Computer intelligence is getting more human every day. They solve problems like humans, they communicate like humans, and now, they're ruining the world's financial markets just like humans. NYSE Euronext, the trans-Atlantic regulatory body that monitors stock trading, has fined Credit Suisse's trading division for failing to monitor a computer trading algorithm that misconducted hundreds of thousands of stock transactions.
This week, scientists from around the globe converge on Cambridge University in England to discuss mankind's relationship with intelligent life from beyond the stars. So far, the news is not promising.
As if having trouble conceiving a child wasn't painful enough, the current method of male fertility testing adds to that misery with multiple trips to the doctor, awkward moments in sterile rooms, and lengthy waits while lab technicians painstakingly count out individual sperm. A newly developed chip may change that, and provide a fast, at-home method for anyone to test their sperm count.
In 2006, Anthony Atala conducted a routine organ transplant. Well, the procedure was ordinary, but the organ being transplanted was anything but. The organ wasn't donated by another person, but grown in the lab by Atala and his colleagues. This feat landed Atala on our Best Of What's New 2006 list. Now, in a new TED talk, Atala goes into detail about his work, explaining how they grow the organs, and what he's working on now.
As if people weren't worrying enough about advanced prostheses making amputees stronger than normal humans, now we have to worry if they are going to make them sexier, too. The prosthetics industry is growing rapidly, and, according to Hugh Herr, the director of MIT Media Lab's Biomechatronics Group, advanced prostheses will soon become envied in the same way the newest electronic gadget or the hottest car is today.
As part of the cosmetic industry's attempt to shift away from animal testing for makeup, L'Oreal and the Hurel Corporation have designed a new chip that simulates the behavior of skin cells, eliminating the need to test the allergic response of lab animals to cosmetics.
The invention of plastics in the mid-1800s changed human civilization as profoundly as our earlier mastery of fire, bronze, and steel. Unfortunately, the environmental and health effects of plastic offer a significant downside to such a useful and affordable material. Now, scientists at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed a clay-based hydrogel that they hope will perform the same functions as plastic, but do so without endangering people or the planet.
For every 300 Muscovites, there's a stray dog wandering the streets of Russia's capital. And according to Andrei Poyarkov, a researcher at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the fierce pressure of urban living has driven the dogs to evolve wolf-like traits, increased intelligence, and even the ability to navigate the subway.
Simply put, pills are stupid. They don't know what's going on in your body when you take them, they don't know the optimal time to release their medication, and they certainly can't vary their own dosage levels on the fly. But thanks to the blinking E. coli created by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, that's all about to change.
Sifteo, makers of Siftables, the ingenious cookie-sized computer blocks that play together in infinitely interesting ways, has today officially gone from MIT Media Lab research project to actual company. They're now open for business, but you'll have to wait a bit longer to actually get your hands on some. Nonetheless, we're excited.