Richard is a freelance writer and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. He’s contributed to Ars Technica, Edge Magazine, Polygon, and many other publications. When not writing or trying to read the entire internet, you’ll likely find him dancing, playing games, dabbling in creative stuff, or learning about whatever catches his eye.
Autopilot systems for yachts and inboard boats are a common backup that gives the captain an occasional rest. But these systems are designed to react to changes in conditions after they occur, which may be too late in certain circumstances, whereas the safest, most ideal system will preempt threats and react in anticipation of a coming danger. Google and others have been developing such systems for driverless cars for years, and now a startup spun out of the University at Buffalo hopes to sell preemptive marine autopilot systems to small and mid-size recreational boat owners.
Our brains are wondrous, incredible machines. They're slower than the earliest personal computers in terms of raw processing power, yet capable of leaps of intuition and able to store a lifetime of memories that are cross-referenced and instantly-accessible at the slightest prompting. We know so very little about how they do these things, however. But imagine for a moment if we could build a complete wiring diagram of a human brain – to map in detail every one of the hundred trillion or so synapses and roughly hundred billion neurons together with all the tiniest supporting mechanisms. What might that mean, and would it even be possible?
Just as drones have transformed wildlife conservation and illegal fishing patrols, they may soon make a big impression on forest conservation. Unmanned aerial vehicles could replace people in monitoring forest regeneration projects in the tropics, with consequent savings in time and money as well as much-improved data collection.
Different patients with the same type of cancer can have different
responses to the same medication, which leaves doctors in a tough spot:
how do they know which treatment will have the best response? If they
get it right, their patient may enter remission; but if they're wrong
the patient's health will deteriorate. Now researchers at Western
University might have the answer. They developed machine learning
algorithms – a branch of artificial intelligence – that crunch genetic
data to determine the most likely treatment response and allow more
personalized treatment regimens.
Brief bursts of radio waves arriving from far-off galaxies could help astronomers estimate cosmological distances and piece together a 3D map of matter in the universe. If everything checks out, a new technique proposed by two cosmologists from the University of British Columbia will offer an independent metric – set apart from the uncertainties and systemic biases of existing methods – in plotting the large structures of the cosmos.
You'd think that a planet with permanent day and night sides would be totally inhospitable. Without a sun to warm it up, the dark side would be freezing cold all the time. And with no respite from the solar onslaught, the light side would be scorching hot. But a new study suggests that exoplanets with this very predicament might in fact be habitable.
A new system for growing heart tissue in the lab may make future heart, liver, and lung repair much easier. University of Toronto scientists have developed asymmetrical honeycomb-shaped 2D meshes of protein scaffolding that stick together like Velcro and imitate the environments in which tissue and muscle cells grow in the body.
A robot-assisted system developed at the University of Twente promises
to make medical procedures that use needles more precise. The system
allows flexible needles to be steered in real time to their target,
which negates issues with tissue and organs deforming from the contact
pressure or from any unforeseen obstacles that lie between the needle
and its target.
Scientists have long believed that while an atom's outer electrons are highly mobile and often behave somewhat chaotically, the inner electrons close to the nucleus are stable. They move steadily around the nucleus and stay out of each other's way. But new research reveals that if the pressure is really extreme, like double that found at the center of the Earth, the innermost electrons of an atom change their behavior.
Tiny 3D-printed robotic fish smaller than the width of a human hair may one day deliver drugs to specific places in our bodies and sense and remove toxins, thanks to research at the University of California, San Diego. The so-called microfish are self-propelled, magnetically steered, and powered by hydrogen peroxide nanoparticles. And they might be just the first chip off the block for a future filled with "smart" microbots inspired by other biological organisms such as birds, each with its own specialized functionality.