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Computers of the future could be made from human cells

Future computers could be built smaller than ever before using the tiny biological skeletons that hold our cells together.

That’s according to one team of scientists, who have devised a way to make computer chips using cytoskeletons – protein scaffolds that give cells their shape.

They claim that the silicon chips that brought computers to the masses in the 1980s are soon to be a thing of the past.

Cytoskeletons are tiny scaffolds made of protein that give cells their shape and help them move. Pictured is a microscopic image of a cell and its cytoskeleton. The structures are largely made of the proteins filaments of the protein actin (red) and tubules made of tubulin (green)

Chips made using DNA have previously been built by scientists – but experts at the University of the West of England propose a different microscopic structure.

Cytokines are made up of protein structures that are just 25 nanometres wide – about half the length of a hepatitis virus.

Researcher say that computing signals could be sent over two proteins that make up cytokines: Actin and tubulin.

They transmit data across the cell using movements of atoms and electrons, and scientists could manipulate these signals to perform basic computations.

According to the team’s new theoretical model, the signals could be used to produce logic gates – one of the fundamental units of digital computers.

They say that cytoskeleton devices would have advantages over DNA chips because they are simpler and better at processing signals.

If developed, the chips could bring in a new age of computing in which chips are much smaller and more efficient.

Cytoskeletons are very small and so consume little power, making them more efficient than traditional silicon chips.

They can also be built into a 3D structure, unlike their silicon counterparts, which must be laid flat.

This means cytoskeleton chips could be amassed into strings of millions of processors without taking up much room.

Researchers said that biological chips made with DNA or cytoskeletons stand to revolutionise supercomputing.

Currently, a single supercomputer consumes as much energy as thousands of households, said Professor Ross King, a researcher at the University of Manchester who was not involved in the study.

Using biological chips, ‘you can get orders of magnitude more into a small space,’ he told New Scientist.

‘You could have a desktop-sized supercomputer that used a fraction of the power.’

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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Samsung developing TV controlled by your BRAIN

Samsung is developing a TV system that might one day allow users to flick channels and adjust the volume using their brains.

The so-called Project Ponthius is part of a cooperation between the South Korean electronics giant and the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

The aim of the project is to give people with severe physical disabilities, like quadriplegia, a chance to enjoy their favorite shows without the help of others.

Samsung is developing a TV set that might one day allow users to flick channels and adjust the volume using their brains.

The company presented a prototype during its developer conference in San Francisco last week.

‘How can we provide accessibility to people who cannot move or who have extreme limitations on their movements,’ senior scientist at EPFL Ricardo Chavarriaga said during the panel.

‘We’re making tech that is more complex, that is more intelligent, but we should not forget this tech is being made to interface with humans.’

The system uses a Brain Computer Interface (BCI) to connect the viewer with the TV set.

The BCI relies on a headset covered with 64 sensors and an eye-motion tracker.

The scientists are currently taking brainwave samples to determine how the mind behaves when we have a desire to watch movies.

This could one day lead to a system that uses cues from the brainwaves to make predictions, and then eye movements to confirm.

Once selections have been made, the software will be able to build up a viewer profile and inform future suggestions, streamlining the content selection process.

Although the technology might one day help people who have been paralyzed, it is unlikely to become mainstream anytime soon.

That’s because to use the current prototype users will need to apply gel to their heads before wearing a sensor helmet, something that may be more cumbersome than spending a few minutes looking for the remote control that you lost in the sofa cushions.

Samsung and EPFL are also working on another system that will allow viewers to interact with TV sets with their brainwaves alone.

This system could be particularly useful for people who suffer from disabilities such as locked-in syndrome, the highest form of paraplegia.

Other companies are also working on BCIs that might one day allow humans to interact with machines.

They include Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which is developing ‘ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers’.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

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Headmaster Fired for Stealing School’s Electricity to Mine Crypto

Pink Slip

A headmaster’s side hustle just cost him his job.

On Friday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that Lei Hua lost his job as headmaster of a high school in China’s Hunan province because he was stealing electricity from the school — to power his cryptocurrency mining operation.

Sound Mined

According to the SCMP report, Lei began mining the cryptocurrency ether from his home in June 2017. After he discovered how much electricity his mining computer was consuming, he decided to move it to the school. He later added another seven machines, with the school’s deputy headmaster getting in on the action with a computer of his own.

Lei got caught after teachers noticed the whirring noise of the machines. The government reportedly seized his earnings, but it’s hard to estimate how much Lei earned given the volatility of the crypto market. The school no doubt hopes it was at least enough to cover the $2,120 energy bill his computers racked up during their year of operation.

Whole World Problem

This could be read as a cautionary tale against mining crypto on the company dime. But it should also serve as a warning that the energy consumption of crypto mining is out of control globally.

These school employees would rather risk their jobs than pay the electricity bill that comes along with a mining operation — it’s that energy intensive — but other miners across the globe remain undeterred. They’re firing up their systems and collectively using enough energy to push the globe to the brink of a climate catastrophe.

And unlike Lei’s school, we can’t do anything to stop them.

READ MORE: Chinese Headmaster Fired After Stealing School’s Electricity to Mine Cryptocurrencies [South China Morning Post]

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Neuroscientists Have Finally Tracked Down The Bilingual Language Switch in The Brain –

Breaking from a conversation in Spanish and turning it into a discussion in German is a two-step process that requires a degree of cognitive effort.

Until now, researchers have never been sure which part required more work: ending the first language or starting with the second. A new study reveals just what’s going on upstairs when we make a switch between languages.

“A remarkable feature of multilingual individuals is their ability to quickly and accurately switch back and forth between their different languages,” says study lead author Esti Blanco-Elorrieta from New York University.

This isn’t limited to Spanish and German, or even verbal languages. People who flip from sign languages to spoken word also appear to seamlessly blend one stream of thought into another.

But just how seamless is this process?

Previous studies have shown our anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortices activate when we jump from one language to another.

The anterior cingulate cortex helps us pay attention, while the pre-frontal cortex is the ‘thinking’ part of the brain, what we generally associate with decision making and other executive functions.

So it probably comes as no surprise that when we decide to switch between two languages, we might involve parts of the brain that look at what’s happening around us and evaluate outcomes before flipping the switch.

This jump in neural activity suggests the brain needs to work harder to move from one language to another. Far from a smooth transition, it’s clear there’s some hard peddling going on.

What hasn’t been clear is precisely what drives this change. Are we peddling to shut one mental language book, or open another? The two actions are virtually simultaneous, which makes them hard to tease apart.

One way to pinpoint the ultimate cause of this neural activity would be to look at the brain as it starts one language without stopping the first.

Breaking into English without pausing your Spanish monologue would require a second mouth, so we can forget two spoken languages. Instead, the research team turned to individuals who could English and American Sign Language, or ASL.

“The fact that they can do both at the same time offers a unique opportunity to disentangle engagement and disengagement processes – that is, how they turn languages ‘on’ and ‘off’,” says Blanco-Elorrieta.

The experiment itself involved naming images shown on flash cards, while having the magnetic fields of their brains mapped in a procedure called magnetoencephalography.

Repeating the process with 21 native ASL-English speaking volunteers – all children of deaf parents – provided the team with enough data in detailed resolution to identify the exact moment key areas of the brain kicked it up a notch.

It turns out we need to work at putting the brakes on one language, but don’t really need to do much to get our fingers and tongues wagging on the second.

“In all, these results suggest that the burden of language-switching lies in disengagement from the previous language as opposed to engaging a new language,” says Blanco-Elorrieta.

Surprisingly, this meant that it didn’t really take any more effort to name an image in ASL and English at the same time than it did to name it in just ASL. Naming it in English alone, however, was relatively easy compared to both.

Learning more about the neurology of bilingualism is an important field. Brains that can jump between different languages often have a slight cognitive edge on those that can’t. Having a second language on call might even help you recover faster from a stroke.

Of course it helps to start out young. But even those of us well past our linguist prime can still gain benefits from learning how to say “Pass the salt” in a few different languages.

If this study shows us anything, it’s that our brains find it relatively easy slipping from one language to the next. Just as long as you can put the brakes on your babble first.

This research was published in PNAS.

Read More On This At ScienceAlert – Latest

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