• 2014 – August – Week 4

    Mouse memories ‘flipped’ from fearful to cheerful

    By artificially activating circuits in the brain, scientists have turned negative memories into positive ones.

    They gave mice bad memories of a place, then made them good – or vice versa – without returning to that place.

    Neurons storing the “place” memory were re-activated in a different emotional context, modifying the association.

    Although unlikely to be applied in humans with traumatic memories, the work sheds new light on the details of how emotional memories form and change.


    Underground experiment confirms what powers the sun

    Scientists have long believed that the power of the sun comes largely from the fusion of protons into helium, but now they can finally prove it. An international team of researchers using a detector buried deep below the mountains of central Italy has detected neutrinos—ghostly particles that interact only very reluctantly with matter—streaming from the heart of the sun. Other solar neutrinos have been detected before, but these particular ones come from the key proton-proton fusion reaction that is the first part of a chain of reactions that provides 99% of the sun’s power.

    The results also show that the sun is a remarkably steady power source. Neutrinos take only 8 minutes to get from the sun’s core to Earth, so the rate of neutrino production that the team detected reflects the amount of heat the sun is producing today. It just so happens that this is the same as the amount of energy now being radiated from the sun’s surface, even though those photons have taken 100,000 years to work their way from the core to the surface. Hence, the sun’s energy production hasn’t changed in 100 millennia. “This is direct proof of the stability of the sun over the past 100,000 years or so,” says team member Andrea Pocar of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


    DeepFlight Dragon set to usher in the era of the personal submarine

    When launched next week, the DeepFlight Dragon will become the most compact, lightweight personal submarine on the market, and has been designed to be so intuitive to use that users will be able self-pilot the craft with minimal instruction. This new level of user-friendliness is expected to take DeepFlight’s underwater craft beyond the domain of the superyacht owner and into the resort and tourism industry for the first time.

    The new Dragon will cost a little less than the company’s top-of-the-line model Super Falcon, coming in at US$1.5 million with all the additional gear required for running the craft included. In order to kick-start production of the new series, orders taken at the Monaco Yacht Show will be priced at $1.2 million.


    IBM finally opens up its Watson supercomputer to researchers

    IBM’s grand plan for Watson, its Jeopardy-winning supercomputer, is quickly coming into focus — especially when it comes to academic and scientific research.

    Big Blue tonight announced the Watson Discovery Advisor, a cloud-based tool that will let researchers tap into Watson’s big data processing smarts to speed up their work. Specifically, IBM says it should dramatically accelerate the process of testing researchers’ hypotheses and coming up with conclusions.


    Google tests drone deliveries in Project Wing trials

    Google has built and tested autonomous aerial vehicles, which it believes could be used for goods deliveries.

    The project is being developed at Google X, the company’s clandestine tech research arm, which is also responsible for its self-driving car.

    Project Wing has been running for two years, but was a secret until now.

    Google said that its long-term goal was to develop drones that could be used for disaster relief by delivering aid to isolated areas.

    They could be used after earthquakes, floods, or extreme weather events, the company suggested, to take small items such as medicines or batteries to people in areas that conventional vehicles cannot reach.

    “Even just a few of these, being able to shuttle nearly continuously could service a very large number of people in an emergency situation,” explained Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots – Google X’s name for big-thinking projects.