COVID-19 aside, March was an incredible month of technological progress you may have missed. I hope you enjoy this month's update!
Here are the top stories from the past month (in mostly chronological order):
Researchers say they’ve built a system that can translate brain signals directly into text — a promising step toward a “speech prosthesis” that could effectively allow you to think text directly into a computer. “We are not there yet,” University of California researcher Joseph Makin told The Guardian, “but we think this could be the basis of a speech prosthesis.”
Life has changed a lot in the past few days, weeks, or months, depending where you live. As efforts to contain the novel coronavirus ramp up, it’s likely going to change even more. But we’re already sick of being at home all the time, we miss our friends and families, everything’s been canceled, the economy is tanking, and we feel anxious and scared about what’s ahead.
Graphene-based biosensors could usher in an era of liquid biopsy, detecting DNA cancer markers circulating in a patient's blood or serum. But current designs need a lot of DNA. In a new study, crumpling graphene makes it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA by creating electrical "hot spots," researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found.
The next major technological platform for creative expansion of the mind will be cyberspace, or more specifically the Metaverse, a functional successor to today's 2D Internet, with virtual places instead of Webpages. The Internet and smartphones have enabled the rapid and cheap sharing of information, immersive computing will be able to provide the same for experiences.
Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions.
As impressive as computers are becoming, they still pale in comparison to nature’s version – the brain. As such scientists have started designing computer chips that work in a similar way to the brain, using artificial neurons and synapses. Now Intel has unveiled its most powerful “neuromorphic” computing system to date. Named Pohoiki Springs, this system packs in 100 million neurons, putting it on par with the brain of a small mammal.
Rutgers researchers have discovered the origins of the protein structures responsible for metabolism: simple molecules that powered early life on Earth and serve as chemical signals that NASA could use to search for life on other planets. Their study, which predicts what the earliest proteins looked like 3.5 billion to 2.5 billion years ago, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The Omega Team was the soul of the company. Whereas the rest of the enterprise brought in the money to keep things going, by various commercial applications of narrow Al, the Omega Team pushed ahead in their quest for what had always been the CEO's dream: building general artificial intelligence. Most other employees viewed "the Omegas," as they affectionately called them, as a bunch of pie-in-the-sky dreamers, perpetually decades away from their goal. They happily indulged them, however, because they liked the prestige that the cutting-edge work of the Omegas gave their company, and they also appreciated the improved algorithms that the Omegas occasionally gave them.
What would the implications be if decoding your genes cost less than a pair of designer jeans? We might soon find out after a Chinese company claimed it can sequence the human genome for $100. The speed at which the price of genetic sequencing has fallen has been astonishing, from $50,000 a decade ago to roughly $600 today. For a long time, the industry saw the $1,000 genome as the inflection point at which we would enter the genomic age—where getting a read out of your DNA would be within reach for huge swathes of the population.
10) Big Tech Is Testing You - Large-scale social experiments are now ubiquitous, and conducted without public scrutiny
Dr. John Haygarth knew that there was something suspicious about Perkins’s Metallic Tractors. He’d heard all the theories about the newly patented medical device—about the way flesh reacted to metal, about noxious electrical fluids being expelled from the body. He’d heard that people plagued by rheumatism, pleurisy, and toothache swore the instrument offered them miraculous relief. Even George Washington was said to own a set. But Haygarth, a physician who had pioneered a method of preventing smallpox, sensed a sham. He set out to find the evidence.
A proposal for building wormhole-connected black holes offers a way to probe the paradoxes of quantum information. As experimental proposals go, this one certainly doesn’t lack ambition. First, take a black hole. Now make a second black hole that is quantum entangled with it, which means that anything that happens to one of the black holes will seem to have an effect on the other, regardless of how far apart they are.