New project aims for fusion ignition

MIT-led Ignitor reactor could be the world’s first to reach major milestone, perhaps paving the way for eventual power production.

from MIT News:

Russia and Italy have entered into an agreement to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that could become the first such reactor to achieve ignition, the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy.

The design for the reactor, called Ignitor, originated with MIT physics professor Bruno Coppi, who will be the project’s principal investigator.

Siftables are changing the shape of computing

from Singularity Hub: ⇦ More videos at source

What if computers were more like a child’s wooden blocks?

Siftables are a new approach to computing developed by David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanthi. Each small square electronic tile has a small screen, motion sensors, and RF signals. The siftables interact with each other, letting you use orientation, proximity, and movement to control their performance.

Computerized agents for smart electricity

from University of Southampton via alphagalileo.org:

Computer scientists at the University of Southampton have developed a system of computerised agents which can manage energy use and storage in homes.

Having already developed agents that can trade on the stock market and manage crisis communications, a team of researchers, led by Dr Alex Rogers and Professor Nick Jennings at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, have now developed an agent-based micro-storage management technique that allows homes to adapt their energy use to match market conditions.

The ultimate aim of this system is to optimise individual electricity usage and storage, in order to improve efficiency of the electricity grid and to reduce emissions.

A single molecule computes thousands of times faster than your PC

from PopSci:

A demo of a quantum calculation carried out by Japanese researchers has yielded some pretty mind-blowing results: a single molecule can perform a complex calculation thousands of times faster than a conventional computer.

A proof-of-principle test run of a discrete Fourier transform — a common calculation using spectral analysis and data compression, among other things — performed with a single iodine molecule transpired very well, putting all the molecules in your PC to shame.

The substance found in pencils will speed up our computers one thousand fold

from h+ Magazine:

Graphene. If you’ve never heard about it, don’t worry, a lot of people haven’t, because it’s really only been “discovered” relatively recently, and most of the truly interesting news about it has been in the last year.

“We’re talking about that smartphone in your pocket having a thousand times the computing power of your desktop PC, but using no more power.”

Chemical cocktail keeps resurrected heart alive for 10 days outside of body

from PopSci:

Staying alive on the organ transplant waiting list could get a bit easier with organs that last longer outside the body.

That’s the hope of Harvard startup Hibergenica, which looks to commercialize a liquid solution that preserves the metabolism of hearts and livers for about 10 days, Technology Review reports.

Not only that, but Thatte’s team also managed to actually restart a pig’s heart in the lab by building an artificial circulatory system to support it. The Somah solution then helped keep it in a sort of stasis for 10 days.

“We’re the first laboratory in the world to restart the heart 24 hours after death,” Thatte told PopSci.

Self-powered flexible touchscreens

from MIT’s Technology Review:

Researchers at Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea have come up with a way to capture power when a touch screen flexes under a user’s touch.

The researchers have integrated flexible, transparent electrodes with an energy-scavenging material to make a film that could provide supplementary power for portable electronics. The film can be printed over large areas using roll-to-roll processes, but are at least five years from the market.

Complex software systems heal themselves

from ITC Results:

Researchers from Israel and six EU countries have carried out pioneering work on self-healing software capable of automatically and autonomously detecting, identifying and fixing errors in the copious lines of code that make up complex systems.

The results of their research are already being used internally by several companies and could feed into commercial products in the near future.

Europe’s plan to simulate the entire planet

from MIT’s Technology Review:

The ‘Living Earth Simulator’ will mine economic, environmental and health data to create a model of the entire planet in real time.

Helbing’s idea is to create a kind of Manahattan project to study, understand and tackle these techno-socio-economic-environmental issues. His plan is to gather data about the planet in unheard of detail, use it to simulate the behaviour of entire economies and then to predict and prevent crises from emerging.

This model will be capable not only modelling the planet in real time but of simulating the future, rather in the manner of weather forecasters.

Wheelchairs that listen

from Boston.com:

Seeking greater independence, patients help MIT researchers design a voice-driven device

“They can know more about the environment — weather, scheduled events, menus — and exploit that knowledge to make more meaningful choices about how they wish to spend their time,’’ said Teller, a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

The prototype, under development since 2005, can cruise the halls of MIT’s computer science lab, often without a passenger. When one of the students working on the device tells it to “Go to the kitchen,’’ a computer-generated voice responds: “Do you want to go to the kitchen?’’

A Map for the Programmable World

by Chris  Arkenberg, URBEINGRECORDED.com:

IFTF recently published the map for When Everything is Programmable. I did the research & forecast for Neuroprogramming and contributed to Combinatorial Manufacturing. For Neuroprogramming, I focused on brain-computer interface technology in medical, military, and futuretainment. I was, frankly, amazed at just how much rapid development is happening in the field (and how much money is moving through it, as well).

Perhaps surprisingly, Neuroprogramming looks much closer than the molecular construction I researched for Combinatorial Manufacturing. The promise of Drexler et al still seems to be a ways off but Claytronics offers a really compelling path towards programmable matter.

Delivering babies, treating heart attacks, scanning brains – There’s an app for that

from Singularity Hub:

AirStrip Technologies is setting your doctor free. The Texas based company is developing a suite of hardware/software solutions that allow physicians and nurses to monitor important vital signs from their smart phone.

Now, your doctor can use her iPhone to keep track of heartbeats, nurse’s notes, exams results, and drug doses even when she is out of the hospital.

You can check out a free demo of AirStrip OB at the App Store, or watch a local news segment …

Researchers develop new brain-like molecular processor

from ZDnet:

An international research team from Japan and Michigan Technological University have demonstrated a molecular circuit that can evolve continuously to solve complex problems that challenge today’s supercomputers.

The massively parallel circuit contains a layer of molecular switches (monolayer) that simultaneously interact in a manner similar to the information processing performed by the neurons in the human brain. That is, they can evolve to tackle complex problems. That’s because information processing circuits in digital computers are static, and operate serially.

Nanotechnology’s road to artificial brains

from Nanowerk:

If you think that building an artificial human brain is science fiction, you are probably right – for now. But don’t think for a moment that researchers are not working hard on laying the foundations for what is called neuromorphic engineering – a new interdisciplinary discipline that includes nanotechnologies and whose goal is to design artificial neural systems with physical architectures similar to biological nervous systems.

One of the key components of any neuromorphic effort is the design of artificial synapses. The human brain contains vastly more synapses than neurons – by a factor of about 10,000 – and therefore it is necessary to develop a nanoscale, low power, synapse-like device if scientists want to scale neuromorphic circuits towards the human brain level.

Schrödinger’s cash: Minting quantum money

from NewScientist:

Now the theoretical foundations are almost in place that could one day allow quantum cash to become a reality.

Since quantum money is just information, it can be stored and transmitted just like a digital picture or a text file. But because it has quantum properties too, it cannot be copied.

It is this combination that makes quantum cash so attractive: whoever is in possession of it has exclusive and unequivocal ownership of it, just as with hard, physical cash and unlike a credit card.

Brain-controlled exoskeletons advance with MindWalker

from WIRED.uk:

A team of European experts is working on a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton that could enable people currently confined to wheelchairs to walk again and also help astronauts rehabilitate to Earth gravity after prolonged periods in the weightlessness of space.

The MindWalker system, which is being developed as part of a three-year, 2.5 million euro project, consists of a brain-computer interface (BCI), a virtual reality training environment and a robotic exoskeleton attached to the legs.

Australian CSIRO analysis of the Megatrends and Megashocks of Our Future World

from Next Big Future:

CSIRO has a new report describing the outcomes from a global foresight project. It presents five megatrends and eight megashocks (global risks) that will redefine how the world’s people live.

The report identified eight megashocks relevant to Australian science:

1. asset price collapse
2. slowing Chinese economy
3. oil and gas price spikes
4. extreme climate change related weather
5. pandemic
6. biodiversity loss
7. terrorism
8. nanotechnology risks

Japan eyes ‘mind-reading’ devices, robots by 2020

from Physorg:

Japan plans to develop “mind-reading” robots and consumer electronics that can be controlled by thought alone and hopes to market them within a decade, the Nikkei daily reported Thursday.

The sci-fi like devices would employ so-called brain-machine interface technology, which analyses users’ brain waves and brain blood-flow patterns detected through sensor-mounted headsets.The envisaged devices would include television sets that can be operated without lifting a finger and mobile phones that send text messages composed purely through thought, the business daily said.

New metamaterial first to bend light in the visible spectrum

from PopSci:

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have engineered a metamaterial with a refined 3-D structure that gives light a negative refraction index upon entering the material.

Put another way, it bends light the opposite way one might expect, irrespective of the angle or polarization of incoming light waves. Put yet another way: We’re getting closer to that invisibility cloak we’ve been looking for.

Can computers read?

from The Brown and White:

Professors Henry Baird and Daniel Lopresti are taking steps to answer this question. Their research of OCR (optical character recognition) software is slowly bridging the gap between artificial intelligence and artificial perception.

According to Barid, OCR technology is centered around “trying to get computers to see things the way we do” – to be able to read, translate and understand written documents just like humans.This is more difficult than it sounds, however, and OCR technology is far from perfect.

As of now, OCR machines can read clean texts written in Western languages effectively. However, problems occur when documents are handwritten, dirty, noisy, old-fashioned or low-quality.