Tag Archives | Technology

Nanotechnology to outer space: ten top tech innovations of 2014

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By David Green, Monash University

Don’t be mesmerised by cool apps and flashy new gizmos – the top technology inventions of the year are ones that will have a lasting effect.

Most are advances in fields that are already changing us. Some will have immediate impact; others are portents of transformations that may take decades to complete. In this vein, and in no particular order, here are what I consider to be ten of the best technological innovations from 2014.

1. DNA nanobots injected into cockroaches

Nanotechnology is a growing research field that manipulates materials on a molecular scale. One prospect is to transform medicine by injecting nanobots into the body where they perform functions such as treating disease.

Researchers injected DNA into cockroaches. Tom Spinker/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In February, an Israeli team described devices they made from DNA and injected into cockroaches.… Read the rest

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Verizon Offers Encrypted Calling With NSA Backdoor At No Additional Charge

via Tech Dirt:

As a string of whistle blowers like former AT&T employee Mark Klein have made clear abundantly clear, the line purportedly separating intelligence operations from the nation’s incumbent phone companies was all-but obliterated long ago. As such, it’s relatively amusing to see Verizon announce this week that the company is offering up a new encrypted wireless voice service named Voice Cypher. Voice Cypher, Verizon states, offers “end-to-end” encryption for voice calls on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry devices equipped with a special app made by Cellcrypt.

Verizon’s marketing materials for the service feature young, hip, privacy-conscious users enjoying the “industry’s most secure voice communication” platform:

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Read More: https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20141214/06590429436/verizon-offers-encrypted-calling-with-nsa-backdoor-no-additional-charge.shtml

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Scientists Have Put a Worm’s Mind in a Lego Robot’s Body


via IFL Science:

Beneath the skin of a simple worm with transparent skin, there are 302 neurons that have been mapped meticulously by researchers in what is known as a connectome. This tiny, one millimeter-long worm has been studied in laboratories around the world, and now it’s nervous system has been transplanted into the body of a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot. The worm they used is Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans).

Why? According to OpenWorm—an organization dedicated to creating the world’s first virtual organism in a computer—to understand the human brain, we must first be able to comprehend a simple worm. To do so, their scientists essentially reverse-engineered the worm’s neural networks using sensors and software. The model makes use of UDP packets to fire neurons. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired to be like the worm’s nose, which means if the robot comes within 20 centimeters of an object, sensory neurons are activated with UDP packets.

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As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Don’t think you can’t be replaced by a robot, because this time you really might be, says the New York Times:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years – allowing machines to mimic the human mind – are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise.

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3D Printed Male Chastity Device Prototype: Personal toy for men

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via 3D Print:

For those couples seeking to spice up their personal lives with a bit of power play, leaving the woman in charge of the action (as it were), some inventive makers are hard at work prototyping new devices. We’ve looked recently at Dame Products’ 3D printed prototype for the female-use Eva product; now it seems to be the men’s turn for their own toy.

One of the latest prototypes out there, comes from Shapeways user pedro69, and has been tested out by a friend of his who runs the Become Her Slave blog, which focuses on men who want their female partners to dominate them. This new prototype — the Keyholder Dream (KHD) X3 Espresso Short — is a “male chastity device” that keeps a man’s bits securely in place and puts him at the (playful) mercy of his partner, who quite literally holds the key.… Read the rest

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Smartphone Screens Correct for Your Vision Flaws

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5  Yutaka Tsutano, (CC BY 2.0)

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5
Yutaka Tsutano, (CC BY 2.0)

via Scientific American:

In the U.S., more than 40 percent of 40-year-olds need eyeglasses for reading, and that figure jumps to nearly 70 percent for people aged 80 and older. “As we get older, refractive errors play more significant roles in our lives,” says Gordon Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University.

But glasses and contact lenses are not always ideal. If you are farsighted, for example, you do not need glasses to see traffic while driving, but you do need them to read your speedometer or GPS. The best solution in such cases, Wetzstein says, would be vision-correcting displays—screens that wear the glasses for you.

Wetzstein and his colleagues at M.I.T. (where he was formerly based) and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed just such a screen. The vision-correcting display makes two modifications to a standard high-resolution smartphone or tablet screen.

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Researchers use real data rather than theory to measure the cosmos

Incase (CC BY 2.0)

Incase (CC BY 2.0)

via Phys.org:

For the first time researchers have measured large distances in the Universe using data, rather than calculations related to general relativity.

A research team from Imperial College London and the University of Barcelona has used data from astronomical surveys to measure a standard distance that is central to our understanding of the expansion of the .

Previously the size of this ‘standard ruler’ has only been predicted from theoretical models that rely on general relativity to explain gravity at large scales. The new study is the first to measure it using observed data. A standard ruler is an object which consistently has the same physical size so that a comparison of its actual size to its size in the sky will provide a measurement of its distance to earth.

“Our research suggests that current methods for measuring distance in the Universe are more complicated than they need to be,” said Professor Alan Heavens from the Department of Physics, Imperial College London who led the study.

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Death Should be Optional

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot in “The Seventh Seal”

via H+ Magazine:

Now more than ever, the topic of death is marked by no shortage of diverging opinions.

On the one hand, there are serious thinkers — Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Michio Kaku, Marshall Brain, Aubrey de Grey and others — who foresee that technology may enable humans to defeat death. There are also dissenters who argue that this is exceedingly unlikely. And there are those like Bill Joy who think that such technologies are technologically feasible but morally reprehensible.

As a non-scientist I am not qualified to evaluate scientific claims about what science can and cannot do. What I can say is that plausible scenarios for overcoming death have now appeared. This leads to the following questions: If individuals could choose immortality, should they? Should societies fund and promote research to defeat death?

The question regarding individuals has a straightforward answer: We should respect the right of autonomous individuals to choose for themselves.

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Why Elon Musk is probably not freaking out over plunging oil prices

Elon Musk's Twitter Photo.

Elon Musk’s Twitter Photo.

via Quartz:

One of the indirect casualties of tumbling oil prices in recent weeks has been Tesla. Shares in Elon Musk’s electric automaker have sunk by about 25% over the past three months.

Lower gas prices, in theory, eliminate one of the key advantages of owning an electric car: They cost much less to run than normal cars, at least when gas prices are high. So the decline in oil prices is not great news for the company.

On the other hand, there are reasons to not be too alarmed about it. If you can afford to buy a Tesla, the cost of gassing it up is probably not your chief concern. (Its current flagship Model S costs about $70,000, though a “cheaper” new car, the model 3, is expected to cost at least half that when it is released in 2017.)

And don’t forget, Musk himself expressed alarm about the rapid rise in Telsa’s share price earlier this year.

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Worms’ mental GPS helps them find food

Oregon State University (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Oregon State University (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Phys.org:

You’ve misplaced your cell phone. You start by scanning where you remember leaving it: on your bureau. You check and double-check the bureau before expanding your search around and below the bureau. Eventually, you switch from this local area to a more global one, widening your search to the rest of your room and beyond.

When it comes to animals and , a similar strategy is used to search for food (“foraging”). Now, Salk scientists have developed a —based on roundworm foraging—that predicts how animals decide to switch from localized to very broad searching. This new theory could begin to explain animal behavior in a more unified way, laying the groundwork for general rules of behavior that could help us understand complex or erratic attention-related behaviors, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even let us predict how extraterrestrials might behave.

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