science + technology news

Quantum computer springs a leak

June 27, 2005

Physicists in the Netherlands have shown that efforts to engineer quantum computers around ever-smaller qubits may face significant obstacles.

They have proven that there is a universal decoherence rate for qubits. This means that quantum information will inevitably be lost after a certain time, even without any external disturbance. For some of the most promising qubit technologies, the limit would be about 1 second.

Space station gets HAL-like computer

June 27, 2005

Clarissa, a voice-operated computer assistant, will be used in space for the first time on Monday.

The program will initially talk astronauts on the International Space Station through tests of onboard water supplies. But its developers hope it will eventually be used for all computer-related work on the station.

The program “listens” to everything astronauts say and analyzes how to respond, using a “command grammar” of 75 commands… read more

Half human, half beast?

June 27, 2005

A few human cells don’t make an animal human. But what if it’s 10%, or 50%? Welcome to the moral minefield of human-animal chimeras. (Requires paid subscription)

‘Robo-legs’ help amputees get around

June 27, 2005

Blazing advancements, including lightweight composite materials, keener sensors and tiny programmable microprocessors are restoring remarkable degrees of mobility to amputees.

The line that has long separated human beings from the machines that assist them is blurring as complex technologies become a visible part of people who depend upon them.

World broadband numbers in Q1 2005

June 27, 2005

World broadband lines reached 164 million in Q1 2005, up 52 million lines since Q1 2004.

The United Status leads, with 36.5 milion lines. China remains in second place with 28.3 million, followed by Japan, South Korea, France, and Germany.

Nano-levers point to futuristic gadgets

June 27, 2005

Billions of “Nanomech” mechanical levers could be used to store songs on future MP3 players and pictures on digital cameras.

Nanomech memory, which is nonvolatile, stores data using thousands of electro-mechanical switches, each a few microns long and less than a micron wide.

How the Web changes your reading habits

June 24, 2005

Palo Alto Research Center researchers are developing ScentHighlights, which uses artificial intelligence to highlight sections of text it predicts you’ll be interested in based on your search words.

Chirpy chickadees signal deadliness of predators

June 24, 2005

Chickadees sing one of the animal kingdom’s most intricate alarm calls, a new study reveals, increasing the number of syllables in their battle cry depending on the deadliness of a sitting predator.

Microbes Can Produce Miniature Electrical Wires

June 23, 2005

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered a tiny biological structure that is highly electrically conductive.

The conductive structures, known as “microbial nanowires,” are produced by a novel microorganism known as Geobacter. The nanowires are only 3-5 nanometers in width, but durable and more than a thousand times long as they are wide.

The finding could provide new approaches to using microbes to assist in the… read more

Brain Sees Violent Video Games as Real Life — Study

June 23, 2005

The brains of players of violent video games react as if the violence were real, a study has suggested.

It found that as violence became imminent, the cognitive parts of the brain became active and that during a fight, emotional parts of the brain were shut down.

It suggests that video games are training the brain to react with this pattern.

Robo-pups created with curiosity in mind

June 23, 2005

Robotic puppies exhibiting a form of artificial curiosity are being developed at Sony’s research and development lab in Paris, France.

The Aibo pups display an innate artificial curiosity similar to that seen in baby animals. They slowly learn to explore the surrounding world, before playing with toys and trying to communicate with other Aibo dogs.

Each of the new Aibo dogs was given two software control mechanisms. Firstly,… read more

Livermore supercomputer ranked as world’s fastest

June 23, 2005

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory now has the world’s most powerful computer, IBM’s BlueGene/L, according to this year’s Top 500 list, announced Wednesday at the International Supercomputer Conference in Heidelberg, Germany.

The BlueGene/L installed there contains 62,000 microprocessors that can handle 136.8 trillion calculations, or teraflops, per second.

New magnetic herding technique proposed to manipulate colloids in the body

June 22, 2005

Engineers have introduced a new magnetic shepherding approach for moving or positioning colloidal materials within organisms.

The “magnetic nanoparticle assembler” technique uses nanoscale “magnetic traps” consisting of suspended magnetic nanoparticles and a controllable external applied magnetic field. The nanoparticles act as nanoscale “tugboats” to push and pull comparatively large beads of colloids.

Potential applications range from the speedier assembly of molecules for biosensors or hybridization experiments, to precision… read more

In Chess, Masters Again Fight Machines

June 22, 2005

Rather than being the final word in the battle of man vs. machine, the Kasparov-Deep Blue match spurred the competition. More grandmasters are taking up the challenge posed by computers.

Scientists creat tiniest uniform, precisely shaped organic nanoparticles for delivering organic materials into the human body

June 21, 2005

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chemists have developed a method of creating the world’s tiniest manufactured particles — less than 100 nanometers — for delivering drugs and other organic materials into the human body.

Until now, most current techniques for particle formation were incompatible with organic materials, according to Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at UNC and N.C. State University.

That… read more

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