Category Archives: Technology


The Turing Trick

Eugene Goostman. Maybe.

Eugene Goostman. Maybe.

On Monday morning, the news was everywhere that the famous Turing Test—in which a computer program tries to convince people that it is a human being carrying on a normal conversation—had been passed for the first time. Yahoo News hailed the success of the “supercomputer.” Gizmodo declared, “This is big.”

Or maybe not. By Monday afternoon, the doubters were piling on. Gary Marcus raised an eyebrow in a New Yorker blog post, pointing out that the program, called Eugene Goos…


The Science of Going Viral

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Just one in every 20 Facebook photos is shared. Most Twitter hashtags vanish into oblivion. Researchers want to understand the exceptions. Can you predict what content will go viral? That could be handy in many contexts—marketing, elections, revolutions.

This week two new papers are proclaiming advances in the science of virality.

“We have a method that allows us to predict the future on Twitter,” says James H. Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at University of C…


Lab Equipment Made With 3-D Printers Could Cut Costs by 97%

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A commercial vendor would sell this parametric automated filter wheel changer for $2,500. But a 3-D printer could fabricate one for less than $100, says Joshua M. Pearce, a researcher at Michigan Tech and co-author of a new study of the technology. (Photo from PLOS One.)

Three-dimensional printers are one of society’s latest technological miracles to provoke both wide-eyed hopes and dark fears.

Somewhere in the middle, between ending low-wage labor and secretly arming felons, lies a host of prac…


Art Flows Into Science: Rivers From Space



Forty years ago today, NASA launched its first Earth-observation satellite, Landsat. Data from the program, now on its eighth orbiter, have been used in climate-change studies, in ecology, and to show the effects of population growth.

Scientists have also noticed that some images are just visually amazing. (Particularly when the researchers add color to the pixels.)

Here are two of the most popular, voted on by 14,000 members of the public. The first contrasts the graceful oxbow bends of t…


The Real Power of the Phantom Mind

Two phantoms have come back to life, making their presence felt in the real world. One is a phantom body locked in a paralyzed patient’s mind, which has taken control of a robot arm. The other is a research venture, locked into a company that vanished in the economic disaster of 2008, only to reappear as academic science, supported by major universities, that today scored a dramatic success.

But what’s truly amazing here are the patients, doing what you see in this photo: A woman named Cathy, wh…


Hide Yourself Like an Animal—Instantly

Forget that visit to the Army-Navy store for camouflage gear. Researchers at the University of Bristol are developing plastics that change colors as fast as flicking a switch, and do it in the same way that squid and zebrafish hide themselves from predators. Check out this easily-seen, nondisguised video:

The first approach mimics what squids do: The animals’ cells have pigment sacs that squeeze and expand to create large blotches of color. The Bristol scientists created polymer bands that sque…