The computing giant today announced its "IBM 5 in 5" predictions of five technology developments in the next five years. The most provocative is mind reading, to understand brain disorders, or where sensors will be able to translate people's thoughts into actions, such as operating a computer.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology started giving away the content of its courses over the Web 10 years ago. Now it plans to give away its online learning software, too.
The university today launched MITx, an initiative to provide students with a certification for taking MIT-taught classes online through a software platform MIT plans to make open-source.
Anyone with an Internet connection can take classes through the software system, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2012. Students who are able to "demonstrate mastery of the material" through online tests can get credentials for what … Read more
TOKYO--The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has finally been stabilized after it was crippled by a tsunami in March, the Japanese government said yesterday.
Engineers working under operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have brought the plant to a state of "cold shutdown," meaning the reactors can be safely kept cool and that radiation exposure is limited to 1 millisievert per year at the site's boundary.
"We are now moving from trying to stabilize the reactors to decommissioning them," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters, emphasizing the importance of the achievement.
"This is a challenge to not only our nation, but also the whole of humanity. I believe there will come a day when Fukushima will be remembered as the place where our future was founded by the bravery, the commitment, and resourcefulness of all our people."
Explosions occurred at four of the six reactors when cooling systems failed. They released massive amounts of radiation into the environment, forcing the evacuation of an estimated 88,000 people from a zone roughly 150 miles north of Tokyo. … Read more
Scientists designing the next generation of solar cells are trying to do away with waste heat.
Two research groups this week reported advances in a technique to capture a portion of the sunlight's energy that's normally lost as heat. The advances are aiming toward a breakthrough in how much light can be converted to electricity on a solar cell.
In a paper published in Science, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reported developing tiny crystals a few nanometers in size, called quantum dots, that are able to capture high-energy photons that today's solar cells don'… Read more
With the holidays fast approaching, many of us will soon be heading to the airport, crossing our fingers that our flight home to our family won't be delayed because of bad weather.
But new technology for airline pilots could someday soon mean fewer such delays. Honeywell is developing software that combines infrared imaging with real-time 3D ground-terrain mapping, giving pilots a more natural, "out the window" view of the runway below, even in poor visibility. SmartPlanet's Sumi Das gets a demonstration of the technology from Honeywell chief test pilot Jary Engels.
This video originally appeared on … Read more
The Army of today is making plans for the helicopter of tomorrow -- fast, tough, and even semi-autonomous.
And with the Pentagon's target date of 2030 to begin fielding a fleet of these next-generation vertical-lift aircraft, one can only hope that the Army won't be overly beholden to designs based on the futuristic blueprints of today.
The term "vertical lift" is key here: the aircraft that eventually goes into the service would use rotors for lift, in helicopter fashion, but might also include wings in the manner of the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey or in an even … Read more
Thanks in no small part to Moore's Law, engineers and entrepreneurs now have incredibly powerful tools at their hands, creating a fertile environment for invention.
In the year ahead, we're guaranteed more powerful supercomputers and smartphones from the tech industry's basic building block--the microchip. But in a world where the amount of information doubles every year, computers' ability to make sense of it has never been more vital, touching every field of scientific research from robotics to satellite imagery.
Meanwhile, advances in very different fields--materials science and biotech--are paving the way for better batteries, biofuels, and cleaner … Read more
Google has added one more thing to the list of things it can do over the Web: tell a car where to drive.
The Internet giant earlier this week was granted a patent for a method of controlling an autonomous vehicle. Specifically, it details how a vehicle can transition from being human-driven to autonomous mode.
A car could, for example, drive to a specific location and based on a visual indicator on a "landing strip," such as a bar code or radio tag, the car would then transition to autonomous operation. One could imagine, for example, bringing a … Read more
It's often the case that a device or substance with a known benefit also comes with known risks--typically referred to as side effects and listed quickly at the ends of commercials. So it seems worth noting when a product's side effect may in fact be useful.
The Valkee, a portable headset launched in August of 2010, directs 8- to 12-minute doses of bright light through the ear canal and into the brain to improve seasonal affective disorder. It turns out that this concentration of bright light into the brain may also improve motoric reaction time, according to a study conducted by Verve Research in Finland.
The placebo-controlled study (meaning some were given the treatment and others a placebo in its place) tested the effects of the Valkee headset on Finnish national league ice hockey players and found that those exposed to 12 minutes of light via the headset sped up their already fast reaction times by 20 percent.
"The placebo-controlled study showed a significant improvement in motoric reaction times of top athletes using bright light via the ear canal," says lead researcher Mikko Tulppo in a news release.… Read more
A technique first developed to print flexible electronics has helped engineers at start-up Semprius reinvent the shape of concentrating solar technology.
The company's tiny solar cells, each a dot the size of a ballpoint pen tip, have been validated to convert 41 percent of solar energy to electricity, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced yesterday. Semprius is in the process of building a manufacturing facility in Henderson, N.C., to make concentrating solar arrays using its "micro-transfer printing" technique, according to the Department of Energy.
The semiconductor printing technique can be used for many applications, including improving … Read more