December 12, 2018

    New chip reduces neural networks’ power consumption by up to 95 percent
    New chip reduces neural networks’ power consumption by up to 95 percent - short science news

    Neural networks are at the basis of many artificial-intelligence applications. However, this comes at a cost, since neural networks require a high amount of energy which makes them unsuitable for small, portable devices. Now, MIT researchers have developed a special-purpose chip that increases the speed of neural-network computations by three to seven times over its predecessors, while reducing power consumption 94 to 95 percent. This opens the possibility of running neural networks on smartphones and other small devices.

    Read the full story: MIT

    Clean and safe water could be achieved easier with new material for filtering
    New filtering material could make seawater safe for drinking. Short science news

    With millions of people worldwide suffering from lack of clean water, a better technology for water purification is welcome. A team of scientists has developed a new material which can filter salts and ions from seawater, making it suitable for consumption. The new material has the largest internal surface area known and it acts similarly to biological membranes to remove salts and ions. Thus, it can be used for water purification, but has other applications too, such as the mining industry. This new technology is expected to offer a better alternative for desalinization water compared to traditional reverse osmosis membranes and therefore improve access to clean water.

    Read the full story: Monash University
    Scientific publication: Science Advances

    100,000 X-shaped micropatterns of proteins that cells can adhere to. Credit: UCLA
    New technology for measuring cell strength to speed up drug discovery

    A team of scientists has developed a method for measuring the physical strength of cells 100 times faster than previously available tools. The new technology has important applications in drug discovery efforts. It allows quick, large-scale testing of drugs for diseases associated with anomalies in cellular stregth. For example, it could be used to screen for new drugs for hypertension, muscular dystrophy and asthma. The device is called fluorescently labeled elastomeric contractible surfaces, or FLECS. It contains 100,000 x-shaped patterns of proteins that emit a fluorescent signal when a cell is attached to them and changes its strength. The researchers tested successfully the technology and the results were published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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    Scientific publication: Nature

    Combining blockchain with genetic data. Image from
    Lets put your genetic code on the blockchain and share it

    Traditionally, when you do a DNA test, the company which does it owns the genetic data. However, Nebula Genomics has proposed to sequence the genome for $1000, give insights on it and then secure it on the blockchain. Pharma companies need large genetic databases to develop new drugs. This sets the way for individuals to sell their genomic data directly to these companies thereby foregoing middlemen. With the plans going underway soon, the implications are limitless.

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    Volcanic ash may help reduce energy required to build cities Credit: MIT News
    Volcanic ash reduces the energy required to manufacture concrete

    Scientists have discovered that adding volcanic rock dust to concrete may be an effective additive, leading to a decrease in energy consumption. According to the study, it takes 16 percent less energy to construct 26 concrete buildings made with 50 percent volcanic ash, compared to traditional concrete. This makes possible the construction of sustainable cities with low environmental impact. Currently the manufacturing of traditional Portland cement is responsible for about 5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. This raises the possibility that the cities of the future will be made of volcanic ash to reduce the environmental footprint.

    Read the full story: MIT News
    Scientific publication: Journal of Cleaner Production

    Clean hydrogen could soon power hydrogen-fueled cars. Image source: Bigstockphoto
    Clean energy now closer thanks to new, faster and cheaper technology to produce hydrogen

    Scientists have found a way to more efficiently generate hydrogen from water and this is good news for clean energy production. The new technology uses two metals, iron and nickel, both inexpensive, to create a fast, qualitative catalyst for the chemical reactions needed to extract hydrogen from water. The method is fit for large-scale production and is cheap, thus one day it could be used to produce clean energy to power, for example, hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

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    What the surgeons see using augmented reality. Image © Imperial College London
    Surgeons see inside the body during surgeries using augmented reality

    A team from Imperial College London at St Mary’s Hospital used for the first time the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets to perform reconstructive lower limb surgeries. The headset overlays images from CT scans, including the 3D location of blood vessels and bones, onto the patient’s limbs. This allows for better precision during the identification and reconnection of the key blood vessels, ultimately improving the outcome of the surgeries. The surgical teams concluded that the HoloLens was a success and augmented reality technologies could soon be found in hospitals all over the world.

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    Scientific publication:

    Viruses to treat bacterial infections. Image from
    Using AI to fight deadly antibiotic-resistant infections with viruses

    Startups like the AmpliPhi Biosciences and Adaptive Phage Therapeutics are developing viruses to fight antibiotic-resistant infections. Currently, viruses (which are called phages) are used as a last resort for the sickest patients since DNA sequencing to identifying the right virus is a slow process. However, this is all set to change since companies have started using Artificial intelligence to identify the right virus. The ultimate goal is to develop an AI app which can be used in hospitals which can identify the most appropriate virus which can be immediately delivered to the hospital.

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    A decentralized blockchain system. Image from
    Give us $2 billion and we would solve all blockchain problems- says Telegram ICO

    In what appears like a leaked white-paper of the Telegram ICO, the company which has more than a 100 million users of its messaging service, is seeking to raise $2 billion. With the aim to develop censorship resistant applications such as anonymous web surfing, micropayments and decentralised storage systems, Telegram proposes to solve the most difficult blockchain problems since the challenge is to develop a system that is cheap to operate while being efficient at large scale and remaining truly decentralized.

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    3-D printing now allows changes in colors. Image by Jonathan Juursema, Wikimedia Commons
    New technique allows repeated change of color for 3D printed objects

    The present 3-D printing technology does not allow the modification of a printed object once it is finished. Researchers from MIT now present a revolutionary technique that allows repeatedly changing the color of a 3-D printed object, after fabrication. They used a proprietary ink which changes color when exposed to ultraviolet light. This allows the change in color to occur in about 20 minutes. Currently the method is optimized for plastic objects but the team is working on expanding this to other types of materials such as clothing. 

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    Scientific publication:

    Counterfeit watches. Image source Wikimedia Commons
    Most secure marking system for fighting counterfeit goods developed

    Fake products are a huge economical burden worldwide. Sometimes they can even put the life of people in danger, as in the case of counterfeit drugs. There are continuous efforts to improve detection of fake products. Finally, a team of researchers from Copenhagen created the best marking system to combat counterfeit goods. The system works by assigning a unique digital fingerprint based on lanthanide luminescence to an original product. The assignment of the ID is random, thus it is basically impossible to hack. The system is fully functional and researchers estimate it can be on the market in one year.

    Read the full story: University of Copenhagen
    Scientific publication:

    Computer chip in the making that outperforms the human brain. Image: Pixabay
    New artificial synapse works faster than synapses in the brain

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, USA) have developed a superconducting switch that works like a natural synapse in the brain , but a lot faster. It is designed to connect processors (like connecting brain cells) and to store memory (synaptic plasticity) in future computers that operate like the human brain. Like a synapse, the switch integrates multiple bits of information in stead of only 1 or 0 bits, processes this, and fires a burst of electricity depending on the outcome of information processing. Technical hurdles need to be taken, however, before the switch can be used for real computing.

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    Scientific publication:

    Quantum chips might use photons obtained from spins of electrons.
    Quantum chips convert electron spin into photons/light – technology news

    Two independent groups of scientists have managed to convert the spin of the electron into photons (light signals). This technological breakthrough contributes to the development of quantum chips that could process information at an amazingly high speed. Quantum chips are likely to drive the quantum computers of the future, computers much powerful than the conventional ones. This process works at room temperature, which has important practical applications, and it results from combining spintronics and nanophotonics sciences, paving the way towards quantum computers.

    Read the full story: Delft University of Technology
    Scientific publication: Science

    Storage material of images evolves from paper to DNA. Image: Pixabay
    Your photos stored in DNA

    DNA will be the future of storing images and videos as it has a much larger capacity than that reached by current technologies. To develop DNA-storing techniques further, the University of Washington and Microsoft are collecting 10,000 images, and invites everybody to participate on their website

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    Microscopic green algae. Image: Wikimedia Commons
    Solar cells based on photosynthesis gain power

    In the quest for sustainable energy sources, researchers at the University of Cambridge have designed a new model of algae-powered solar cells that are five times as potent as those with the current design. Although they only have 10% of the capacity of conventional solar cells, they bring implementation of truly green energy a step closer.

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    Scientific publication:

    China focuses on AI chips. Image from
    China focusses on producing AI chips which could be added to any device

    In December 2017, China's Ministry of Industry and IT released a 3-year plan with the goal to mass produce neural network processing chips by the end of 2020. The currently available chips such as graphics cards can run AI software, however, their designs are expensive and these cannot be used in smaller devices run on batteries. Computer chips are considered a key for the mass adoption of AI, and China is gearing up its own hardware industry to become a force to reckon with.

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    Energy draining in fuel cells.
    Technology news: New technology allows making fuel cells 100 times cheaper

    Fuel cells, similar to batteries, could power many things, from computers to cars. The problem is that producing them can be quite expensive because they contain platinum, a very expensive metal. In a paper published recently, a group of scientist from California describes a new method to build fuel cells. This technique replaces platinum with cobalt and porous carbon nanofibers, an innovation that decreases the costs by a factor of 100. The many potential applications of fuel cells are now much closer due to this cheaper way of fabrication.

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    Artificial intelligence learns to compromise. Image by
    Could Artificial intelligence strike a bargain better than humans?

    Artificial intelligence has made major advances and is now able to beat humans in Chess and also at Go. However, could we teach AI to also co-operate and compromise? Researchers at Brigham Young University have developed an algorithm to do just that. Using an algorithm S# they programmed machines for a two-player game to see how they would cooperate with humans. The machines were programmed to use common phrases like, 'Sweet. We are getting rich', or 'In your face!' and the human counterparts in the game at times couldn't distinguish between a machine and a human. The use of cheap talk by the machines surprisingly increased the level of cooperation. This shows that using simple algorithms machines can be trained to cooperate with humans which might be at times better than humans themselves.

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    Source: Лечение Наркомании via
    A greedy cryptocurrency miner might be a bigger threat than spyware or viruses

    Coinhive, the software that uses the computational processing power of other people's devices to mine cryptocurrency is becoming the most prevalent form of malware on the internet. This practice of secretly mining cryptocurrency on others' hardware has affected 55% of all organizations globally and has overtaken ransomware as a tool of choice to extort money. Further, researchers at the security firm Wandera have claimed that such exploitation on mobile devices has increased by 250%. Also, such attacks are becoming more sophisticated since some of these could be detected only by Darktrace, a program which uses artificial intelligence to identify cyber threats and went unnoticed by the usual detection tools.

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    Source: Gerd Altmann from
    Google's Could AutoML is bringing AI to the masses

    The major hindrance to the democratization of artificial intelligence (AI) is that only big companies can afford to build their own AI algorithms since they scoop up the limited pool of talent available. Chief Scientist at Google Cloud, Fei-Fei Li says that it is high time that 'we need to scale AI out to more people'. Hence, Google has launched a new service called 'Cloud AutoML' which provides several machine learning algorithms to their cloud services so that anyone with basic coding skills can harness the power of AI. Several other companies like Amazon and Microsoft are also rushing to add to their cloud services the machine learning capabilities.

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    Source: typographyimages via pixabay.
    Bitcoin and Ethereum might not be as decentralized as you think

    Bitcoin has been the darling of the previous year showing a meteoric rise in its 'virtual' value. The dreamy view of Bitcoin and for that matter, Ethereum is based on the idea that they are decentralized giving power back to the people. However, cryptocurrency expert Emin Sirer and colleagues from Cornell University says that no one has even bothered to fact check as to how truly decentralized these systems are. They found that 4 Bitcoin mining operations accounted for 53% of its mining capacity while 3 miners accounted for 61% of Ethereum's mining. The beg the question to be asked: 'Are these cryptocurrencies truly decentralized?'

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    CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons
    China looking to built yet another giant telescope to detect aliens

    China plans to build the world’s largest steerable telescope in a quest to detect dark matter, gravitational waves and possible alien signals. China already has the world’s largest telescope, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST). The new telescope will be located in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region and will be named as the Qitai 110m Radio Telescope (QTT). FAST covers lower frequencies as proposed for QTT, however both the telescopes will have an overlapping coverage of 150 MHz to 3GHz. This would mean that signals detected by one telescope could be confirmed by the other provided data is being analysed in real time.

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    Falcon rocket family, Image by: Lucabon via
    Elon Musk’s SpaceX to test fire Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines

    While the first demonstration of the biggest ever rocket launch might be several days in the future, SpaceX is planning to do an initial test to launch Falcon Heavy’s 27 engines at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. The Falcon Heavy is composed of 3 Falcon 9 rockets put together and is supposed to be the most powerful rocket ever fired since the Saturn V rocket which took Apollo astronauts to the moon. The most exciting is the static fire test in which all 27 Merlin engines are fired simultaneously. The current proposed time of firing is 1 pm PT.

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    Baidu driverless car
    Baidu Driverless car

    Baidu which is the largest search company in China, is focusing its resources on developing high definition maps which will become obligatory for autonomous cars to ride safely.  Baidu, who is a recent entrant in the driverless cars sector is in talks with Apollo for developing an open source approach and also has partnerships with over 90 companies including Ford and Nvidia. However, the Chief Operating Officer Qi Lu, believes that the HD maps will be a much bigger business as compared to Baidu’s current search business as of today and aims to sell these HD maps to customers like car manufacturers.

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    Intel Chip's are getting closer to the human brain
    Intel Chip's are getting closer to the human brain
    Intel has developed a neuromorphic chip. As the name suggests, a neuromorphic chip mimics the functioning of the neurons and synapses of the human brain. These chips also go a step further and inscribe the work of the neural networks it runs, onto silicon thereby generating a memory. Intel’s device, ‘Loihi’ which it displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, uses the chip to identify objects which are recorded by a webcam. Also, at the show, Intel announced that it is also building a large quantum computing chip which would have the capacity to do computations at tremendous speed.

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