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Science and research

New XPrize: Can an AI project get a standing ovation at TED?

Can an artificial intelligence system get a standing ovation at the TED conference?

That's the challenge for the brand-new A.I. XPrize, announced Thursday at TED in Vancouver by XPrize Foundation head Peter Diamandis.

Unlike most XPrizes, which have clear rules and goals, this one is a bit more free-form. Described as "a modern-day Turing test, [it will] be awarded to the first A.I. to walk or roll out on stage and present a TED talk so compelling that it commands a standing ovation from you, the audience."

And TED and the XPrize Foundation is turning … Read more

Paleontologists discover 'chicken from hell' dinosaur

A 66-million-year-old dinosaur has been discovered -- a birdlike creature that provides palaeontologists with a first in-depth look at an oviraptorosaurian species called Caenagnathidae (SEE-nuh-NAY-thih-DAY) -- one that has long been difficult to study, since most remains have only been skeletal fragments.

Named Anzu wyliei (Anzu after a bird-demon from Mesopotamian myth and wyliei after Wylie, the grandson of a Carnegie museum trustee), the new species was put together from three separate skeletons found in North and South Dakota, forming almost one entire skeleton. The resultant dinosaur measures 3.5 metres from nose to tail-tip, weighing in at 225 kilograms (496 pounds), with sharp claws and a feathered body -- resembling, according to the researchers, led by Matthew Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, a "chicken from hell."… Read more

White House embarks on climate change mapping project

The White House wants people and communities to be prepared for extreme weather events spurred by climate change, like coastal flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires. So, it's making data sets and maps from some of the country's top agencies available to the public in it's newly launched "Climate Data Initiative."

The maps and data sets are being collected in one Web site, data.gov/climate, which is full of open government data on the country's infrastructure and geographical features, like bridges, roads, tunnels, canals, and river gauges. The information comes from agencies such as NASA, … Read more

New DNA stool test almost as good as dreaded colonoscopy

Last year alone, almost 50,000 Americans died of colon cancer, and nearly 150,000 new cases were discovered. In fact, it's the third most common cancer in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. And yet one in every three qualifying Americans doesn't follow colonoscopy guidelines: getting one at age 50 and every decade thereafter.

There may be many factors at play behind so many people not undergoing the procedure, but even for those who simply feel squeamish about it, it's hard to blame them. Colonoscopies are invasive, uncomfortable, and at least for some, downright … Read more

Preserved woolly-mammoth autopsy shows cloning is a real possibility

The female woolly mammoth unearthed in the Lyakhovsky Islands in May 2013 could one day become the "mother" of the first woolly mammoth to walk the earth in millennia.

The discovery of the beast caused excitement when the scientists who unearthed her found that she was very well preserved -- to the point that her blood was still liquid after all these years.

Now, after a necropsy (an autopsy on an animal), the team has discovered that the mammoth's soft tissues are in excellent condition, so much so that they may be able to extract enough high-quality … Read more

'Smart tags' can sense when food or medicine go bad

What if you never had to do a smell test for spoiled milk again? Instead of having to take a whiff of the sour liquid, you could just check the color of a small tag placed on the container.

This is exactly what researchers at Peking University in Beijing, China, are working on: color-coded "smart tags."

These corn kernel-sized tags can be stuck to containers of food or medicine and have the capabilities of determining whether the food has gone bad or if the medications are still active. What's more, these tags will reportedly cost less than one penny each. … Read more

A beating patch of cells could mend broken hearts

When the human heart is seriously physically damaged, modern medicine's solution can seem a bit brutal: rip it out and put another one in.

Harvard researchers may have just come up with a more elegant approach. They've created a layer of heart cells that actually beats on its own and could one day be used as a patch to repair major heart defects.… Read more

Blood testing coming to a touch screen near you

People with hemophilia, or those taking anticoagulants to help prevent dangerous outcomes such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or ischemic stroke, are unfortunately at a higher risk of bleeding easily. To better monitor these patients, health care professionals typically take blood coagulation tests in hospitals and clinics -- which can be a real burden both financially and logistically.

But soon, thanks to startup Qloudlab, based in the microengineering lab in Switzerland's EPFL tech university, these patients may be able to use the touch screens on their phones or other devices to test their blood coagulation, all in the comfort of their own homes -- or wherever.… Read more

Zombie moss: Plant revives after 1,500 frozen years

It sounds like the next purposefully bad SyFy channel production: "Zombie moss! It came from beneath the Antarctic!" Researchers pulled up a sample of moss that had been sitting frozen for the last 1,500 years. Remarkably, it came back to life and started to grow again. This isn't quite the same as an unfrozen caveman lawyer, but it's pretty cool.

The moss sample came from a frozen core extracted from a moss bank in the Antarctic. It was sliced and placed in an incubator set to maintain normal light and temperature conditions geared for growth. A few weeks later, the sample began to grow. Carbon dating places the age of the moss at at least 1,530 years old.… Read more

See physicist surprised by news his Big Bang theory was right

Physicists on Monday revealed a major discovery in our understanding of how everything got started by spotting gravitational waves that can be traced back to the exponential expansion that occurred in the fractions of a second after the Big Bang.

These ripples in space-time back up a theory of cosmic inflation developed by physicists Alan Guth and Andrei Linde in the early 1980s. Linde is now a professor at Stanford and could not hide his excitement when he first learned of the discovery from his colleagues.… Read more