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Monthly Archives: August 2013

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MakerBot’s New Desktop 3D Scanner Ships in October

The new MakerBot Digitizer—a $1,400 desktop 3D scanner that ships in October—can make a digital copy of real objects. The new digital model will be a standard file type that you can print, share, or manipulate. The Digitizer scans objects on a turntable and constructs a digital 3D model using a camera and two lasers. The 3D model is watertight (i.e., no digital holes), within 2 mm the size of the original object, and captures detail down to 0.5 mm.

Scientists Grow Miniature, but Distinctly Human, Brain in the Lab

Austrian researchers have used regenerative techniques to grow a miniature human brain in the lab, they reported recently in the journal Nature. Using a bioreactor to improve cellular growing conditions, scientists obtained a brain-like organ that exhibited differentiated brain regions but stopped growing after a few months.

Singularity University Graduates 2013 Class: Startups Emerge To Solve Major Health Problems

Over the weekend, the latest graduates of Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program presented their proposals for using accelerating technologies to solve major world problems. The exhibition offered a sneak peek at the kinds of innovations that may hit the market two to five years from now.

Turkish Scientists Genetically Modify Bunnies to Glow Green

Two bunnies were recently born glowing green. They’re not radioactive—they carry jellyfish genes. If you’ve never read about animals genetically modified to glow, this may sound bizarre, edgy, sci-fi. It’s not. Scientists have been genetically programming animals to glow for years. The story here is that genetically modified glowing organisms aren’t news. That’s amazing.

Researcher Remotely Operates Colleague’s Brain Over The Internet

A network of connected brains is the Holy Grail of Internet communications: Rather than type out an email, one user simply sends his or her thoughts directly to another. Researchers at the University of Washington recently moved one step closer to that goal with an experiment in which a researcher in one building controlled the hand movements of a colleague in another building.

Bezos-Backed 10,000 Year Clock Site Preparation and Fabrication Underway

If you were worth a million dollars, you might buy a fine watch. Rolex, Breitling, Seiko, this watch might run a couple thousand dollars. If you’re Jeff Bezos, you fund a 200-foot clock inside a mountain, engineered to withstand Armageddon and tick for 10,000 years. Bezos, the man behind Amazon and the new owner of the Washington Post, is worth a cool $25.2 billion, and he’s contributed $42 million to the Long Now Foundation’s 10,000 Year Clock project. That sounds like a lot of money, but to scale, it’s akin to our millionaire buying a single Rolex. No big deal for a Bezos.

Brazil and India Lead the Way in Everyday Use of Biometrics

As the prices for various types of sensors have fallen in recent years, businesses have found all sorts of uses for them. And anyone who’s watched even one of Hollywood’s forays into science fiction knows that one main use for sensors will be to confirm identities using biometric traits. But here’s a plot twist: Developing countries like Brazil and India are leading the way to biometric forms of identity confirmation, in which sensors limit access to secure systems such as banking or governmental assistance programs, to users who possess anatomical traits, deemed unique to each person, that have previously been entered into a database.

Scientists Grow Teeth Using Stem Cells – Harvested From Urine?

Adults lose teeth due to poor hygiene, aging, disease or accidents. Traditionally, prosthetics are used to replace part or all of a lost tooth. But wouldn’t it be better if we could simply regrow lost or damaged teeth? Approaches using stem cells, while still in their infancy, may eventually do exactly that. Researchers led by Dr. Duanqing Pei, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, have reported a potential method for growing teeth from stem cells obtained in urine.
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GSP 101 — Introduction to Nanotechnology

Singularity University produced a series of "101" videos for the Graduate Studies Program to help acclimate the participants of the 2013 class to the emergent technologies that are shaping the world today. In this video,...

Korean Road Wirelessly Charges New Electric Buses

Electric vehicles still have limited range, expensive batteries, and few charging stations. While mainstream manufacturers seek to improve battery tech, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has a different idea. Who needs big batteries and stations when the road itself can charge vehicles? In July, two new buses began public service in the South Korean city, Gumi. The buses, or online electric vehicles (OLEVs), travel a road like a wireless cellphone charging mat—only, this particular mat is 7.5 miles long and cost $4 million to build.

Already in Use in Canada and India, Iris Scans Get Thumbs-Up in U.S. Government Study

As far back at the late 1980s, the U.S. Patent Office issued its first patent for iris recognition scans. (Retinal scans, though widely referenced, at not as widely used as iris scans.) The Canadian Border Services offer an opt-in expedited security program that relies on an iris scan. But some researchers who have studied iris-scanning technology have found too much variety in the scans generated over time by a single person.

Spaceport America Ramping Up For Projected Space Tourism Boom

It was just over a century ago that the Wright brothers developed a flying machine that lifted them into the air, which would evolve into today's safer-than-ever airline industry that saw 37.5 million business...

Study Suggests Copper May Be the Culprit in Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers from the University of Rochester have pursued an increasingly common hypothesis that copper consumption may play a role in triggering Alzheimer’s disease. In findings published August 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they showed that exposing the brain to copper not only spurs the production of the amyloid beta protein that characterizes the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, but also slows the brain’s efforts to clear out the plaque.

Tiny Lab-Grown Heart Beats On Its Own

A growing number of researchers are looking to build hearts, like other organs, from biological tissue. Such hearts have the added benefit of using the patient’s own tissue, reducing the chance of rejection. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh medical school made a significant breakthrough: They created a heart that beat on its own.

Americans Polled on Radical Life Extension—56% Wouldn’t Undergo Treatments to Live Longer

Printed in bold, no-nonsense lettering across the cover, a recent issue of National Geographic proclaimed, “This Baby Will Live to Be 120.” No question mark. The notion that impending medical discoveries may add years to our lives, with wits and vitality largely intact, is gaining credence and mainstream attention. But if research delivers radical life extension, would humans undergo medical treatments to attain it? In a Pew Research poll, 56% of those surveyed said no. For a culture obsessed with youth, that's an interesting result.

Musk: To be a Multi-Planetary Species, We Need To Develop Reusable Rockets

To be a multi-planetary species, Musk believes we have to develop fully reusable rockets. If every rocket launched 1,000 times, instead of just once, capital costs would plummet from $50 million to $50,000 per launch (not counting operational expenses) and could drive per pound launch costs down 100-fold.

Solar Continued Exponential Growth in 2012, But Politics May Stymie Growth

At any given moment, the sun bathes the earth in enough solar energy to power the world 10,000 times over. Capturing and converting that energy into usable electricity presents major technical challenges. And, for the time being, an international tangle of politics and prices complicates matters further.
video

GSP 101 — Introduction to 3D Printing

Singularity University produces a series of "101" videos for the Graduate Studies Program to help acclimate the participants of the 2013 class to the emergent technologies that are shaping the world today. In this video,...

Drone Climbs Up Sewer Pipes to Perform Surveillance, Deliver Goods

The words robot and drone may conjure up images of a sleek, austere future, but some of the most compelling use cases for the machines involve situations that are too dangerous, or just plain messy, for a human to handle. To wit, two recent grads of the U.S. Air Force Academy have patented a drone that climbs into a building via the water or sewage pipes. The inventors, Kyle Fitle and David Carte, described the vehicle to the Washington Post as a way to facilitate communication between first responders and people trapped inside a compromised building.

Scientists Ponder Human Role in Mid-Atlantic Dolphin Die-Off

The number of bottlenose dolphins beaching themselves along the Mid-Atlantic coast skyrocketed in July and early August, leading the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare on August 8 an “unusual mortality event” and launch an investigation into what might be causing the deaths.

Musk Estimates Hyperloop Could Shoot Travelers from SF to LA at 760 Miles Per Hour

Elon Musk has long been hinting about a high-speed form of transportation enigmatically named the Hyperloop. Earlier this summer, he promised to reveal his Hyperloop plans in August. After a round of media hype and an all-nighter, Musk recently posted the 57-page Hyperloop Alpha plan online.

Pizza Delivery From The Sky? Drone Distribution Networks Held Back By Regulators

I am waiting for my first pizza bomb but the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration just won’t get out of the way. I read about it on the Internet – an enterprising Domino’s franchisee in...

What Will Happen 5 Days Before The Singularity? “I’s” Feature Film Aims To Find Out

Sci-fi films have a long history of speculating what the future might be like, seeking to understand what remnants of humanity will continue on when the world may undergo drastic change. More realistic projections...

DARPA, IBM Neurosynaptic Chip and Programming Language Mimic the Brain

Engineering is often inspired by nature—the hooks in velcro or dermal denticles in sharkskin swimsuits. Then there’s Darpa’s SyNAPSE, a collaboration of researchers at IBM, XX, and XX universities. Not content with current computer architecture, SyNAPSE takes its cues from the human brain.

Sensors Report Gunfire Directly to Police in 70 U.S. Cities, No 911 Call Needed

As Americans use digital methods for more of their interpersonal communications, law enforcement agencies have seized the opportunity to scoop up more information for cheaper than they could before, hoping to ferret out criminal activity. But violent crime still takes place in the physical world, with fragile human bodies on the line. A growing number of U.S. police departments are using a system of sound-detecting software to locate and respond to gunfire in hopes of catching more shooters and saving more victims. The dominant system they use is ShotSpotter, a network of acoustic sensors whose data filters through an algorithm to isolate gunshots. If shots are fired anywhere in the coverage area, the software triangulates their location to within about 10 feet and reports the activity to the police dispatcher. The system claims to be more accurate and more reliable than would-be 911 callers.

‘Doom’ Developer John Carmack Joins Oculus to Take Virtual Reality Mainstream

Over the last year, the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, has flown from duct-taped prototype to massively anticipated gaming system. The firm has raised $2.4 million in a Kickstarter, oversubscribed ten to one, and $16 million in venture capital. They've got the funds, a working prototype—and if they didn't have enough talent before, they most certainly do now. The firm recently announced John Carmack will join up as Chief Technology Officer. For those who’ve followed Carmack’s career and are itching to get their hands on a consumer-ready Rift—that’s huge news.

Researchers ‘Paint’ A Copy of the Mona Lisa 1/3 the Width of a Human Hair

Georgia Tech researchers recently unveiled a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that would likely make the Renaissance master’s jaw drop. At just 30 microns across, the image is 100,000 times smaller than the real thing—or roughly 1/3rd the width of a human hair.

Panel Tastes Lab-Grown Burger Made of Cultured Beef and Backed by Sergey Brin

“If you were a hotdog, would ya eat yourself?” That’s Will Ferrell as Harry Caray contemplating some of life’s deeper ethical questions. Here’s another more realistic one, “If your ballpark burger were grown in a petri dish, would you eat it?” A food writer, a food researcher, and a scientist attempted to answer that question Monday when they tasted a lab-made burger at a press event in London. The burger itself was grown in about three months, but the technology behind it took $XX and about five years to develop.

More Common Overseas, Automated Parking Garages Are Popping Up in the US

There’s a new perk in high-end apartment buildings—fully robotic parking lots. No more careless valet dinging the Rolls at 1706 Rittenhouse, Philadelphia. Tenants pull their car onto a lift and the system takes it from there. When a tenant wants to leave, they swipe a special fob, and the system locates and retrieves their car.

Crabster Robot to Walk Along the Ocean Floor, Investigate Shipwrecks

As six-legged robots go, other than its nifty red and yellow paint job, the Crabster robot has a pretty standard look, not unlike the impressive two-ton Mantis. While the Crabster isn’t two tons and lacks a cockpit for a human operator, it will boldly go where no other six-legged robot has gone before—the seafloor.

Leap Motion “Minority Report” Controller Ships, First Reviews a Mixed Bag

Remember watching Tony Stark design his Iron Man suit with a few flicks of his hands, rearranging digital parts and pieces projected in midair? It’ll be like that. Or even better, it’ll be like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. The air was thick with pop sci-fi references as folks awaited the touchless Leap controller over the last year, and we were (are) right there in the thick of it. (And I suppose we just added another one. Shoot.) After a few delays, the Leap was finally released in July, and you can almost feel the air being let out of the balloon. It was probably inevitable. The bar was set pretty high by the press and Leap alike. But we might add, a little deflation doesn’t invalidate the surge of interest the concept kicked up. People love this idea.

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