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The Edge of Computing

Why Cold Computing Matters for Next Generation of Computing

July 3rd 2018

Oak Ridge Super Computer

Running computers at 77K and even 4K gives huge advantages in power efficiency and access to quantum computers. Nick Flaherty talks to Craig Hampel, Chief Scientist at Rambus (above), on the cold computing research projects the company is working on that will be commercialised in the next three to five years.

Power consumption is the major limiting factor for next generation computing systems, says Craig Hampel. Rambus has made its name in the development of memory sub-systems and is working with Microsoft on new low temperature memory technologies, says its chief scientist. This can lead to higher performance, lower power and extend Moore’s Law for up to a decade.

Read more ..

The Race for IoT

Truck Tires Become part of the IoT

March 26th 2018

Volvo truck

In a joint effort, automotive supplier Continental and mobile network provider Vodafone increase the safety level on county roads and highways: A digital data platform and smart tires are the ingredients of a system that ensures a higher safety level on the roads, especially for commercial vehicles: By monitoring critical tire parameters such as pressure and temperature via mobile radio and the ContinConnect platform, trucks and buses transmit tire temperature and pressure data to a central web portal. Fleet managers can monitor the data of all emergency vehicles at any time.

When the tire values reach a critical level, the system automatically sends an alarm to defined receivers, for example to the control center and the driver. If necessary, the platform then automatically offers corrective measures. ContiConnect thus prevents expensive punctures in commercial vehicles. It also helps to optimize the operating times of commercial vehicles. Vodafone's mobile network transmits data almost instantaneously around the world. The service is now available in the first markets and will in future operate across Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Australia.

Read more ..

The Digital Edge

IBM Computer the Size of a Grain of Salt Embeds in Everyday Objects

March 22nd 2018

Computer chips

IBM says it has developed the world's smallest computer – one that is smaller than a grain of salt.

Announced at the company's Think 2018 technology event, the IBM-designed edge device architecture and computing platform is a system-on-chip (SoC) with a processor, SRAM, storage, a communication module, and a photovoltaic cell for power. The micro-computer's processor comprises several hundred thousand transistors and is said to have a performance on par with an x86 CPU from 1990.

According to IBM, the device will cost less than ten cents to manufacture and can monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data. Within the next five years, the company says, such micro-computers will be embedded in everyday objects and devices as "cryptographic anchors" that - in tandem with blockchain's distributed ledger technology – will be used to help track and verify the authenticity of goods.

Read more ..

The Race for Smart Farming

Smart Farming Optimizes Transport of Perishable Crops

March 15th 2018

wheat fields

Researchers at the University of Illinois (Champaign, IL) have developed a mathematical model that determines the optimal time for transporting a grower's hand-picked crops from the field to cold storage.

Growers of such high-value perishable fresh produce, such as strawberries, face greater challenges than other producers looking to employ 'smart farming' technologies. Currently, most such technologies - which help growers harvest their crops faster and more efficiently - focus primarily on row crops like corn and soybeans.

"The large machines used to harvest row crops such as wheat, corn, and soybeans provide a natural platform for improving efficiency," says Richard Sowers, a professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering and of mathematics at the University of Illinois. "However, the story is radically different in high-value, hand-picked crops like strawberries, which may be many times more valuable per acre than corn. With hand-picked crops, precision agriculture lags significantly behind."

Read more ..

The Digital Era

Cheap Breathable Electronic Tattoo Sensors

March 2nd 2018

Woman Finge/Handr manicured

Experimenting with a cut-and-paste method they had developed a few years ago for epidermal electronics (more commonly known as electronic tattoos), a team of researchers from the University of Texas has managed to fabricate low-cost, breathable e-tattoos only 1.5μm thick.

They had initially developed the cut-and-paste method (whereby sensors and circuits are simply cut out of commercially available metalized polymer sheets using a benchtop programmable mechanical cutter plotter) as a low cost alternative to lab-based photolithography circuit patterning and transfer printing to tattoo paper.

A 1.5μm-thick multifunctional e-tattoo transferred
on a human chest, connected for data acquisition. The original cut-and-paste method, although cheaper and faster to implement than conventional microfabrication and transfer printing methods, was limited by the thickness of commercially available metalized polymer sheets (at least 13μm) and also required a medical-grade tape onto which the electronic tattoo sensors had to be pasted, further increasing thickness and reducing their breathability.

Read more ..

The Edge of History

Byzantine Church Discovered in Tunisia

February 22nd 2018

Sfax, Tunisia

A church dating from the late Byzantine period (5th - 7th century AD) was discovered at an archaeological site dubbed "Castilia," located between the cities of Tozeur and Degache in the Tozeur region of Tunisia. The archaeological excavations were carried out at the site by the National Heritage Institute (INP) of Tunisia and began in January and continued until the first week of February.

According to the first results of this discovery presented by the research team led by Mourad Chtioui of INP, and urban archeologist Bassem Ben Saad, the architecture of the church consists essentially of a main entrance or narthex, two secondary entrances, two annexes, and a circular monument. The area of ​​the church covers more than 465 square feet and measures about 10 feet high.

Read more ..

The Edge of Nature

Stronger Than Steel, Super Wood Can Cheaply Transform

February 10th 2018

Wildfire

Some varieties of wood, such as oak and maple, are renowned for their strength. But scientists say a simple and inexpensive new process can transform any type of wood into a material stronger than steel, and even some high-tech titanium alloys. Besides taking a star turn in buildings and vehicles, the substance could even be used to make bullet-resistant armor plates.

Wood is abundant and relatively low-cost—it literally grows on trees. And although it has been used for millennia to build everything from furniture to homes and larger structures, untreated wood is rarely as strong as metals used in construction. Researchers have long tried to enhance its strength, especially by compressing and “densifying” it, says Liangbing Hu, a materials scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. But densified wood tends to weaken and spring back toward its original size and shape, especially in humid conditions. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Taking Extreme Steps to Help Corals Survive

January 24th 2018

hydrothermal-vent

Coral reefs are bustling underwater cities that lie beneath tropical, sunlit waves. Thousands of colorful creatures click, dash and dart, as loud and as fast-paced as the citizens of any human city.

Built up in tissue-thin layers over millennia, corals are the high-rise apartment buildings of this underwater Gotham. Their calcium skeletons represent generations of tiny invertebrate animals. Jacketing them is a living layer of colorful coral polyps. Their complex structures offer shelter. And for some 114 species of fishes, and 51 species of invertebrates, those coral skyscrapers are lunch.

Important as they are, corals are in jeopardy.

Read more ..

The Edge of Space

Aliens Don't Exist—Or Do They?

January 12th 2018

Black hole pulling gas from nearby star

What do a strangely fading faraway star, an oddly shaped interstellar interloper in the solar system and a curious spate of UFO sightings by members of the U.S. military all have in common?

They are all mysterious, for one thing—eye-catchingly weird, yet still just hazy outlines that let the imagination run wild. All have recently generated headlines as possible signs of life and intelligence beyond Earth, of some mind-bogglingly advanced alien culture revealing its existence at last to our relatively primitive and planetbound civilization. Yet their most salient shared trait so far is the certainty they provoke in most scientists, who insist these developments represent nothing so sensational. Ask a savvy astronomer or physicist about any of these oddities, and they will tell you, as they have time and time before: It’s not aliens. In fact, it’s never aliens. Read more ..


The Cyber Edge

The Story Behind the Meltdown and Spectre Threats

January 6th 2018

Hacker keyboard

THe latest revelations that Intel,  AMD and ARM microprocessors have major security  
 IBM's first PC, 1981
vulnerabilities should have surprised no one. In 2004 IBM sold its PC group to the Chinese Lenovo, and Intel opened its first chip manufacturing plant in China in 2007, and other US-based companies, have been outsourcing the development and production of their technologies to foreign companies. So, while we shouldn't be surprised, we should demand to know why it took so long for those companies to admit that all the computers and other electronic devices we use are vulnerable and pose a direct threat to our national security. Read more ..


Weather on Edge

Mini Ice Age Could hit by 2030

January 2nd 2018

Washington Blizzard

Read more ..

The Rise of Man

Tibetan Plateau Discovery Shows Humans May Be Tougher Than We Thought

December 29th 2017

Potala Lhasa Tibet

The first humans venturing onto the Tibetan Plateau, often called the “roof of the world,” faced one of the most brutal environments our species can endure. At an average elevation of over 4,500 meters, it is a cold and arid place with half the oxygen present at sea level. Science has long held that humans did not set foot in this alien place until 15,000 years ago, as suggested by archaeological evidence of the earliest known settlement on the northeastern fringe of the plateau 3,000 meters above sea level. But now new genetic data indicate this may have occurred much earlier—possibly as far back as the last ice age, 62,000 years ago.

A better understanding of modern Tibetans’ genetic mix and diversity could help reconstruct the history of migration and population expansion in the region, and may help unravel the mystery of the ethnic origins of Tibetans—and of how humans have adapted to low-oxygen conditions at high altitudes. Read more ..


The Edge of the Internet

Google To Use Light Beams To Bring High-Speed Internet To India

December 18th 2017

Laser burst

Google’s moonshot factory, X Development LLC, is working with AP State FiberNet, a telecom company in Andhra Pradesh, India, to roll out two thousand Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) links as part of a collaborative effort to bring broadband to 12 million households.

Born out of the Loon project where Google aims to use high altitude balloons as base stations in the sky to enable internet access everywhere, especially in hard to reach or underdeveloped regions around the globe, FSOC links are based on light beams that deliver high speed connectivity over long distances without using fiber-optic cables.

Project Loon needed a way of transmitting data between balloon base stations to work. Engineers used FSOC links to achieve this over distances of over 100 km. The results of this work in the stratosphere brought the technology to ground to solve connectivity problems where fiber is too expensive or impractical.

Read more ..

The Race to AI

Self-taught Google AI Achieves 'superhuman' Chess Proficiency in Hours

December 14th 2017

Terminator Robot

Google's (Mountain View, CA) AlphaZero artificial intelligence (AI) program has achieved within 24 hours a "superhuman level" of play in the game of chess within hours of teaching itself the game from scratch, knowing only the game rules.

The algorithm was tested against Stockfish 8 , an open source computer chess engine considered to be among the strongest available. In a paper on the research, Google's DeepMind division reported that in 100 games played against Stockfish 8, AlphaZero won or drew all of them.

The AlphaZero algorithm is a generalized version of Google's AlphaGo Zero, which itself was an evolution of AlphaGo - the first computer program to defeat a world champion at the ancient Chinese game of Go. The original AlphaGo trained on thousands of human amateur and professional games to learn how to play Go, while AlphaGo Zero was able to teach itself to play Go from scratch, starting from completely random play.

Read more ..

The Health Edge

How Malaria Tricks ther Immune System

December 9th 2017

mosquito biting

Global efforts to eradicate malaria are crucially dependent on scientists’ ability to outsmart the malaria parasite. And Plasmodium falciparum is notoriously clever: it is quick to develop resistance against medications and has such a complex life cycle that blocking it effectively with a vaccine has thus far proved elusive. In a new study reported in Nature Communications, researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, together with collaborators in Ireland and Australia, have shown that P. falciparum is even more devious than previously thought: not only does it hide from the body’s immune defenses, it employs an active strategy to deceive the immune system.

among transmittable diseases, malaria is second only to tuberculosis in number of victims, putting at risk nearly half of Earth’s population. More than 200 million people become infected every year; about half a million die, most of them children under five years of age. “Malaria is one of the world’s most devastating diseases – it’s a true bane of low-income countries, where it kills a thousand young children every day,” says Dr. Neta Regev-Rudzki of Weizmann’s Department of Biomolecular Sciences. “To fight malaria, we need to understand the basic biology of Plasmodium falciparum and figure out what makes it such a dangerous killer.” Read more ..


Understanding Autism

Israeli Dad Shows How Newborns Can Be Screened For Autism

December 6th 2017

Black infant

Thirty years ago, a leading autism expert at UCLA diagnosed Raphael (Raffi) Rembrand’s four-year-old son – too late, at that point, for critical early-intervention therapies.

Three decades later, the Israeli father is fulfilling his dream of offering a simple noninvasive way to screen newborns for signs of autism, which is diagnosed in some three million children every year.

“One out of every 45 newborns this year will be diagnosed later in life with autism. The problem is that diagnosis is too late and based on behavior observations. SensPD is going to change all of that,” vows Rembrand, founder and CTO of a one-man startup based in the northern Israeli Arab village of Bosmat Tab’un.

The SensPD diagnostic process, now ready for clinical trials, uses the same instrument currently used in newborn nurseries and well-baby clinics to test infants’ hearing by measuring otoacoustic emissions (OAE). Rembrand’s novelty is using OAE measurement as an indicator of the baby’s overall sensory perception. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Scientists Unearth Revealing Details about the World’s Biggest Mud Volcano

November 17th 2017

Lava flow at Krafla

In May 2006 boiling mud, gas, water and rock started gushing out of the ground in northeastern Java, one of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The massive mud volcano—nicknamed “Lusi”—has continued to spew its hot contents even today, more than 11 years later. Experts say Lusi is the largest mud volcano in the world, now covering seven square kilometers of land. Since 2006 Lusi has dislocated some 60,000 people and caused more than $4 billion in economic damages.

Mud volcanoes are not actual volcanoes—their temperatures are much cooler, and they erupt a mix of rock, clay and mud rather than lava. Some say Lusi is a combination of these two systems, although others debate this. In fact, Lusi remains a mystery to scientists in many ways. One of the biggest and most contentious questions about Lusi concerns what triggered the eruptions: an earthquake or natural gas drilling? Now, in a new study, researchers have imaged the subsurface plumbing system of Lusi. Their work reveals that—regardless of what triggered the eruption—Lusi likely connects at deep depths to a nearby volcanic system. Read more ..


The Virtual Age

Perfecting Virtual Touch

November 10th 2017

Woman Finge/Handr manicured

Until recently largely focused on the design and manufacture of medical devices, 30-year old company Morgan Innovation & Technology Limited (MIAT) is now expanding its horizons, making others benefit from its inventions beyond the medical world.

One of the latest projects the company is pursuing for its diversification is the design of a glove-based touch simulation technology, dubbed RealSim. 

With RealSim, the company aims to provide the most realistic sensation of touch available in the market for virtual reality applications, ranging from gaming to training emergency services and hospital doctors to rehab or for military simulation exercises.

Based in Petersfield (Hampshire, UK) MIAT is not a huge company, having only about 38 employees. But as well as designing, manufacturing and commercializing its own medical devices, MIAT also helps others turn their ideas into products, with consultancy and a complete idea to manufacture service, in effect acting as an incubator. Although the company was originally founded in 1987 to market radio frequency (RF) lesion generators for back pain relief, it has taken a promising new turn.

Read more ..

The Edge of Disaster

Will Italy’s Ominous Supervolcano Erupt Soon?

October 14th 2017

Volcano erupting

Tragedy struck at the Solfatara volcano crater north of Naples a few weeks ago. An 11-year-old boy climbed over a low, wooden fence, ventured onto the chalky moonscape, and fell into an open fissure. His parents frantically tried to pull him out, just as the hollow floor of the crater crumbled, sending them all to their deaths in a gaseous pit of boiling gray mud, as the family’s seven-year-old boy watched in horror. The accident was a freak occurrence, responsible for the only recorded deaths on this crater in centuries. But those hot gases hold an ominous story: Solfatara is part of the massive Phlegrean Fields, a threatening supervolcano experts agree could begin erupting anytime. Read more ..


The Digital Age

Smart Phone Cameras Will be Able to See Behind Corners

October 12th 2017

Smart phone

Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (Cambridge, MA) have developed a system that can let smartphone cameras spot moving objects hidden from view around corners.

The researchers' imaging system uses light reflections to detect - in real time - objects or people in a hidden scene and to measure their speed and trajectory. The system, which could be used with smartphone cameras, holds promise for applications such as self-driving cars and search and rescue, say the researchers.

The system works by analyzing video of the shadow - called a " penumbra" - cast on the ground in the line of sight that is reflected by an object around a corner. Using imaging from the video, the system generates a series of one-dimensional images that - when stitched together - reveal information about the object(s) around the corner.

"Even though those objects aren't actually visible to the camera, we can look at how their movements affect the penumbra to determine where they are and where they're going," says Katherine Bouman, the lead author of a paper about the system. "In this way, we show that walls and other obstructions with edges can be exploited as naturally-occurring 'cameras' that reveal the hidden scenes beyond them."

Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Cars

GM Unveils First 'Real' Self-driving Car

October 11th 2017

car door

General Motors-owned Cruise Automation (San Francisco, CA) has unveiled its 3rd-generation self-driving car prototype.

Acquired by General Motors last year, the company - which operates as an independent unit - says its latest prototype represents "the world’s first mass-producible car designed to operate without a driver." The prototype is based on a Chevrolet Bolt EV and features "airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats."

"The car we’re unveiling today is actually our 3rd generation self-driving car, but it’s the first that meets the redundancy and safety requirements we believe are necessary to operate without a driver," says Cruise Automation CEO and founder Kyle Vogt. "There’s no other car like this in existence."

According to Vogt, the new 3rd-generation vehicle has almost completely new and fault-tolerant electrical, communication, and actuation systems that are unique to a driverless vehicle. In fact, he says, its core system architecture "more closely resembles that of a commercial airplane or spacecraft."

Read more ..

The Digital Age

Laser Strike Sensor System Geolocates Perpetrators

October 2nd 2017

Laser burst

Researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory (Lexington, MA) are developing sensors to defend aircraft against laser strikes to reduce dangers for commercial pilots.

Laser strikes - the use of high-power handheld lasers being aimed at aircraft - have been an increasing safety concern for commercial airliner pilots and passengers. However, the perpetrators of these incidents are rarely caught due to difficulty in identifying where a given laser beam may have originated.

Current solutions such as special pilot goggles or aircraft window tinting can reduce pilot visibility, and installing special sensors on commercial aircraft is too costly. Now, researchers at the Laser Technology and Applications and Air Traffic Control Systems groups at Lincoln laboratory are working on a ground-based camera sensor system that is capable of detecting the sources of such laser beam attacks.

Read more ..

Amazon on Edge

Amazon Developing Alexa-enabled Smart Glasses

September 25th 2017

Amazon box

Amazon reportedly working on its first wearable device - a pair of smart glasses.

According to the Financial Times , the glasses will allow Amazon's Alexa digital assistant to be summoned at any time. The only requirement,say reports, is that a smartphone needs to be nearby - similar to how the original Apple Watch operated.

The smart glasses are said to be designed to appear as a normal pair of glasses and will not include a display or camera. Instead of using a microphone and headphones for users to interact with Alexa, the glasses will use a behind-the-ear bone conduction audio system built into the frames.

Amazon has thus far not commented on the report. But the FT notes that Amazon hired Google Glass founder Babak Parviz in 2014, suggesting that a glasses project may have been in the works.

Read more ..

The Race for Autonomous Vehicles

Ford Explores Communication Between Autonomous Vehicles And Humans

September 19th 2017

Automated driving Mercedes Benz

Together with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Ford Motor Company is testing a system that enables autonomous vehicles and human drivers to communicate with each other. Ford uses a car that appears to be driving autonomously.

In everyday traffic, human road users communicate intuitively by small gestures: a short wave or nod is often enough to indicate that the other person is allowed to pass through. This element of communication is missing in autonomous cars. Ford is now testing how such a simple "gesture language" between robocar and human road users could look like.

When Daimler sent an autonomous Mercedes through the traffic in 2013, a fundamental weakness of the electronic chauffeurs became obvious: An elderly couple was waiting at a pedestrian crossing. The automatic Mercedes stopped allow the pedestrian to cross.

However, the two pedestrians made a gesture to make it clear that they would prefer the car to drive first. The computer on board the Mercedes didn't understand the hint and insisted on not continuing until after the pedestrians. The deadlock situation could only be resolved after the human safety driver intervened.

Read more ..

The Edge of Farming

Leaf Sensors tells Farmers when Plants are Thirsty

September 4th 2017

Leaf

Researchers at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences (University Park, PA) have developed a plant leaf sensor that can continuously monitor water stress in plants.

Continuous monitoring of plant "water stress" can help let farmers know when to activate irrigation systems, preventing both water waste and parched plants. Traditionally this has been done by measuring soil moisture content or with the use of models that calculate ground surface evaporation and plant transpiration .

But, say the researchers, water-use efficiency could be improved with new technology that is able to more accurately detect when plants need to be watered. The leaf sensor they developed can do just that, by simultaneously measuring, for the first time, both leaf thickness and leaf electrical capacitance - the ability of a leaf to store a charge.

"Leaf thickness is like a balloon — it swells by hydration and shrinks by water stress, or dehydration," says lead researcher Amin Afzal. "The mechanism behind the relationship between leaf electrical capacitance and water status is complex. Simply put, the leaf electrical capacitance changes in response to variation in plant water status and ambient light. So, the analysis of leaf thickness and capacitance variations indicate plant water status — well-watered versus stressed."

The researchers performed their tests by mounting leaf sensors on random leaves of a tomato plant in a growth chamber under controlled temperature and lighting conditions. Measurements were recorded at five-minute intervals.

Read more ..

The Genetic Edge

Genetically Modified Moths Fly to New York

August 29th 2017

Moth

How do you fight an insect that inflicts billions of dollars of crop damage every year, an invader that has spread to every inhabited continent and has a talent for evolving resistance to every new chemical designed to poison it? Maybe—just maybe—by releasing more of the same insect.

This summer thousands of moths will be taking to the sky over a cabbage patch in upstate New York. Bred in a laboratory, the male bugs carry a gene designed to kill progeny they sire with wild female moths feasting on the cabbage. This genetic time bomb is an emerging tool for keeping agricultural pest populations in check, made possible by ever-improving methods for editing DNA.

Over the coming months, before winter kills the moths, researchers at Cornell University will monitor how well their modified pets compete against wild cousins for mates. If all goes well, this small-scale experiment could be a step toward commercializing the genetically engineered diamondback moths, made by a British company called Oxitec. Read more ..


The Harvey Catastrophe

Hurricane Harvey: Why Is It So Extreme?

August 29th 2017

Hurricane Isabel

Hurricane Harvey is drowning southeastern Texas for the fourth day, putting a vast area under feet of water. Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures.

Why did Hurricane Harvey so quickly explode from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4?
Last Wednesday night, August 23, Harvey was a tropical depression, but after just eight overnight hours it was forming a hurricane eye wall. “That’s remarkably fast,” Masters says. On Friday it rapidly ballooned from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4. That is because it happened to pass over a region of extremely warm ocean water called an eddy. This spot of hot water was 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the Gulf of Mexico around it, which itself was already 1 to 2 degrees F higher than average, reaching 85 or 86 degrees F in places. The hotter the water, the more energy it drives into a storm. Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans in 2005, also mushroomed to Category 4 in a similar fashion because it, too, passed over a hot eddy in the Gulf. Read more ..


The Race for BioFuel

The Future of Biofuel Isn’t Corn—It’s Algae

August 16th 2017

algae

When they hear “biofuel,” people tend to assume you’re talking about corn. That makes sense, given that corn is anticipated to provide 80 percent of this year’s ethanol production — much more, say, than algae — until we consider a few numbers.

By all accounts, microalgae is less land-intensive than corn production, and although it can pull double duty, providing high-quality feed for fish farms, it doesn’t compete with food crops. Furthermore, even by by the largely pro-corn Renewable Fuel Association’s water-consumption standards, corn ethanol is a thirsty fuel: Drinking 2.8 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel refined, corn is often outclassed in efficiency by algae-based fuels. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Food Color for Health

August 16th 2017

nurse w/stethoscope

Pigments made by beets may help boost resistance to disease and the nutrition value of crops.

Color in the plant kingdom is not merely a joy to the eye. Colored pigments attract pollinating insects, they protect plants against disease, they confer health benefits, and are used in the food and drug industries. A new study conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, has now opened the way to numerous potential uses of betalains, the highly nutritious red-violet and yellow pigments known for their antioxidant properties and commonly used as food dyes.

Betalains are made by cactus fruit, flowers such as bougainvillea, and certain edible plants – most notably, beets. They are relatively rare in nature, compared to the two other major groups of plant pigments, and until recently, their synthesis in plants was poorly understood. Prof. Asaph Aharoni of Weizmann’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Dr. Guy Polturak, then a research student, along with other team members, used two betalain-producing plants – red beet (Beta vulgaris) and four o’clock flowers (Mirabilis jalapa) – in their analysis. Read more ..


The Edge of Cyber

Iot Devices Becoming 'Cyberweapon Of Choice' For Attackers

August 14th 2017

Shadowy Computer User

A new report from cloud and security solution provider F5 Labs (Seattle, WA) examines how attackers have developed botnets - or "thingbots" - to target IoT devices.

IoT devices, says F5, have become "the cyberweapon delivery system of choice" for attackers building botnets - collections of Internet-connected devices that are infected and controlled by a common type of malware. Botnets can overwhelm systems with traffic with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, steal data, send spam, and allow an attacker access to the device and its connection.

According to the latest report, IoT attack activity grew 280% from the prior six-month period. This included "massive growth" due to the Mirai malware - which turns networked devices running Linux into remotely controlled bots that can then be used as part of a botnet - and subsequent attacks.

Read more ..

The Race for AI

Is Artificial Intelligence an Existential Threat?

August 6th 2017

Terminator Robot

It is not unusual for disrupting technologies to be embraced and feared—and not necessarily in that order. That was and will continue to be true for all technologies that bring both benefit and risk; it is a duality in which many technologies have to exist. Examples throughout history have been the airplane, the automobile, unmanned weapons systems, and now even software – especially the software which powers artificial intelligence (AI).

Last week at a U.S. governors’ conference, Elon Musk, the CEO of the engineering companies SpaceX and Tesla, reportedly told the assembled politicians that “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization,” sounding the alarm bell. This is not the first time Musk has expressed this concern, he’s done so as early as 2014. Many have branded him a Cassandra, and if he is, he’s not a lone-wolf Cassandra; he’s joined in those views by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and other experts. It is not surprising there is an equal number of experts who question Musk’s concern and believe his alarm bell is tolling for a non-existent threat.

Read more ..

The Race for EVs

Electric Vehicle Taps Solar to Recharge

July 31st 2017

Sunrise or Sunset

Startup company Sono Motors (Munich, Germany) has launched its debut feature: An electric vehicle that obtains its power not only through the grid, but also through solar cells integrated on its surface. Also, the Sion is up-to-date in terms of connectivity and IT-supported usage models.

The surface of the vehicle is covered with a total of 330 solar cells that are integrated into the roof, doors, the trunk lid and the front bonnet. Of course the energy these solar cells provide does not suffice to drive the four-seater completely, but as long as the car sees the sun they contribute to charging the batteries – according to the company they generate enough electricity to add some extra 30 kilometers per day.

The battery stores enough electricity for a 250 kilometer ride – not bad, given the competitive environment such as BMW’s i3 (maximum 160 km, and all that at a price tag of 30.000+ euros). The Sion, in contrast will cost 16.000 euros – and buyers have the choice to either buy the battery (for some 4000 euros) or rent it. Another unique feature of the electric system is that it can be used as power source, providing up to 2.7 kilowatts (DC) through the standard plug or up to 7.6 kW through an optional Type 2 connector. The bidirectionality of the electric system also enables the car to pump electricity back to the grid if required – a prerequisite to establish smart grids.

Read more ..

The Digital Age

Little Brother Is Watching

July 30th 2017

Man cupping his ear

Creepy playthings can record kids' conversations, track their movements, reveal their location and even allow perverts to TALK to them directly. PARENTS have been urged to steer clear of “spy toys” designed to snoop on innocent kids’ lives in terrifying detail.

The FBI has issued an urgent notice concerning toys that are packed full of sensors, cameras and microphones to record a child’s words and GPS locators to track their whereabouts.

“Smart toys and entertainment devices for children are increasingly incorporating technologies that learn and tailor their behaviours based on user interactions,” it wrote in a statement. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Ancient DNA Counters Biblical Story of Canaanites

July 28th 2017

Neanderthal and Human skulls

When the pharaohs ruled Egypt and the ancient Greeks built their first cities, a mysterious people called the Canaanites dominated the Near East. Around 4000 years ago, they built cities across the Levant, which includes present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and part of Syria. Yet the Canaanites left no surviving written records, leaving researchers to piece together their history from secondhand sources.

One of those sources is the Bible’s Old Testament, which documents a grisly end for the Canaanites: After the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, they swept into Canaan and annihilated its people. But did that really happen? Archaeological data suggests that Canaanite cities were never destroyed or abandoned. Now, ancient DNA recovered from five Canaanite skeletons suggests that these people survived to contribute their genes to millions of people living today. Read more ..


The Digital Age

After 17 Years, Trump Finally Ends America's Y2K Prep Program

July 21st 2017

Computers multiple

We can finally say good-bye to the threat of the Y2K bug. Twenty years after preparations began the federal government is ending requirements to track the so-called Y2K bug.

In 1997, actions were begun to avert what some thought was a coming catastrophe.  Many electronic systems formatted a year’s date using only the final two digits.  Such as 97, 98, and 99.  It was thought that systems would mistake the year 2000 as the 1900 creating unimaginable havoc.

Government at the federal, state and local levels prepared for the worst.  So did business.

Some predicted a disaster of epic proportions.  In the end, the year 2000 came and went.  With a whimper. Read more ..


The Race for Hyperloop

Futuristic Hyperloop Delivers an Exciting Status Check

July 11th 2017

silver robot

What is Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is on track to be the next great transformation in mass transportation. The concept is simple: a network of on-demand, electrodynamically levitated pods traveling in evacuated tubes at 95% of the speed of sound. The term 'Hyperloop' was first coined in 2012 by technology billionaire and serial entrepreneur, Elon Musk. It is a radically new concept of point-to-point travel at speeds over 700mph, covering the distance between Edinburgh and London in 35 minutes.

How could Hyperloop influence the way that we travel in the future?

The implications of a Hyperloop corridor are immense; intercity commuting becomes comparable to taking the metro, injecting economic stimulus throughout the country and creating a superproductive population. Beyond connecting cities, Hyperloop has the potential to combine separate airports into terminals of an integrated airport network. Read more ..


The Edge of Physics

LHC Physicists Unveil a Charming New Particle

July 8th 2017

CERN CMS Endcap

Physicists using the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, have discovered a new kind of heavy particle, they announced this week at a conference in Venice.

The particle, known as Xi-cc++ (pronounced “Ksī-CC plus-plus”), is composed of three smaller elementary particles called quarks—specifically, one lighter-weight “up” quark like those found in protons and neutrons as well as two “charm” quarks, which are a heavier and more exotic variety. (The designations “up” and “charm” are two of the six “flavors” physicists assigned to quarks based on the particles’ varying masses and charges.) The Standard Model of particle physics predicts Xi-cc++ and many other possible particles with various configurations of the six known flavors of quarks.

But until now such “doubly charmed” particles had eluded conclusive detection. Further studies of the new particle—and other members of the doubly charmed particle family—could reinforce the Standard Model or lead to new vistas in particle physics. Either way, the new particle could be a tool to unlock a deeper understanding of the fundamental “strong” force that binds quarks together to form protons and neutrons, which in turn form atoms—as well as planets, stars, galaxies and people. Read more ..


The Edge of Amazon

Amazon Patents Drone Tower

July 6th 2017

Amazon Box2

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery.

The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up.

Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. However, the centers would be designed to blend in with other high-rise buildings in the area.

Amazon completed its first successful delivery by drone last December in a small town located near Cambridge, England. According to the company, the "Prime Air" delivery was accomplished in 13 minutes "from click to delivery."

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery. The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up. Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. However, the centers would be designed to blend in with other high-rise buildings in the area. Amazon completed its first successful delivery by drone last December in a small town located near Cambridge, England. According to the company, the "Prime Air" delivery was accomplished in 13 minutes "from click to delivery."

Originally filed in late 2015, the patent application describes the concept as a "multi-level fulfillment center designed to accommodate landing and takeoff of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)." In addition, unlike conventional fulfillment warehouses - which are typically located outside of cities where space is available - the new fulfillment center concept is designed to be located in an urban setting, "such as in a densely populated area," allowing quicker delivery.

The new concept is not intended as drone only. The application indicates that it could also support traditional deliveries, including by ground vehicles, as well as self service pick-up. Externally, the tower concept may include "apertures" - of many possible shapes - to allow authorized UAVs to enter and exit the center. Read more ..


Scientists Suggest Light Momentum Carried By Atomic Shock Wave

July 5th 2017

Nagasaki_Bomb

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here:

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added.

The researchers are working on potential optomechanical applications enabled by the optical shock wave of atoms predicted by the new theory. However, the theory applies not only to transparent liquids and solids but also to dilute interstellar gas. Thus, if verified the theory could have implications for astronomy and cosmology

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here:

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added.

The researchers are working on potential optomechanical applications enabled by the optical shock wave of atoms predicted by the new theory. However, the theory applies not only to transparent liquids and solids but also to dilute interstellar gas. Thus, if verified the theory could have implications for astronomy and cosmology

Finnish scientists have shed some light on 100 year-old paradox that there have been two different values for the momentum of light in a transparent medium and that typically, these values differ by a factor of ten.

The paradox that light has momentum but does not have mass is another matter.

Researchers from Aalto University have published a paper in Physics Review A that claims to show that the propagation of light in a transparent medium is associated with the transfer of atomic mass density. The passage of the photon through the medium sets the atoms in motion and a propagation wave of those atoms carries a significant part of the total momentum of the light. In the case of silicon this atomic wave carries 92 percent of the total momentum of light.

To solve the momentum paradox the paper's authors show that the special theory of relativity requires an additional atomic density wave or shock wave to travel with the photon. The total momentum of light is split into two components. The photonic share of momentum is equal to the Abraham momentum while the total momentum, which also includes the momentum of atoms driven forward by the optical force, is equal to the Minkowski momentum.

An explanatory video can be seen here

"Since our work is theoretical and computational it must be still verified experimentally, before it can become a standard model of light in a transparent medium," said researcher Mikko Partanen, in a statement. "This should be feasible using present interferometric and microscopic techniques and common photonic materials," he added. Read more ..


The Digital Age

Always-on Face Recognition Promised by New Chip

June 19th 2017

Baby Boomer

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed a Convolutional Neural Network Processor on silicon that they combined with a custom made image sensor to perform face recognition with a 97% accuracy while only drawing 0.62mW.

Using such embedded artificial intelligence, the researchers claim their solution consumed only 1/5000 the power that would be required by a GPU performing the same tasks.

This unique processor owes its incredibly low power consumption thanks to its CNN whose circuitry, architecture, and algorithms have all gone through optimization steps. On-chip memory has been integrated in the CNNP so it could be read in a vertical direction as well as in a horizontal direction, reports KAIST.

In the CNNP, 1024 multipliers and accumulators operate in parallel and the chip is capable of directly transferring the temporal results to any of those without access to external memory or to an on-chip communication network.

Read more ..


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