December 12, 2018

    While kid-friendly robots are already used by therapists to help autistic children recognize emotions from other people’s faces, new robots have been developed that can also interpret the child’s own behavior. This is a major advantage, as the robot can learn whether the child is interested, excited or paying attention. The assessment of the child’s behavior correlated for 60% with the assessment by human experts. Ultimately, the robots can convey information that the therapists can use to personalize the therapy for each individual child, and make the interactions with the robot more naturalistic.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Science Robotics


    Big data could get it totally wrong
    Maybe what big data knows about you is totally wrong - short science articles

    Scientists have long believed that bigger the sample size of human subjects better it is. However, new research suggests that this big-data approach could be way off-target. Averaging data of a large number of human subjects gives only a snapshot image, but mental illness, emotions and behaviours are variably expressed in us over time. Scientists used statistical models to compare data of people collected in hundreds of people suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD and panic disorders. But when the analysis was applied to each individual, there were wide variations sometimes well above the group average. They state that relying on big data in social, behavioural and medical sciences could lead to misdiagnosis, prescription of wrong treatments and continued research which isn't individualized.

    Read the full story: University of Berkeley
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    A robot with lab-on-chip application could fasten blood testing
    Robot for faster blood tests - short science articles

    Researchers have designed an automatic blood drawing and testing device which can also provide rapid results that could efficiently fasten the workflow in hospitals thereby giving more time to healthcare workers to deal with patients. Terming the device as 'the holy grail of blood testing technology', scientists developed an integrated miniature robotic system which is a lab-on-chip robot that can provide accurate results like the white blood cell count. The robot uses an image-guided robot to draw blood samples from the vein and it is combined with a centrifuge-based blood analyzer. They plan to increase the number of tests possible with this device in the future.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Technology


    Scientists who had previously shown that they could extract water from the air, successfully field tested their next generation system recently. Using the highly porous material called the metal-organic framework (MOF), they could extract water from air, even when the humidity fell to 8% indicating that it wouldn't be difficult to scale up the model. The MOF are solids with so many internal channels that a small cube of MOF could have a surface area of six football fields and hence it can extract large volumes of water. This latest model is about 150 times cheaper and can capture twice as much water; about 400 mL of water per kilogram of MOF. They are now preparing to field test this new model in the Death Valley where temperatures reach 110 degrees in daytime.

    Read the full story: University of Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Science Advances


    An AI could identify cancer by analysis of breath in patients
    AI which can smell and detect illness in human breath - short science articles

    For several years labs around the world are using gas-chromatography mass-spectrometers to detect extremely small amounts of several substances in the air. Of the several substances present in the human breath a few could point towards the presence of various cancers. However, the sheer volume of data produced makes this process time consuming since it needs to be manually inspected by experts. However, scientists are now using the latest artificial intelligence algorithms like deep learning which can learn about different types of compounds in the breath. In a preliminary experiment, they found that these algorithms accurately analyzed breath samples of human cancer patients within minutes as compared to human experts. Further, this algorithm could learn over time thereby becoming more efficient day by day.

    Read the full story: The Conversation


    An optimal dosage of coffee using machine learning algorithm
    Optimal caffeine dosage and timing for alertness determined by a new algorithm - short science articles

    Scientists have developed a machine learning algorithm which determines the amount and time of caffeine required for optimizing alertness. Their algorithm used a mathematical model which could predict the effects of sleep loss and caffeine on the psychomotor vigilance test and used it to improve alertness by 64% following coffee drinking. Further, it reduced the caffeine consumption by up to 65% while maintaining the effect of coffee. This algorithm could help develop personalized schedule for the coffee intake to a particular sleep/wake schedule and maximize alertness, especially during sleep-loss conditions.

    Read the full story: American Academy of Sleep Medicine
    Scientific publication: Journal of Sleep Research


    Nanorobots could help create technology for rapid decontamination of biological fluids
    Nanorobots which mimic cells to clear toxins and bacteria from blood created - short science articles

    Researchers have built nanorobots by coating gold wires with platelets and RBC membranes. These hybrid cell membranes help the nanorobot to bind to bacteria like the antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and also neutralize toxins produced by them. Further, these nanorobots respond to ultrasound giving them the ability to swim around without chemical fuels. This can help in targetting these nanorobots to specific sites in the body and thus speed up the process of detoxification. This could help create technology which could safely and effectively detoxify biological fluids.

    Read the full story: University of California San Diego
    Scientific publication: Science Robotics


    Virtual reality will soon be more realistic with a new technology that gives the illusion of infinite walking
    Is the holodeck here? Scientists achieve infinite walking in virtual reality - science news in brief

    Virtual reality is constantly evolving, but many challenges remain. One of them is the ability to move continuously in a virtual space, while being confined to a small space, like a room. To solve this, computer scientists from Stony Brook University, NVIDIA and Adobe have collaborated on a computational framework that gives VR users the perception of infinite walking in the virtual world, even when limited to a small physical space. To do this, the researchers focused on manipulating the user's walking direction by exploiting a natural phenomenon of the human eye, called saccade (quick eye movements). Maybe this is a small step towards achieving the perfect VR space like the holodecks from the Star Trek TV series.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss


    A software presenting virtual activities may instruct robots how to perform them in the real world
    Virtual home could teach robots everyday household activities - science news in brief

    Soon you could have a robot preparing your coffee, or cleaning the table after you eat. Scientists have developed a virtual home that demonstrates how various household chores are performed in order to help robots learn how to correctly perform them. The advantage of describing actions as computer programs is that this language is much clearer for robots. It is unambiguous and includes all the necessary steps to perform a given task. This is essential because robots, unlike humans, need more explicit instructions to complete easy activities since they can not infer and reason with ease.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: VirtualHome


    Chloroplasts in plant cells produce ATP under the influence of sun light. This has now been harnessed in artificial cells.
    Photosynthesis in an artificial cell to drive metabolism - biotechnology science news

    In the process of developing artificial cells, researchers have reached the milestone of integrating photosynthesis in a cell-like structure. It is now possible to activate metabolic activity with light, and use the resulting energy in the form of ATP for protein synthesis in artificial organelles. This is an important step for further development of more complex artificial cells that can build protein networks and perform complex cellular behavior. In the long term, artificial cells might be used as cellular prosthetics to treat diseases or repair damaged tissue.

    Read the full story: Harvard – John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology


    A 3D printed cornea could address the world shortage of corneas
    3D printed corneas are here - short science articles

    Cornea plays an important role in focusing vision as it is the outermost layer of the human eye. Still, there is a global shortage of corneas for transplant since 10 million people require surgeries to avoid corneal blindness. Now, researchers have 3D printed the human cornea using an innovative method. They mixed human stem cells from a healthy donor cornea, mixed with alginate and collagen to create a solution that can be printed, so a 'bio-ink'. Then by using a simple low-cost 3D printer, the bio-ink was printed in concentric circles in the shape of a human cornea. Further, scientists claim that they can also build corneas to match a patient's unique requirements by scanning their eyes to print corneas which match their size and shape. This could be the first step towards addressing the worldwide shortage of corneas necessary for surgeries.

    Read the full story: Newcastle University


    Scientists have developed tiny fibres made of elastomers which can incorporate materials like electrodes. These fibres can detect minute pressures and strains and also withstand huge deformations of more than 500% but still come back to their original shapes. This could be used not only for developing smart clothing and prosthesis but also for artificial nerves for robots. Scientists use the thermal drawing process to make these fibres which is normally used for optical-fibre manufacturing and rigid materials like nanopolymers, metals, thermoplastics as well as liquid metals can be introduced in the fibres. They also integrated fibres in robotic fingers as artificial nerves and whenever these fingers touched anything, the electrodes in fibres transmitted information of the robot's interaction with the environment. This gets sensors to the next level of sophistication.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Advanced Materials


    Researchers have built an ingestible sensor equipped with genetically engineered bacteria that can sense certain molecules that are related to stomach bleedings or other gastrointestinal health problems. These sensor relays the information to an electronic circuit and data can be read by a smartphone. This new type of diagnostics, which has now been tested in pigs, is expected to facilitate diagnosis and prevent for instance endoscopy, which requires patients to be sedated.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Science


    Driverless cars could change lanes like a human driver using this algorithm
    Driverless cars could change lanes like a human driver using this algorithm - science news - technology

    MIT researchers have developed a computer algorithm that allows self-driving cars to change lanes like a human driver. The problem is that the car has to take this type of decision on the fly and sometimes the amount of information available is very little. The system allows driverless cars to compute a buffer zone around the vehicle and if this does not allow changing lanes immediately, a new buffer zone can be computed on the fly. In parallel, other computations will be performed in order to avoid collisions and thus, the maneuvers will be more similar to those performed by a human.

    Read the full story: MIT


    Self healing material could hep develop biorobots
    A self-healing material for bio-robots - short science articles

    While several living organisms are able to repair themselves, researchers have now developed materials so that manufactured machines can mimic this property. This self-healing material can repair itself spontaneously even if it suffers extreme mechanical damage. This material is composed of liquid metal droplets which are suspended in soft elastomers and when damaged the droplets from new connections with surrounding droplets thereby help reroute electric signals thereby producing circuits which are fully functional. Since this material exhibits high electric conductivity when stretched it is ideal for use in power or data transmission. This could also pave the way for building machines which are more compatible with the human body and the natural environment.

    Read the full story: Carnegie Mellon University
    Scientific publication: Nature Materials


    To image assembly and disassembly of proteins and other molecules within a living cell is crucial to understand how cells work. To make this possible, scientists have made a new mode of atomic force microscopy that has a resolution of single molecules. With the new microscope, the scanning of the samples is highly accelerated as compared to the traditional atomic force microscopes, and is now fast enough to observe dynamic changes in the cell.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Nature Nanotechnology


    Soon, pilots could be equipped with devices that “read” their brain activity to improve flight safety
    Reading the mind of pilots real-time with new system - science news in brief

    Scientists have developed a brain-machine interface to record in real time the brain activity of pilots during flights. The new system uses near-infrared spectroscopy and has the advantage of being portable. It is able to measure blood oxygenation changes in the prefrontal cortex. The system was tested both on pilots flying real planes and on pilots training in simulators, proving the feasibility of monitoring cognitive workload in realistic scenarios. Scientists hope that one day this device will be used to assess the cognitive and emotional states of pilots in order to increase the safety of flights.

    Read the full story: Drexel University
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience


    A 3D printed gel which can move underwater created
    A smart 3D printed gel that walks underwater - short science articles

    Scientists have created a 3D-printed smart gel which can walk underwater like an octopus and grab objects to move them. Devices made using soft materials are easier to design as well as control compared to mechanically complex hard devices. The material used is a hydrogel which remains solid despite its 70% water content which is usually found in diapers, contact lens and also Jell-O. This hydrogel once placed in salty water and applied electricity triggers a motion. The speed of motion can be changed by changing its dimensions with thinner the gel faster the movement. This could help build robots which could bump into objects without damaging them and also, build artificial hearts and other muscles, diagnostic tools, drug delivery systems etc.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: ACS Applied and Materials interfaces


    Pulses of laser light and a new type of “processor” make computations much faster than modern computers
    New computing technique uses lasers to make computers 1 million times faster - science news in brief

    Computers think in terms of bits that can switch between a value of “1” and “0”. Today’s computers can do this operation about 1 billion times per second, but this might change soon. A new method was developed to increase the computational power. The new technique uses laser-light pulses that can switch between “1” and “0” states 1 quadrillion times per second, that is 1 million times faster than modern computers. Using tungsten and selenium, the scientists built lattices shaped as honeycombs and then bombarded them with laser pulses. This allowed for a switch between the two values, as usual, but much faster. Researchers still have to incorporate this technique in a real computer.

    Read the full story: LiveScience
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Researchers from MIT have developed a set of molecular blocks that can be assembled in many different ways, depending on the test to be performed. For example, some blocks will let liquid straight through, whereas others can mix ingredients. They are made a sheet of paper or glass fiber sandwiched between a plastic or metal block and a glass cover. They are small, easy to print, very cheap, and no special training is required to use them. The production can be upscaled, so that they can become an economic diagnostics option for laboratories with limited financial possibilities, such as those in developing countries.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Advanced Healthcare Materials


    Engineers have for the first time succeeded in making a miniature robot that can take off in the air without a cable attached to it. This technical breakthrough was made possible by using laser energy and microchips resembling a fly’s brain that operate its wings. The mini-robot, the size of a house fly and the weight of a toothpick, can at the moment only lift off and land vertically while flapping its wings. It has limited autonomy because it depends on the laser beam for its energy supply. Nevertheless, its development is a major step forward to produce mini-robots for many applications, such as the inspection of gas leaks.

    Read the full story: University of Washington


    Bombarding water with X-rays can disrupt the atomic structure leading to sudden heat generation
    Laser heats water to 100,000 degrees Celsius in fraction of a second - science news in brief

    The world’s fastest water heater is here: a group of physicists managed to heat water from room temperature to 100,000 degrees Celsius in less than 75 femtoseconds. That is an incredibly short amount of time, less than 0.000 000 000 000 075 seconds. Now, how’s that for a fast service when ordering your tea? To achieve this, scientists used ultra-short pulses of X-rays generated by a laser. The X-rays displace electrons out of water molecules and in consequence, the atoms start to move violently, generating heat. In the same time, the water is transformed into plasma, similar to some plasmas found in the sun and on Jupiter. The study has both a fundamental importance and practical applications, like the development of techniques to study single molecules with X-ray lasers.

    Read the full story: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    A 3D bioprinter could one day be used to print biological tissues on demand, for medical applications
    3D printed tissues and organs are now closer - science news in brief

    A group of UCLA researchers developed a device that can print biological tissues in three dimensions. The aim of this 3D bioprinter is to print artificial versions of real tissues to be used for surgeries and transplants. The printing is based on stereolithography (nice word, isn’t it?), a light-based process, and is controlled by a customized 3D printer. The researchers used hydrogels to create the scaffolding for the tissues. After creating several 3D structures, scientists implanted them in lab animals to check for biocompatibility. The implants were not rejected, giving hope that this method could one day be used to provide on-demand biological tissues.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Advanced Materials


    Fundamental physical values, such as the lifetime of a neutron, should not be different. But, this is what researchers observed
    Physics mystery: two different ways of measuring the neutron's life give different results - science news in brief - physics news

    Physics experiments often encounter some oddities. Such an example is the measurement of the survival time of neutrons outside an atom. When measured in two different ways, the value was different by about nine seconds. Physicists tried to understand if this difference was real or due to some experimental errors. To this end, they modified their equipment to improve the accuracy of the tests. Even so, the accuracy of the measurements was not significantly improved; however, the data suggests that the uncertainty was induced in a statistical way (not by noise). Practically speaking, it should be a matter of performing more measurements in order to reduce the uncertainty of the results.

    Read the full story: ArsTechnica
    Scientific publication: Science


    False news spreads like fire on Twitter and users seem to not debunk it
    Twitter users more likely to spread false news during disasters - short science articles

    While Twitter is filled with 'fake news', we expect the most active users of this platform to detect falsehood more so during public emergencies. Researchers studied four false rumours, two each from the Boston marathon and Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, 86-91% users spread the false news by retweeting or liking the original post and only 5-9% sought to confirm this false news. Worse only 1-9% people expressed doubt about the false news. Further, researchers found that even after Twitter and traditional media had debunked the false claims, less than 20% deleted their retweet or replaced it with a new correct tweet.

    Read the full story: University at Buffalo
    Scientific publication: Natural Hazards


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