science

Transhumanism

It was my first interview with an artificial intelligence—a talking head without a body. The conversation was awkward, but considering that Bina48 is an android, it went better than I expec-ted. Bina48 is a synthetic replica of a real woman named Bina Rothblatt. We met at a Juniata College conference called Our Transhuman Future. The …

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A Stitch in Time

Through the long, painful decline of Big Steel and the subsequent efforts of Pittsburgh to remake itself and regain economic viability, observers echoed a consistent theme: Pittsburgh will rise again because of the industriousness and talent of its workforce. Indeed, that committed workforce helped the region shape a multifaceted economy that grew supple and strong. …

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Salty Debate

Salt is essential to life. The sodium found in salt regulates the heartbeat and the body’s balance of fluids. Once known as “white gold,” salt helped establish civilization with the discovery of its food-preserving ability. Roman soldiers were paid in salt (from which the expression “worth one’s salt” is thought to derive). A few centuries ago, …

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Rossi, Cotter, Beyer, Graham, Have, Hassenzahl, Berg, Wetenhall

Daniel Rossi is executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania. A Pittsburgh native, Rossi was most recently in Phoenix, Ariz., where he was executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona. A 22-year veteran of the nonprofit sector, Rossi has a B.S. in administration and management science/economics from Carnegie Mellon University …

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Bayer CEO: Greg Babe

Other football players were bigger and faster. That didn’t hold back Greg Babe. During summer days, he would run up and down the steps inside Magnolia High School in New Martinsville, W. Va. while his friends hung out at the pool. Those sweat-soaked workouts paid off: Babe rushed for 2,200 yards in 1975, a school …

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Pasteur’s Quadrant

Among scientific researchers, you’re in the zone if you can create something that falls into what is known as Pasteur’s Quadrant. Back when the National Academy of Science was getting organized, its president, Vannevar Bush, developed a methodology for allocating federal funding by classifying research as either basic or applied. Basic research seeks to increase the …

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Kurtz, Irwin, Cangiano, Duncan, Casey, Hudson, Bonte

Dr. Sanford Kurtz is executive vice president, chief medical officer and president of the Physician Organization at West Penn Allegheny Health System. He comes to Pittsburgh from the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., where he was chief operating officer and executive vice president. At WPAHS, Dr. Kurtz will be responsible for designing, building and leading …

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We, robot

A decade ago, the Wall Street Journal gave Pittsburgh the moniker “Roboburgh” when compiling its list of the nation’s 13 hottest high-tech regions. The Steel City is living up to its 21st-century nickname, making new its rich history of engineering complex things. Scores of local robotics start-ups are driving economic growth by building innovative robots …

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Planetary Hollywood

First the lights dim. In the darkness, you feel the intense drumbeat and techno-pop rhythms of the synthesizer pounding deep in your gut. Next a fiery, red globe materializes above you like a cosmic disco ball of galactic proportions. Look left and a futuristic spacecraft emerges from the solar system beyond. It begins to circle …

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Money for merit

Armen Arevian hunched over his laptop in the Shadyside Starbucks. A joint Ph.D./M.D. neuroscience student at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, he studies the sense of smell and nerve pathways by which the brain processes information. “We’re trying to understand how we know it’s a rose,” Armen said. “In my work we listen in on neurons’ conversation. …

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It’s Pay Dirt

Graham Hatfull, Ph.D., is clearly pleased when presented with a film canister brimming with soil dug from a Penn Hills back yard. Common, every day dirt. An odd gift, to be sure, but one often suggested to anyone meeting the head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Biological Sciences for the first time. “Beautiful,” …

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Saving Science

On a quiet afternoon inside Seville Elementary School’s modest, unprepossessing building in Pittsburgh’s northern suburb of Ross, something electric is happening—literally and figuratively. The subject at hand is electricity: what it is and how to create it. But there’s a charge in the atmosphere, too, the kind that might make the hair on parents’ necks …

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Can You Dig It? Yes.

It’s tough to make a non-fiction work on paleoanthropology entertaining. The search for early forms of fossil man is commonly perceived as a dry one, figuratively and literally; comprising years upon years of tiresome labor by pedantic academics in wretched climates and occasionally yielding a fractured femur with which the average dog couldn’t be bothered. …

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