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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


MIT Future of Work Report: We Shouldn’t Worry About Quantity of Jobs, But Quality

Robots aren't going to take everyone's jobs, but technology has already reshaped the world of work in ways that are creating clear winners and losers. And it will continue to do so without intervention,...

How an AI Startup Designed a Drug Candidate in Just 46 Days

Discovering a new drug can take decades, billions of dollars, and untold man hours from some of the smartest people on the planet. Now a startup says it’s taken a significant step towards speeding...

Silicon Is Reaching Its Limits. Up Next: Carbon Nanotubes

Silicon has powered the information age, but it’s reaching its physical limits. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) hold a lot of promise as a replacement if we can get around some key obstacles—and the designers of...

This Giant AI Chip Is the Size of an iPad and Holds 1.2 Trillion Transistors

People say size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to AI the makers of the largest computer chip ever beg to differ. There are plenty of question marks about the gargantuan processor, but its...

California Passed the Country’s First Law to Prevent Genetic Biohacking

Genetic engineering technologies are quickly becoming mature and cheap enough for people to start using them in their own homes. That’s got scientists and officials worried, and California has now passed the first bill...

How Cheap Must Batteries Get for Renewables to Compete With Fossil Fuels?

While solar and wind power are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels in areas with lots of sun and wind, they still can’t provide the 24/7 power we’ve become used to. At present, that’s...

Microsoft Invests $1 Billion in OpenAI’s Mission to Build Artificial General Intelligence

Since its inception in 2015, OpenAI has been chasing the lofty goal of developing artificial general intelligence (AGI) for the benefit of all. But it turns out that doesn’t come cheap, so now Microsoft...

The Poker-Playing AI That Beat the World’s Best Players

Poker is a powerful combination of strategy and intuition, something that’s made it the most iconic of card games and devilishly difficult for machines to master. Now an AI built by Facebook and Carnegie...

Alphabet Releases Its Master Plan for Toronto’s New Smart City

Ever dreamed of living in a giant experiment? If so, Toronto may be the city for you. Sidewalk Labs has released blueprints for its proposed waterfront smart city and, depending who you ask, it’s...

The LightSail-2 Mission Launched Last Week. It Could Shape the Future of Solar Spaceflight

Just like the early explorers harnessed the wind to sail around the world, scientists have long dreamed of using light to sail through the cosmos. Last week an ambitious trial of a technology called...

How Facebook’s New ‘Mirror World’ Will Help Train AI

The dream of a robot butler seems tantalizingly close, but first we need to teach them how to navigate our cluttered human environments. That’s why Facebook has created an ultra-realistic simulator to train AI...

CRISPR in Russia: The World’s Next Gene-Edited Babies May Not Be Far Away

When Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced he had edited the genomes of two babies last November, he sparked an international outcry. Many feared he had opened the floodgates to human genetic engineering. It seems...

What’s Behind the International Rush to Write an AI Rulebook?

There's no better way of ensuring you win a race than by setting the rules yourself. That may be behind the recent rush by countries, international organizations, and companies to put forward their visions...

These $10 Sensor-Packed Gloves Could Give Robots a Sense of Touch

Machines are mastering vision and language, but one sense they're lagging behind on is touch. Now researchers have created a sensor-laden glove for just $10 and recorded the most comprehensive tactile dataset to date,...

Wood Gets a Makeover to Provide Energy-Free Air Conditioning

Powering buildings costs America $430 billion a year and accounts for 40 percent of total energy use. Almost half of that is used for heating and cooling. Now scientists have given our oldest building...

Teaching AI the Concept of ‘Similar, but Different’

As a human you instinctively know that a leopard is closer to a cat than a motorbike, but the way we train most AI makes them oblivious to these kinds of relations. Building the...

Could Artificial Photosynthesis Help Tackle the Climate Crisis?

Plants are the planet’s lungs, but they’re struggling to keep up due to rising CO2 emissions and deforestation. Engineers are giving them a helping hand, though, by augmenting their capacity with new technology and...

New Progress in the Biggest Challenge With 3D Printed Organs

We're tantalizingly close to growing organs in the lab, but the biggest remaining challenge has been creating the fine networks of blood vessels required to keep them alive. Now researchers have shown that a...

Scientists Created a ‘Neural Decoder’ That Translates Brain Activity Into Speech

The idea of a mind-reading machine might freak a lot of people out, but a new device that can transform brain activity into speech could be the first step towards a lifeline for patients...

Electric Cars Are Estimated to Be Cheaper Than Regular Cars by 2022

Electric cars have developed a reputation as the ultimate status symbol of the champagne environmentalist, but that could be very close to changing. New research from BloombergNEF says they could be cheaper than combustion-engine...

Where Should We Draw the Line Between Rejecting and Embracing Black Box AI?

Deep learning is powering some amazing new capabilities, but we find it hard to scrutinize the workings of these algorithms. Lack of interpretability in AI is a common concern and many are trying to...

The Private Space Industry Is Breaking Out of Earth’s Orbit

Hopes for the first ever privately-funded moon landing were dashed last Thursday after the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed on its final descent. But despite the disappointment, the episode signals the start of a new...

Watch These Robots Do Tasks You Thought Were Simple (But for Them Are Pretty Hard)

Robots have been masters of manufacturing at speed and precision for decades, but give them a seemingly simple task like stacking shelves, and they quickly get stuck. That's changing, though, as engineers build systems...

Microsoft Is Building an All-In-One DNA Data Storage Device

The modern world is facing a tsunami of data. DNA is emerging as an ultra-compact way of storing it all, and now researchers supported by Microsoft have created the first system that can automatically...

Intel Is Building the World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer

A supercomputer capable of a quintillion operations a second will go online in 2021 after the US government handed Intel and supercomputer manufacturer Cray a contract to build an exascale computer called Aurora. This...

Like Animals, AI Is Learning From Experience

Trial and error is one of the most fundamental learning strategies employed by animals, and we’re increasingly using it to teach intelligent machines too. Boosting the flow of ideas between biologists and computer scientists...

IBM Introduces ‘Quantum Volume’ to Track Progress Towards the Quantum Age

Quantum computing companies are racing to squeeze ever more qubits into their devices, but is this really a solid sign of progress? IBM is proposing a more holistic measure it calls “quantum volume” (QV)...

How Engineered Nanoparticles Gave Mice Infrared Vision

Efforts to use technology to enhance humans’ natural capabilities are moving out of the scientific fringes. A recent study on mice suggests it may eventually be possible to imbue people with infrared vision by...

Scientists Just Added Four New Letters to the Genetic Code

A four-letter alphabet might seem limited, but it’s all nature needed to write the instructions for all life on the planet. News that researchers have added four letters to the genetic alphabet opens the...

Programming Self-Driving Cars Makes People Less Selfish

Self-driving cars are just around the corner, but working out the rules that should govern them is proving tricky. Should they mimic often self-interested human decision making, or be programmed to consider the greater...

Combine AI With Crowdsourcing and What Do You Get? Turbocharged Innovation

A great analogy can often be the key to innovation, making it possible to transfer knowledge from one domain to another. Now researchers have shown that rather than relying on eureka moments, crowdsourcing and...

From Parkour to Surgery, Here Are the Top 10 Recent Advancements in Robotics

The robot revolution may not be here quite yet, but our mechanical cousins have made some serious strides. And now some of the leading experts in the field have provided a rundown of what...

How Scientists Hacked Photosynthesis to Up Crop Yields By 40 Percent

Almost every living creature on Earth relies on photosynthesis for its survival, but the process is far from efficient. Now some clever genetic engineering that gets around one of the process’s stumbling blocks has...

Nvidia’s Fake Faces Are a Masterpiece—But Have Deeper Implications

‘Don’t believe everything you see on the internet’ is pretty standard advice, but it’s getting harder than ever to distinguish the real from the fake. A new algorithm from Nvidia could muddy the waters...

Will Electric Planes Ever Happen? Here’s an Update on Their Status

In 2015, airlines burned through 276 million tons of jet fuel. That's roughly 7 percent of global oil products, and leads to direct emissions that make up 2.7 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions....

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...

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