science + technology news

Cycorp: The Cost of Common Sense

February 28, 2005

The time may come, Cycorp CEO Doug Lenat says, when a greatly expanded Cyc will underlie countless software applications. But reaching that goal could easily take another two decades.

Mind Control

February 28, 2005

The BrainGate Neural Interface creates a direct link between a person’s brain and a computer, translating neural activity into action. Matthew Nagle, without use of his limbs but fitted with a BrainGate, can now play a videogame or change channels on TV using only his mind.

Rewiring The Body

February 28, 2005

Exotic implants are bringing new hope to victims of epilepsy, paralysis, depression, and other diseases.

Profile: Patrick Moore

February 28, 2005

Ex-Greenpeace activist turned biotech supporter believes that auditing the performance of biotech products is the only way to convince people of their value.

(Free-access article)

Startup uses tiny probes to store data

February 28, 2005

Nanochip Inc. has developed prototype arrays of atomic-force probes, tiny instruments used to read and write information at the molecular level and hopes to offer its first product by mid-2007. These arrays can record up to one terabit in a single square inch.

That’s the storage density that magnetic hard disk drive makers hope to achieve by 2010. It’s roughly equivalent to putting the contents of 25 DVDs on… read more

Robotics In War: Technology v. morality

February 25, 2005

We are all but ready to build robots to fight our wars but far from prepared to resolve the cadre of attendant ethical questions.

It’s perfectly logical to put machines at risk before humans, clearing minefields and performing guard duty in hostile locales. But if war can be fought virtually without loss of human soldiers’ lives, it could jumble the entire strategic and political calculus of war.

For a Start-Up, Visions of Profit in Podcasting

February 25, 2005

The primarily amateur Internet audio medium known as podcasting may be the commercial Web’s next big thing.

Recent proliferation of portable iPods and other devices for storing and playing files in the MP3 audio format has created a mobile audience in this country – more than 11 million and growing – on whom podcasters are counting to listen to much more than downloaded songs and the occasional audio book.… read more

Compression algorithms harnessed to fight HIV

February 25, 2005

Microsoft algorithms used to compress digital images and recognize patterns in email spam are being used to help scientists identify key genetic features across many different strains of HIV.

This could enable them to engineer an HIV vaccine that is effective against several strains at once.

Brave new world. Get ready for robots that can think

February 24, 2005

A robot capable of speeds up to 20 kilometers an hour that plays soccer with and against humans on Segway human transporters is being developed.

For Simpler Robots, a Step Forward

February 24, 2005

New passive-dynamic robots depend on simple mechanics instead of complex, real-time electronic calculating power for their humanlike gait and use a fraction of the power.

The concepts may be useful in designing prosthetic limbs.

Specialized Brain Cells Predict Intentions as Well as Define Actions

February 23, 2005

A study by UCLA neuroscientists featuring functional magnetic resonance imaging suggests for the first time that mirror neurons help people understand the intentions of others — a key component to social interaction.

The team found that Pre motor mirror neuron areas of the brain — areas active during the execution and the observation of an action — ascribe intentions to actions when presented within a context. Previously, these neurons… read more

Robots That Act Like Rats

February 23, 2005

Researchers have recorded the behavior of rat pups and built rat-like robots with the same basic senses and motor skills to see how behavior can emerge from a simple set of rules.

University Of California – Davis news release

High-intensity ultrasound creates hollow nanospheres and nanocrystals

February 23, 2005

Using high-intensity ultrasound, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created hollow nanospheres and the first hollow nanocrystals.

The nanospheres could be used in microelectronics, drug delivery and as catalysts for making environmentally friendly fuels.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release

Software learns to translate by reading up

February 23, 2005

Translation software that develops an understanding of languages by scanning through thousands of previously translated documents has been developed by Information Sciences Institute.

It takes a statistical approach, building probabilistic rules about words, phrases and syntactic structures.

The translated documents used to teach the translation algorithms can be electronic, on paper, or even audio files. The developer says the system is not only faster than other methods, but… read more

New Methods of Solving Combinatorial-explosion Problems

February 22, 2005

Researchers have developed tools to solve many so-called intractable computer problems, at least in certain practical situations, by using methods that avoid searching the lengthy paths that occur in “heavy tails” of a path distribution.

One of the most effective approaches is to find a “backdoor set” — a small number of key variables whose values can be fixed in advance. In an airline scheduling problem with 10,000 variables,… read more

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