Technology

Human learning is a complex, sometimes mysterious process. Most of us have had experiences where we have struggled to learn something new, but also times when we've picked something up nearly effortlessly.

What if a fusion of computer science and psychology could help us understand more about how people learn, making it possible to design ideal lessons?

That long-range goal is moving toward reality thanks to an effort led by professors in the University of Wisconsin-Madison departments of computer sciences, psychology and educational psychology. Their collaborative research aims to break new ground in what computer scientist Jerry Zhu calls "machine teaching"-- a twist on the more familiar concept of machine learning.

It’s never been easy for readers to know what to believe in academic research. The entire history of science publishing has been riddled with controversy and debate from its very beginning when Hobbes and Boyle, scientists at the Royal Society in London, argued over the scientific method itself.

Even a cursory glance at academic publishing since then shows articles contradicting each others’ findings, papers subsequently shown to contain half truths (even in the serious matter of clinical trials) and yet more that are simply fabricated. Shaky and controversial results have been a part of science since it began to be documented.

Researchers say they have developed a method that could make a nasal spray flu vaccine effective for those under two and over 49 - two groups for which the vaccine is not approved.

By studying the weakened flu virus that is the basis for the nasal spray vaccine in cells from human nasal and sinus cavities, the researchers say they have determined that the virus can be weakened (for young children) or strengthened (in older people) enough to create an appropriate immune response in people of all ages.

By Brian Owens, Inside Science -- Wearable fitness monitors are all the rage among humans right now, but they are also spreading among farm animals. Researchers hope the devices can help keep herds of beef cows healthy.

Karin Orsel, a veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Calgary in Canada is testing how accelerometers – the same devices inside fitness monitors that measure a person's activity level – can be used to detect disease in beef cattle before it becomes obvious to ranchers.

The price fluctuation of fine wines can now be predicted more accurately using a novel artificial intelligence approach. The method could be used to help fine wine investors make more informed decisions about their portfolios and encourage non-wine investors to start looking at wine in this manner and hence increase the net trade of wine.

It is expected that similar techniques will be used in other 'alternative assets' such as classic cars. 

John Leonard's group in the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering specializes in SLAM, or simultaneous localization and mapping, the technique whereby mobile autonomous robots map their environments and determine their locations.

Last week, at the Robotics Science and Systems conference, members of Leonard's group presented a new paper demonstrating how SLAM can be used to improve object-recognition systems, which will be a vital component of future robots that have to manipulate the objects around them in arbitrary ways.

The system uses SLAM information to augment existing object-recognition algorithms. Its performance should thus continue to improve as computer-vision researchers develop better recognition software, and roboticists develop better SLAM software.

3D printing technology can now include electrical components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems, and researchers have put that concept to the test by printing a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detected signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

Prosthetics, medical implants and toys are all fantastic but what had been missing from the repertoire until now was the ability to produce sensitive electronic components.
A bomb-proof lining called the  Fly-Bag has successfully contained blasts in a series of controlled explosions in the luggage hold of a Boeing 747 and an Airbus 321. Using this technology, tests show plane’s luggage hold may be able to contain force of an explosion if a device hidden in a passenger’s luggage detonates

The Fly-Bag lines an aircraft’s luggage hold with multiple layers of novel fabrics and composites and was tested under increasing explosive charges on disused planes at Cotswolds Airport, near Cirencester, this week.

Science, many people believe, is kept in check by scientists reviewing each other’s work. This has recently extended to re-analysis of data to see if results can be replicated, and has overturned important findings in medicine, economics, and sociology.

We re-analyzed an influential randomized controlled trial of deworming in Kenyan schools. We found that even for a randomized controlled trial – lauded as the most robust method to identify impact – there are aspects of analysis and reporting where re-analysis can shed new light.

The downside to computer programs is they lack the ability to interpret. A tiny human can look at a picture of a chicken and a cartoon of a chicken and know that's a chicken while a computer program cannot.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London believe they have overcome one obstacle and have built the first computer program that can recognize hand-drawn sketches better than humans. They call it Sketch-a-Net and in their tests it is capable of correctly identifying the subject of sketches 74.9 percent of the time compared to humans that only managed a success rate of 73.1 percent.