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DARPA's New Project Is Investing Millions in Brain-Machine Interface Tech

DARPA's New Project Is Investing Millions in Brain-Machine Interface Tech

When Elon Musk and DARPA both hop aboard the cyborg hypetrain, you know brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) are about to achieve the impossible. BMIs, already the stuff of science fiction, facilitate crosstalk between biological wetware with external computers, turning human users into literal cyborgs. Yet mind-controlled robotic arms, microelectrode “nerve patches”, or “memory Band-Aids” are still purely experimental medical treatments for those with nervous system impairments. With the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, DARPA is looking to expand BMIs to the military....

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Shelly Fan
June 7, 2019
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A Massive New Gene Editing Project Is Out to Crush Alzheimer’s

A Massive New Gene Editing Project Is Out to Crush Alzheimer’s

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.When it comes to Alzheimer’s versus science, science is on the losing side.Alzheimer’s is cruel in the most insidious way. The disorder creeps up in some aging brains, gradually eating away at their ability to think and reason, whittling down their grasp on memories and reality. As the world’s population ages, Alzheimer’s is rearing its ugly head at a shocking rate. And despite decades of research, we have no treatment—not to mention a cure.Too...

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Shelly Fan
Apr 13
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This Stingray-Like Soft Robot Made It 35,000 Feet Below Sea Level—and Thrived There

This Stingray-Like Soft Robot Made It 35,000 Feet Below Sea Level—and Thrived There

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.While all eyes were on the dramatic descent of NASA’s last month, a team into another alien world, one closer to home: the deep sea.With its towering undersea mountains, dramatic geological features, and unique creatures—many of which remain mysterious—the deep sea is the last uncharted environment on Earth. The inaccessibility isn’t surprising. Sinking any intrepid explorer into blackened waters means facing freezing temperatures and crushing...

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Shelly Fan
Mar 9
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How Scientists Used Ultrasound to Read Monkeys' Minds

How Scientists Used Ultrasound to Read Monkeys' Minds

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.Thanks to neural implants, mind reading is no longer .As I’m writing this sentence, a tiny chip with arrays of electrodes could sit on my brain, listening in on the crackling of my neurons firing as my hands dance across the keyboard. Sophisticated algorithms could then decode these electrical signals in real time. My brain’s inner language to plan and move my fingers could then be used to guide a hand to do the same. Mind-to-machine control,...

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Shelly Fan
Mar 30
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Scientists Created an Artificial Early Embryo From Human Skin Cells

Scientists Created an Artificial Early Embryo From Human Skin Cells

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.We all know how human reproduction works: sperm meets egg, fertilized egg kicks off its journey, transforms into a human embryo, then becomes a fetus and ultimately a baby.But what if boy meets girl isn’t the only way?Last week, in Nature torpedoed the classic narrative of the beginning of life. Two independent teams coaxed ordinary skin cells into a living cluster that resembled a fertilized human egg—and the very first stages of a developing...

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Shelly Fan
Mar 23
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Quantum Computing and Reinforcement Learning Are Joining Forces to Make Faster AI

Quantum Computing and Reinforcement Learning Are Joining Forces to Make Faster AI

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.Deep reinforcement learning is having a superstar moment.Powering smarter robots. Simulating human neural networks. Trouncing physicians at medical diagnoses and crushing humanity’s best gamers at Go and . While far from achieving the flexible, quick thinking that comes naturally to humans, this powerful machine learning idea seems unstoppable as a harbinger of better thinking machines.Except there’s a massive roadblock: they take forever to run....

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Shelly Fan
Mar 16
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How Scientists Grew Human Muscles in Pig Embryos, and Why It Matters for Organ Transplants

How Scientists Grew Human Muscles in Pig Embryos, and Why It Matters for Organ Transplants

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.The little pigs bouncing around the lab looked exceedingly normal. Yet their adorable exterior hid a remarkable secret: each piglet carried two different sets of genes. For now, both sets came from their own species. But one day, one of those sets may be human.The piglets are chimeras—creatures with intermingled sets of genes, as if multiple entities were seamlessly mashed together. Named after the Greek lion-goat-serpent monsters, chimeras may...

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Shelly Fan
Apr 6
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This AI Thrashes the Hardest Atari Games by Memorizing Its Best Moves

This AI Thrashes the Hardest Atari Games by Memorizing Its Best Moves

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.Learning from rewards seems like the simplest thing. I make coffee, I sip coffee, I’m happy. My brain registers “brewing coffee” as an action that leads to a reward.That’s the guiding insight behind deep reinforcement learning, a family of algorithms that famously smashed most of Atari’s gaming catalog and triumphed over humans in strategy games like Go. Here, an AI “agent” explores the game, trying out different actions and registering ones that...

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Shelly Fan
Mar 2
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Scientists Communicated With People While They Were Lucid Dreaming

Scientists Communicated With People While They Were Lucid Dreaming

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.We’ve probed the depths of Earth’s deepest trench, sent , and observed other worlds billions of light years away. Yet we’ve never been able to decipher the mysterious, bizarre, and disjointed world of our own dreams. It seems impossible: after all, people who dream are fast asleep and oblivious to the outside world.Except now, we can.In a mind-bending in Current Biology, teams of scientists from four countries found that it’s possible to...

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Shelly Fan
Feb 22
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Scientists Grew Human Cells in Monkey Embryos, and Yes, It's an Ethical Minefield

Scientists Grew Human Cells in Monkey Embryos, and Yes, It's an Ethical Minefield

Sign inWelcome! Log into your accountyour usernameyour passwordPassword recoveryRecover your passwordyour emailA password will be e-mailed to you.Few things in science freak people out more than human-animal hybrids. Named chimeras, after the mythical Greek creature that’s an amalgam of different beasts, these part-human, part-animal embryos have come onto the scene to transform our understanding of what makes us “human.”If theoretically grown to term, chimeras would be an endless resource for replacement human organs. They’re a window into the very early stages of human development,...

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Shelly Fan
Apr 20
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