• 2014 – July – Week 1

    New Device Allows Brain To Bypass Spinal Cord, Move Paralyzed Limbs

    For the first time ever, a paralyzed man can move his fingers and hand with his own thoughts thanks to an innovative partnership between The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Battelle.


    IBM: Commercial Nanotube Transistors Are Coming Soon

    For more than a decade, engineers have been fretting that they are running out of tricks for continuing to shrink silicon transistors. Intel’s latest chips have transistors with features as small as 14 nanometers, but it is unclear how the industry can keep scaling down silicon transistors much further or what might replace them.

    A project at IBM is now aiming to have transistors built using carbon nanotubes ready to take over from silicon transistors soon after 2020. According to the semiconductor industry’s roadmap, transistors at that point must have features as small as five nanometers to keep up with the continuous miniaturization of computer chips. “That’s where silicon scaling runs out of steam, and there really is nothing else,” says Wilfried Haensch, who leads the company’s nanotube project at the company’s T.J. Watson research center in Yorktown Heights, New York. Nanotubes are the only technology that looks capable of keeping the advance of computer power from slowing down, by offering a practical way to make both smaller and faster transistors, he says.


    DARPA Created A Virtual Therapist — And ‘People Love Interacting With Her’

    Ellie is an avatar, a virtual therapist developed at USC with funding from DARPA, the Defense Department’s advanced research center.
    To build that system, the SimSensei team took a three-step approach: first, they analyzed actual humans interacting, to observe the linguistic and behavioral nuances of those conversations. From there, they created a kind of intermediate step they nicknamed the “Wizard of Oz.” This was “a virtual human,” as Morency describes it, “with a human behind, pressing the buttons.” Once they had a framework for the rhythms of a face-to-face therapy session, they added facial-movement sensors and dialogue managers — creating a system, all in all, that can read and react to human emotion.


    “Molecular movie” technology may enable big gains in bioimaging, health research

    Chemical and biological actions can now be measured as they are occurring or, in old-fashioned movie parlance, one frame at a time. This will allow creation of improved biosensors to study everything from nerve impulses to cancer metastasis as it occurs.

    The measurements, created by the use of short pulse lasers and bioluminescent proteins, are made in femtoseconds, which is one-millionth of one-billionth of a second. A femtosecond, compared to one second, is about the same as one second compared to 32 million years.


    Austrian Tor Exit Node Operator Found Guilty As an Accomplice

    Three years ago we wrote about how Austrian police had seized computers from someone running a Tor exit node. This kind of thing happens from time to time, but it appears that folks in Austria have taken it up a notch by… effectively now making it illegal to run a Tor exit node. According to the report, which was confirmed by the accused, the court found that running the node violated 12 of the Austrian penal code, which effectively says:”Not only the immediate perpetrator commits a criminal action, but also anyone who appoints someone to carry it out, or anyone who otherwise contributes to the completion of said criminal action.” In other words, it’s a form of accomplice liability for criminality. It’s pretty standard to name criminal accomplices liable for “aiding and abetting” the activities of others, but it’s a massive and incredibly dangerous stretch to argue that merely running a Tor exit node makes you an accomplice that “contributes to the completion” of a crime. Under this sort of thinking, Volkswagen would be liable if someone drove a VW as the getaway car in a bank robbery. It’s a very, very broad interpretation of accomplice liability, in a situation where it clearly does not make sense.


    Building For The Future: Britain Is Trying To Ban Smoking For Anyone Born After The Year 2000

    British doctors voted last Tuesday to ban cigarettes for anyone born after the year 2000, the first step in an initiative to make Britain completely free of tobacco within the next 20 years.

    The motion passed at the British Medical Association’s annual representatives meeting, the Guardian reports, and will soon lead to the doctors’ union lobbying the government to introduce the ban on kids currently 14 years or older.

    The BMA has previously been successful in having bans enforced on smoking in public as well as in cars carrying children.

    Tim Crocker-Buque, a specialist registrar in public health medicine who first proposed the ban, said it will stop kids from being attracted to smoking in their early teens, which is when 80 percent of smokers develop addictions.