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Technology

Doc versus machine

webMD cancer scare

webMD cancer scare

Increasingly powerful computers using ever-more sophisticated programs are challenging human supremacy in areas as diverse as playing chess and making emotionally compelling music. But can digital diagnosticians match, or even outperform, human physicians? The answer, according to a new study, is “not quite.”

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New sensor material could enable more sensitive readings of biological signals

transhuman

transhuman

High-tech prosthetics, computers that are controlled by thought, the ability to walk or even move again, these are just a few of the promises of technology. Unfortunately, while the tech is — mostly — up to the challenge, getting the biology side of things to cooperate has been difficult at best, but that could change. Now, scientists have created a material that could make reading biological signals, from heartbeats to brainwaves, much more sensitive.

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Concentrating on the social billions

social media

social media

Using online social media does not lead to long-term problems with our ability to concentrate, according to new research. We are social animals, so it is really no surprise that billions of us now use online tools to communicate, educate and inform each other. The advent of social media and social networking has nevertheless been phenomenally rapid.

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First demonstration of brain-inspired device to power artificial systems

memristor

memristor

New research has demonstrated that a nanoscale device, called a memristor, could be used to power artificial systems that can mimic the human brain. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) exhibit learning abilities and can perform tasks which are difficult for conventional computing systems, such as pattern recognition, on-line learning and classification.

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Physicists retrieve ‘lost’ information from quantum measurements

quantum mechanics

quantum mechanics

Typically when scientists make a measurement, they know exactly what kind of measurement they’re making, and their purpose is to obtain a measurement outcome. But in an “unrecorded measurement,” both the type of measurement and the measurement outcome are unknown.

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The blur doesn’t cut it: AI can identify people in blurred images

pixelated face

pixelated face

A trio of researchers has found off-the-shelf AI software can be used to identify people in blurred or pixilated images. The researchers have uploaded a paper describing the experiments they carried out with AI software identification of people or other items in blurred out images, what they found and reveal just how accurate they found it could be.

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MRI scanner sees emotions flickering across an idle mind

Brain emotions

Brain emotions

As you relax and let your mind drift aimlessly, you might remember a pleasant vacation, an angry confrontation in traffic or maybe the loss of a loved one. And now a team of researchers say they can see those various emotional states flickering across the human brain.

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Food waste could store solar and wind energy, or there’s the obvious…

sugar alchohols

sugar alchohols

Saving up excess solar and wind energy for times when the sun is down or the air is still requires a storage device. Batteries get the most attention as a promising solution although pumped hydroelectric storage is currently used most often. Now researchers are advancing another potential approach using sugar alcohols—an abundant waste product of the food industry—mixed with carbon nanotubes.

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Social connectedness can increase suicide risk

social media

social media

Community characteristics play an important role in perpetuating teen suicide clusters and thwarting prevention efforts, according to a new study by sociologists who examined clusters in a single town. The study illustrates how the homogeneous culture and high degree of social connectedness of a community can increase suicide risk, particularly among teenagers.

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Body heat as a power source

morpheus battery scene

morpheus battery scene

Electronics integrated into textiles are gaining in popularity: Systems like smartphone displays in a sleeve or sensors to detect physical performance in athletic wear have already been produced. The main problem with these systems tends to be the lack of a comfortable, equally wearable source of power. Chinese scientists are now aiming to obtain the necessary energy from body heat by introducing a flexible, wearable thermocell based on two different gel electrolytes.

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The Genesis Project: New life on exoplanets

exoplanets

exoplanets

Can life be brought to celestial bodies outside our solar system, which are not permanently inhabitable? A new essay that has been published is trying to deal with this question. Over the last several years, the search for exoplanets has shown that very different types exist leading to new questions and a variety of possible answers.

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‘I miss you so much’: How Twitter is broadening the conversation on death and mourning

genie you're free

genie you're free

Death and mourning were largely considered private matters in the 20th century, with the public remembrances common in previous eras replaced by intimate gatherings behind closed doors in funeral parlors and family homes. But social media is redefining how people grieve, and Twitter in particular — with its ephemeral mix of rapid-fire broadcast and personal expression — is widening the conversation around death and mourning.

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Can cell phones make you feel less connected to your friends and family?

life without the screen
life without the screen

Image credit goes to: Eric Pickersgill

In this digital age, with phones at our fingertips, you would think that access to constant communication would make us feel closer to one another. But a new study shows that may not be the case. In fact, cell phone use might actually lead to feeling less socially connected, depending on your gender or cell phone habits.

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Repeated stimulation treatment can restore movement to paralyzed muscles

nerves

nerves

Conducted at the BioMag laboratory at the Helsinki University Hospital, a new patient study could open a new opportunity to rehabilitate patients with spinal cord damage. In a new study which two patients with spinal cord injuries received a form of treatment that combined transcranial magnetic stimulation with simultaneous peripheral nerve stimulation given repeatedly for nearly six months.

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Organic computers are coming

organic computer

organic computer

Move over silicon, tomorrow’s computers could be made of something completely different. A team of international researchers managed to find a molecule that, to their opinion, could give the impetus to the development of organic electronics.

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A new bio-ink for 3-D printing with stem cells

3d bioprinting

3d bioprinting

The new stem cell-containing bio ink allows 3D printing of living tissue, known as bio-printing. The new bio-ink contains two different polymer components: a natural polymer extracted from seaweed, and a sacrificial synthetic polymer used in the medical industry, and both had a role to play.

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Google searches for ‘chickenpox’ reveal big impact of vaccinations

digital epidemiology

digital epidemiology

Countries that implement government-mandated vaccinations for chickenpox see a sharp drop in the number of Google searches for the common childhood disease afterward, demonstrating that immunization significantly reduces seasonal outbreaks. That’s one of the findings from a new study that analyzed thousands of Google searches for “chickenpox.”

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Your friends have more friends than you do

lonely

lonely

No matter how smart and funny you think you are, those you follow on Twitter really do have a larger following than you. And the same holds true for Facebook. But there is no reason to feel badly about any of this. According to the research, it is all due to the inherently hierarchical nature of social media networks, where, in the social hierarchy of connections, people mostly either follow up or across; they rarely follow down.

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Digital media may be changing how you think

digital media

digital media

Tablet and laptop users beware. Using digital platforms such as tablets and laptops for reading may make you more inclined to focus on concrete details rather than interpreting information more abstractly, according to a new study. The findings serve as another wake-up call to how digital media may be affecting our likelihood of using abstract thought.

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Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

smartphones and sleep

smartphones and sleep

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules. The study used a free smartphone app that reduces jetlag to gather robust sleep data from thousands of people in 100 nations. The researchers examined how age, gender, amount of light and home country affect the amount of shut-eye people around the globe get, when they go to bed, and when they wake up.

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Don’t retweet if you want to remember

oprah retweet

oprah retweet

The whole of human intelligence, right at your fingertips. Sure it might not make the layman an engineer or physicist, but if we want to learn about a particular topic the internet can give us that information. But you better hold on tight before you lose it. New research finds retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.

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Measuring happiness on social media

Twitter

Twitter

Happiness. It’s something we all strive for, but how do we measure it — as a country? A global community? Not so surprisingly, researchers are turning to social media to answer these questions and more. In a newly published study, computer scientists used two years of Twitter data to measure users’ life satisfaction, a component of happiness.

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Are humans the new supercomputer?

supercomputer intelligence

supercomputer intelligence

As a society we have become incredibly reliant on technology, from spell check to GPS, we are slowly being replaced by computers. Need more proof, a computer can routinely beat us at chess, an AI wrote portions of a book that went on to almost win a writing contest, and if you want scary robotics enter Boston dynamics spot.  So the question is,  have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.

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Organic nanowires destroy the competition

nanowires

nanowires

Last month, we spoke of our vision of the future of humanity here at the lab. It makes sense that humanity would one-day step away from the static, non-living computer constructs we have designed. Moving us instead towards an organic alternative, one that can be readily repaired, replaced, or changed. While we cannot pretend to know what the future may hold, a new discovery helps bolster the stance we presented.

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New learning procedure for neural networks

neural network

neural network

Rustling leaves, a creaking branch: To a mouse, these sensory impressions may, at first, seem harmless — but not if a cat suddenly bursts out of the bush. If so, they were clues of impending life-threatening danger. Researcher Robert Gütig has now found how the brain can link sensory perceptions to events occurring after a delay.

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Matrix Unloaded: How you can fly a plane using expert-pilot brainwave patterns

download knowledge

download knowledge

“I know kung fu,” movie buffs might remember the remember the quote from “The Matrix.” We can all probably agree that being able to download knowledge “on tap” would be a boon to humanity. It is a shame it is just a movie… right? While that may be the case, it is just for now. That is because researchers have discovered that low-current electrical brain stimulation can modulate the learning of complex real-world skills.

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Scientists prove feasibility of ‘printing’ replacement tissue

bioengineering with a 3d printer

bioengineering with a 3d printer

Using a sophisticated, custom-designed 3D printer, regenerative medicine scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have proved that it is feasible to print living tissue structures to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients. Scientists said they printed ear, bone and muscle structures. When implanted in animals, the structures matured into functional tissue and developed a system of blood vessels.

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Stem cell gene therapy could be key to treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy

crispr cas9 art

crispr cas9 art

Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research and Center for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at UCLA have developed a new approach that could eventually be used to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The stem cell gene therapy could be applicable for 60 percent of people with Duchenne, which affects approximately 1 in 5,000 boys in the U.S. and is the most common fatal childhood genetic disease.

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Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

As we continue to shrink electronic components, top-down manufacturing methods begin to approach a physical limit at the nanoscale. Rather than continue to chip away at this limit, one solution of interest involves using the bottom-up self-assembly of molecular building blocks to build nanoscale devices.

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‘Space Warps’ and other citizen science projects reap major dividends for astrophysics

Three astrophysicists discuss the impact volunteer, citizen scientists are having on discovery -- and what the future holds

Three astrophysicists discuss the impact volunteer, citizen scientists are having on discovery -- and what the future holds

Thanks to the Internet, amateur volunteers known as “citizen scientists” can readily donate their time and effort to science–in fields ranging from medicine to zoology to astrophysics. The astrophysics project Space Warps offers a compelling example of why citizen science has become such a popular tool and how valuable it can be.

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Beam me up! Teleporting the memory of an organism

Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism
Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism

LLAP, Leonard Nimoy

In “Star Trek”, a transporter can teleport a person from one location to a remote location without actually making the journey along the way. Such a transporter has fascinated many people. Quantum teleportation shares several features of the transporter and is one of the most important protocols in quantum information.

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Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

The constant barrage of post-holiday sales touted by web-based retailers may make it seem like online shopping is killing real-world stores. But shoppers are actually engaging in “web-to-store” shopping — buying offline after comparing prices online.

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Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists showed that they could alter brain activity of rats and either wake them up or put them in an unconscious state by changing the firing rates of neurons in the central thalamus, a region known to regulate arousal. The study was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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‘Hydricity’ concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock… really?

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

Researchers are proposing a new “hydricity” concept aimed at creating a sustainable economy by not only generating electricity with solar energy but also producing and storing hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power production.

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Computing with time travel

Computing with time travel

Computing with time travel

Why send a message back in time, but lock it so that no one can ever read the contents? Because it may be the key to solving currently intractable problems. It turns out that an unopened message can be exceedingly useful. This is true if the experimenter entangles the message with some other system in the laboratory before sending it.

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How is a developing brain assembled?

NIH 3-D software tracks worm embryo's brain development

A new, open-source software that can help track the embryonic development and movement of neuronal cells throughout the body of the worm, is now available to scientists.

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What’s in a name? More than you think…

What's in a name? More than you think...

What’s in a name? In the case of the usernames of video gamers, a remarkable amount of information about their real world personalities, according to research. Analysis of anonymised data from one of the world’s most popular computer games by scientists in the Department of Psychology at York also revealed information about their ages.

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How common is sexting among married couples?

How common is sexting among married couples?

Earlier this year, we looked at a study that suggested sexting can be healthy in a relationship, but that study primarily looked at non-married couples and the average age for the behavior was, as you may expect, young adult. Which may lead you to think that married couples don’t sext. In fact, married couples do report sexting, but it is much less common than in young adult relationships and consists more of intimate talk with their partners than sending nude or nearly nude photos via mobile phones, according to a new study.

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Researchers create technology to produce lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon

Researchers create technology to produce lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon

Substantially smaller and longer-lasting batteries for everything from portable electronic devices to electric cars could become a reality thanks to an innovative technology developed by University of Waterloo researchers. Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, and a team of graduate students have created a low-cost battery using silicon that boosts the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries.

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You too can learn to farm on Mars!

You too can learn to farm on Mars!

Image credit goes to: SpaceX

Scientists at Washington State University and the University of Idaho are helping students figure out how to farm on Mars, much like astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, attempts in the critically acclaimed movie “The Martian.” Washington State University physicist Michael Allen and University of Idaho food scientist Helen Joyner teamed up to explore the challenge. Their five-page study guide was published the day the movie premiered earlier this month.

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Scientists to bypass brain damage by re-encoding memories

Scientists to bypass brain damage by re-encoding memories

Researchers at USC and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a brain prosthesis that is designed to help individuals suffering from memory loss. The prosthesis, which includes a small array of electrodes implanted into the brain, has performed well in laboratory testing in animals and is currently being evaluated in human patients.

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Scientists discover new system for human genome editing

Bacteriophages attacking bacteria, TEM

CRISPR systems help bacteria defend against viral attack (shown here).
These systems have been adapted for use as genome editing tools in
human cells.
Image credit goes to: Ami Images/Science Photo Library.

A team including the scientist who first harnessed the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 system for mammalian genome editing has now identified a different CRISPR system with the potential for even simpler and more precise genome engineering. In the study researchers describe the unexpected biological features of this new system and demonstrate that it can be engineered to edit the genomes of human cells.

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What motivates ‘Facebook stalking’ after a romantic breakup?

What motivates 'Facebook stalking' after a romantic breakup?

Social networking makes it easy to monitor the status and activities of a former romantic partner, an often unhealthy use of social media known as interpersonal electronic surveillance (IES) or, more commonly, “Facebook stalking.” Psychological and relationship factors and how individuals cope with the termination of a romantic relationship can help predict their use of online surveillance, according to a new study.

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Physicists show ‘molecules’ made of light may be possible

Physicists show 'molecules' made of light may be possible

It’s not lightsaber time… at least not yet. But a team including theoretical physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has taken another step toward building objects out of photons, and the findings* hint that weightless particles of light can be joined into a sort of “molecule” with its own peculiar force.

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How influential are peer reactions to posts on Facebook news channels?

They Came, They Liked, They Commented: Social Influence on Facebook News Channels

An experiment to determine the effects of positive and negative user comments to items posted by media organizations on Facebook news channels showed, surprisingly, that the influence of user comments varied depending on the type and number of user comments. Negative comments influenced the persuasiveness of a news article, while positive comments did not, and a high number of likes did not have the expected bandwagon effect.

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On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage

On Wikipedia, politically controversial science topics vulnerable to information sabotage

Wikipedia reigns. It’s the world’s most popular online encyclopedia, the sixth most visited website in America, and a research source most U.S. students rely on. But Wikipedia entries on politically controversial scientific topics can be unreliable due to information sabotage.

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Good for the relationship: A reframing of sexting

How common is sexting?

The practice of sexting may be more common than generally thought among adults. More than eight out of 10 people surveyed online admitted to sexting in the prior year, according to new research.

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Paralyzed men move legs with new non-invasive spinal cord stimulation

Paralyzed men move legs with new non-invasive spinal cord stimulation

This image shows the range of voluntary movement prior to receiving stimulation compared to movement after receiving stimulation, physical conditioning, and buspirone. The subject’s legs are supported so that they can move without resistance from gravity. The electrodes on the legs are used for recording muscle activity.
Image credit goes to: Edgerton lab/UCLA

Five men with complete motor paralysis were able to voluntarily generate step-like movements thanks to a new strategy that non-invasively delivers electrical stimulation to their spinal cords. The strategy, called transcutaneous stimulation, delivers electrical current to the spinal cord by way of electrodes strategically placed on the skin of the lower back.

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We can build it better: The first artificial ribosome

Researchers design first artificial ribosome

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University have engineered a tethered ribosome that works nearly as well as the authentic cellular component, or organelle, that produces all the proteins and enzymes within the cell. The engineered ribosome may enable the production of new drugs and next-generation biomaterials and lead to a better understanding of how ribosomes function.

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Cell phone notifications may be driving you to distraction

Cell phone notifications may be driving you to distraction

Whether you are alerted to an incoming phone call or text by a trendy ringtone, an alarm bell or a quiet vibration, just receiving a notification on your cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair your ability to focus on a given task. In fact, the distraction caused by a simple notification — whether it is a sound or a vibration — is comparable to the effects seen when users actively use their cell phones to make calls or send text messages, the researchers found.

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