek Medical Center), Prof. Zeev Zalevsky, from Bar-Ilan’s Kofkin Faculty of Engineering, and Prof. Jean-Paul Moshe Lellouche, Head of the Department of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan. A related patent on this new invention was recently filed by Birad – Research & Development Company Ltd., the commercializing company of Bar-Ilan University.


Nano-Drops achieve their optical effect and correction by locally modifying the corneal refractive index. The magnitude and nature of the optical correction is adjusted by an optical pattern that is stamped onto the superficial layer of the corneal epithelium with a laser source. The shape of the optical pattern can be adjusted for correction of myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) or presbyopia (loss of accommodation ability).


The laser stamping onto the cornea takes a few milliseconds and enables the nanoparticles to enhance and ‘activate’ this optical pattern by locally changing the refractive index and ultimately modifying the trajectory of light passing through the cornea.


The laser stamping source does not relate to the commonly known ‘laser treatment for visual correction’ that ablates corneal tissue. It is rather a small laser device that can connect to a smartphone and stamp the optical pattern onto the corneal epithelium by placing numerous adjacent pulses in a very speedy and painless fashion.  Tiny corneal spots created by the laser allow synthetic and biocompatible nanoparticles to enter and locally modify the optical power of the eye at the desired correction.


In the future this technology may enable patients to have their vision corrected in the comfort of their own home. To accomplish this, they would open an application on their smartphone to measure their vision, connect the laser source device for stamping the optical pattern at the desired correction, and then apply the Nano-Drops to activate the pattern and provide the desired correction.


Upcoming in-vivo experiments in rabbits will allow the researchers to determine how long the effect of the Nano-Drops will last after the initial application. Meanwhile, this promising technology has been shown, through ex-vivo experiments, to efficiently correct nearly 3 diopters of both myopia and presbyopia in pig eyes.

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China wants to make the chips that will add AI to any gadget

China wants to make the chips that will add AI to any gadget | Amazing Science |
The AI boom offers Chinese chipmakers a chance to catch up after years of lagging behind.


In an office at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a computer chip is crunching data from a nearby camera, looking for faces stored in a database. Seconds later, the same chip, called Thinker, is handling voice commands in Chinese. Thinker is designed to support neural networks. But what’s special is how little energy it uses—just eight AA batteries are enough to power it for a year.


Thinker can dynamically tailor its computing and memory requirements to meet the needs of the software being run. This is important since many real-world AI applications—recognizing objects in images or understanding human speech—require a combination of different kinds of neural networks with different numbers of layers.


In December 2017, a paper describing Thinker’s design was published in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, a top journal in computer hardware design. For the Chinese research community, it was a crowning achievement. The chip is just one example of an important trend sweeping China’s tech sector. The country’s semiconductor industry sees a unique opportunity to establish itself amid the current wave of enthusiasm for hardware optimized for AI. Computer chips are key to the success of AI, so China needs to develop its own hardware industry to become a real force in the technology (see “China’s AI Awakening”).

Via Ben van Lier
Dominick Runyon's curator insight, March 18, 5:26 PM

China has been working to improve its technology industry to enter the race for AI, competing against companies such as Google and Intel. The goal is to develop a chip, named Thinker, which will add AI to any device. However, due to China's industry lacking far behind other countries, such as the U.S., China has been increasing its import of integrated circuits and has recorded a near 13% increase of imports since last year. In December of 2017, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a paper describing their 3 year plan to be able to mass-produce the Thinker chips by the year 2020.


I believe that the concept China is going for will be  huge step forward in our ever-expanding technology industry. It will allow all electronic devices, such as computer and phones, to have AI capabilities similar to Apple's SIRI software and Samsung's Bixby software. However. I also believe that it will only add to the debate about if mankind is becoming more dependent on technology. Integrating AI software into all of our devices will minimize the actions we will have to do to power and work devices and make those devices more independent.

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Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

Serious quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them? | Amazing Science |

Hello, quantum world! Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.


Quantum computers promise to run calculations far beyond the reach of any conventional supercomputer. They might revolutionize the discovery of new materials by making it possible to simulate the behavior of matter down to the atomic level. Or they could upend cryptography and security by cracking otherwise invincible codes. There is even hope they will supercharge artificial intelligence by crunching through data more efficiently. 


Yet only now, after decades of gradual progress, are researchers finally close to building quantum computers powerful enough to do things that conventional computers cannot. It’s a landmark somewhat theatrically dubbed “quantum supremacy.” Google has been leading the charge toward this milestone, while Intel and Microsoft also have significant quantum efforts. And then there are well-funded startups including Rigetti Computing, IonQ, and Quantum Circuits.


“Nature is quantum, goddamn it! So if we want to simulate it, we need a quantum computer.” No other contender can match IBM’s pedigree in this area, though. Starting 50 years ago, the company produced advances in materials science that laid the foundations for the computer revolution. Which is why, last October, I found myself at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center to try to answer these questions: What, if anything, will a quantum computer be good for? And can a practical, reliable one even be built?

Via Ben van Lier
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The Government Has Plans for an Asteroid-Destroying Spacecraft

The Government Has Plans for an Asteroid-Destroying Spacecraft | Amazing Science |

NASA scientists have devised a plan to take care of an asteroid that has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth on September 21, 2135. Their solution? Blast it with nukes.


The asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently orbiting the Sun about 54 million miles from Earth. The 1,600-foot-wide, 74-billion-pound space object is probably not going to hit the Earth, but it’s not in the U.S. government’s nature to sit idle when a potential threat — no matter how unlikely  — exists. NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and two Energy Department weapons labs have come together to design spacecraft that could explode Bennu if it gets too close.


According to Buzzfeed Newsthe Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response spacecraft, HAMMER for short, could use one of two tactics to combat an impact. If an asteroid is small enough, HAMMER would use an 8.8-ton “impactor” to smash the object. But, if the asteroid is too big, the spacecraft would instead use an on-board nuclear device to blow it up.


Physicist David Dearborn from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory even suggested to Buzzfeed News that multiple HAMMER craft could throw themselves in front of the asteroid to slow it and change its course.

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DDoS attack code powering massive attacks now public - CyberScoop

DDoS attack code powering massive attacks now public - CyberScoop | Amazing Science |

You, too, can now attempt a record-setting denial-of-service attack, as the tools used to launch the attacks were publicly posted to GitHub this week.


Proof-of-concept code by Twitter user @037 combined with a list of 17,000 IP addresses of vulnerable memcached servers allows anyone to send forged UDP packets to memcached servers obtained from the computer search engine.


It’s been just over a week since the first massive memcache-fueled denial of service attack. The code’s authors says it’s being released “to bring more attention to the flaw and force others into updating their devices.”


The era of terabit DDoS attacks was ushered in this month with giant denial of service attacks last week set records with 1.35-terabit-per-second and 1.7 -terabit-per-second attacks. They used unsecured memcached servers to launch the attacks, one of which targeted GitHub itself. The latter attack targeted an unnamed U.S. service provider, according to Arbor Networks.


A second tool was released on Monday, BleepingComputer reports, but the author is unknown. Akamai and Cloudflare predicted more attacks following the record-setting efforts. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said he was seeing separate attacks of a similar size last week.

Via Ben van Lier
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'Memtransistor' Forms Foundational Circuit Element to Neuromorphic Computing

'Memtransistor' Forms Foundational Circuit Element to Neuromorphic Computing | Amazing Science |

Computers that operate more like the human brain than computers—a field sometimes referred to as neuromorphic computing—have promised a new era of powerful computing.


While this all seems promising, one of the big shortcomings in neuromorphic computing has been that it doesn’t mimic the brain in a very important way. In the brain, for every neuron there are a thousand synapses—the electrical signal sent between the neurons of the brain. This poses a problem because a transistor only has a single terminal, hardly an accommodating architecture for multiplying signals.


Now researchers at Northwestern University, led by Mark Hersam, have developed a new device that combines memristors—two-terminal non-volatile memory devices based on resistance switching—with transistors to create what Hersam and his colleagues have dubbed a “memtransistor” that performs both memory storage and information processing.


This most recent research builds on work that Hersam and his team conducted back in 2015 in which the researchers developed a three-terminal, gate-tunable memristor that operated like a kind of synapse.


While this work was recognized as mimicking the low-power computing of the human brain, critics didn’t really believe that it was acting like a neuron since it could only transmit a signal from one artificial neuron to another. This was far short of a human brain that is capable of making tens of thousands of such connections.


“Traditional memristors are two-terminal devices, whereas our memtransistors combine the non-volatility of a two-terminal memristor with the gate-tunability of a three-terminal transistor,” said Hersam to IEEE Spectrum. “Our device design accommodates additional terminals, which mimic the multiple synapses in neurons.”

Via Ashish Umre
Félix Santamaria's curator insight, March 16, 5:15 AM
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AI chips soon will power PCs, cars, security cameras and smart speakers

AI chips soon will power PCs, cars, security cameras and smart speakers | Amazing Science |
Processors with artificial intelligence will spread from today's top-end phones to cars, PCs, security cameras, smart speakers and mainstream phones.


AI is already a buzzword used by phone makers like Apple, Samsung and LG. "Most new high-end smartphones have an AI accelerator," including Apple's A11 chip in the iPhone X and Samsung's Exynos 9810 in the Galaxy S9, said Linley Gwennap, an analyst with the Linley Group. "We're already seeing it trickle down to mid-premium phones, and it'll probably continue to trickle down to lower-end phones over time," he said at the chip analysis firm's processor conference last week.


AI-capable chips will spread much farther than smartphones, boosted by custom chip designs from startups and bigger efforts like the Trillium AI project from mobile chip power Arm. That'll mean today's revolution in computing smarts really is only just getting started. It could eventually help digital assistants from Amazonand Google spread into new devices, let your car recognize pedestrians and everything else around it, and make your PC a lot cleverer for things like photo and video editing.


Take internet-enabled security cameras, which today can burden your home network and broadband connection with a constant stream of video. "What you really want is the camera to be able to look at the scene and say nothing's happening, I don't need to send the video up. When something changes, then it can send an image or a notification," Gwennap said.


PCs can run AI on their relatively powerful main processors, but they'll get AI chips too as more software arrives to use the technology, Gwennap predicted. Adobe Systems software like Photoshop and Premiere Pro already pushes processors to their limits, and the company has introduced Sensei AI technology for speeding up tasks like photo editing.

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World's first continuous room-temperature maser opens door to new applications

World's first continuous room-temperature maser opens door to new applications | Amazing Science |

A maser is just like a laser, only it shoots electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range. If this doesn’t sound familiar, you’re not alone. Despite being the precursor to the laser, the maser is rather obscure because of the difficulty of manufacturing and operating one. Usually, they’re confined to ‘esoteric’ niches like astrophysics. That’s mostly because a maser needs to be cooled down to almost absolute zero to function, making it extremely bulky and expensive.


But now, scientists at Imperial College London (ICL) have unveiled the world’s first continuous room-temperature solid-state maser, opening up a myriad of new opportunities in research.


Maser stands for “microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” It fires higher frequency photons in the ultraviolet or visible light spectrum — a beam of microwaves, essentially, instead of a beam of light, as a laser does. Masers were invented in the 1950s and laid the groundwork for the invention of the laser in the early 1960s, but soon enough the two technologies drifted apart significantly. Today, it’s not uncommon at all to find half a dozen lasers in the typical American household embedded in various technological items, from DVD players to optical cables.


Masers, on the other hand, have remained confined mainly to astrophysical labs, far away from the public’s perception.

What the ICL researchers led by Dr. Jonathan Breeze managed to do was to devise a new maser that is solid state, operates at room temperature and doesn’t require a magnetic field. In 2012, the same team built such a maser that used the organic molecule pentacene, instead of a hard, inorganic maser crystal. However, this maser was not able to work continuously, as the radiation would have eventually melted the crystal molecules.


Now, the scientists found a solution by using a different material: a synthetic diamond grown in a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. A high-energy electron beam was used to knock carbon atoms out of the synthetic diamond, which left very tiny holes or vacancies in the diamond’s atomic structure. When the scientists heated the diamond, the nitrogen atoms and the carbon vacancies paired off, forming so-called nitrogen-vacancy defect centers. The final step was placing the diamond inside a sapphire ring. When a green laser light was shone on it, a continuous stream of laser light was emitted — and all at room temperature.

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This new lidar sensor could equip every autonomous car in the world by the end of 2018

This new lidar sensor could equip every autonomous car in the world by the end of 2018 | Amazing Science |

The startup Luminar aims to challenge market leaders by building its hardware at a never-before-seen scale. A new lidar sensor could equip thousands of driverless cars with the sensing abilities required to drive at high speeds on the open road. Lidar has become the primary way most driverless cars sense the world around them, bouncing laser light off nearby objects to create 3-D maps of their surroundings.


For years, the industry leader in lidar has been Velodyne, which builds some of the most expensive ultrahigh-resolution sensors available. But the rapid advance of research on self-driving vehicles prompted other firms to start building them too—among them a startup called Luminar, which was set up by Stanford dropout Austin Russell and came out of stealth last year.


Luminar’s technology is different from other lidar systems. It uses a longer wavelength of light to operate at higher power, allowing it to see darker objects over longer distances. It’s also able to zoom in on areas of specific interest. But its sensors, which use a mechanical mirror system and expensive indium gallium arsenide semiconductors, were difficult and pricey to produce. Early units cost at least tens of thousands of dollars, and they required an entire day of human labor to assemble.


Over the last year, says Russell, who was one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators under 35 in 2017, the firm has taken steps to change that. It acquired a chip design firm called Black Forest Engineering, hired consumer electronics experts, and set up its own manufacturing complex in Orlando, Florida—all with the aim of building its sensor at commercial scale.

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Are you ready for atom-thin, ‘invisible’ displays everywhere?

Are you ready for atom-thin, ‘invisible’ displays everywhere? | Amazing Science |

Bloomberg reported this morning (April 4) that Apple is planning a new iPhone with touchless gesture control and displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom. Apple’s probable use of microLED technology promises to offer “power savings and a reduced screen thickness when put beside current-generation display panels,”according to Apple Insider.


But UC Berkeley engineers have an even more radical concept for future electronics: invisible displays, using a new atomically thin display technology. Imagine seeing the person you’re talking to projected onto a blank wall by just pointing at it, or seeing a map pop up on your car window (ideally, matched to the road you’re on) at night and disappear when you wave it off.


The secret: an ultrathin monolayer semiconductor just three atoms thick — a bright “transient electroluminescent” device that is fully transparent when turned off and that can conform to curved surfaces, even human skin.* The four different monolayer materials each emit different colors of light.


The display is currently a proof-of-concept design — just a few millimeters wide, and about 1 percent efficient (commercial LEDs have efficiencies of around 25 to 30 percent). “A lot of work remains to be done and a number of challenges need to be overcome to further advance the technology for practical applications,” explained Ali Javey, Ph.D., professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at Berkeley.


The research study was published March 26 in an open-access paper in Nature Communications. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

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This New Google Project Is So Futuristic You Won't Be Able To Understand It

This New Google Project Is So Futuristic You Won't Be Able To Understand It | Amazing Science |

It seems that the intricacies of technology are only speeding up, and every day we get closer to the sci-fi future predicted in so many novels and movies. In a recent video from Google, we got a look into what that future might look like. Google introduced a new product called Project Soli, which uses radar technology to detect movements to such a detailed degree that you can use subtle finger movements to control it.


The technology can capture 10,000 frames per second, an unprecedented level of information processing to be put into such a small chip. "What is most exciting about it is that you can shrink the entire radar and put it into a tiny chip," Ivan Poupyrev, Project Soli Founder, said in a YouTube video. "That's what makes this approach so promising: it's extremely reliable. There is nothing to break, no moving part, no lenses, just a piece of sand on a board."


The video is here

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Powerful new imaging method reveals in detail how particles move in solution

Powerful new imaging method reveals in detail how particles move in solution | Amazing Science |

New research published in Nature Methods will dramatically improve how scientists "see inside" molecular structures in solution, allowing for much more precise ways to image data in various fields, from astronomy to drug discovery.


The new method will allow for the visualization of many more biological molecules, providing critical information about what is inside molecules to scientists who currently can only access their outer shape or envelope. Such information could be a major boost to studies of viruses, for example.


"With existing techniques, you can only see the outline of the virus," said author Thomas D. Grant, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Structural Biology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and the Department of Materials, Design and Innovation in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute. "This new method allows us to see inside the virus molecule to understand how the genetic information is arranged, potentially giving new insight into how the virus injects this genetic information into its host."


Grant is the sole author of the paper, a rarity among papers published in this journal. He is a scientist with BioXFEL (Biology with X-ray Free Electron Lasers), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center composed of eight U.S. research universities that is headquartered at UB. Its mission is to address fundamental questions in biology at the molecular level using cutting-edge techniques, including X-ray laser science.


Grant's method has solved the phase problem for a particular molecular determination technique called solution scattering. The phase problem is where critical information about the phase of a molecule is lost during the experimental process of making a physical measurement.


He explained that most molecular structures today are solved using X-ray crystallography, where the structures scatter intense X-rays in patterns consisting of hundreds of thousands of unique pieces of information, which are used to ultimately reveal the structure at high-resolution.


"The problem is that more than 75 percent of molecular structures do not readily form the ordered crystals that diffract well," explained Grant. "That means many molecules are difficult to visualize in three dimensions."


In addition, he said, biological molecules can exhibit dynamic motions that have an impact on how they function but those motions are missing when structures crystallize, resulting in the loss of important biological information. One way around this obstacle is to use a technique called solution scattering in which X-rays scatter off of molecules floating in solution instead of arranged in a crystal.


"Solution scattering allows the molecules to move dynamically in their natural states, enabling the visualization of large-scale conformational dynamics important for biological function," said Grant. "However, as the molecules tumble in solution, they scatter the X-rays in many different orientations, losing most of the information, typically yielding only 10 to 20 unique pieces of data." Until now, such little information only yielded low-resolution outlines of the particle shape.

The Science & Education team's curator insight, March 21, 5:08 PM
In the past atoms were always 'theoretical'. The massive improvement in imaging are now direct images of molecules in motion.

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Canadian Nanotechnology Firm Finds Water in the Driest of Air

Canadian Nanotechnology Firm Finds Water in the Driest of Air | Amazing Science |

A Canadian startup could have a new breakthrough in pulling moisture from the driest of places. For years, researchers around the world have been looking for new technology and methods of making drinkable water out of the atmosphere.


The company Awn Nanotech, based out of Montreal, have been leveraging the latest in nanotechnology to make that water harvesting a reality. Awn Nanotech, most recently, released new information about their progress at the American Physical Society’s March meeting — the world’s largest gathering of physicists.


Founder Richard Boudreault made the presentation, who is both a physicist and an entrepreneur with a sizeable number of other tech-based startup companies under his belt. He said the company got its inspiration after hearing about the water crises in southern California and South Africa. While most others were looking to solve the problem by desalination techniques and new technologies, he wanted to look to the sky instead.


He also wondered if he could create a more cost-efficient alternative to the other expensive options on the market. By tapping into nanotechnology, he could pull the particles toward each other and use the natural tension found in the surface as a force of energy to power the nanotechnology itself.


“It’s extremely simple technology, so it’s extremely durable,” Boudreault said at the press conference. Boudreault partnered with college students throughout Canada to develop a specific textile. The fine mesh of carbon nanotubes would be both hydrophilic (attracts water to the surface) on one side and hydrophobic (repels water away from the surface) on the other. Water particles hit the mesh and get pushed through the film from one side to the other. This ultimately forms droplets.


“Because of the surface tension, (the water) finds its way through,” Boudreault explained. The water then gets consolidated into storage tanks as clean water where it can await consumption. While there’s no need for power with the system, the Awn Nanotech team realized they could significantly speed up the water harvesting process by adding a simple fan. The team quickly added a small fan of a size that cools a computer. To make sure the fan also kept energy usage low, the fan itself runs on a small solar panel.


There have been some other attempts around the world to scale up water harvesting technology. In April 2017, a team from MIT partnered with University of California at Berkeley to harvest fog. They turned their attention to already very moist air and created a much cheaper alternative to other fog-harvesting methods using metal-organic frameworks.


However, unlike the small frameworks developed by the MIT researchers, Boudreault said that they’ve quickly scaled up their technology. In fact, the Awn Nanotech team has already created a larger alternative to their smaller scale that can capture 1,000 liters in one day. They’re currently selling their regular-scale water capture systems for $1,000 each, but the company intends on partnering with agricultural companies and farms for the more extensive systems.

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IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt

IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt | Amazing Science |

If there's one downside to powerful computers, it's that they are way too big. Luckily, that's about to change. At least, if IBM has its way. March 19, 2018 is the first day of IBM Think 2018, the company's flagship conference, where the company will unveil what it claims is the world's smallest computer. They're not kidding: It's literally smaller than a grain of salt. 


But don't let the size fool you: This computer has the computing power of the x86 chip from 1990. Okay, so that's not great compared to what we have today, but cut it some slack — you need a microscope to see it.


The computer will cost less than ten cents to manufacture, and will also pack "several hundred thousand transistors," according to the company. These will allow it to "monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data." 


Don't worry, bitcoin bros: It works with blockchain. Specifically, this computer will be a data source for blockchain applications. It's intended to help track the shipment of goods and detect theft, fraud, and non-compliance. It can also do basic AI tasks, such as sorting the data it's given. 


According to IBM, this is only the beginning. "Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices," says IBM head of research Arvind Krishna. If he's correct, we'll see way more of these tiny systems in objects and devices in the years to come.

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Blockchain Moves Beyond Bitcoin and is Here to Stay

Blockchain Moves Beyond Bitcoin and is Here to Stay | Amazing Science |

Touted as the next big tech disrupter in the world of business, blockchain technology could make transactions, from finance to food chain logistics, faster and more secure.


The first blockchain was invented in 2008 specifically to support the bitcoin cryptocurrency. Today, bitcoin owners can use the cryptocoin to purchase everything from plane tickets to electronics. While it may be a better alternative to fiat currency in many ways, the applications extend far beyond shopping.


Businesses are using blockchain in ways that benefit both their bottom line and their customers. Hyperledger, an open-source collaborative effort the Linux Foundation created to advance blockchain technologies, can streamline financial transactions and even track the food supply chain.


In 2017, Intel demonstrated how Hyperledger’s Sawtooth blockchain platform could be combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve the seafood supply chain from ocean to table.


“Previously, the information available to any one company in the supply chain was fairly narrow,” said Reed. For example, a restaurant owner might know the date fish was ordered, when it’s due to arrive and the price paid, but they may have a difficult time tracking the fish en route from sea to table.


To improve the process, IoT sensors were affixed to the harvested fish to gauge its shipping location, temperature during transport, movement and more. Using Hyperledger Sawtooth, anyone along the supply chain has the ability to keep better track of the fish. “Blockchain implementation allowed us to know for certain when the fisherman caught the fish, when they stored it, its temperature at any time, when it was inspected and exactly when it arrived at a restaurant,” said Reed.


Eventually, restaurants and grocers could use a similar blockchain implementation to track meat and produce. Using traditional supply chain protocols, contaminated food is very difficult to track. However, with blockchain a grocery store could know within minutes instead of days exactly which products to pull from shelves, potentially stopping contaminated food from ever reaching shelves in the first place.


Consumers can be privy to a product’s entire history on a blockchain, perhaps through a simple scan of a QR code on a package, said Reed. The consumer would know more about what they were eating, and the price they paid would be more likely to accurately reflect the quality of the product.

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Wireless patch poised to streamline emergency rooms

Wireless patch poised to streamline emergency rooms | Amazing Science |

In order to have their vital signs continuously monitored, patients in emergency rooms have to be hooked up to a variety of sensors – this makes it awkward for them to move around, among other things. Soon, however, all those machines could be replaced by one small electronic patch that adheres to their chest.


The device was developed by Swiss startup Smartcardia, a company that was spun off from the EPFL research institute.

Applied to a patient's chest under their clothes, the patch uses integrated sensors to monitor stats such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, cardiac rhythm and cardiac electrical activity – it reportedly does so just as accurately as traditional cable-based sensors.


The data is wirelessly transmitted to a server, which doctors can access in real time via a smartphone, tablet, or any internet-connected device. Along with its use in hospitals, the patch could also allow patients to be remotely monitored while in their homes, going about their daily activities. This would minimize the number of visits that they would need to pay to the hospital just to get checked, while ensuring that any problems got detected right away.


To that end, Smartcardia is also working on an artificial intelligence system that would allow the patch to spot health problems early. It would do so by detecting slight changes in a patient's vital signs and linking them together, to see if the combination corresponded to existing models of serious conditions.


The Smartcardia patch has already been tested on hundreds of patients at several hospitals, and recently received the European Union's CE marking for medical devices. Large-scale production has begun, and a commercial launch for the Swiss and EU markets should reportedly be taking place quite soon.

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How States Are Legislating Autonomous Vehicles (Interactive Map)

How States Are Legislating Autonomous Vehicles (Interactive Map) | Amazing Science |

Though still a far-off fantasy in the minds of many, 19 states have passed legislation relating to autonomous vehicles — many starting small by defining terms like "automated driving system," "dynamic driving task" or "autonomous vehicle."


Additionally, governors from four states have issued executive orders creating councils and working groups of stakeholders and public officials dedicated to looking at how their states should proceed.


Where states like Florida have embraced fewer regulations, others, like California, have taken more tightly regulated approaches. Though these states have differed in their approaches, the future of transportation is in the midst of a revolution. 


The revolution, in short, means that the traditional rules no longer hold up when applied to the rapidly advancing technology. From the electrification of vehicles to the growth of transportation network companies and automated driving, traditional driving regulations must be updated to keep pace.


Self-driving vehicles can already be spotted on test tracks across the country and on public streets in select cities, and several major companies including Ford, Toyota and BMW have all committed to driverless vehicles on American road within five years.

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Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, MIT scientists predict

Nuclear fusion on brink of being realised, MIT scientists predict | Amazing Science |

The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years.


The project, a collaboration between scientists at MIT and a private company, will take a radically different approach to other efforts to transform fusion from an expensive science experiment into a viable commercial energy source. The team intend to use a new class of high-temperature superconductors they predict will allow them to create the world’s first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going.


Bob Mumgaard, CEO of the private company Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which has attracted $50 million in support of this effort from the Italian energy company Eni, said: “The aspiration is to have a working power plant in time to combat climate change. We think we have the science, speed and scale to put carbon-free fusion power on the grid in 15 years.”

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