Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Computer


Judging others' personalities is an essential skill in successful social living, as personality is a key driver behind people’s interactions, behaviors, and emotions. Although accurate personality judgments stem from social-cognitive skills, developments in machine learning show that computer models can also make valid judgments. This study compares the accuracy of human and computer-based personality judgments, using a sample of 86,220 volunteers who completed a 100-item personality questionnaire. We show that (i) computer predictions based on a generic digital footprint (Facebook Likes) are more accurate (r = 0.56) than those made by the participants' Facebook friends using a personality questionnaire (r = 0.49); (ii) computer models show higher interjudge agreement; and (iii) computer personality judgments have higher external validity when predicting life outcomes such as substance use, political attitudes, and physical health; for some outcomes, they even outperform the self-rated personality scores. Computers outpacing humans in personality judgment presents significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Personality psychology, Skill, Learning, Computer, Emotion, Judgment


Recently, we proposed that Brainets, i.e. networks formed by multiple animal brains, cooperating and exchanging information in real time through direct brain-to-brain interfaces, could provide the core of a new type of computing device: an organic computer. Here, we describe the first experimental demonstration of such a Brainet, built by interconnecting four adult rat brains. Brainets worked by concurrently recording the extracellular electrical activity generated by populations of cortical neurons distributed across multiple rats chronically implanted with multi-electrode arrays. Cortical neuronal activity was recorded and analyzed in real time, and then delivered to the somatosensory cortices of other animals that participated in the Brainet using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). Using this approach, different Brainet architectures solved a number of useful computational problems, such as discrete classification, image processing, storage and retrieval of tactile information, and even weather forecasting. Brainets consistently performed at the same or higher levels than single rats in these tasks. Based on these findings, we propose that Brainets could be used to investigate animal social behaviors as well as a test bed for exploring the properties and potential applications of organic computers.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Computer, Computation, Computer science, Electrical engineering, Computing


We describe a set of best practices for scientific software development, based on research and experience, that will improve scientists' productivity and the reliability of their software.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Computer, Computer science, Best practice, System software, Computer software, Application software


The ability to infer intentions of other agents, called theory of mind (ToM), confers strong advantages for individuals in social situations. Here, we show that ToM can also be maladaptive when people interact with complex modern institutions like financial markets. We tested participants who were investing in an experimental bubble market, a situation in which the price of an asset is much higher than its underlying fundamental value. We describe a mechanism by which social signals computed in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex affect value computations in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, thereby increasing an individual’s propensity to ‘ride’ financial bubbles and lose money. These regions compute a financial metric that signals variations in order flow intensity, prompting inference about other traders' intentions. Our results suggest that incorporating inferences about the intentions of others when making value judgments in a complex financial market could lead to the formation of market bubbles.

Concepts: Brain, Economics, Cerebrum, Consciousness, Computer, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex, Bank


Minimizing the resources required to build logic gates into useful processing circuits is key to realizing quantum computers. Although the salient features of a quantum computer have been shown in proof-of-principle experiments, difficulties in scaling quantum systems have made more complex operations intractable. This is exemplified in the classical Fredkin (controlled-SWAP) gate for which, despite theoretical proposals, no quantum analog has been realized. By adding control to the SWAP unitary, we use photonic qubit logic to demonstrate the first quantum Fredkin gate, which promises many applications in quantum information and measurement. We implement example algorithms and generate the highest-fidelity three-photon Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger states to date. The technique we use allows one to add a control operation to a black-box unitary, something that is impossible in the standard circuit model. Our experiment represents the first use of this technique to control a two-qubit operation and paves the way for larger controlled circuits to be realized efficiently.

Concepts: Mathematics, Quantum information science, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Quantum computer, Quantum dot, Qubit, Computer, Computation


Driven by advances in materials and computer science, researchers are attempting to design systems where the computer and material are one and the same entity. Using theoretical and computational modeling, we design a hybrid material system that can autonomously transduce chemical, mechanical, and electrical energy to perform a computational task in a self-organized manner, without the need for external electrical power sources. Each unit in this system integrates a self-oscillating gel, which undergoes the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction, with an overlaying piezoelectric (PZ) cantilever. The chemomechanical oscillations of the BZ gels deflect the PZ layer, which consequently generates a voltage across the material. When these BZ-PZ units are connected in series by electrical wires, the oscillations of these units become synchronized across the network, where the mode of synchronization depends on the polarity of the PZ. We show that the network of coupled, synchronizing BZ-PZ oscillators can perform pattern recognition. The “stored” patterns are set of polarities of the individual BZ-PZ units, and the “input” patterns are coded through the initial phase of the oscillations imposed on these units. The results of the modeling show that the input pattern closest to the stored pattern exhibits the fastest convergence time to stable synchronization behavior. In this way, networks of coupled BZ-PZ oscillators achieve pattern recognition. Further, we show that the convergence time to stable synchronization provides a robust measure of the degree of match between the input and stored patterns. Through these studies, we establish experimentally realizable design rules for creating “materials that compute.”

Concepts: Mathematics, Science, Computer, Computation, Computer science, Electrical engineering, Computing, Computational science


The game of Go has long been viewed as the most challenging of classic games for artificial intelligence owing to its enormous search space and the difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves. Here we introduce a new approach to computer Go that uses ‘value networks’ to evaluate board positions and ‘policy networks’ to select moves. These deep neural networks are trained by a novel combination of supervised learning from human expert games, and reinforcement learning from games of self-play. Without any lookahead search, the neural networks play Go at the level of state-of-the-art Monte Carlo tree search programs that simulate thousands of random games of self-play. We also introduce a new search algorithm that combines Monte Carlo simulation with value and policy networks. Using this search algorithm, our program AlphaGo achieved a 99.8% winning rate against other Go programs, and defeated the human European Go champion by 5 games to 0. This is the first time that a computer program has defeated a human professional player in the full-sized game of Go, a feat previously thought to be at least a decade away.

Concepts: Psychology, Algorithm, Artificial intelligence, Simulation, Machine learning, Computer, Computer program, Artificial neural network


BACKGROUND: Cloud computing provides an infrastructure that facilitates large scale computational analysis in a scalable, democratized fashion, However, in this context it is difficult to ensure sharing of an analysis environment and associated data in a scalable and precisely reproducible way. RESULTS: CloudMan ( enables individual researchers to easily deploy, customize, and share their entire cloud analysis environment, including data, tools, and configurations. CONCLUSIONS: With the enabled customization and sharing of instances, CloudMan can be used as a platform for collaboration. The presented solution improves accessibility of cloud resources, tools, and data to the level of an individual researcher and contributes toward reproducibility and transparency of research solutions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Research, Computer, Solution, Reproducibility, Cloud computing, Utility computing, Tool


As advances in life sciences and information technology bring profound influences on bioinformatics due to its interdisciplinary nature, bioinformatics is experiencing a new leap-forward from in-house computing infrastructure into utility-supplied cloud computing delivered over the Internet, in order to handle the vast quantities of biological data generated by high-throughput experimental technologies. Albeit relatively new, cloud computing promises to address big data storage and analysis issues in the bioinformatics field. Here we review extant cloud-based services in bioinformatics, classify them into Data as a Service (DaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and present our perspectives on the adoption of cloud computing in bioinformatics.ReviewersThis article was reviewed by Frank Eisenhaber, Igor Zhulin, and Sandor Pongor.

Concepts: DNA, Biology, Life, Computer, Internet, Cloud computing, Everything as a service, Information technology


In the 1940s, the first generation of modern computers used vacuum tube oscillators as their principle components, however, with the development of the transistor, such oscillator based computers quickly became obsolete. As the demand for faster and lower power computers continues, transistors are themselves approaching their theoretical limit and emerging technologies must eventually supersede them. With the development of optical oscillators and Josephson junction technology, we are again presented with the possibility of using oscillators as the basic components of computers, and it is possible that the next generation of computers will be composed almost entirely of oscillatory devices. Here, we demonstrate how coupled threshold oscillators may be used to perform binary logic in a manner entirely consistent with modern computer architectures. We describe a variety of computational circuitry and demonstrate working oscillator models of both computation and memory.

Concepts: Vacuum tube, Integrated circuit, Oscillation, Computer, Computation, Computer science, Computing, Electronics