AI Machine Beats Champion Chess Program

, the game-playing AI created by Google sibling DeepMind, has beaten the world’s best chess-playing computer program, having taught itself how to play in under four hours. The repurposed AI, which has repeatedly beaten the world’s best Go players as AlphaGo, has been generalised so that it can now learn other games. It took just four hours to learn the rules to chess before beating the world champion chess program, Stockfish 8, in a 100-game match up. AlphaZero won or drew all 100 games, according to a non-peer-reviewed research paper published with Cornell University Library’s arXiv.


Starting from random play, and given no domain knowledge except the game rules, AlphaZero achieved within 24 hours a superhuman level of play in the games of chess and shogi [a similar Japanese board game] as well as Go, and convincingly defeated a world-champion program in each case,” said the paper’s authors that include DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis, who was a child chess prodigy reaching master standard at the age of 13.

“It’s a remarkable achievement, even if we should have expected it after AlphaGo,” former world chess champion Garry Kasparov told “We have always assumed that chess required too much empirical knowledge for a machine to play so well from scratch, with no human knowledge added at all.

Computer programs have been able to beat the best human chess players ever since IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer defeated Kasparov on 12 May 1997DeepMind said the difference between AlphaZero and its competitors is that its machine-learning approach is given no human input apart from the basic rules of chess. The rest it works out by playing itself over and over with self-reinforced knowledge. The result, according to DeepMind, is that AlphaZero took an “arguably more human-like approach” to the search for moves, processing around 80,000 positions per second in chess compared to Stockfish 8’s 70m.

After winning 25 games of chess versus Stockfish 8 starting as white, with first-mover advantage, a further three starting with black and drawing a further 72 games, AlphaZero also learned shogi in two hours before beating the leading program Elmo in a 100-game matchup. AlphaZero won 90 games, lost eight and drew 2. The new generalised AlphaZero was also able to beat the “super human” former version of itself AlphaGo at the Chinese game of Go after only eight-hours of self-training, winning 60 games and losing 40 games.

While experts said the results are impressive, and have potential across a wide-range of applications to complement human knowledge, professor Joanna Bryson, a computer scientist and AI researcher at the University of Bath, warned that it was “still a discrete task“.


Wave Of Destruction In Cancer Cells

Nanoparticles known as Cornell dots, or C dots, have shown great promise as a therapeutic tool in the detection and treatment of cancer.

Now, the ultrasmall particles – developed more than a dozen years ago by Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering at Cornell University – have shown they can do something even better: kill cancer cells without attaching a cytotoxic drug.

The study was led by Michelle Bradbury, director of intraoperative imaging at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and associate professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Michael Overholtzer, cell biologist at MSKCC, in collaboration with Wiesner. Their work details how C dots, administered in large doses and with the tumors in a state of nutrient deprivation, trigger a type of cell death called ferroptosis.


If you had to design a nanoparticle for killing cancer, this would be exactly the way you would do it,” Wiesner said. “The particle is well tolerated in normally healthy tissue, but as soon as you have a tumor, and under very specific conditions, these particles become killers.”

In fact,” Bradbury said, “this is the first time we have shown that the particle has intrinsic therapeutic properties.


Nanocomputer: How To Grow Atomically Thin Transistors

In an advance that helps pave the way for next-generation electronics and computing technologies—and possibly paper-thin gadgets —scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) developed a way to chemically assemble transistors and circuits that are only a few atoms thick. What’s more, their method yields functional structures at a scale large enough to begin thinking about real-world applications and commercial scalability“This is a big step toward a scalable and repeatable way to build atomically thin electronics or pack more computing power in a smaller area,” says Xiang Zhang*, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division who led the study.

Their work is part of a new wave of research aimed at keeping pace with Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In order to keep this pace, scientists predict that integrated electronics will soon require transistors that measure less than ten nanometers in length (nanocomputer). Transistors are electronic switches, so they need to be able to turn on and off, which is a characteristic of semiconductors. However, at the nanometer scale, silicon transistors likely won’t be a good option. That’s because silicon is a bulk material, and as electronics made from silicon become smaller and smaller, their performance as switches dramatically decreases, which is a major roadblock for future electronics.

Researchers have looked to two-dimensional crystals that are only one molecule thick as alternative materials to keep up with Moore’s Law. These crystals aren’t subject to the constraints of silicon. In this vein, the Berkeley Lab scientists developed a way to seed a single-layered semiconductor, in this case the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), into channels lithographically etched within a sheet of conducting graphene. The two atomic sheets meet to form nanometer-scale junctions that enable graphene to efficiently inject current into the MoS2. These junctions make atomically thin transistors.

assembly of 2D crystals
This schematic shows the chemical assembly of two-dimensional crystals. Graphene is first etched into channels and the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) begins to nucleate around the edges and within the channel. On the edges, MoS2 slightly overlaps on top of the graphene. Finally, further growth results in MoS2 completely filling the channels.

This approach allows for the chemical assembly of electronic circuits, using two-dimensional materials, which show improved performance compared to using traditional metals to inject current into TMDCs,” says Mervin Zhao, a lead author and Ph.D. student in Zhang’s group at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley.

Optical and electron microscopy images, and spectroscopic mapping, confirmed various aspects related to the successful formation and functionality of the two-dimensional transistors. In addition, the scientists demonstrated the applicability of the structure by assembling it into the logic circuitry of an inverter. This further underscores the technology’s ability to lay the foundation for a chemically assembled atomic computer or nanocomputer, the scientists say. “Both of these two-dimensional crystals have been synthesized in the wafer scale in a way that is compatible with current semiconductor manufacturing. By integrating our technique with other growth systems, it’s possible that future computing can be done completely with atomically thin crystals,” says Zhao.

*Zhang also holds the Ernest S. Kuh Endowed Chair at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and is a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley. Other scientists who contributed to the research include Mervin Zhao, Yu Ye, Yang Xia, Hanyu Zhu, Siqi Wang, and Yuan Wang from UC Berkeley as well as Yimo Han and David Muller from Cornell University.


Nano Sponges Cut Greenhouse Gases

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture – chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it releases into the atmosphere – is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology. A research team led by Emmanuel Giannelis, Professor of Engineering, has invented a powder that performs as well or better than industry benchmarks for carbon capture.
The researchers have been working on a better, safer carbon-capture method . Their latest consists of a silica scaffold, the sorbent support, with nanoscale pores for maximum surface area. They dip the scaffold into liquid amine, which soaks into the support like a sponge and partially hardens. The finished product is a stable, dry white powder that captures carbon dioxide even in the presence of moisture.

A scanning electron microscopy image of a pristine silica support, before the amine is added
We have made great strides in sustainability, particularly in the energy supply areas of alternative energy sources, and the demand side areas of energy conservation and building design standards,” KyuJung Whang, Cornell’s vice president for facilities services said.

A paper with their results, co-authored by postdoctoral associates Genggeng Qi and Liling Fu, appeared in Nature Communications.

A Glass Of Milk So White…

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) revealed a few weeks ago that there are over 1,600 nanotechnology-based products on the market today — and that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lacks the authority to regulate them.Some of these nanotechnological innovations — which refer to particles less than 100 nanometers wide, or approximately 1/800th the diameter of a strand of human hair — are likely harmless, such as embedded silver particles in athletic socks and underwear. According to SmartSilver Anti-Odor Nanotechnology Underwear, the microscopic silver particles are “strongly antibacterial to a wide range of pathogens, absorb sweat, and by killing bacteria help eliminate unpleasant foot odor.”

However, the PEN database also includes 96 nanotechnology-infused items currently stocked on grocery store shelves, and none of these items listed their nanotechnology among their ingredients. Included on the list are Dannon Greek Plain Yogurt, Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate, Kraft’s American Cheese Singles, and Rice Dream Rice Drink, all of which contain nanoparticles of titanium dioxide.

Titanium dioxide — often referred to as “the perfect white” or “the whitest white” — is used as a pigment because its refractive index is extremely high. It has long been present in paints, plastics, paper, toothpaste, and pearlescent cosmetics, but researchers recently discovered the benefits of adding it to skim milk.

According to David Barbano, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, “suspension of titanium dioxide in skim milk made the milk whiter, which resulted in improved sensory scores for appearance, creamy aroma, and texture… There is clearly a need to develop a whitener for fat-free milk other than titanium dioxide to provide processors with an ingredient option that would improve sensory properties and provide a nutritional benefit.”


The World’s Thinnest Sheet of Glass Is Two Atoms Thick

Researchers at Cornell and Germany’s University of Ulm have created the world’s thinnest pane of glass, a step towards a nanocomputer. The glass, made of silicon and oxygen, formed accidentally when the scientists were making graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon, on copper-covered quartz. They believe an air leak caused the copper to react with the quartz, which is also made of silicon and oxygen, producing a glass layer with the graphene. The glass is a mere three atoms thick—the minimum thickness of silica glass—which makes it two-dimensional.

Direct Imaging of a Two-Dimensional Silica Glass on Graphene
Although this is the first time such a thin sheet of freestanding glass has been produced, the image, taken with an electron microscope, isn’t entirely new. The “pane” of glass, so impossibly thin that its individual silicon and oxygen atoms are clearly visible via electron microscopy, was identified in the lab of David A. Muller, professor of applied and engineering physics and director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.
The two-dimensional glass could find a use in transistors, by providing a defect-free, ultra-thin material that could improve the performance of processors in computers and smartphones.

The paper, “Direct Imaging of a Two-Dimensional Silica Glass on Graphene,” was published in Nano Letters on Jan. 23, 2012, with first authors Pinshane Huang, a Cornell graduate student, and Simon Kurash, a University of Ulm graduate student. It includes collaborators from the University of Ulm, Germany; the Max Planck institute for Solid State Research in Germany; University of Vienna; University of Helsinki; and Aalto University in Finland.


Your Smartphone Is Also A Portable Lab

Researchers from Cornell University are working on Smartphone Based Molecular Diagnostics. The technologies developed will enable you to monitor your own blood chemistry with your smartphone. Enabling personalized knowledge of our own physiological and nutritional status could dramatically enhance our quality of life. The idea: by 2016 there will be 250 million smartphones in use in the US. The newsystems that can exploit the ubiquity of smartphone for personalized monitoring of important elements of blood chemistry, like vitamins and micronutrients. The system exploits a series of microfluidic components, photonic technologies, and standard smartphone capabilities to analyze the content of a blood sample taken from a finger stick. The system is comprised of a reusable “accessory”, that interfaces directly with the USB port of the smartphone and contains the optical interrogation infrastructure, and a consumable “cartridge” or “chip”, that accepts the blood sample, processes it, and conducts the detection assay. Analysis results are displayed to the user via an on-board “app”, compared with optimal levels, and recommendations provided regarding any treatments.

Smartphone Based Molecular Diagnostics. This new technology will enable you to monitor your own blood chemistry with your smartphone. Enabling personalized knowledge of our own physiological and nutritional status could dramatically enhance our quality of life

The research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center.


How To Prevent Bone Fractures

Using cutting-edge X-ray techniques, Cornell researchers have uncovered cellular-level detail of what happens when bone bears repetitive stress over time, visualizing damage at smaller scales than previously observed. Their work could offer clues into how bone fractures could be prevented. More: from athletes to individuals suffering from osteoporosis, bone fractures are usually the result of tiny cracks accumulating over time — invisible rivulets of damage that, when coalesced, lead to that painful break.
Marjolein van der Meulen, the Swanson Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, led the study published online March 5 in PLOS One using transmission X-ray microscopy at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, part of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
Transmission X-ray microscope images of damage generated in a bone sample and stained with lead-uranyl acetate. White is the staining of microdamage, gray is bone and black is background. On the left is one-time loading of the sample, and on the right is repeated loading.

In skeletal research, people have been trying to understand the role of damage,” said van der Meulen, whose research is called mechanobiology — how mechanics intersects with biological processes. “One of the things people have hypothesized is that damage is one of the stimuli that cells are sensing.”


Fuel Cell Output at Lower Cost for Electric Car

Fuel cells, which convert fuel directly into electricity without burning it, promise a less polluted future where cars run on pure hydrogen and exhaust nothing but water vapor. But the catalysts that make them work are still “sluggish” and worse, expensive. A research team at the Cornell Energy Materials Center has taken an important step forward with a chemical process that creates platinum-cobalt nanoparticles with a platinum enriched shell that show improved catalytic activity.

This could be a real significant improvement. It enhances the catalysis and cuts down the cost by a factor of five,” said Héctor Abruña, the E.M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, senior author of a paper describing the work in the Oct. 28 issue of the journal Nature Materials. Co-authors include Francis DiSalvo, the John Newman Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and David Muller, professor of applied and engineering physics and co-director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.


Synthetic Blood Vessels

Cornell engineers, taking an engineer's approach to making synthetic blood vessels have designed  tiny, 3-D microchannels in a soft biomaterial and injected human umbilical vein endothelial cells into the channels. They embedded tissue cells from the brain into the surrounding gel and watched the interactions between the "vessels" and cells, which commonly surround microvessels in the body.
Let's remind that human tissue, be it in the heart, brain or bones, can't function without a vascular system — the intricate network of vessels that circulate life-sustaining blood and nutrients.


Here, left picture,  you see a reconstruction of fluorescence confocal micrographs of a microvascular network with endothelial-cell lines channels (red) and perivascular cells (green) in collagen. 

Signals from these tissue cells led to new blood vessels sprouting from the originals — a living network of blood vessels engineered completely in vitro.The results, which could lead to new techniques in regenerative medicine and better drug delivery strategies, are from the lab of Abe Stroock, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and member of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science.