Science and Technology in the News part 2
Science and Technology in the News part 1 is here
Computer modeling: brain in a box
23 February 2012
Henry Markram’s controversial proposal for the Human Brain Project (HBP) — an effort to build a supercomputer simulation that integrates everything known about the human brain, from the structures of ion channels in neural cell membranes up to mechanisms behind conscious decision-making — may soon fulfill his ambition.
The project is one of six finalists vying to win €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) as one of the European Union’s two new decade-long Flagship initiatives.
The HBP would integrate these discoveries, he said, and create models to explore how neural circuits are organized, and how they give rise to behavior and cognition. Ultimately, said Markram, the HBP would even help researchers to grapple with disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
He proposed to model everything, “from the genetic level, the molecular level, the neurons and synapses, how microcircuits are formed, macrocircuits, mesocircuits, brain areas — until we get to understand how to link these levels, all the way up to behavior and cognition.”
The computer power required to run such a grand unified theory of the brain: roughly an exaflop, or 1018 operations per second, to be available in exascale computers by the 2020s.
So far, his team at he Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) has simulated 100 interconnected columns.
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The Blue Brain Project is the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction through detailed simulations.
Once you start building a brain in a box you get two things: admission into the Mad Scientists’ Club, and a chance to speak at TED. Henry Markram is the director of the Blue Brain Project, a collaboration between European scientists and IBM that aims to construct a life-like simulation of a brain using a supercomputer. Earlier this year Markram spoke at TED Global discussing how most of human perception is based on decision making within the brain.....
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Henry Markram's model of a brain is built one neuron at a time
10 Year Documentary To Follow Bluebrain Project (Video) Singularity Hub Feb. 12, 2010
Researchers say galaxy may swarm with 'nomad planets'
Nomad planets don't circle stars, but may carry bacterial life, say researchers from Kavli Institute.
From stanford News
By Andy Freeberg
Our galaxy may be awash in homeless planets, wandering through space instead of orbiting a star.
In fact, there may be 100,000 times more "nomad planets" in the Milky Way than stars, according to a new study by researchers at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), a joint institute of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
If observations confirm the estimate, this new class of celestial objects will affect current theories of planet formation and could change our understanding of the origin and abundance of life.
"If any of these nomad planets are big enough to have a thick atmosphere, they could have trapped enough heat for bacterial life to exist," said Louis Strigari, leader of the team that reported the result in a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Although nomad planets don't bask in the warmth of a star, they may generate heat through internal radioactive decay and tectonic activity ...
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the “Hundred Year Starship,”
has received $100,000 from NASA and $ 1 million from
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
The Director of NASA’s Ames Center, Pete Worden has announced an initiative to move space flight to the next level. This plan, dubbed the “Hundred Year Starship,” has received $100,000 from NASA and $ 1 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He made his announcement on Oct. 16. Worden is also hoping to include wealthy investors in the project. NASA has yet to provide any official details on the project.
Worden also has expressed his belief that the space agency was now directed toward settling other planets. However, given the fact that the agency has been redirected toward supporting commercial space firms, how this will be achieved has yet to be detailed. Details that have been given have been vague and in some cases contradictory.
The Ames Director went on to expound how these efforts will seek to emulate the fictional starships seen on the television show Star Trek. He stated that the public could expect to see the first prototype of a new propulsion system within the next few years. Given that NASA’s FY 2011 Budget has had to be revised and has yet to go through Appropriations, this time estimate may be overly-optimistic.
One of the ideas being proposed is a microwave thermal propulsion system. This form of propulsion would eliminate the massive amount of fuel required to send crafts into orbit. The power would be “beamed” to the space craft. Either a laser or microwave emitter would heat the propellant, thus sending the vehicle aloft. This technology has been around for some time, but has yet to be actually applied in a real-world vehicle.
The project is run by Dr. Kevin L.G. Parkin who described it in his PhD thesis and invented the equipment used. Along with him are David Murakami and Creon Levit. One of the previous workers on the program went on to found his own company in the hopes of commercializing the technology used ...
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... One of the ideas being proposed is a microwave thermal propulsion system. This form of propulsion would eliminate the massive amount of fuel required to send crafts into orbit. The power would be “beamed” to the space craft. Either a laser or microwave emitter would heat the propellant, thus sending the vehicle aloft. This technology has been around for some time, but has yet to be actually applied in a real-world vehicle. ...
I'm very circumspect that you cannot maintain enough efficiency for long enough to make that method worthwhile. You may as well trail a pair of high voltage cables to directly conduct electrical power.
Or even seed an ionized trail to convey electrical power along an 'artificial long lasting' lightning bolt between the ground and the launch craft... (That would make for some visually spectacular launches! :-) )
See new freedom Mageia3
Mandriva Linux A user friendly OS!
The Future is what We make IT (GPLv3)
thanks Martin for your comment.
Hello fellow SETI@home cruncher
What do you think about the following :-) ???
South Africa Wins scientific Panel's Backing to Host Square Kilometer Array Scope
By Geoff Brumfiel and Nature magazine | March 12, 2012
The telescope is so sensitive that it could even pick up television signals
from distant worlds —
something that might aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence
A scientific panel has narrowly recommended South Africa over Australia as the best site for the proposed Square Kilometre Array (SKA), an enormous radio telescope (see "Astronomy in South Africa: The long shot"). But the project's member states have yet to make a final decision on where the telescope will go.
The SKA Site Advisory Committee's decision was first reported on March 10 in the Sydney Morning Herald. A source familiar with the site-selection process confirmed to Nature that the panel had indeed made a decision, but added that it was a close call. "This is not an enormous preference for one over the other," he says. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)
The $2.1-billion SKA radio telescope will be made up of some 3,000 dishes, each 15 meters in diameter. The project will try to answer big questions about the early universe: how the first elements heavier than helium formed, for example, and how the first galaxies coalesced. The telescope is so sensitive that it could even pick up television signals from distant worlds—something that might aid in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence
Since 2006, South Africa has competed against a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand to host the project. The South African site has some compelling advantages: construction costs are lower, and it sits at a higher altitude. But the Australian site would be cheaper to insure, and is less likely to be encroached on by future development. The margin in favour of the winner was extremely narrow, the source says.
Members of the SKA's board will meet on March 19 in Manchester, UK, to discuss the scientific panel's recommendations. The closed meeting will also provide the two bidders with the opportunity to contest any of the panel's recommendations. After the meeting, the SKA's board will write a commentary to accompany the recommendation, which will inform the final decision.
According to Nature's source, because the two sites are so close in merit, both are still in contention. China, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands—the SKA voting board members—could yet decide either way. It is even possible that the array could be shared between both nations, although this would probably increase the construction costs.
A final site decision could come as soon as April 4, when a meeting of the board is tentatively scheduled in Amsterdam.
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Square Kilometer Array