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: Taking aim at world hunger with genetic modification, hyperloop making strides, brain implant restores ability to walk in paralyzed monkeys, EM Drive gets its first peer reviewed paper, and one step closer to super fast AI.
Engineering a Second “Green Revolution”
A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.
The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty.
Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result.
Hyperloop One Unveils Big News
Hyperloop One, the main company developing the hyperloop system envisioned by Elon Musk, had two big announcements today. While they are still working on their full-scale prototype track in North Las Vegas, the company unveiled the concept for their entire system – revealing that they also plan to address the last mile and not just the long distance transport.
With the unveiling of the new system, the company announced a deal with the Transport Authority in Dubai (RTA) to bring a hyperloop network between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and other Emirates.
Implant Cures Paralyzation
Electrodes implanted in the brain and spine have helped paralyzed monkeys walk. The neurologists behind the study reported that the implants restored function in the primates’ legs almost instantaneously. The findings are detailed in Nature.
The spinal cord of the subject monkey was partially cut, so the legs had no way of communicating with the brain. To mend the brain-spine interface, electrodes were placed on key parts of the monkey’s body. Implants were placed inside the monkey’s brain at the part that controls leg movement, together with a wireless transmitter sitting outside the skull. Electrodes were also placed along the spinal cord, below the injury.
NASA Releases Peer Reviewed EM Drive Paper
The reactionless thruster known as the EM Drive has stirred heated debate over the past few years. If successful it could provide a new and powerful method to take our spacecraft to the stars, but it has faced harsh criticism because the drive seems to violate the most fundamental laws of physics. One of the biggest criticisms has been that the work wasn’t submitted for peer review, and until that happens it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Well, this week that milestone was reached with a peer-reviewed paper. The EM Drive has officially passed peer review.
Light Based Neural Network Could Lead To Super Fast AI
It’s one thing to create computers that behave like brains, but it’s something else to make them perform as well as brains. Conventional circuitry can only operate so quickly as part of a neural network, even if it’s sometimes much more powerful than standard computers. However, Princeton researchers might have smashed that barrier: they’ve built what they say is the first photonic neural network. The system mimics the brain with “neurons” that are really light waveguides cut into silicon substrates. As each of those nodes operates in a specific wavelength, you can make calculations by summing up the total power of the light as it’s fed into a laser — and the laser completes the circuit by sending light back to the nodes. The result is a machine that can calculate a differential math equation 1,960 times faster than a typical processor.
Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!