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Powers of prophesy: Davos looks to the future
Question of the Day
Edward Boyden, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who directs a neural engineering research group, says new technologies for analyzing the brain will produce significant advances in fighting mental illness.
“Right now we know that certain cell types in the brain are impaired in schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder or autism,” he said.
If scientists can develop new technologies to image the brain and control the brain’s cells, he said “over the next half-century or so we should be able to really understand how these networks” generate emotion.
Then, in the case of mental illness, “we can insert information into the cells in order to re-sculpt their dynamics and fix what’s broken,” Boyden said.
Technology entrepreneur Eric Anderson said biotechnology and medicine “are eventually going to be information sciences, with your genes… will determine treatment.”
THE LIGHTEST STUFF
Julia Greer, an assistant professor of materials science and mechanics at the California Institute of Technology, says the world is craving a useful, ultra-superlight material to work with.
Her research group collaborated with Hughes Research Lab (HRL) and the University of California, Irvine, to recently develop the world’s lightest solid material. She predicted that in 10 to 15 years it will be used as fuel cell catalysts, as acoustic damping devices on submarines, as anti-reflective layers in solar cells, and as components of vehicles sent into space.
The new material, called a micro-lattice, is made up of tiny hollow tubes of nickel-phosphorous that are angled to connect _ and contains 99 percent air, Greer said. It can also be used for high-temperature thermal batteries, heart stents and blood clot catchers, she said.
On a related topic, Roy Johnson, the chief technology officer for Lockheed Martin, predicted huge advances in 3-D printing.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
One of the most famous predictions is Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, which says that computing power doubles every two years or so. It has proven stunningly correct so far, putting new technological devices in everyone’s pockets.
But how long will this law hold? Paul Jacobs, the CEO of Qualcomm, said it’s not so certain anymore.
The implications of effectively infinite computing power are staggering _ no more waiting for a power-up or a download; every song, movie and TV episode instantly available; and even the possibility of what scientists call artificial intelligence.
But Jacobs told The Associated Press that the law might be valid only “a couple of more generations.”
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