science + technology news

Study: Self-replicating nanomachines feasible

June 4, 2004

A useful self-replicating machine could be less complex than a Pentium IV chip, according to a new study of of “kinematic cellular automata” performed by General Dynamics for NASA.

Through simulations, the researchers demonstrated the feasibility of this kind of self-replication, which could in a decade or more lead to the mass manufacture of molecularly precise robots, display monitors and integrated circuits that can be programmed in the field,… read more

Studying altered brain cells sheds light on epilepsy

April 26, 2010

Changes in reactive astrocyte cells in the brain can profoundly reduce inhibitory control over brain signals, neuroscience researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Tufts University School of Medicine have found.

The researchers were able to dampen neuronal excitability in the animals’ brain slices by adding glutamine, an amino acid that is depleted as a result of reduced glutamine synthetase activity.

“We already know that inhibition is a… read more

Studying child-mother interactions to design robots with social skills

October 29, 2010

University of Miami (UM) developmental psychologists and computer scientists from the University of California in San Diego (UC San Diego) are studying infant-mother interactions and working to implement their findings in a baby robot capable of learning social skills. The objectives are to help unravel the mysteries of human cognitive development and reach new the frontiers in robotics.

The first phase of the project was studying face-to-face interactions between… read more

Studying ethical questions as the brain’s black box Is unlocked

Excerpt from The New York Times
December 18, 2012

MRI Head

S. Matthew Liao, director of the bioethics program at New York University, has a singular title: neuroethicist.

Some researchers claim to be near to using fMRIs to read thoughts. Is this really happening?

The technology, though still crude, appears to be getting closer. For instance, there’s one research group that asks subjects to watch movies. When they

read more

Studying Extreme Genomes

May 12, 2009

As genetic technologies have improved, so has the scope of investigations of human outliers–people with extreme phenotypes, thanks to rapid advances in DNA sequencing.

Scientists are now beginning to sequence individuals’ entire exome–the gene coding region of the genome–searching for mutations in genes never suspected to play a role in particular diseases.

Studying the brain’s chemistry, neuron by neuron

September 1, 2005

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed tools for studying the chemistry of the brain, neuron by neuron. The analytical techniques can probe the spatial and temporal distribution of biologically important molecules, such as vitamin E, and explore the chemical messengers behind thought, memory and emotion.

By dismantling a slice of brain tissue into millions of single cell-size pieces, each of which can be interrogated by mass spectrometric… read more

Studying Young Minds, and How to Teach Them

December 21, 2009

Recent research in cognitive neuroscience is helping to clarify when young brains are best able to grasp fundamental concepts and how to teach it more effectively.

Studying, recreating sound in three dimensions

December 6, 2001

Realistic computer sound, specifically tuned for each listener, could get a little closer using a new, free public database of acoustic measurements developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis.
“We’ve captured the critical information needed to reproduce actual sounds as each listener perceives them,” said Ralph Algazi, who led the research team at the UC Davis Center for Image Processing and Integrated Computing (CIPIC).

Spatially realistic sound… read more

Stuff of Life (but Not Life Itself) Is Detected on a Distant Planet

March 20, 2008

Astronomers reported Wednesday that they had made the first detection of an organic molecule, methane, in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system and had confirmed the presence of water there, clearing the way for a bright future of inspecting the galaxy for livable planets, for the chemical stuff of life, or even for life itself.

Stumped by a problem? The ‘generic parts technique’ technique unsticks you

March 8, 2012


University of Massachusetts psychologist Dr. Tony McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming “functional fixedness” (the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts, hindering people from solving problems). He calls it the “generic parts technique” (GPT).

He found that people trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the trained group… read more

Stun guns can result in sudden cardiac arrest and death: cardiologist

May 3, 2012


A review of case reports published April 30 in the journal Circulation indicates that being shocked in the chest with an electronic control device or stun gun can result in sudden cardiac arrest.

The article is reportedly the first one published in a peer-reviewed medical journal citing the connection.

“Law enforcement and other individuals using a stun gun need to be aware that cardiac arrest can… read more

Stuxnet: computer worm opens new era of warfare

March 5, 2012


Could future malware, modeled on Stuxnet (whose target appears to have been the centrifuges in a top-secret Iranian nuclear facility) target other critical infrastructures — such as nuclear power plants or water systems?

What kind of risk do we face in this country? Steve Kroft reports on 60 Minutes.

Sub-angstrom microscope targets nanotechnology

August 2, 2005

FEI Co. has unveiled what it claims is the highest-resolution scanning-transmission electron microscope, enabling sub-angstrom (atomic scale) imaging and analysis.

A team of researchers plans to use it to make direct observations and analysis of individual atoms at 0.5-angstrom resolution — a key dimension for atomic level research since it is one-third the diameter of a carbon atom.

Sub-nanometer graphene nanopores for low-cost DNA sequencing

Less costly ways of seqequencing DNA could open new possibilities for disease prevention
October 4, 2012

TEM image of shrinkage of nanopore in a graphene sheet

Engineers at the University of Texas at Dallas have used advanced techniques to make the material graphene small enough to read DNA by shrinking the size of a graphene pore to less than one nanometer — opening the possibility of using graphene as a low-cost tool to sequence DNA.

“Sequencing DNA at a very cheap cost would enable scientists and doctors to better predict and diagnose disease,… read more

Subatomic particle simulation tool makes cancer therapy safer

November 15, 2011


At SLAC (Stanford University’s National Accelerator Laboratory), physicists are making cancer therapies safer by using “Geant 4″ software — originally designed for tracking subatomic particles — to map proton paths through patients’ bodies during radiation treatment.

In conventional radiation treatment, subatomic particles inflict DNA damage on dividing cells (both healthy and cancerous), causing them to commit suicide. The technique works because rapidly… read more

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