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Updated: 41 min 18 sec ago

How Nanomaterials Can Help Make Fuel from Sunlight

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 00:00

Researchers say combining bacteria with nanoscale semiconductors opens a new path toward efficient artificial photosynthesis.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say that by combining nanoscale materials with bacteria, they have opened the door to a new way of designing systems that could efficiently turn carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into useful organic compounds—similar to what plants do through photosynthesis. Down the road, they say, the system could become a commercially viable way to produce high-value chemicals like drug precursors used by the pharmaceutical industry, or to store renewable energy in the form of liquid fuels.

Why Bitcoin Could Be Much More Than a Currency

Fri, 05/08/2015 - 00:00

Bitcoin doesn’t have to replace government-backed money to improve the way we do business online.

Boosters of Bitcoin commonly call the digital currency the future of money. But even if it doesn’t turn out to be, a growing group of investors and entrepreneurs is convinced that the idea at the center of Bitcoin could revolutionize industries that rely on digital record keeping. It might replace conventional methods of keeping track of valuable information like contracts, intellectual-property rights, and even online voting results.

Some Tesla Owners Pimp Their Rides with Code

Thu, 05/07/2015 - 13:45

A few Tesla drivers are rewriting the programming in the Model S to make the car do interesting new things.

Tesla Motors’ Model S isn’t just a symbol of enthusiasm for electric driving; it’s also a sign of how customizable cars are becoming.

Apple Has Plans for Your DNA

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 16:10

The iPhone could become a new tool in genetic studies.

Of all the rumors ever to swirl around the world’s most valuable company, this may be the first that could involve spitting in a plastic cup.

Why Tesla Wants to Sell a Battery for Your Home

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 11:50

Tesla launches a stationary battery aimed at companies with variable electricity rates and homes with solar panels.

Seeking to expand its business beyond electric vehicles, Tesla Motors will sell stationary batteries for residential, commercial, and utility use under a new brand, Tesla Energy.

Small Display Bedevils Some Apple Watch Apps

Thu, 04/30/2015 - 00:00

The 3,500 apps available for the Apple Watch show the device’s promise and pitfalls.

Nobody needs an Apple Watch, or any kind of smart watch, really; we haven’t quite figured out what to do with these things yet, beyond activity tracking and replicating the alerts you already get on your smartphone. But that isn’t stopping app makers from trying to figure out more things to do with wrist-worn gadgets. There are more than 3,500 apps available for the Apple Watch, which started selling this month from Apple’s website (though if you order now, you probably won’t get one until June).

IBM Shows Off a Quantum Computing Chip

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 17:55

A new superconducting chip made by IBM demonstrates a technique crucial to the development of quantum computers.

A superconducting chip developed at IBM demonstrates an important step needed for the creation of computer processors that crunch numbers by exploiting the weirdness of quantum physics. If successfully developed, quantum computers could effectively take shortcuts through many calculations that are difficult for today’s computers.

Smartphone Secrets May Be Better Than a Password

Tue, 04/28/2015 - 00:00

Researchers are investigating whether recalling text messages, calls, and Facebook likes could be a useful log-in strategy.

Before you read this story, try to answer the following question: Who was the first person to text you today?

Rethinking the Manufacturing Robot

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 00:00

A company that makes robots designed to work closely with humans has a new version that addresses the limitations of its first effort.

In a workshop at the Boston headquarters of Rethink Robotics, engineers are tending to a troop of eight bright red robots called Baxter. Each robot has a humanoid upper torso and a pair of friendly blue eyes on a small screen that track the robots’ two arms as the engineers move them.

A Swiss Army Knife for Neuroscience

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 00:05

Neural probes that combine optics, electronics, and drugs could help unlock the secrets of the brain.

Various powerful new tools for exploring and manipulating the brain have been developed over the last few years. Some use electronics, while others use light or chemicals.

Machine Dreams

Tue, 04/21/2015 - 00:05

To rescue its struggling business, Hewlett-Packard is making a long-shot bid to change the fundamentals of how computers work.

There is a shrine inside Hewlett-Packard’s headquarters in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley. At one edge of HP’s research building, two interconnected rooms with worn midcentury furniture, vacant for decades, are carefully preserved. From these offices, William Hewlett and David Packard led HP’s engineers to invent breakthrough products, like the 40-pound, typewriter-size programmable calculator launched in 1968.

A Potato Made with Gene Editing

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 00:00

Plant scientists can swiftly modify crops in ways that would take years with conventional breeding.

Dan Voytas is a plant geneticist at the University of Minnesota. But two days a week he stops studying the fundamentals of DNA engineering and heads to a nearby company called Cellectis Plant Sciences, where he applies them.

A Way to Get Much-Higher-Resolution Selfies

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 00:00

A startup called Light uses a cluster of small camera modules to create top-notch photos. First stop: Your smartphone.

Most digital cameras are limited by a key aspect of their design: they have one lens and one image sensor. Light hits the lens and is directed at the sensor to produce a picture. A photography startup called Light is not making most digital cameras, though.

Lake Kivu’s Great Gas Gamble

Thu, 04/16/2015 - 00:00

In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, electricity-starved Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are trying to get power from a lake—and avert catastrophe.

It’s a Friday afternoon on the Rwandan side of Lake Kivu, and in what was once a quiet cove, a daring venture is taking shape.

Putting Technology in Its Place

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 00:00

Kentaro Toyama went to India with noble intentions for using technology to improve people’s lives. Now he’s wrestling with why the impact was so small.

A Way to Hide Corporate Data from Hackers

Tue, 04/14/2015 - 08:00

A system that keeps data on corporate computers and mobile devices encrypted until it is viewed may help prevent breaches.

Social-security and credit-card numbers frequently leak or are stolen from corporate networks—and surface on the black market. Adam Ghetti, founder of Ionic Security, says he has invented technology that could largely end the problem. His software keeps corporate data such as e-mails and documents encrypted at all times, except for when someone views it on an authorized computer or mobile device.

Why Zapping the Brain Helps Parkinson's Patients

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 14:00

Deep brain stimulation could lead to a more effective, self-tuning device for Parkinson’s.

Sending pulses of electricity through the brain via implanted electrodes—a procedure known as deep brain stimulation—can relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.

IBM’s Watson Could Make a Knowledgeable Tour Guide

Fri, 04/10/2015 - 14:45

IBM researchers are exploring Watson’s abilities to answer museumgoers’ questions.

IBM’s Watson, the machine-learning computer that won Jeopardy! in 2011 and has found work searching medical and scientific data for insights, could soon have yet another job: museum tour guide.

Paralyzed Again

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 00:00

We have the technology to dramatically increase the independence of people with spinal-cord injuries. The problem is bringing it to market and keeping it there.

One night in 1982, John Mumford was working on an avalanche patrol on an icy Colorado mountain pass when the van carrying him and two other men slid off the road and plunged over a cliff. The other guys were able to walk away, but Mumford had broken his neck. The lower half of his body was paralyzed, and though he could bend his arms at the elbows, he could no longer grasp things in his hands.