Typing with your mind?
"Humans and machines could be one step closer to merging thanks to a new transistor controlled by the molecule that powers biological cells," Stephanie Pappas reports for Tech News Daily. "The nano-sized device could be used in medical devices or prosthetics wired directly into the human body. 'Our devices make a bridge between the biological world and the electronic world,' said Aleksandr Noy, who developed the transistor along with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. … Getting a biological molecule to control the electric current in a transistor is a first step toward computers that could interface directly with the brain, Dr. Noy [said] That could include 'futuristic' devices that would translate thought directly to typed words, he said, but could also have a more immediate application in the field of prosthetics."
World's college grads
Globally, people with college degrees increased to 6.7 per cent of the population this year from 5.9 per cent in 2000.
Source: Bloomberg News
"Hundreds of drug offenders are executed annually and the number likely tops 1,000 if figures from countries that don't disclose their death-penalty data are included," Associated Press reports. "The number of states carrying out death sentences for drug offences, however, appears to be declining while others are observing moratoria on all executions, according to the report by the International Harm Reduction Association."
A computer algorithm capable of identifying sarcasm in written text has been developed by Israeli researchers, Matthew Moore reports for The Daily Telegraph. "The novel formula could pave the way for more sophisticated communication between humans and computers - the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence. Devised by computer scientists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the algorithm has been programmed to recognize sarcasm in lengthy texts by analyzing patterns of phrases and punctuation often used to indicate irony. In tests on 66,000 product reviews posted on the Amazon shopping website, the algorithm had an impressive 77-per-cent success rate in picking out sarcastic comments - arguably higher than some humans."
The constant sun
"The surface of the sun undergoes violent changes on a daily basis," Denise Chow writes for Space.com, "but a group of astronomers has found that the size of our nearest star has been perplexingly constant in recent years." The new study shows that the sun's diameter has changed by less than one part in a million over the past 12 years. The sun's width today is a steady 1.5 million kilometres across. Lead researcher Jeff Kuhn of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy said, "We're measuring that the diameter changes by less than a kilometre."
The kids are all right
"With his gaze fixed on a tiny screen, hearing plugged by earbuds and fingers flying, the average teenager may look like a disaster in the making: socially stunted, terminally distracted and looking for trouble," Melissa Healy writes for the Los Angeles Times. "But look beyond the dizzying array of beeping, buzzing devices and the incessant multitasking, say psychologists, and today's digital kids may not be such a disaster after all. Far from hampering adolescents' social skills or putting them in harm's way, as many parents have feared, electronics appear to be the path by which children today develop emotional bonds, their own identities and an ability to communicate and work with others. In fact, children most likely to spend lots of time on social media sites are not the least well-adjusted but the healthiest psychologically, suggests an early, but accumulating, body of research."
Butts can be useful
"Chinese scientists say they have found a way for the countless cigarette butts that are tossed every day on streets, beaches and other public places to be reused - in protecting steel pipes from rusting," Gillian Wong reports for Associated Press. Jun Zhao, a doctoral student at Xi'an Jiaotong University, and other researchers said last week they have found that butts soaked in water can help guard against corrosion in a type of steel commonly used in the oil industry.
Fish die, here we are
"Humans may owe their place on the planet to a mass extinction of fish 360 million years ago, it was claimed," John von Radowitz reports for The Independent. "The cataclysmic event reset the evolutionary starting point for all vertebrates living today, U.S. scientists said. If it had not occurred, humans and their ancestors might not have evolved, or could have evolved very differently. Key features shared by all modern mammals, birds and reptiles [such as five-digit limbs]originated when life re-emerged after the mass extinction, the experts believe. 'Everything was hit, the extinction was global,' said Lauren Sallan, a researcher from the University of Chicago. 'It reset vertebrate diversity in every single environment, both freshwater and marine, and created a completely different world.' " What happened to trigger the mass extinction is a mystery.
Thought du jour
"The question of whether computers can think is just like the question of whether submarines can swim."
- Edsger Dijkstra