Technology Tuesday: January 15th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: The world’s first battery free bluetooth chip, China’s moon lander has sprouted the first ever plants on the moon, scientists want to build a quantum neural network, Denmark is building enormous artificial islands to act as a tech hub, and and DARPA is looking for a company to attempt to make “conscious” robots from insect brains.

WORLD’S FIRST BATTERY-FREE BLUETOOTH CHIP PULLS POWER FROM THE AIR

Signs point to us eventually living in a world in which nearly everything around us is “smart.” Our clothes will send messages to our smartphones letting us know when they need washed, and our milk will order its own replacement as its expiration date nears.

But before the Internet of Things can fully take hold, we need to figure out a cheap and versatile way to give all these objects the ability to communicate — and the world’s first battery-free Bluetooth chip just might do the trick.

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CHINA’S LANDER JUST SEEDED THE FIRST EVER PLANTS TO GROW ON THE MOON

For the first time in history, humans have grown something on the surface of the Moon.

When China’s Chang’e-4 lander left on its journey to the far side of the Moon — the less-studied, mountainous half that faces away from the Earth — it brought along seeds and other Earth-based species including fruit flies and yeast in a sealed growing container.

Now its cotton seeds have officially sprouted, Chinese news site Xinhua reports. It’s a historic moment: it’s the first biological experiment of any kind on the surface of another world.

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SCIENTISTS ARE BUILDING A QUANTUM COMPUTER THAT “ACTS LIKE A BRAIN”

A new research project aims to harness the power of quantum computers to build a new type of neural network — work the researchers say could usher in the next generation of artificial intelligence.

“My colleagues and I instead hope to build the first dedicated neural network computer, using the latest ‘quantum’ technology rather than AI software,” wrote Michael Hartmann, a professor at Heriot-Watt University who’s leading the research, in a new essay for The Conversation. “By combining these two branches of computing, we hope to produce a breakthrough which leads to AI that operates at unprecedented speed, automatically making very complex decisions in a very short time.”

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DENMARK IS BUILDING 9 GIGANTIC ARTIFICIAL ISLANDS

Authorities in Denmark plan to build nine artificial islands off the coast of Copenhagen with a total area of more than 32 million square feet (3 million square meters.) The hope is that the new islands, which will be called “Holmene,” will become a futuristic hub for sustainable business and commerce.

“I think this could become a sort of European Silicon Valley,” said Brian Mikkelsen, the head of the Danish chamber of commerce, in an interview with The Guardian.

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DARPA WANTS TO BUILD CONSCIOUS ROBOTS USING ROBOT BRAINS

The Pentagon’s emerging technologies unit put out a call last week for proposals that use insect brains to control robots — because they could be used to create efficient new models for artificial intelligence, but also because they could be used to explore the meaning of consciousness.

“Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form-factor, while maintaining basic functionality,” reads a document in the proposal. “Furthermore, these organisms are possibly able to display increased subjectivity of experience.” It goes on to say that there’s evidence suggesting that “even small insects have subjective experiences, the first step towards a concept of ‘consciousness.’”

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