Sep 8, 2009 | 39
When hackers want to break into a computer system, they often attempt to reverse engineer the operating software to better understand how it works (and, of course, its vulnerabilities). While researchers have for years taken a similar approach to better understanding parts of our gray matter, neuroscientists now say that within a decade it will be possible to create a digital model that replicates all functions of the human brain.
Though the brain has trillions of synapses, billions of neurons, millions of proteins, and thousands of genes, scientists have already begun to build detailed models of the mouse, rat, cat, primate and human brain, says Henry Markram, director of neuroscience and technology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where he founded the Brain Mind Institute (BMI) in 2002. One of the keys to furthering this work is cooperation among scientists who are gathering together fragments of information collected over the past century about the how the brain works.
Aug 17, 2009 | 3
Gadget makers have for decades relied on ever-shrinking microchips to make more portable, yet more powerful, devices. But as the components used to make these chips become smaller, with widths measured in dozens rather than hundreds of nanometers, they become increasingly more difficult to assemble.
Aug 3, 2009 | 3
Speed and power have long been the most important criteria when judging a supercomputer's worth as a number-crunching lab workhorse, but energy efficiency is fast catching up. The greenest supercomputers are those that can process the most scientific calculations per second while drawing the least power.
During the first half of this year, the power of the world's fastest supercomputers increased in aggregate 15 percent, whereas average supercomputer energy efficiency rose 10 percent, according to the Green500 List, a project led by Virginia Tech computer scientists Wu-chun Feng and Kirk Cameron to rank supercomputer energy efficiency. "While the supercomputers on the Green500 are collectively consuming more power, they are using the power more efficiently than before," the organization said in a statement following the release of its fifth and latest ranking in June.
Mar 10, 2009 | 4
The year that the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) first formed (as the American Institute of Electrical Engineers or AIEE), Chester Arthur was in the White House, the Oxford English Dictionary published its first edition, and construction began on the Statue of Liberty on what was then known as Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor.
During a meeting today commemorating the organization's 125th anniversary, scientists (all IEEE members, of course) looked to the future, describing advances in artificial intelligence, brain-machine interfaces and energy transfer.
Computers are lauded for their speed and accuracy, but they don't hold a candle to the human brain when it comes to tackling complex mathematical problems, Dharmendra Modha, director of cognitive computing at the IBM Almaden Research Center, said at today's event. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department's research arm, last year gave Modha and his colleagues $4.9 million for a project called "SyNAPSE," through which they are trying to reverse-engineer the brain's computational abilities to better understand its ability to sense, perceive, act, interact, and understand different stimuli.
Feb 11, 2009 | 11
If you're still clutching your chest over that last sky-high electric bill and wondering how to keep it down next month, you'll be heartened to hear that help may be on the way from the company behind the world's largest search engine. Google this week announced that it's developing software called PowerMeter, which will let consumers check out their home energy use in near real-time on their computers. The company says on its blog that it's working with utility companies to ready for the market. No word on how long the testing will last before PowerMeter will be available for download.
PowerMeter will first be available through iGoogle, a Google service that lets you make a customized Web browser homepage. For those concerned about placing more information about their lives online for everyone to see, Google notes on its blog that it will not share personally identifying information with the user's utility company. Users will also be able to delete their energy data or ask their utility to stop sending data to Google PowerMeter at any time.
Jan 23, 2009 | 4
Hard to believe it's been 25 years since Apple's slick TV spot, which aired during the third quarter of an otherwise forgettable Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Raiders and the Washington Redskins, ushered in the era of the Macintosh. The commercial depicts a drab future for humanity (in which, for some inexplicable reason, everyone is bald) a la George Orwell's 1984, featuring rows of gray-clad people complacently listening to "Big Brother" on a telescreen until a woman dressed in bright orange shorts rushes into the room, smashing the tedium with a well-placed throw of her Olympic-style hammer. (YouTube, of course, has the clip if you care to reminisce.)
This commercial, which ran two days before Apple's Macintosh hit the market, was a harbinger of the company's larger-than-life (and highly successful, for the most part) approach to selling technology. The first Macintosh was the original all-in-one personal computer, featuring a nine-inch (22.9-centimeter) monitor, floppy disk drive and eight-megahertz Motorola 68000 microprocessor sitting in a beige plastic tower. Its price tag: $2,500.
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