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AI Seeks ET: Machine Learning Powers Hunt for Life in the Solar System

Can artificial intelligence help the search for life elsewhere in the solar system? NASA thinks the answer may be “yes”—and not just on Mars either. A pilot AI system is now being tested for use on the ExoMars mission that is currently slated to launch in the summer or fall of 2022. The machine-learning algorithms being developed will help science...

A Virtual Reality Bias Simulator

In the wake of new Black Lives Matter protests, one company hopes to use virtual reality to help people better understand others by putting them in their colleagues’ shoes. The aim is to create better workplaces by helping employees develop and practice more respectful ways of interacting with each other. By immersing people in realistic digital...

How Violence and Segregation Destroyed African American Innovation

In 2014, economist Lisa D. Cook reported research that illuminated something fundamental about innovation: No matter how well your IP laws are written, innovation won’t happen without security and the rule of law. To prove that she showed how segregation laws, lynchings, and state-supported violence suppressed African American invention during the 20th...

Noise-Cancelling Smart Window Blocks Street Din

During hot weather, it’s nice to open a window to let in a breeze. Maybe not, though, if the window also lets in a cacophony from cars and trucks roaring past. Street noise is a nuisance, a health hazard, and often cited as a reason to abandon the city for the quieter pastures. Why can’t technology ease the problem? We have noise-cancelling headphones;...

Risk Dashboard Could Help the Power Grid Manage Renewables

To fully embrace wind and solar power, grid operators need to be able to predict and manage the variability that comes from changes in the wind or clouds dimming sunlight. One solution may come from a $2-million project backed by the U.S. Department of Energy that aims to develop a risk dashboard for handling more complex power grid scenarios. ...

Malleable Structure Makes Robot Arm More Versatile

The majority of robot arms are built out of some combination of long straight tubes and actuated joints. This isn’t surprising, since our limbs are built the same way, which was a clever and efficient bit of design. By adding more tubes and joints (or degrees of freedom), you can increase the versatility of your robot arm, but the tradeoff is that complexity,...

The Privatization of Puerto Rico's Power Grid Is Mired in Controversy

When Hurricane Maria razed Puerto Rico in September 2017, the storm laid bare the serious flaws and pervasive neglect of the island’s electricity system. Nearly all 3.4 million residents lost power for weeks, months, or longer—a disaster unto itself that affected hospitals and schools and shut down businesses and factories. The following January,...

Nominate a Colleague for a 2022 IEEE Technical Field Award

Image: IEEE THE INSTITUTE Nominations are now open for the annual IEEE Technical Field Awards and the IEEE Eric Herz Outstanding Staff Member Award. The Technical Field Awards are given for contributions to or leadership in one of 27 specific IEEE fields of interest. They are among the highest awards presented on behalf of the IEEE...

Survey Finds Americans Skeptical of Contact Tracing Apps

Confusion and skepticism may confound efforts to make use of digital contact tracing technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey found that just 42 percent of American respondents support using so-called contact tracing apps—an indication of a lack of confidence that could weaken or even derail effective deployment of such technologies....

Crowdsourced Protein Modeling Efforts Focus on COVID-19

Researchers have been banking on millions of citizen-scientists around the world to help identify new treatments for COVID-19. Much of that work is being done through distributed computing projects that utilize the surplus processing power of PCs to carry out various compute-intensive tasks. One such project is Folding@home, which helped model how the...

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