science + technology news

Inside the future

February 15, 2005

“In 15 years time you could design a bacterium with the DNA in it to assemble circuits within its own cell,” says British Telecom futurist-in-residence Ian Pearson.

“Because it’s part of its DNA, it will be able to reproduce. So as long as you provide it with a food supply, this bacterium will become a quite large computer over a period of time. It will just breed….”

“We’re… read more

Robot wars

February 15, 2005

At the 24th Army Science Conference, held in Orlando, Florida last December, Ray Kurzweil gave a keynote address entitled “Warfighting in the 21st Century.” News@nature quizzed this renowned commentator on robotics about his views on future warfare.

Inventor sets his sights on immortality

February 14, 2005

Ray Kurzweil doesn’t tailgate. A man who plans to live forever doesn’t take chances with his health on the highway, or anywhere else.

As part of his daily routine, Kurzweil ingests 250 supplements, eight to 10 glasses of alkaline water and 10 cups of green tea. He also periodically tracks 40 to 50 fitness indicators, down to his “tactile sensitivity.” Adjustments are made as needed.

“I do actually… read more

Genetic engineering for better suburbia

February 14, 2005

Maybe genetic engineers haven’t awakened to the full economic potential of their vocations. The real money is in solving the problems of homeowners.

Genetic engineers could take the genetic coding in certain bright flowers or tropical fish and implant them in our drab aspens, poplars and elms.

Or create grass that would grow to a certain, uniform height, then stop. Or introduce the genetic code for the mass… read more

The Business Of Nanotech

February 14, 2005

There’s still plenty of hype, but nanotechnology is finally moving from the lab to the marketplace.

Chips That Thrive on Uncertainty

February 14, 2005

As transistors shrink, consistent performance diminishes. Big problem? Not if Georgia Tech’s Krishna Palem is right about the benefits of unpredictability.


February 14, 2005

After more than a decade of development, Avida’s digital organisms at Michigan State University are now getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life.

These are digital organisms — strings of commands — akin to computer viruses. Each organism can produce tens of thousands of copies of itself within a matter of minutes. Unlike computer viruses, however, they are made up of digital bits that can mutate and… read more

US denies patent for part-human hybrid

February 14, 2005

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected a claim in a patent on a laboratory-conceived creature that is part human and part animal, saying the hybrid — designed for use in medical research but not yet created — would be too closely related to a human to be patentable.

The decision leaves a crucial question unanswered: At what point is something too human to patent?

The inventor, Stuart… read more

Domo Oregato, Doctor Roboto

February 14, 2005

Hospitals are experimenting with “telerounding” using robots as a way to let doctors meet with patients more frequently, or conduct virtual visits at multiple hospitals from one location.

Parents protest student computer ID tags

February 14, 2005

Brittan Elementary School in California is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children’s privacy.

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety.

Please Don’t Call the Customers Dead

February 14, 2005

The live-in customers at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation here reside in eight 10-foot-high steel tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. They are incapable of breathing, thinking, walking, riding a bike or scratching an itch. But don’t refer to them as deceased.

They may be frozen at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit and identified by prisonlike numbers. But to Alcor, the 67 bodies – in many cases, just severed heads -… read more

The Doctor Will See Your Prototype Now

February 11, 2005

The Physiome Project is assembling digital models of every system and anatomical feature of the human body – from large organs to tiny cellular and molecular functions.

The ssytem would allows physicians to test various scenarios on your digital model – surgery, radiation, chemotherapy – and watch how your system reacts.

Open-Source Practices for Biotechnology

February 11, 2005

Researchers from Australia have devised a method of creating genetically modified crops that does not infringe on patents held by big biotechnology companies.

The people behind the new technology-sharing initiative, called the Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, say that patents covering the basic tools for genetically engineering plants – which are controlled by companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience – have impeded the use of biotechnology… read more

Quantum well’ transistor promises lean computing

February 11, 2005

Researchers at Intel and Qinetiq have developed a transistor that uses one-tenth of the power of existing components.

It uses indium antimonide, which allows electrons to speed through faster than conventional silicon-based transistors due to its highly active and greater number of charge carriers.

Making better maps of cellular real estate

February 9, 2005

An new automated method for locating proteins in cells could potentially produce the proteome, a topographical map of all the proteins in a cell.

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