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Edd Gent

Edd Gent

I am a freelance science and technology writer based in Bangalore, India. My main areas of interest are engineering, computing and biology, with a particular focus on the intersections between the three.

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From This Author


How DeepMind’s AlphaZero Mastered Complex Games With No Human Input

It’s the end of an era in AI research. For decades complex board games like Go, chess, and shogi have been seen as the leading yardstick for machine intelligence. DeepMind’s latest program can master...

Britain Is Developing an AI-Powered Predictive Policing System

The tantalizing prospect of predicting crime before it happens has got law enforcement agencies excited about AI. Most efforts so far have focused on forecasting where and when crime will happen, but now British...

Would a Universal Genetic Database Be a Crime-Solving Wonder, Or an Orwellian Nightmare?

The privacy of our DNA is being increasingly eroded, a phenomenon highlighted by the rash of criminal cases recently solved using publicly-accessible genomic data. Now researchers have suggested, counter-intuitively, that surrendering our genetic information...

Digital Authoritarianism Is Rising. Here’s What That Means

The internet has long been touted as a force for freedom that can topple dictatorships around the world. But according to a new report on digital freedom, authoritarian forces are clawing back control and...

The SpiNNaker Supercomputer, Modeled After the Human Brain, Is Up and Running

We've long used the brain as inspiration for computers, but the SpiNNaker supercomputer, switched on this month, is probably the closest we’ve come to recreating it in silicon. Now scientists hope to use the...

Y Combinator’s Search For a Climate Change Unicorn

Silicon Valley's premier tech incubator, Y Combinator, has decided to take on climate change. They've put out a call for proposals for technology that can suck CO2 from the air in the hope of reversing our...

The How, Why, and Whether of Custom Digital Avatars That Live on After We Die

A digital afterlife may soon be within reach, but it might not be for your benefit. The reams of data we're creating could soon make it possible to create digital avatars that live on after...

From Quantum Computing to a Quantum Internet—a Roadmap

Quantum computers are making all the headlines these days, but quantum communication technology may actually be closer to practical implementation. In a bid to hasten its arrival, researchers have now mapped out the path...

DeepMind’s New Research Plan to Make Sure AI Is Safe

Making sure artificial intelligence does what we want and behaves in predictable ways will be crucial as the technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous. It's an area frequently neglected in the race to develop products, but...

The 7 Wild Energy Technologies That Just Got a Billion-Dollar Boost

It's touch and go whether current efforts to curb carbon emissions will avert catastrophic climate change. That's why a group of billionaires have pledged $1 billion to fund radical new energy technologies, and they've...

Why Rigetti’s New Quantum Hybrid Cloud Service Is a Big Deal

Despite their potential power, today’s quantum computers are still taking baby steps and need a fair bit of hand-holding from their conventional cousins. That’s why computing startup Rigetti has launched a hybrid cloud service...

Eternal Life Is No Good Without Eternal Youth

Longer lives seem attractive, but as we age we become susceptible to a host of late-life diseases that can prevent us from enjoying our later years. But science is beginning to create ways to...

This Breakthrough New Particle Accelerator Is Small But Mighty

Particle accelerators have become crucial tools for understanding the fundamental nature of our universe, but they are incredibly big and expensive. That could change, though, after scientists validated a new approach that could usher...

Are Exoskeletons About to Go Mainstream?

Ever since the appearance of the power loader in the sci-fi classic Aliens, the idea that powered exoskeletons could let workers carry superhuman weights has enticed executives in heavy industry. Recent developments suggest the...

Newly-Decoded Wheat Genome Opens the Door to Engineering Superfoods

Tweaking the DNA of crops to make them hardier and more productive is one of the most promising applications of gene-editing technology. That’s not been possible with wheat because its complex genome has proved...

A Student Took Down One of Quantum Computing’s Top Applications—Now What?

The possibility that quantum computing could turbocharge machine learning is one of the most tantalizing applications for the emerging technology. But an 18-year-old student just put that vision in doubt after finding a classical...

Successfully Transplanted Lab-Grown Pig Lungs Take Us Closer to Custom Organs

Being able to grow new organs from a patient's own cells could revolutionize both the safety and availability of transplants. Scientists have now overcome major hurdles in the realization of the technology—but in pigs. Someone...

MIT Study Shows Off Chemical-Detecting Machines the Size of a Human Egg Cell

Robots are excellent tools for gathering information from areas humans can't reach. And now new speck-sized machines from MIT could extend that capability to carrying out diagnostics inside the human body, wafting through the...

New Study Sounds a Note of Caution in the Development of CRISPR Gene Therapies

The discovery of CRISPR gene editing technology led many to believe we may soon be able to tweak our DNA with ultra-high accuracy. But a new study has found it can cause more unintended...

Pulling Water, Fuel, and Power From Thin Air Is Getting Practical

Pulling things from thin air is generally considered a magic trick. But several recent research papers suggest we could soon be extracting valuable resources like water, fuel, and power from the atmosphere. Startup Carbon Engineering...

This New Chip Design Could Make Neural Nets More Efficient and a Lot Faster

Neural networks running on GPUs have achieved some amazing advances in artificial intelligence, but the two are accidental bedfellows. IBM researchers hope a new chip design tailored specifically to run neural nets could provide...

Microbes in Space: Bioengineered Bugs Could Help Colonize New Planets

As humans spread out into the cosmos in search of life, the most alien organisms we encounter may be those we bring with us. Researchers at NASA and elsewhere are engineering microbes so they...

Will Bitcoin Use as Much Electricity as All of Austria by the End of the Year?

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were designed to be efficient, low-friction alternatives to traditional financial systems. But it seems their creators maybe didn’t think too hard about their sustainability. An analysis published in the journal Joule this...

This DeepMind AI Spontaneously Developed Digital Navigation ‘Neurons’ Like Ours

When Google DeepMind researchers trained a neural network to tackle a virtual maze, it spontaneously developed digital equivalents to the specialized neurons called grid cells that mammals use to navigate. Not only did the...

Self-Driving Cars Navigate Unmapped Country Roads With New MIT System

Self-driving cars are now a regular fixture in some American cities, but they are heavily reliant on high-precision 3D maps of the roads. That means they can’t tackle the vast majority of the country...

New Tech Marries the Best of Photonics and Electronics on the Same Silicon Chip

Optical communication has revolutionized long-distance data transfer, but scaling it down to microchips is tougher. Now, though, a new technique means optical components can be integrated into general purpose chips using standard manufacturing processes...

This Startup Is Training AI to Gobble Up the News and Rewrite It Free of Bias

Bias in journalism is nothing new, but there are growing concerns technology is pushing us into echo chambers where we only hear one side of the story. Now a startup says it’s using AI...

How Big Is the Gap Between ‘Ready Player One’ and Current VR Tech?

Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Ready Player One depicts a future where VR technology can transport people into a completely realistic alternate universe. But how close is real-life tech to that vision? Much of the coverage of...

Can We Recycle CO2 Emissions to Make Carbon-Neutral Fuel?

Our failure to curb our carbon emissions is threatening to cause catastrophic climate change within our lifetimes. But what if we could recycle CO2 emitted by power stations and turn it into fuels and...

IBM’s New Computer Is the Size of a Grain of Salt and Costs Less Than 10 Cents

The miniaturization of electronics has been progressing steadily for decades, but IBM just took a major leap. The company has created what it's calling the world's smallest computer, and it’s the size of a grain...

$10 million XPRIZE Aims for Robot Avatars That Let You See, Hear, and Feel by 2021

Ever wished you could be in two places at the same time? The XPRIZE Foundation wants to make that a reality with a $10 million competition to build robot avatars that can be controlled...

Hyperloop and Flying Cars Are Battling It Out for the Future of Transportation

Tech titans are eager to reimagine how we will travel in the coming decades, but whose vision will win out? Last week Elon Musk and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi got in a back-and-forth on Twitter...

Putting AI in Your Pocket: MIT Chip Cuts Neural Network Power Consumption by 95%

Neural networks are powerful things, but they need a lot of juice. Engineers at MIT have now developed a new chip that cuts neural nets’ power consumption by up to 95 percent, potentially allowing...

The Democratization of AI Is Putting Powerful Tools in the Hands of Non-Experts

The shortage of qualified data scientists is often highlighted as one of the major handbrakes on the adoption of big data and AI. But a growing number of tools are putting these capabilities in...

Why Google DeepMind Is Putting AI on the Psychologist’s Couch

Artificial intelligence can now carry out many of the same cognitive tasks humans can, but we still don’t really understand how AIs think. Google DeepMind plans to train long-standing tests of human cognitive skills...

The 10 Grand Challenges Facing Robotics in the Next Decade

Robotics research has been making great strides in recent years, but there are still many hurdles to the machines becoming a ubiquitous presence in our lives. The journal Science Robotics has now identified 10...

This Awesome Robot Is the Size of a Penny and Precise Enough to Aid Eye Surgery

They say size isn’t everything, but when it comes to delta robots it seems like it’s pretty important. The speed and precision of these machines sees them employed in delicate pick-and-place tasks in all kinds...

If We Could Engineer Animals to Be as Smart as Humans—Should We?

Advances in neural implants and genetic engineering suggest that in the not-too-distant future we may be able to boost human intelligence. If that’s true, could we—and should we—bring our animal cousins along for the...

Low-Cost Soft Robot Muscles Can Lift 200 Times Their Weight and Self-Heal

Jerky mechanical robots are staples of science fiction, but to seamlessly integrate into everyday life they’ll need the precise yet powerful motor control of humans. Now scientists have created a new class of artificial...

There’s Healing Power in the Secret Electrical Language of Our Cells

Why can we heal a wound, but not grow back a severed limb? Michael Levin thinks the key lies in the secret electrical language our cells use to talk to one another, and he...

The Hidden Human Workforce Powering Machine Intelligence

The tech industry touts its ability to automate tasks and remove slow and expensive humans from the equation. But in the background, a lot of the legwork training machine learning systems, solving problems software...

Ultrafast 3D Printing Alternative Makes Complete 3D Objects in Seconds

3D printing allows engineers to custom build intricate structures impossible with traditional manufacturing, but the layer-by-layer approach can be slow and limits the shapes that can be built. A new technique can now fabricate...

These Bacteria Use New DNA Bases to Make a Protein Not Found in Nature

All of nature’s bewildering complexity can be reduced to a four letter code—DNA’s four bases: A, T, C, and G. But now scientists have shown the language at the heart of life is not...

Robotic Materials Will Distribute Intelligence All Over a Robot’s Body

The classical view of a robot as a mechanical body with a central “brain” that controls its behavior could soon be on its way out. The authors of a recent article in Science Robotics...
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9 Robot Animals Built From Nature’s Best-Kept Secrets

Millions of years of evolution have allowed animals to develop some elegant and highly efficient solutions to problems like locomotion, flight, and dexterity. As Boston Dynamics unveils its latest mechanical animals, here’s a rundown...

8 Ways AI Will Transform Our Cities by 2030

How will AI shape the average North American city by 2030? A panel of experts assembled as part of a century-long study into the impact of AI thinks its effects will be profound. The One...

Scientists Call Out Ethical Concerns for the Future of Neurotechnology

For some die-hard tech evangelists, using neural interfaces to merge with AI is the inevitable next step in humankind's evolution. But a group of 27 neuroscientists, ethicists, and machine learning experts have highlighted the...

New Plasmonic Device to Help the Internet Keep Growing and Getting Faster

The volume of data shuttled around the internet is growing unchecked, placing ever greater burdens on our communication infrastructure. But a new device that takes advantage of the unusual properties of plasmons could tackle...

IBM Just Simulated the Biggest Quantum Computer to Date—What That Means for the Field

Google was in poll position to win the race for quantum supremacy, the point at which a quantum computer can do things a conventional one can't. But IBM seems to have pulled the rug...

The Huge Promise of Transparent Solar Cells—Turning the World’s Glass Surfaces Into Solar Panels

Sunlight is everywhere, but so far our efforts to harvest its energy have been restricted to solar farms and rooftop panels. A new analysis shows that transparent solar technologies that can be applied to...

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