Human vs Computer Intelligence

The NYTimes is running an article regarding tests devised to differentiate from human and computer intelligence. One example are captchas, which can consists of a picture of words, angled and superimposed. A human will be able to read past the superposition, while a computer will not, and thus fails the test. It also goes a bit into some of Turing’s predictions of what computers would be like by the year 2000.
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Cloned Cells Reboot Cow Immune Systems

Implanted stem cells from cloned embryos have rebooted the immune system of elderly cows, according to a report from US cloning leaders Advance Cell Technology.

If the approach works in humans it could help treat autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease, says Robert Lanza, medical director of Massachusetts-based ACT. It could also help with afflictions of age such as pneumonia. More here.

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Court Ruling Rewrites Internet Law

Australia’s highest court handed down a landmark ruling on Tuesday that critics said would hamper freedom of speech on the Internet and force publishers to handle online material more cautiously.

In what is believed to be a world first, the High Court said online publishers could be sued for defamation in the place where their material is viewed, not the country of origin where it is uploaded.

The court unanimously dismissed an appeal by international news service Dow Jones to have a defamation action brought by mining magnate Joseph Gutnick heard in the United States, rather than Australia. More here.

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Ultra Efficient Solar Cells On The Way

Researchers in the Materials Sciences Division (MSD) of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, working with crystal-growing teams at Cornell University and Japan’s Ritsumeikan University, have learned that the band gap of the semiconductor indium nitride is not 2 electron volts (2 eV) as previously thought, but instead is a much lower 0.7 eV.

The serendipitous discovery means that a single system of alloys incorporating indium, gallium, and nitrogen can convert virtually the full spectrum of sunlight – from the near infrared to the far ultraviolet – to electrical current. More here.

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Worrying May Be Good For Your Health

Results from a new study at the University of Arkansas show that worrying actually may have healthful benefits – shielding people from the effects of anxiety, at least in the short term.

These protective benefits stem from the way people process potentially threatening information, explained Nathan Williams, assistant professor of psychology and lead investigator on the study.

While anxiety tends to arise from fearful imagery, worry manifests in the form of words, Williams said. This difference is not just a matter of form, but it represents a difference in the way the brain interprets, processes and responds to information. Mental images have more instantaneous power to evoke emotional reaction, and this can lead to less logical, less effective responses to threatening information.

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Tornado in a Can

Inside the corrugated tin shed that serves as the top-secret test site for Vortex Dehydration Technology’s strange new invention, Frank Polifka cranks open a valve and unleashes the force of a tornado.

Compressed air rushes into an eight-foot-tall steel cone and whirls counterclockwise at tremendous speeds, producing winds capable of turning rock into dust. It also emits a knee-buckling shriek that prompts Polifka to clap his hands over his ears and sends others staggering away.

Visitors want to know whether it really offers a new technology for mining precious metals, pulverizing trash, grinding concrete into a powder that can be reconstituted with water.

But the keenest interest so far is from poultry people who are watching closely to see whether it can revolutionize the way billions of pounds of chicken byproducts — the feet, feathers, heads and entrails that don’t end up in the supermarket — are processed.

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World’s Fastest Maglev Train Set for Lift-off

The world’s first magnetic levitation passenger train will begin running on 1 January 2003 in Shanghai, Chinese officials have announced.

The train has reached 500 kilometres per hour (312 miles per hour) in testing and will carry passengers at a top speed above 400 km/h (250 mph).

The Transrapid 08 will transport travellers between Pudong International Airport and Shanghai’s financial district, a distance of 30 kilometres. It will cover this route in just seven minutes. It will be the fastest commercial train in the world.
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Eye Microchip To Restore Sight

Scientists are developing an electronic eye implant which they believe could help millions of people to see again.
The microchip works by stimulating cells around the retina. This in turn stimulates cells in the brain, helping people to see once more.

Tests on animals have shown that the tiny microchip can restore sight.

US Government scientists, who are spearheading the project, believe they could have a human implant within three years.
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Magnetic Fields in the form of Fractals Add New Dimension to Electronics

When it comes to miniature electronics, scientists have seen the shape of things to come — and that shape is a fractal.

People most often see fractals in the familiar, irregular branching shapes of nature — a leaf, or tree, or snowflake. A repeating pattern of ever-smaller branches gives these structures a unique profile that defies classical geometry.

Now a study suggests that magnetic fields can take the form of fractals, too — if a magnet is made of plastic molecules that are stacked in parallel chains. More here.

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Sound Waves May Replace Refrigerants

Scientists said Wednesday they have developed technology that converts sound waves into refrigeration, which could lead to more environmentally efficient household and industrial products.

The research team, led by Steven Garrett, professor of acoustics at Pennsylvania State University in College Park, said the thermoacoustics process could be a viable alternative to chemical refrigerants.

Thermoacoustics can work both ways, by removing heat or adding heat. Scientists used tweaked loudspeakers to create high amplitude sound waves in the air.

The amplitude levels were far higher than those at rock concerts, where the decibel level is around 120. At 165 decibels, the sound level is so intense the friction could set fire to hair as gas undergoes such huge acoustic undulations.
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The Perils of Futurist Parenting

James Hughes: When my kids asked “Are there really unicorns?” I answered “Not yet.” That’s when I realized there were challenges to being a futurist and a parent.

Chats about what kids will do when they grow up get tricky when you’re sure that most work will be automated, and that any jobs they may be lucky enough to hold probably haven’t even been imagined yet. Yes there will be veterinarians, but they will probably tend industrial meat-vats or service lines of cloned designer pets.

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‘Recreating the Big Bang’ Experiment

Scientists have recreated a temperature not seen since the first microsecond of the birth of the universe and found that the event did not unfold quite the way they expected, according to a recent paper in Physical Review Letters. The interaction of energy, matter, and the strong nuclear force in the ultra-hot experiments conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was thought to be well understood, but a lengthy investigation has revealed that physicists are missing something in their model of how the universe works.
More here.

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