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SciTech Digest - 03/2017.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2017/01/neuromorphic-tank-spotting-novaseq-dna.html

Neuromorphic tank spotting, NovaSeq DNA sequencers, Cavity regeneration, BIC Lasers, Long carbon nanotubes, DIY antiaging, Reactive 3D printing, Superior alumina alloys, Scarless wound regeneration, Digital DNA replicator.

1. Neuromorphic Tank Spotting.
The US air force has successfully used IBM’s neuromorphic TrueNorth chips to rapidly identify military and civilian vehicles from aerial imagery https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603335/air-force-tests-ibms-brain-inspired-chip-as-an-aerial-tank-spotter/. Part of the work involved competing the neuromorphic chip against other machine learning systems, for which performance and accuracy was similar but with TrueNorth using less than 5% of the power used by other systems. In related news Google continues to roll out it’s RAISR machine learning image upscaling technology for saving 75% of bandwidth on image downloads https://www.blog.google/products/google-plus/saving-you-bandwidth-through-machine-learning/, and a deep learning system beats professional poker players http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/deepstack-ai-has-beaten-professional.html.

2. NovaSeq DNA Sequencers
Illumina has launched a new generation of DNA sequencers called NovaSeq that it intends to develop to the point of being able to sequence an entire human genome for $100 http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2017/01/illumina-introduces-novaseq-seriesa-new.html. The device is actually designed to sequence up to 48 whole genomes per run and subsequent generations may even hit $10 per genome after that. New innovations packed into NovaSeq include reengineered dyes and surface chemistries, improved optics for 4x faster scan speed, higher density flow cells to include more genomes per run, and better analysis software.

3. Drug for Tooth Repair
A drug that has been used in clinical trials for treating Alzheimer’s disease has been shown to be effective in stimulating stem cells in the pulp of teeth in order to generate new mineralised dentine in large cavities http://www.kcl.ac.uk/newsevents/news/newsrecords/2017/01-January/Natural-tooth-repair-method-using-Alzheimer%27s-drug-could-revolutionise-dental-treatments.aspx. The drug was delivered by being embedded in biodegradable collagen sponges applied to the site, and which degraded over time to be replaced by new, strong, dentine. This could reduce the need for fillings and ideally would be formed into a product people could take at home as a preventative from time to time.

4. Bound States in the Continuum Lasers
Lasers have been created for the first time using a novel phenomenon known as bound states in the continuum (BIC) http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/new_laser_based_on_unusual_physics_phenomenon_could_improve_telecommunicati. The device uses an etched nanostructured semiconducting membrane that, when powered with a laser beam, induces a BIC state able to emit its own frequency laser beam. BIC systems contain waves that are perfectly confined or bound in an open system, remaining localised and trapped rather than escaping. Benefits of BIC lasers would include easy tuning to emit different wavelengths and custom shaped beams. Next step is for the group to make the BIC laser electrically powered rather than optically powered.

5. Making Long Carbon Nanotubes
Commercial manufacturing processes can now produce carbon nanotubes with lengths up to 10mm and diameters of only 5 - 12nm http://www.chemengonline.com/a-process-for-making-longer-carbon-nanotubes-2/. The new nanotubes are produced in a custom designed heated reactor and because they are longer these new carbon nanotubes better facilitate being spun into yarns using textile processing equipment, which have also been woven into sheets for armour and area-heating applications given they emit infrared heat when a voltage is applied.

6. DIY Health & Antiaging
A couple of DIY antiaging initiatives this week. First, you can now go to a clinic and pay for a transfusion of blood plasma collected from teenagers and young adults as a first commercial effort to offer the antiaging rejuvenation benefits seen in many parabiosis experiments https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603242/questionable-young-blood-transfusions-offered-in-us-as-anti-aging-remedy/. This is pitched as a clinical trial but has come under harsh criticism; still, watch this space. Second, an increasing number of people are doing their own gene therapy experiments on themselves by designing the vectors, ordering from reagent companies, and arranging for professionals (or otherwise) to administer the treatment https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603217/one-mans-quest-to-hack-his-own-genes/; in this case additional copies of human growth hormone were added to muscle cells.

7. Reactive 3D Printing Advances
New materials and polymers used in standard 3D printing processes can be chemically activated by UV light after printing in order to enable incredibly useful properties http://news.mit.edu/2017/technique-enables-adaptable-3-d-printing-0113. These properties include the ability to chemically incorporate monomers from solution in order to grow the polymers already in the 3D printed structure, which can alter properties such as strength, stiffness, hydrophobicity, and swelling. They can even cause two different structures to fuse and chemically join together. In related news an interesting type of liquid metal 3D printing has been developed http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2017/01/020.html.

8. Superior Alumina Alloys
Alumina materials that incorporate dilute lanthanide dopants for the first time have been developed and resulting in delayed phase transitions and improved temperature resilience that might be very useful for laser gain media http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=45533.php. 400ppm of lanthanide ions results in the alumina becoming stable at temperatures up to 300C hotter than previously; as a laser gain media this enables significant boosts to thermal conductivity and rapid heat dissipation, which would allow much more powerful lasers to be operated.

9. Wound Healing Without Scars
Skin wounds can now be prompted to regenerate back to a healthy state without scarring by first stimulating the formation of new hair follicles, which subsequently stimulate the conversion of some surrounding cells into new fat cells https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/january/using-fat-to-help-wounds-heal-without-scars. This gives the healed skin a normal, healthy look. In addition to better healing and regeneration of wounds, whether from injury or surgical procedure, the technique might also be used to reverse and prevent major wrinkles of the skin as aged skin contains many of the same hallmarks of wounded skin.

10. Tiny Digital DNA Duplicator
An innovative new DNA replication device makes clever use of adaptive PCR (polymerase chain reaction) https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/01/11/dna-duplicator-small-enough-to-hold-in-your-hand/. In this system, in addition to your DNA of interest, a copy of the sequence in the form of left-handed DNA with fluorescent tags is added (must be ordered / synthesised elsewhere) to the same vessel. Left handed DNA is the mirror image of DNA in life and doesn’t react with anything but because the sequence is identical it has the same temperature response and the fluorescence is dependent on whether the left handed DNA is denatured or not. The device can then image the same and determine exactly when it is fully denatured, annealed, and elongated, and cycle the temperature precisely and accurately in order to achieve this. I think that is pretty clever.

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The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth

The Age of Em, by Robin Hanson, is a book that aims to present and paint a picture of our world not that far in the future in which (i) computer technology has continued to advance significantly, (ii) brain scanning technology has advanced to the point of being able to produce digital copies of a person’s brain, and (iii) these digital copies can be run on the advanced computers to produce functional, aware, and near-identical instantiations of that brain or mind. These instantiations are called human emulations, or ems for short.

Given these three premises, if we accept them as true or becoming true at some point in future - the actual date or predicted timeframe isn’t that important - and it seems reasonable to suppose that all three will be true at some point, then there are a great many implications and effects this will have both directly and indirectly on human societies and our civilisation in general.

Ultimately this is an intellectual exercise, a work of futurism and arguable fancy, but an extraordinarily detailed one at that. It attempts to describe and predict just about every aspect of life, or the bounds within which those aspects occur, for these ems and to a lesser extent for the humans around at the time. These aspects include em economics, society, relationships, sex, work, culture, risks, rewards, wealth, subsistence, virtual vs real interfaces, morality, politics, cities, resources, and others.

Because ems are copies of humans they still have very human drives, hopes, emotions, virtues, and failings. Because they are human copies there is a good chance they will arrive on the scene before fully fledged Artificial Intelligence. Because they are as smart as the smartest humans and can tweak themselves for greater intelligence they can do every job a human could conceivably do, and because they can copy themselves easily they can do every job all humans could conceivably do, and because they run on fast hardware they can think and act a thousand to a million times faster than humans.

Because of this their era, subjectively to them, might last for a millennium but objectively to us, would be over in a few years. This might represent a firm - if not hard - takeoff given objective economic doubling times of days or weeks.

This was a tough but worthwhile read. Tough because of the way it is written; it can be tedious at times. But in Hanson’s defence I can’t imagine it being written in any other way. Worthwhile because (i) there are a plethora of surprising and unexpected conclusions in this scenario that follow from very logical chains of thought and straightforward arguments, (ii) there are many insights regarding humans and our current socio-cultural-economic reality that are fascinating in their own right, and more so when contrasted with what is to come, (iii) the references for the claims and data presented are exhaustive.

And worthwhile because it left me torn as to whether this was a desirable future or not. The benefits are unfathomably immense. But the sacrifice . . . the sacrifice needed to achieve it?


SELECTED EXCERPTS:

Comments on the current era.

Whereas geography mattered greatly for prosperity during the farming era, social institutions came to matter more for prosperity during the industry era.

We have also, I will argue, become increasingly maladaptive. Our age is a “dreamtime” of behavior that is unprecedentedly maladaptive, both biologically and culturally. Farming environments changed faster than genetic selection could adapt, and the industrial world now changes faster than even cultural selection can adapt. Today, our increased wealth buffers us more from our mistakes, and we have only weak defenses against the super-stimuli of modern food, drugs, music, television, video games, and propaganda.

Not only is individual fertility maladaptive, our cultures today also seem maladaptive, in the sense that they don’t promote their own adoption as much as they could, via war, trade, teaching, and proselytizing. Our cultures also do not much encourage adaptive individual fertility.

Whether you accept it or resist it, know that our era is indeed an unusual dreamtime that probably cannot last.


Comments on Em nature.

A stolen copy of an em mental state might be interrogated, tortured, or enslaved, resulting in exposed secrets, credible threats of punishment, and stolen training investments. By making many copies and then repeatedly trying different approaches on different copies, the thief might learn how to persuade the original of many things.

The natural oscillation periods of most consciously controllable human body parts are greater than a tenth of a second. Because of this, the human brain has been designed with a matching reaction time of roughly a tenth of a second. As it costs more to have faster reaction times, there is little point in paying to react much faster than body parts can change position.

To a kilo-em (brain running 1,000 times faster than normal) the Earth’s surface area seems a million times larger, a subway ride that takes 15 minutes in real time takes 10 subjective days, an 8-hour plane ride takes a subjective year, a boat trip from China to the U.S. takes a century, and a one year flight to Mars and back takes a millennium.

Em sociality might thus become more like that of our forager ancestors, who only ever met a few hundred people at most in their entire lives, and were quite familiar with the history, personality, and abilities of everyone they met. When they stick to associating with one-names, ems might know well who they liked or didn’t like, and how best to flatter or insult each one. There might be clan jokes analogous to our ethnic jokes, such as “How many Freds does it take to screw in a light bulb?” One-name ems cannot “start over fresh” by moving to a new city or job; strong reputations follow them everywhere.


Comments on Em work.

A habit of punishing the worst performers tends to give stronger incentives for overall performance, compared with rewarding the best performers. When evaluating things, marking low quality also works better than marking high quality. However, organizations today are reluctant to punish, and so they tend to focus on positive rewards and evaluations. After all, workers tend to leave organizations that focus on negatives.

Today, people who are more productive at work tend to have more health, beauty, marriage, religion, intelligence, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and non-neuroticism. Such features also predict more education and occupational prestige today. We weakly expect ems to have more of these features, when compared with people today. In our world, achievement rises with intelligence, although at the very highest levels smart people seem at more risk of becoming “maladjusted” to their society. Smarter people are less accident-prone and more long-lived, cooperative, patient, trusting, trustworthy, rational, focused, and law-abiding. They tend to support more economically efficient policies within lab experiments, and on national policy surveys they tend toward optimism and favor efficient policies such as using markets, avoiding make-work jobs, and trading with foreigners. Smarter nations are more entrepreneurial, less corrupt, have more economic freedom, and have better institutions.

The em world makes heavy use of “spurs,” who are em copies who are newly copied at the beginning of their workday, and then retire or are erased at the conclusion of their workday. Such a workday might last 10 minutes or 10 hours. Ems see spurs as appropriate for short-term tasks that they expect are worth doing, but not worth directly remembering.

As spurs are so central to the em economy, it will be important for ems to have an intimate familiarity with the experience of being a spur. This will assist in choosing tasks to assign to spurs, and tools and environments to support spurs. A simple way to achieve this is to, on rare random occasions, switch the roles of the spur and the mainline em when the spur completes its task. Mainline ems would then remember many previous experiences of being a spur.

Spurs who end instead of retiring can help ems to deniably do things of questionable legal or moral status, if the main evidence of their actions was erased when their minds were erased.

For example, an em plumber might split into 1000 copies every day, with each copy doing a typical plumbing job that takes an average of an hour. One of those copies might then be saved, to experience most of a subjective day of leisure and then repeat the process the next day. Objectively, this person’s life is 2% leisure, but his memories of life are of spending 96% of time in leisure. While at some level this em might know that only 2% of life is leisure, he or she need not dwell much on this fact.

A rapidly growing em economy also discourages transport of physical goods over long distances. First, high interest rates greatly discourage the use of products or resources that require travel or shipping delays of several economic doubling times. More important, a rapidly changing economy needs the flexibility to swiftly adapt to changing circumstances. Today, 58% of U.S. exports by value are sent by air. Such transport is typically so time sensitive that an extra day in transit is equivalent to a product tax of 0.6% to 2.3% (Hummels and Schaur 2013). Yet 1 day is only one part in 5000 of today’s economic doubling time. If this delay-is-very-costly effect scales with the growth rate of the economy, then for an em economy with a 1 month doubling time it becomes an 8 minute transit delay that is equivalent to a product tax of 0.6% to 2.3%. At typical urban commuting speeds of 10 meters per second, products can only be shipped 5 kilometers in 8 minutes. Thus even shipping goods all the way across em cities is substantially discouraged, and shipping goods between em cities is quite prohibitively expensive.


Comments on Em psychology.

On some topics, the em lifestyle naturally reduces self-deception. For example ems could not as easily claim that their taking “the road not taken” had made all the difference in their lives, because ems have clearer direct evidence about the results of other close copies of them taking different life paths.

Ems are also plausibly divided by their differing speeds. Different speeds likely have distinct cultures. It is hard for fast changing elements of em culture, such as clothing or music fashions, to synchronize their changes across different mind speeds. Such coordinated cultural changes might seem intolerably slow to fast ems, or intolerably fast to slow ems. Differing speed ems may also segregate into different classes, with faster ems seen as higher status.

Ems may be reluctant to expropriate or exterminate ordinary humans if ems rely on the same or closely interconnected legal, financial, and political systems as humans, and if ems retain many direct social ties to ordinary humans.

As ems have such high abilities, they are likely to associate the styles and habits of humans with low competence. Ems may go out of their way to distinguish their styles and mannerisms from those of humans. Ems may treat humans more with sympathy, and ancestral gratitude, but less with respect.


Comments on Em consequences.

While ordinary humans start out owning all of the capital in the economy, the fraction of capital that humans control slowly falls. The relative political power held by ordinary humans may fall even faster, as both labor and capital contribute to political power, and ems quickly constitute almost all of the labor force. Ems later acquire most of the local political power, and later still acquire most local capital and wealth. These transitions might induce disruptive conflict.

What if we look instead at the virtues that have been admired in most eras and cultures, such as intelligence, insight, benevolence, loyalty, determination, etc.? Here the em world can look very good. Ems are strongly selected for their impressive productivity, which tends to correlate with most of these virtues. In this sense, the em world is packed full of people who are more virtuous than most people so far have ever met in a lifetime.

We might note that fast ems could directly monitor and react to an AI at a much higher time resolution.


Comments on Us today.

As successful clans collect a big fraction of the gains in the em world, you should consider the possibility that you (or your children or grandchildren) might start one of these few most copied em clans. Realizing that the odds are greatly against you, you should be willing to take great risks to achieve this, via showing high and reliable productivity and flexibility in tasks and environments most like those of the em world. You should focus on the very high tail of your possible success distribution; the rest of the distribution makes much less difference. Go very big or go home. In sum, to succeed in this new world, prepare to become what it needs.

When they have lived as neighbors, foragers have often strongly criticized farmer culture, and farmers have often strongly criticized industrial culture. Surely many of these people have been tempted to disown descendants who adopt these despised new ways. In addition, many of your ancestors would be tempted to disown you, if they were told many things about you. While they’d be pleased and impressed by many of your features, other things about you might horrify them.

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The Atom: The New Economics of Technological Disruption

Congratulations to +Kartik Gada on the opportunity to present a Google Tech Talk outlining and discussing the thesis presented in his ATOM book, The Accelerating TechnOnomic Medium - the talk can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIBLbNGnGHM.

I first covered The ATOM in this post https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/abE3TTSa7gv and can well appreciate the difficulty in condensing the thesis to less than an hour given the many different interwoven technological, economic, financial, and social themes that are required to justify the conclusion of the thesis, while also establishing a baseline familiarity with each for a possibly lay audience so that the argument can be followed. I think Kartik pulled this off quite well.

As summarised in the original post:
“Basically, this book is a proposal and policy recommendation for dealing with technological unemployment and economic slowdown . . . by balancing technological deflation with a perpetual and ever-growing quantitative easing program in which central banks create money . . . and provide this money not to the big banks via asset purchases but rather to each individual citizen as a regular stipend . . . and gradually accelerating the velocity of money in the economy and abolishing individual income taxes in the process. This superficially resembles a universal basic income but with quite important differences.”

The ATOM ebook can be found here: http://atom.singularity2050.com/

A good, short, accessible summary can be found here: https://medium.com/emergent-culture/an-exciting-new-idea-in-basic-income-b1b7bf622845#.qry64du9s

But give the video a watch when you get the chance; the 20 or so minutes of questions at the end made for a good discussion too in my opinion and offer further clarifying points.

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SciTech Digest - 01/2017.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2017/01/assembling-1d-nanowires-embryo.html

Assembling 1D nanowires, Embryo selection for IQ, MitoSENS & LysoSENS, DIY gene drives, Programmable silk materials, Stem cell spine repair, Deep learning machine failure, BEC atom interferometry, Ebola vaccine, Precise magnetic field sensing.

1. Self Assembling One Dimensional Nanowires
New materials comprising tiny basic diamond subunits called diamondoids combined with a copper and sulfur atom spontaneously self assemble in solution to create stable wires three atoms wide https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/2016-12-26-researchers-use-worlds-smallest-diamonds-make-wires-three-atoms-wide.aspx. In this case the wire forms a solid, crystalline, semiconducting core from the copper and sulfur, and an insulating shell provided by the diamondoids. This is an interesting materials platform as swapping the copper and sulfur for other atoms produces wires with different properties; cadmium for LEDs and zinc for solar and piezoelectrics. In related work, needle and thread-like diamonds can be custom grown https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/lmsu-dat122916.php.

2. Selecting Embryos Based on Intelligence
Growing genetic analysis of large population sets has brought us to the point of being able to screen and select human embryos, based on DNA sequence, for greater intelligence http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/12/predictions-of-human-intelligence.html. One technique, outlined in recent work shows that higher polygenic scores translate on average to higher IQ scores and cognitive abilities. NBF also includes basic cost-benefit analysis for selecting for higher IQ, as well as a summary of recent technologies and trends leading to this selection becoming feasible today - and quite possibly commonplace in future.

3. MitoSENS and LysoSENS Advances
There were two advances this week in the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) this week. First, for MitoSENS a Phase I/II clinical trial was successfully completed in patients via delivery and allotopic expression of a mitochondrial gene https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/results-from-the-gensight-biologics-trial-of-nd4-allotopic-expression/, in this case the patient group suffers a mutation in that gene and resultant visual impairment, while resoration dramatically improved visual acuity. Second, for LysoSENS genes have been identified from bacteria that can break down cholesterol and these will be introduced into human macrophages to enable metabolism of cholesterol and the prevention of atherosclerosis https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/an-effort-to-equip-macrophages-with-bacterial-enzymes-to-prevent-atherosclerosis/.

4. Gene Drives Move into DIY
Students competing in the iGEM synthetic biology competition planned to create a gene drive and “reverse drive” in yeast http://gizmodo.com/college-students-show-how-easy-it-is-to-use-terrifying-1790526457. In this case the gene drive would cause a particular gene to spread throughout an entire population of yeast cells, while the reverse drive genetic sequence would later reverse these changes when later triggered to do so. Despite running out of time and unable to fully execute the plan the work nonetheless demonstrated how accessible transformative genetic technology is becoming - with the right DNA sequences and very basic and cheap lab equipment the ability to engineer organisms in an ecosystem widely displaced from the point of origin is something that do-it-yourself home biologists might seriously consider.

5. Programmable Silk Materials
Silk proteins are being fabricated into solid materials preprogrammed with biological, chemical, or optical responses http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/engineers-create-programmable-silk-based-materials-embedded-pre-designed-functions. The group created a range of proof of concepts including surgical pins that change colour as they near mechanical strain limits, screws that can be heated on demand in response to infrared light, and devices for sustained release of biological components. This is a nice example of embedded functional elements in biopolymers, to create devices that can quickly report on various environmental signals.

6. Stem Cell Spine Repair and Regeneration
The completion of a recent Phase I human clinical trial successfully used oligodendrocyte progenitor cells to repair damaged spines http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/12/oligodendrocyte-progenitor-cells-repair.html. The treatment involved injection of 10 million of the cells into the patient’s damaged spine, and two months later the patient, paralysed from the neck down, was able to feed himself, write his name, and use his cell phone. In related news a new type of synthetic stem cell shows promise in repairing cardiac muscle damage from heart attacks without the risk of possible cancer and other complications http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/12/26/synthetic-stem-cells-promise-muscle-regeneration-without-cancer/.

7. Deep Learning Predicts Machine Failure
3DSignals uses deep learning algorithms to understand the noise patterns generated by troubled or poorly performing machines and predict the emergence of problems in advance http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/deep-learning-ai-listens-to-machines-for-signs-of-trouble. This is accomplished by distributing different microphones around the machine of interest - anything from car to robot to turbine - and uploading the audio data to the cloud for processing by the algorithms where patterns and signals can be teased out and reported on, after a suitable training period of course. The company claims that, once trained, the system can predict specific problems in advance with 98% accuracy. Such predictive maintenance could be lucrative, especially when combined with insurance products.

8. Atom Interferometry with BECs
Atom interferometers using Bose-Einstein Condensates have been made more precise than ever by eliminating sources of error caused by different wells or clouds of atoms in a system having different numbers of atoms http://news.mit.edu/2016/technique-could-yield-hyperprecise-gravitational-measurements-1227. To create an atom interferometer a BEC is trapped by a laser standing wave into a number (10 in this case) of groups of atoms of roughly equal amount (approx. 2,000 in each group in this case), but in this new work a second condensate was introduced along with a magnetic field and by using some clever manipulation of atomic spins the group was able to force the atom interferometer to spontaneously settle into equal groups of exactly the same number of atoms. Applications include extremely precise force measurements, including gravity.

9. An Effective Ebola Vaccine
A major clinical trial in Guinea has confirmed that an experimental Ebola vaccine is effective against the virus and able to prevent infection https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/tl-tlf122116.php. The vaccine was manufactured by Merck, Sharpe & Dohme and is made from a harmless virus called vesicular stomatitis virus in which a gene has been replaced that encodes an Ebola virus surface protein; when administered the immune system attacks this recombinant virus and develops a memory for and response against the Ebola protein.

10. High-Precision Magnetic Field Sensing
A newly developed, highly-sensitive digital radio receiver effectively eliminates the noise and interference of the antenna itself on high-precision magnetic field measurements - for example in MRI imaging - by casting the copper antenna and signal droplet of water in a polymer whose magnetic susceptibility exactly matched the copper antenna https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2016/12/hochpraezise-magnetfeld-messung.html. For the first time this allows precise magnetic field measurements in extremely high magnetic fields, for example, effectively measuring magnetic field changes a trillion times smaller than the 7 Tesla field strength used in the experiments.

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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 51/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/12/writing-dna-macro-quantum-effects-deep.html

Writing DNA, Macro quantum effects, Autonomous drone advances, Deep learning music, Reversing stem cell development, Reversing animal aging, Photovoltaic atomic veins, Noninvasive mind control, Microfluidic blood sensors, Deep learning supercomputing.

1. Writing DNA with Twist
Twist Bioscience has developed a new silicon chip for writing and synthesising DNA sequences, taking the conventional 96 well approach producing one gene to a new architecture that produces 9,600 genes that makes DNA synthesis significantly faster and cheaper https://medium.com/@Hello_Tomorrow/is-dna-the-next-silicon-c88e6e89754d#.v26ntfksi. Combined with rapid, cheap DNA sequencing chips, rapid, cheap DNA synthesis chips will accelerate the transformation of biotechnology, allowing custom DNA sequences to be produced for quickly engineering organisms of interest.

2. Quantum Effects in Macro Materials
A new type of topological insulator (conductor on surface, insulator in bulk) made from bismuth and selenium, happens to slightly rotate and change a beam of terahertz light shone through the material http://www.sciencealert.com/this-new-material-might-show-the-link-between-classical-and-quantum-physics. This quantum effect is typically observed only at atomic scales and never in macro materials; it obeyed the same mathematics and is the first time such a quantum effect has been observed in large topological insulators. It is hoped that the link might allow further probing between quantum and classical mechanics.

3. Advances with Autonomous Drones
First, an optimal reciprocal collision avoidance strategy has been developed to allow large numbers of drones to fly through the same airspace, dynamically avoid colliding, and all while minimising g-forces for the purpose of future passenger-transport drones http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/limiting-jerks-for-comfortable-commuting-by-personal-drone. Second, Amazon demonstrated its first autonomous drone product delivery https://www.amazon.com/b?node=8037720011. Finally, drones are being used for cheap but difficult environmental monitoring applications such as methane monitoring, an area we can expect to rapidly expand into drone monitoring of a great many things http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/environment/drones-take-to-the-skies-to-screen-for-methane-emissions.

4. Deep Learning Music Composition
A new deep learning system called DeepBach was trained and validated against music composed by the composer Bach, and is able to produce new music in the same style as Bach to the extent of convincing humans about 50% of the time that they were actually written by Bach https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603137/deep-learning-machine-listens-to-bach-then-writes-its-own-music-in-the-same-style/. Interestingly the same humans only picked 75% of the compositions actually written by Bach. This marks another big step on the way of machines producing creative outputs and artworks, suggesting that future deep learning systems might produce novel music (or other works) in any particular artist’s style given some general starting parameters.

5. Reversing Human Embryonic Stem Cell Development
A mixture of three different chemical inhibitors has been demonstrated to further wind back the developmental clock of human embryonic stem cells, finally achieving the same long-hoped-for flexibility that researchers have enjoyed with embryonic stem cells from mice https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/jhm-rtb121416.php. These stem cells are now much easier to keep alive and the technique successfully reset 25 human stem cell lines, showed more malleable gene expression profiles, avoided abnormal DNA changes sometimes characterised by other techniques, and could be subsequently differentiated into vascular or neural cell types (for example) at double or triple the frequencies of conventional human embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile stem cells are being used to create and study amniotic sac formation http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/24415-how-does-the-amniotic-sac-form-u-m-team-uses-stem-cells-to-study-earliest-stages.

6. Reversing Aging in Animals
In related work using conventional reprogramming techniques with four factors that turn cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, researchers demonstrated that administering these factors for short durations had rejuvenating, anti-aging effects https://www.salk.edu/news-release/turning-back-time-salk-scientists-reverse-signs-aging/. Skin cells showed reversal of aging hallmarks while remaining skin cells, mice with progeria looked younger with improved organ function and lived 30% longer, while normally aged mice had improved regenerative and healing capacity. As promising as this is it should be approached with caution due to a number of reasons outlined here https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/temporarily-applying-pluripotency-reprogramming-factors-to-adult-mice/. Meanwhile microRNA levels over time appear to correlate well with life span https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/microrna-differences-across-the-course-of-aging-correlate-with-life-span/.

7. Atomic Veins Boost Photovoltaic Performance
Adding a network of linear atomic defects by removing atoms on two-dimensional material surfaces such as molybdenum diselenide creates the equivalent of atom-thick wires that can channel electrons and light http://phys.org/news/2016-12-lines-atoms-thin-electronic-materials.html. Early stage research but offering promising avenues to boost photovoltaic performance and explore new properties on these surfaces that influence electrical and optical performance and both semi- and super-conductivity.

8. Noninvasive Mind Control of Robotic Hands
A new 64 electrode EEG system allows people to operate a robotic arm to reach and grasp objects using just their thoughts and without an invasive brain implant https://twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/umn-research-shows-people-can-control-robotic-arm-their-minds. Studies with human volunteers required them to devote time with the system to learn to imagine moving their own arm, and the robotic arm, without actually moving their arm. In related news a soft prosthetic hand utilises stretchable optical waveguides to detect curvature, elongation, and force and designed to give robots and prosthetics a much better sense of touch http://mediarelations.cornell.edu/2016/12/12/new-robot-has-a-human-touch/.

9. Sensors & Microfluidics for Real-time Blood Monitoring
A microfluidic biosensor chip uses gold electrodes patterned with DNA aptamers to measure molecules of interest in real-time, significantly boosting the accuracy and frequency of measurements and solving other problems that an earlier prototype chip possessed http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/sensor-system-offers-realtime-control-of-drug-levels-in-blood. In one demonstration the concentration of a chemotherapy drug was monitored in rabbits in order to continuously dose the animal with precise amounts of the drug to maintain optimal therapeutic effect while minimising side effects. Different DNA aptamers can be engineered to capture just about any molecule (or combination) of interest, so this is a very interesting platform. In related news another microfluidic chip rapidly detects metastatic cancers cells in drops of blood https://www.wpi.edu/news/wpi-researchers-build-%E2%80%9Cliquid-biopsy%E2%80%9D-chip-detects-metastatic-cancer-cells-drop-blood.

10. Big & Small Supercomputing Initiatives
First, Cray announced the results of a deep learning supercomputing collaboration with Microsoft and the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre that runs larger deep learning models and significantly accelerating the deep learning training process, obtaining results in hours that previously might have taken weeks or months http://investors.cray.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=98390&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2228098. Second, Nvidia’s DGX-1 supercomputer is a complete dedicated package for machine learning, the size of a briefcase and costing $129,000 that seems to be producing decent advances for ever-more customers https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603075/the-pint-sized-supercomputer-that-companies-are-scrambling-to-get/.

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Oliver Hamilton's profile photoJörg Walossek's profile photoDavid Alan Gilbert's profile photoArmiche Mendoza Silva's profile photo
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L.MEGUSTRIA,BER,COSAS,MÁS INTERESANTES,GRA SIAS..DE ANTEMANO,
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The Pipeline of Rejuvenation Therapies

I recently renewed my regular charitable donation to the SENS Research Foundation as part of their annual fundraising drive, contributing in some small way to the funding of much needed research programs on various aspects of anti-aging http://www.sens.org/donate.

At about the same time FightAging! prepared a list predicting the order of arrival of rejuvenation therapies coming down the development pipeline https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/predicting-the-order-of-arrival-of-the-first-rejuvenation-therapies/. As usual FightAging! includes numerous links to news, companies, and resources, and sufficient lay detail to convey the key points. The key therapies and interventions that we can look forward over time include:

1. Clearance of senescent cells
2. Immune system destruction and restoration
3. Clearance of amyloid and protein aggregates
4. Clearance of glucosepane crosslinks
5. Rejuvenation of thymus for youthful immune function
6. Repair of mitochondria
7. Robust cancer cure
8. Reversing stem cell aging
9. Clearance of lysosomal garbage and other waste

As these therapies are developed and become more widely known we can expect more mavericks like Liz Parish and Bioviva to emerge and take matters into their own hands, further accelerating the development, dissemination, and availability of these interventions. In fact the latest data from Bioviva’s gene therapy is looking pretty good https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/11/data-on-the-effects-of-follistatin-gene-therapy-from-bioviva/.

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Mark Bruce's profile photoDrew Sowersby's profile photoNinja On Rye's profile photoYassur Bassri's profile photo
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حديثا
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New Way To Read

It took me a long time to get half way through the latest book I read, The Age of Em, while reading on Amazon Kindle for Android. At some point I discovered a menu option called “Word Runner” and gave it a try; an example is below. I remember first seeing this technique after it was first developed some years ago now and thought it was pretty cool. I persevered and decided to read the remaining half of the book in this way; I was finished in less than a week and suspect I could read a book per week this way.

When starting the software presents words slowly to get your brain used to the cadence then builds up to your selected word speed. I found that (i) too slow and it seemed disjointed and hard to follow, (ii) too fast and it was like skimming the page with flashes of narrative jumping out but difficult to take it all in.

At the moment I’m happy with about 250 words per minute, a rate that lets me take everything in to the point where I frequently stop to highlight a particularly poignant or insightful passage for later review - which I enjoy doing.

The main thing is that this method forces you to focus and pay attention to the book. Looking away or getting distracted results in missing whole sentences or paragraphs and having to restart. For The Age of Em simply concentrating like this for 3 - 5 minutes at a time was enough to get through a section heading of a chapter, and four or five of those got through a whole chapter.

I’ll be reading my next book entirely in this manner and this seems to work well for me for non-fiction. Not sure if I’d be happy this way for fiction.

Has anyone else tried this? Could you read a book like this?

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Martin West's profile photoMax M Rasmussen's profile photoRyan Hayle's profile photoJames Field's profile photo
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Yep, it's what I thought. I've also seen this done with a letter in the word highlighted to draw your attention to the middle of the word, which seems to help. I often go back and re-read things, so I'm not sure it would work too well for me, but I guess that's because I'm a details person and rarely skim read anything.

Bonus Honda advert:
youtube.com - Video: Honda's latest advert 'Keep up' tests your speed-reading abilities
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SciTech Digest - 02/2017.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2017/01/polymer-assembled-antibodies-polymer.html

Polymer assembled antibodies, Polymer assembled nanoparticles, Optical computer processing, Commercial ceramic matrixes, Optogenetic cell protein control, Google’s machine learning, Biopolymer nanopore sequencing, Topological zero resistance, CES highlights, All about graphene.

1. Polymers Assemble Arrays of Antibody Sensors
By attaching a certain type of polymer to protein antibodies, both of which naturally repel one another, a solution of the combined molecules spontaneously self assembles into ordered arrays up to 100 layers deep on surfaces http://news.mit.edu/2017/3-d-antibody-arrays-sensing-malaria-diseases-0104. This has the potential to make diagnostic antibody sensors up to 100 times more sensitive and able to detect much lower concentrations of target molecules. The structures naturally form tiny channels through which the target solution can flow through and so should be compatible with many microfluidic technologies too. The technique also formed ordered layered arrays of fluorescent proteins and so showing the promise of creating different functional surfaces.

2. Polymers Assemble Custom Nanoparticle Arrays
In related polymer self assembly news a different approach attaches different polymer chains to the surface of nanoparticles in order to direct the programmed self assembly of the nanoparticles into various micrometer sized structures https://www.cmu.edu/mcs/news/pressreleases/2016/1224-Polymer-Nanoparticles.html. This process is reversible and allows the structures to be “dissolved” if needed. Such programmed self assembly is similar to the DNA origami directed self assembly of nanoparticles that we’ve seen in other work previously, and the latest work for which is building DNA nanotubes between molecular surface supports, offering to build custom structures anchored to defined surface locations http://hub.jhu.edu/2017/01/05/dna-nanotubes-build-bridge-between-molecules/.

3. Optical Computing Processor
Hewlett Packard has demonstrated its latest all-optical, 1,000 component, computer processor http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/processors/hpes-new-chip-marks-a-milestone-in-optical-computing. This is the biggest and most complex optical chip in which all of the photonic components work together to perform a computation. Specifically this chip embodies an Ising Machine in which processing is performed on four different spins (or polarisations) of light, and the problem to be solved is built into the temperatures of the heaters on the chip used to alter the index of refraction of the interferometers in which the light is combined. Future applications are in speeding up specific rather than general purpose computing applications.

4. Ceramic Matrix Composites Get Field Tested
Interwoven coated ceramic fibers embedded in a ceramic matrix form ceramic matrix composite materials that are strong, light, and withstand temperatures much higher than metal alloys https://www.ornl.gov/news/ceramic-matrix-composites-take-flight-leap-jet-engine. The LEAP aircraft engine has recently become the first widely deployed CMC product that needs less cooling and achieves 15% fuel savings for the aircraft. This particular CMC contains silicon carbide ceramic fibers coated in boron nitride and embedded in silicon carbide; these materials avoid the brittleness that characterises ceramics and act more like a piece of wood.

5. Optogenetic Control of Proteins in Cells
A significant advance in the field of optogenetics was made possible with a computational approach for analysing protein structure and determining which parts of a protein could be modified without changing normal function, and then targeting these protein loops with optogenetic modifications that now allow a much wider range of proteins to be controlled with light or other triggers, to be turned on and off like a switch http://uncnews.unc.edu/2017/01/05/scientists-use-light-control-logic-networks-cell/. The engineered proteins can have their normal activity switched on and off as quickly as the light can be toggled; changing light intensity controls the proportion of protein activation and controlling the time of light exposure controls how long the proteins are active in the cell. This might create a light-controlled CRISPR for example, or a broad range of controllable catalysts, DNA repair, or other applications.

6. Google’s Machine Learning Advances
First, it looks like Google’s DeepMind has well and truly mastered Go with their AlphaGo platform, not merely defeating expert human opponents in televised tournaments but now - initially secretly - defeating everyone in online Go games for a consecutive 51 game winning streak http://www.kotaku.com.au/2017/01/google-the-mystery-account-destroying-online-go-was-ours/. Second, an independent project successfully used the TensorFlow system to create and train an agent able to play and master MarioKart 64 (lots of fond memories!) http://kevinhughes.ca/blog/tensor-kart, and even used Google’s autonomous car system to train and drive in the MarioKart 64 courses.

7. Nanopore Sequencing for Other Biopolymers
Nanopore DNA sequencing involves a strand of DNA being threaded through a 2nm wide nanopore and the change in voltage measured as different bases pass through the pore provides identification and sequence data. This same technique is now being applied to identify and sequence other large, complex biopolymers such as polysaccharides and proteins http://spectrum.ieee.org/video/biomedical/diagnostics/zaps-of-electricity-can-identify-mysterious-molecules. Quickly identifying complex sugars simply hasn’t been possible until now and this should further help to classify the large range of different sugars that the body makes use of.

8. Zero Resistance Conductance on Topological Insulators
Theoretical computer simulations suggest that certain pulses of light can be used to induce edge paths in atomically thin topological insulators such as tungsten disulfide that exhibit zero electrical resistance for the flow of electrons https://www6.slac.stanford.edu/news/2017-01-04-slac-study-light-can-switch-topological-materials.aspx. Further, this could be done in such a way as to avoid heating of the material that would quickly prevent the effect. The effect only lasted for as long as the light was hitting the material and the next step will be to reduce theory to practice; the group will collaborate with other labs to create and test the materials for the predicted effect.

9. CES Sensor & Battery Highlights
At the CES conference this year Elliptic Labs is seeking to get its software proximity sensor technology into every smartphone, which utilises the speaker and microphone and removes the need for a dedicated infrared proximity sensor, which would allow phone screens to expand to a lot more real estate http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/portable-devices/ces-2017-littleknown-elliptic-labs-could-reshape-the-smartphone-industry. Meanwhile Panasonic has a bendable lithium-ion battery available for flexible and curved devices such as wearables http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/portable-devices/ces-2017-panasonic-shows-off-bendable-lithiumion-battery-for-iot-wearables.

10. Graphene^5
Big graphene week this week. First, a new graphene manufacturing technique should be able to mass-produce graphene sheets using roll-to-roll manufacturing http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_558117_en.html. Second, graphene can now be used to create flexible OLED electrodes https://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2017/january/milestone-in-graphene-production.html. Third, the huge currents graphene can carry are being better characterised http://www.tuwien.ac.at/aktuelles/news_detail/article/124630/. Fourth, sheathing tiny copper wires on chips with graphene can protect the wires and prevent them blowing when carrying large currents http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/devices/graphene-girded-interconnects-could-enable-next-gen-chips. Finally, new porous 3D forms of graphene have only 5% of the density of steel but 10 times the strength http://news.mit.edu/2017/3-d-graphene-strongest-lightest-materials-0106.

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Darius Gabriel Black's profile photoNate Gaylinn's profile photoDavid Alan Gilbert's profile photo
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the polymer assembly in 2 is neat.  The AI stuff in 6 is interesting for the way that it shows it's lets anyone build these simple systems.
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2016 Was A Great Year!

I’ve seen 2016 compared to 1989 and 1945 in terms of historical significance and have been saturated with two competing narratives claiming 2016 was a great year, and a far louder, depressing, outraged, and at times infantile narrative claiming 2016 was a terrible year. I utterly reject the depressingly myopic 2016-is-terrible narrative for a wide range of reasons.

From my familiarity with all things scientific and technological and year-long deep dives into society, politics, and culture, I can’t help but remain incredibly optimistic for the future. 2016 was a great year and we’ve got a lot to look forward to. Happy New Year to everyone and may 2017 bring you everything you need and a some of what you want!

Here’s a few pieces from today to cheer you up and grant you a little more optimism:

2016 Has Been One of The Greatest Years Ever for Humanity
by Brendan O’Neill
http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/12/2016-one-greatest-years-ever-humanity/
Yes, they disrupted politics as normal. Good. That’s been the theme of this brilliant year: disruption. We disrupted nature and squished her sicknesses. We disrupted poverty and helped vast numbers of people to live longer, many of them in cities. We disrupted the universe with Juno, and listened in on the universe’s own disruptions from billions of years ago. We disrupted a politics that simply wasn’t working. We helped the poor to see, saved children from HIV, and expanded our urban footprint and invited more and more humans to join it. If you must weep over 2016, it should be with joy.

The Glad Tidings We Refuse to Believe
by Daniel Hannan
https://capx.co/the-glad-tidings-we-refuse-to-believe/
Optimism, in the present age, represents a victory of intellect over intuition. It reflects the rich, secure, interconnected world of voluntary exchange and private property, not the Hobbesian terror of the tribe. Despite grim headlines, the world continues to get cleaner, greener, healthier and wealthier. We always believe ours is a uniquely troubled age, but we're wrong.

People Are Hopeful, Optimistic, and Excited for 2017
by Carl Benjamin
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C1CQRIPUoAATw4S.jpg, from: https://therationalists.org/2016/12/31/this-year-in-stupid-2016/
A recent YouGov poll showed that the second most popular event in 2016 in Britain was Brexit. And a poll in America said that 72% of Americans feel hopeful about 2017. That’s nearly three-quarters of Americans who are hopeful about next year, with 61% saying they are optimistic about it, and 51% saying they are feeling excited. So when the mainstream media talking heads are doing nothing but telling you that 2016 was the worst year ever and that things couldn’t get any worse - that’s just for them. For most people, things are looking up. People are looking to the future with some positivity, for the first time in years. This is amazing! 2016 was a brilliant year for anyone against the retrograde forces of the regressive left.

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Ninja On Rye's profile photoMatt Roll's profile photoTony S's profile photoScott Swain's profile photo
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I saw and applaud advances, small and large, in a.i., VR & AR, brain-machine interfaces, gene sequencing, anti-aging, and disease curing.

Regarding freedom, overall I can't say if we have less or more. As a Voluntaryist, I don't believe there is much difference between Killary and Chump, given that they are both Corporatist Statists. That said, I give Chump a bit more benefit of the doubt because he doesn't have Killary's record of actually doing the typical "corrupt politician" deeds. But I believe his anti-establishment rhetoric was merely a tactic to get elected and he'll actually cave to the military industrial complex, prison industrial complex, big pharma, and Wallstreet and the Corporatism will continue to infest and grow.

With privacy, a key part of freedom, I believe we have lost ground. I think you all know what I mean.

With government transparency, I don't know. Yay Wikileaks and Snowden, but did their reveals help enough? Did enough people pay attention or care? 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 52/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/12/melting-electron-crystals-crispr-for.html

Merry Christmas!

Melting electron crystals, CRISPR for non-coding RNAs, Drone biomimicry, Accelerated robot motion, Working with antimatter, 4kC materials, Antiaging with youthful tissues, Radio through water, MRI gene expression, Spintronic neural networks.

1. Melting Electron Crystals
For the first time a two dimensional crystal sheet of electrons on a semiconducting surface has been observed undergoing a fundamental phase transition, melting from a tightly compacted and ordered state into a disordered quantum fluid http://news.mit.edu/2016/quantum-crystal-electrons-melt-1220. This seems to be an elegant experimental confirmation of a theoretical prediction from 1934, with formation of the crystal relying on the mutual repulsion of electrons confined on a surface at ultracold temperatures with no heat to jostle them around, forcing them into an ordered, low-energy state.

2. CRISPR Unravelling Role of Non-Coding RNAs
CRISPR continues to transform bioscience and genomics by enabling the study of tens of thousands of human non-protein-coding genes that produce long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that play a key role in gene regulation https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2016/12/405276/crispr-study-reveals-unexpected-roles-non-coding-rnas. In this experiment a large library of CRISPR guide RNAs was targeted against 16,401 different lncRNA genes across seven different cell lines, and discovered that 499 of these lncRNA impacted cell growth important for cancer, most lncRNAs were highly specific for cell type, and an individual lncRNA could influence the modulation of up to 100 other genes in some cases, and none in others.

3. Drone Biomimicry with Artificial Feathers
Fixed wing drones have had their wings modified with the equivalent of artificial feathers, allowing dynamic adjustable wing size and shape on the fly in order to mimic aspects and benefits of bird flight http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/artificial-feathers-let-drones-morph-their-wings-like-birds. These modifications change the surface area of the wings, allowing large wings for turning and soaring to change to small wings for speed. Such a change in wing architecture also necessitated changes in flight control methods. It’ll be interesting to see how these are developed and whether they can go beyond a research curiosity. In related biomimicry news soft robots can move like human fingers https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/12/mimicking-biological-movements-with-soft-robots.

4. Dedicated Chips Speed Up Robot Motion
Robot motion such as grasping is typically slowed by intense algorithmic motion planning required to execute correct trajectories while avoiding collisions with objects in the environment; collision detection can take up 99% of a motion planning algorithm’s time. This time consuming processing has been sped up by three orders of magnitude while using 20 times less power by using a new custom FPGA processor developed for these needs http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/robotics-software/motionplanning-chip-speeds-robots. Future work will apply the technique to optimising the shortest path for motion execution, and also translate the FPGAs into ASICs to further boost speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

5. Working With Antimatter
For the first time the spectral response of anti-atoms (anti-hydrogen comprised of an anti-proton and positron) has been probed and measured, and providing experimental evidence that anti-atoms behave in the same way as normal atoms with regards to light and electromagnetism http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38366963. This was achieved at CERN, and involved capturing the anti-atoms in a newly designed magnetic trap and probing the sample with precisely tuned laser light. Future work is looking to improve accuracy by several orders of magnitude to match measurements with normal atoms, and also incorporate sensitive gravitational tests to measure, for the first time, whether atoms and anti-atoms exhibit different gravitational behaviour.

6. Materials Withstand 4,000C
A new record has been set for the most heat resistant materials ever discovered, with hafnium carbide (HfC) demonstrating the ability to withstand temperatures of almost 4,000 degrees celsius, the highest melting temperature ever recorded for any material http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_22-12-2016-10-21-10. Tantalum carbide (TaC) was not far behind. These materials are refractory ceramics and are expected to find application in nuclear reactor cladding and high velocity vehicles, for example, atmospheric reentry and Mach 5 planes.

7. Youthful Tissues Restore Aged Bodies
We appear to be getting ever-more anti-aging advances these days, which is great. First, transplanting a young and active thymus into an older animal restores many aspects of immune function and extends life span https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/immune-restoration-results-from-placing-a-young-thymus-into-an-aged-mouse/. Second, delivering signalling molecules from young microglial cells to older brains enhances the removal of amyloid proteins in those brains https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/delivering-signal-molecules-from-young-microglia-to-aged-brain-tissue-enhances-removal-of-amyloid/. Finally, cells taken from the amniotic fluid surrounding developing babies has been shown to strengthen bone and reduce fractures in older animals by 80% http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38376955.

8. Transmitting Radio Through Water & Soil
DARPA is developing new ultra-low-frequency and very-low-frequency radio transmitters to enable low-bitrate communications, the frequencies of which can penetrate some distance through water, soil, rock, metal, and building materials http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/12/darpa-aims-for-personal-mobile-ultra.html. Conventional transmitter arrays capable of doing this are enormous and use a lot of power. This new project is a miniaturisation effort to produce transmitters that oscillate not electrons, but rather mechanically oscillate tiny magnets and electrets. A range of valuable advanced sensing and communications applications would immediately be possible once demonstrated.

9. Tracking Gene Expression via MRI
A new discovery allows the expression of any particular gene to be verified and imaged with conventional MRI scanners http://www.caltech.edu/news/visualizing-gene-expression-mri-53368. In this technique the cell membrane protein aquaporin, which serves to shuttle water molecules into and out of the cell, is engineered to be a reporter gene for the particular gene of interest; cells are genetically engineered to produce excess aquaporin when the gene of interest is switched on, which results in much greater transport of water across the cell membrane, and this just happens to be visible via MRI, picking out cells anywhere in the body (that have been engineered) that are expressing the gene of interest.

10. Spintronic Neural Networks & Filters
New spintronic devices have been formed into neural networks and exhibit the analogue learning and value retention of synapses, with devices demonstrating the ability to memorise patterns from noisy input signals, leading to fast processing with ultra-low power consumption http://www.tohoku.ac.jp/en/press/spintronics_based_artificial_intelligence.html. A new room-temperature spin-filtering architecture has been demonstrated with structures made out of nickel and graphene films, in which only electrons with a particular spin can pass from one material to the other and helping to produce spin currents for a range of computational applications https://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2016/NRL-Produces-Spin-Filtering-at-Room-Temperature-with-Graphene.

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David Alan Gilbert's profile photoNate Gaylinn's profile photoFiras Hermez's profile photoClaudette Williams's profile photo
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That's just amazing
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 50/2016.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2016/12/scitech-digest-502016-1.html

Equation for intelligence, Faces diagnose diseases, Deep learning everywhere, CRISPR inhibitors, Direct neural implants, Artificial blood nanoparticles, Zero-g experiments via drones, Ultrasound microbubbles open brain, Nanocrystal night vision, Energy technologies.

1. An Equation for Intelligence
A new theory of connectivity based on the equation N = 2^i - 1 attempts to describe very simply how neurons and their networks flexible assemble to gather knowledge and reason about concepts, in short how intelligence works https://singularityhub.com/2016/12/07/this-one-equation-may-be-the-root-of-intelligence/. Not only does the theory question the dogma of “cells that fire together, wire together” but many animal experiments show the equation at work many different brain regions that control key functions including feeding, behaviour, and fear. Basically core wiring is innately determined by genetics, with clusters or cliques of networks being combined to represent ever more greater conceptual complexity. We can expect this to be tested sooner rather than later in deep learning and neuromorphic chip applications.

2. Predicting Diseases from Facial Features
Dysmorphology, the practice of diagnosing disease by observing a patient’s features, exploits the fact that many genetic conditions have associated effects on face development - and new facial recognition software called Face2Gene automates this process, comparing features across a vast database to approach human expert level diagnoses https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603038/diagnosing-disease-with-a-snapshot/. Of 7,000 genetic syndromes, Face2Gene estimates that half have distinct facial patterns, and any tool that accelerates diagnoses to allow more rapid interventions will be a boon for patients and payers. This work relates to that from a couple of weeks ago in which, controversially, facial features were used to predict criminality.

3. Deep Learning is Everywhere
First, a new deep learning system is being used to create vastly improved hearing aids able to extract speech and other important sounds from chaotic background noise, and in tests people’s ability to understand words from background noise was boosted from 10% to 90% http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/audiovideo/deep-learning-reinvents-the-hearing-aid. Second, a new system that correlates descriptive speech with images could provide a fully automated speech recognition capability http://news.mit.edu/2016/recorded-speech-images-automated-speech-recognition-1206. Finally, another deep learning system can turn a single photo of a person’s face into a realistic 3D model and face render http://gizmodo.com/neural-networks-can-now-turn-a-single-photo-into-a-cree-1789786327.

4. CRISPR Inhibitors & iPSCs
Further boosting the safety and utility of the CRISPR genome engineering tool, new discoveries of anti-CRISPR protein inhibitors that turn CRISPR off should further reduce the risk of unwanted off-site changes at unwanted times https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161208143535.htm. Isolated from viruses, and presumably evolved as part of the bacterial-viral CRISPR arms race, the three different inhibitors can be spliced into cells to ensure cell or tissue specificity and drastically minimise off-target cuts. In related news CRISPR editing of induced pluripotent stem cells shows immense promise for therapeutic development http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/12/genome-editing-of-pluripotent-stem-cell.html.

5. Direct Neural Implants & Tourniquets
Tiny microcoils measuring 100 micrometers wide and made of silicon and copper can be implanted into the brain to precisely stimulate the firing of only vertically aligned, near-by neurons via magnetic induction http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/tiny-implantable-microcoils-in-the-brain-activate-neurons-via-magnetic-fields. The benefits of this type of implant and brain stimulation are (i) not having long term performance degraded by scar tissue formation, and (ii) being able to target very specific and tiny patches of cells. Experiments in mice showed precise control of whisker movement for example. In related news a new vagus nerve interface and stimulation protocol actually stimulates platelets to better clot wounds, reducing bleeding time by 40% and blood loss by 50%, to function as a type of neural torniquet http://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/neural-tourniquet-stimulates-a-nerve-to-stop-bleeding-anywhere-in-the-body.

6. Latest Artificial Blood
The latest advances with ErythroMer are showing promise as a genuine artificial synthetic blood substitute https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2016/12/erythromer-as-a-step-forward-in-artificial-blood/. ErythroMer uses synthetic nanoparticles to accomplish the functions of red blood cells, and freeze dried, stored, and reconstituted with water prior to use. The nanoparticles are about one fifth the size of a red blood cell and incorporate materials with pH dependent oxygen absorption ability that comes within 10% of normal red blood cell function. In animal tests ErythroMer performed indistinguishably from normal blood, and also resuscitated animals in shock after 40% blood loss. They’ll need chemistry for physiologically comparable carbon dioxide absorption and release before they can claim version 1.0 respirocytes however.

7. Cheaper Zero-G Experiments with Drones
A new autonomous quadcopter platform provides zero-gravity conditions for short periods of time to enable certain types of experiments to be conducted cheaper, quicker, and easier https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603037/robotic-quadcopters-could-offer-zero-g-flights-on-the-cheap/. Sounds simple but there were a range of very difficult technical challenges to overcome in order to guarantee stability, which ultimately involved the design of custom variable pitch rotors able to provide complete six degrees of freedom at all times. In related news autonomous quadcopters can now navigate small gaps using only on-board processing and a fisheye camera https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603088/watch-this-robotic-quadcopter-fly-aggressively-through-narrow-gaps/.

8. Targeted Ultrasound Microbubbles Open Blood Brain Barrier
Building on work that opens the blood brain barrier with ultrasound and microbubbles, the technique can now target the delivery of drugs just to certain brain regions and without exposing the rest of the body to the circulating drug http://www.agenciasinc.es/en/News/Microbubbles-and-ultrasound-open-the-blood-brain-barrier-to-administer-drugs. Drugs are now incorporated into the lipid-coated microbubbles, which are injected into the patient as before, while the desired region of the brain is targeted with focused ultrasound; the ultrasound causes the bubbles to temporarily open the blood brain barrier only in that region, also causing the drugs to be released only in that region. Experiments in mice and monkeys confirmed the effectiveness.

9. Nanocrystal Night Vision
Advances in nanophotonics have for the first time produced semiconductor nanocrystal antennas on optically transparent substrates http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/anu-invention-to-inspire-new-night-vision-specs. Grown as arrays on a thin film and applied to normal glasses lenses the surface might enable cheap and easy night vision. The structures can be designed to shift the direction, frequency, and polarisation of light passing through the device, and might additionally find application in holography and optical computing.

10. Energy Technologies
A couple of unusual but interesting energy-related technologies this week. First, a new nanoceramic material would constitute safer casings for nuclear reactors, more safely handling liquid metal coolants such as sodium, and instead of becoming brittle over time like many other materials under intense radiation, actually becoming tougher and stronger from the radiation https://www.engr.wisc.edu/new-materials-safe-economical-nuclear-reactors/. Second, leading on from unconventional oil and gas fracking technology and the geological deposits that characterise these sources, there are different (vast) rock deposits embedded with hydrocarbons that cannot be obtained via fracking or any other technology, except for this new microwave technology that was developed that can effectively extract oil and water from these rocks http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/12/microwave-oil-recovery-could-unlock.html.

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Matthew J Price's profile photoMark Bruce's profile photoDouglas MacArthur's profile photoLeo Legarde's profile photo
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im only 13 so i dont know what that is :D
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Mark Bruce

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Principia Qualia

Principia Qualia is a recent work by Michael Johnson seeking to understand the problem of valence in consciousness, or what makes some things feel better than others. This is a very interesting and valuable contribution to, and resource for, the study of consciousness.

Johnson digs into neuroscience and the latest iteration of the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness espoused by Tononi that I’ve covered before. This also includes examining critiques of IIT by the likes of Aaronson and others and covers related theories on Perceptronium and the Field Integrated Information Hypothesis. A mathematical derivation of valence is considered in light of distinct differences in qualia, while the amount of mathematical symmetry is considered as the key driver of valence and this flows into treatments of pleasure and pain. This comes with a range of hypotheses and experimental tests for Johnson’s valence subset of IIT.

Overall you’ll get a great update to discussions and developments in consciousness research. Some excerpts:

A complex feed-forward neural network can be highly complex, but because it has no integration between its layers, it has zero Φ. Importantly, functionally-identical systems (in terms of input/output) can produce different qualia under IIT, depending on their internal structure, and functionally different systems may produce the same qualia. This relates to why Tononi is confident that IIT implies that ‘virtual neurons’ emulated on a conventional computational system wouldn’t produce their original qualia. This also has implications for the simulation hypothesis, below.

Given a mathematical object isomorphic to the qualia of a system, the mathematical property which corresponds to how pleasant it is to be that system is that object’s symmetry​.

I posit boredom is a very sophisticated “anti-wireheading” technology which prevents the symmetry/pleasure attractor basin from being too ‘sticky’, and may be activated by an especially low rate of Reward Prediction Errors.

In this work and its appendices, I’ve sketched out what I think a “non-insane” Science of Qualia should look like; something that could turn qualia research from alchemy into chemistry, and unify our different modes of knowing in neuroscience.

The cosmological and simulation musings at the end are fun:

Perhaps we are qualia godshatter, slowly recoalescing 14 billion years after the Big Bang in which there existed an incredible amount of integrated information with incredibly fine spatial and temporal grain.

Bostrom’s simulation hypothesis relies on consciousness being substrate-independent. Integrated Information Theory implies consciousness is somewhat not substrate-independent. If we are in a simulation, it wouldn't really 'count' as being a metaphysically separate reality. Instead, we would simply be living in a weirdly-partitioned view of basement reality, since a simulation can’t take on any strong emergent properties over and above the hardware it’s being run on. Importantly, this means the underlying physical rules for consciousness would be the same for us as they would be for the entities running our simulations.

The introduction / summary is here:
http://opentheory.net/2016/11/principia-qualia/

The thesis is here:
http://opentheory.net/PrincipiaQualia.pdf

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Gideon Rosenblatt's profile photoAdam Black's profile photoMark Bruce's profile photoMike Johnson's profile photo
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Thanks +Mark Bruce- very excellent summary of the work.
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