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Updated: 1 hour 49 min ago

Can Sucking CO2 Out of the Atmosphere Really Work?

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 00:00

A Columbia scientist and his startup think they have a plan to save the world. Now they have to convince the rest of us.

Physicist Peter Eisenberger had expected colleagues to react to his idea with skepticism. He was claiming, after all, to have invented a machine that could clean the atmosphere of its excess carbon dioxide, making the gas into fuel or storing it underground. And the Columbia University scientist was aware that naming his two-year-old startup Global Thermostat hadn’t exactly been an exercise in humility.

Can Sucking CO2 Out of the Atmosphere Really Work?

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 00:00

A Columbia scientist and his startup think they have a plan to save the world. Now they have to convince the rest of us.

Physicist Peter Eisenberger had expected colleagues to react to his idea with skepticism. He was claiming, after all, to have invented a machine that could clean the atmosphere of its excess carbon dioxide, making the gas into fuel or storing it underground. And the Columbia University scientist was aware that naming his two-year-old startup Global Thermostat hadn’t exactly been an exercise in humility.

Should Industrial Robots Be Able to Hurt Their Human Coworkers?

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 00:00

Standards bodies are wrestling with the impact of accidental robot strikes.

How much should a robot be allowed to hurt its coworkers? It’s a puzzling question facing companies developing a new breed of industrial robots that work alongside humans on the factory floor.

Fun with Food

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 00:00

Playful new cooking based on traditional methods and weird ingredients will supplant the industrial techniques that dominate modernist cuisine.

Ever since cooks began playing with the equipment of the food industry, chefs have felt compelled to join one of two camps. The first believes any kitchen is incomplete without a centrifuge, combination steam-convection oven, and $6,000 vacuum-seal machine and immersion circulator to cook 22-hour eggs sous vide. The second camp takes pride in telling you that all these gadgets, and ingredients like hydrocolloids and calcium baths, are outlawed in their kitchens—because gadgets and industrial powders have nothing to do with cooking. But now that the equipment, ideas, and techniques of modernist cuisine have been around more than a decade, a new generation of chefs declines to declare loyalty to either camp. To me, the most interesting cooks today are not on the barricades but those eager to discover new flavors. They use low-tech means like fermentation and cook over a stove.

What It Will Take for Computers to Be Conscious?

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 00:00

The world’s best-known consciousness researcher says machines could one day become self-aware.

Is a worm conscious? How about a bumblebee? Does a computer that can play chess “feel” anything?

Confessional in the Palm of Your Hand

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 00:00

Sure, people say some nasty things in anonymous apps, but the good far outweighs the bad.

“I want to quit Google,” the message on my iPhone read. “It’s boring here.”

Google Execs Have Ideas on How to Run Your Business

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 00:00

The ex-CEO and another longtime Google executive say the “new style of managing” they developed should be widely copied.

Google is daring, creative, and by multiple accounts an enviable place to work—but is the way it’s run a model for other companies to follow? After all, quintessentially Googley practices like giving people free time to pursue projects are easier to follow if you enjoy very large profits from a product that has remained unbeatable for a decade.

Three Questions with the CEO of D-Wave

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 00:00

The CEO of quantum computing startup D-Wave says its machines are helping companies analyze Wall Street data and search for new cancer drugs.

Ever since D-Wave Systems unveiled what it called the world’s first quantum computer in 2007, the small Canadian company has attracted controversy.

Paralyzed Rats Take 1,000 Steps, Orchestrated by Computer

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 14:30

Controlled by software, paralyzed rats walk and climb stairs.

It’s a strange sight: a paralyzed rat walking on its hind legs in a precise cadence, all controlled by a computer.

EmTech: Illumina Says 228,000 Human Genomes Will Be Sequenced This Year

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:13

Record number of genomes being decoded, but cost of DNA sequencing might not fall much further, says Illumina president.

Henry Ford kept lowering the price of cars, and more people kept buying them. The San Diego–based gene sequencing company Illumina has been doing something similar with the tools needed to interpret the human genetic code.

EmTech: IBM Tries to Make Watson Smarter

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:10

IBM’s senior vice president says Watson could find success with commercial apps in wealth management, call centers, and medicine.

Three years after its artificial-intelligence engine Watson made its high-profile win on Jeopardy!, IBM is adapting the technology as it seeks practical commercial uses, an IBM executive explained today at EmTech, a conference organized by MIT Technology Review.

EmTech: Google’s Internet “Loon” Balloons Will Ring the Globe within a Year

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 11:52

Google X research lab boss Astro Teller says experimental wireless balloons will test delivering Internet access throughout the Southern Hemisphere by next year.

Within a year, Google is aiming to have a continuous ring of high-altitude balloons in the Southern Hemisphere capable of providing wireless Internet service to cell phones on the ground.

Robots That Learn Through Repetition, Not Programming

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 00:00

A startup says getting a robot to do things should be less about writing code and more like animal training.

Eugene Izhikevich thinks you shouldn’t have to write code in order to teach robots new tricks. “It should be more like training a dog,” he says.  “Instead of programming, you show it consistent examples of desired behavior.”

Technology Stalled in 1970

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 00:00

Peter Thiel says he’s trying to get entrepreneurs to go after bigger problems than the ones Silicon Valley is chasing.

Peter Thiel has been behind some prominent technologies: he cofounded PayPal and was an early investor in such companies as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tesla Motors. But he’s convinced that technological progress has been stagnant for decades. According to Thiel, developments in computers and the Internet haven’t significantly improved our quality of life. In a new book, he warns entrepreneurs that conventional business wisdom is preventing them and society as a whole from making major advances in areas, such as energy or health, where technology could make the world a better place—though he doesn’t offer detailed answers on how we might unlock such breakthroughs. Thiel spoke to MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco bureau chief, Tom Simonite, at the offices of his venture capital firm, Founder’s Fund.

Radical New DNA Sequencer Finally Gets into Researchers’ Hands

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 00:00

A DNA sequencer the size of a cell phone could change where, and how, gene research occurs.

One day in 1989, biophysicist David Deamer pulled his car off California’s Interstate 5 to hurriedly scribble down an idea. In a mental flash, he had pictured a strand of DNA threading its way through a microscopic pore. Grabbing a pen and a yellow pad, he sketched out a radical new way to study the molecule of life.

Making Innovation

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise.

Visitors to the Crosspointe Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, Virginia, have to don safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes, just as they would at any traditional factory. But then things start to look different. Past the cubicles filled with programmers and support staff sits a 140,000-square-foot factory with spotless white concrete floors, bright lighting, surprisingly quiet equipment, and very few human beings.

How Human-Robot Teamwork Will Upend Manufacturing

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

Robots are starting to collaborate with human workers in factories, offering greater efficiency and flexibility.

Sometime in the next couple of years, if everything goes to plan, workers at BMW’s manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, will be introduced to an unusual new teammate—a robot arm that will roll around handing them tools and parts as they assemble the German carmaker’s luxury vehicles.

The New Chinese Factory

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

Leading manufacturers in China combine the country’s historical labor advantages with expertise in automation, design, and manufacturing.

With its medieval canals and carefully preserved downtown, the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou might have been a quiet burgh compared with neighboring Shanghai. But in 1994, the governments of Singapore and China invested in an industrial development zone there, and Suzhou grew quickly into a manufacturing boomtown.

Audi Drives Innovation on the Shop Floor

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

A carmaker’s automated body shop illustrates how German manufacturing is moving forward.

Gene-Silencing Drugs Finally Show Promise

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 00:00

After more than a decade of disappointment, a startup leads the development of a powerful new class of drugs based on a Nobel-winning idea.

The disease starts with a feeling of increased clumsiness. Spilling a cup of coffee. Stumbling on the stairs. Having accidents that are easy to dismiss—everyone trips now and then.

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