science + technology news

An Off-and-On Switch for Controlling Animals?

April 12, 2005

The recent discovery by Yale researchers that they can make fruit flies walk, leap or fly — by shining a laser at the genetically modified insects — may provide clues about a range of disorders, from Parkinson’s disease to drug addiction.

Look out for giant triangles in space

April 12, 2005

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) should look for giant structures placed in orbit around nearby stars by alien civilizations, says Luc Arnold of the Observatory of Haute-Provence in France.

And he believes that the generation of space-based telescopes now being designed will be able to spot them.

To ensure the signal is unambiguous, an alien civilization would have to launch a number of objects into orbit around… read more

Gigabit networks should be national priority, says IEEE committee

April 12, 2005

The United States should deploy widespread wired and wireless gigabit networks as a national priority, according to a white paper from the IEEE-USA Committee on Communications and Information Policy (CCIP).

“Providing Ubiquitous Gigabit Networks in the United States,” issued 14 March, says that our nation must act promptly to ensure that a new generation of broadband networks – of gigabit per second speed – is ubiquitous and available to… read more

Molecular breakthrough for plastic electronics

April 12, 2005

Northwestern University chemists have designed organic molecules that self-assemble into an ultra-thin layer (less than six nanometers thick) for use in the dielectric, or nonconducting, component of a transistor.

Their tailored molecular components reduce both operating voltage and power consumption in organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) structures, making low-power consumption OTFTs a reality.

“This means having plastic electronics the size of a pen battery — rather than an automobile… read more

Hang in There: The 25-Year Wait for Immortality

April 12, 2005

“I think it’s reasonable to suppose that one could oscillate between being biologically 20 and biologically 25 indefinitely,” says Cambridge University researcher Aubrey de Grey.

‘Extreme Textiles’ Come of Age

April 12, 2005

High-tech threads are bringing textiles into the realms of lifesaving medical devices, racing cars and, maybe one day, skyscrapers.

The innovations are on display at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, in a show called “Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance.”

Bionic suit offers wearers super-strength

April 12, 2005

University of Tsukuba researchers have developed a motor-driven metal exoskeleton dubbed HAL, or hybrid assistive limb, that you strap onto your legs to power-assist leg movements.

Two control systems interact to help the wearer stand, walk and climb stairs. A “bio-cybernic” system uses bioelectric sensors attached to the skin on the legs to monitor signals transmitted from the brain to the muscles.

World’s fastest transistor operates at blinding speed

April 12, 2005

The world’s fastest transistor has been developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers.

The prototype bipolar junction transistor has a maximum operating speed of 604 GHz, meaning it can carry out 604 billion operations per second.

Colour coding DNA promises cheaper sequencing

April 12, 2005

A new technique that color-codes DNA for laser sequencing may offer a faster and cheaper way of sequencing genomes.

Cells That Go Back in Time

April 11, 2005

Some animals can grow new body parts through a process called dedifferentiation — and humans may be able to do so, too. New regeneration studies could solve ethical concerns about embryonic stem-cell research.

Touching Molecules With Your Bare Hands

April 11, 2005

Scripps Research Institute scientists are develping new technology that combines hand-held objects with sophisticated computer displays, called Tangible Interfaces for Structural Molecular Biology.

It uses 3-D fabricating printers that “print” solid objects out of thousands of layers of plaster or plastic, allowing for construction of models of proteins, DNA, and other biological molecules. These models can be touched, twisted, tweaked, and tossed from person to person.

Then, using… read more

Non-acoustic sensors detect speech without sound

April 11, 2005

DARPA is working on Advanced Speech Encoding, aimed at replacing microphones with non-acoustic sensors that detect speech via the speaker’s nerve and muscle activity, rather than sound itself.

DARPA is also pursuing an approach first developed at NASA’s Ames lab, which involves placing electrodes called electromyographic sensors on the neck, to detect changes in impedance during speech. A neural network processes the data and identifies the pattern of words.… read more

Programmed DNA forms fractal

April 8, 2005

Erik Winfree, an assistant professor of computer science at The California Institute of Technology, has showed that it is possible to coax short strands of artificial DNA to spontaneously assemble into a Sierpinski triangle.

The ability is a step toward embedding programming instructions in chemical processes and shows that there is no theoretical barrier to using molecular self-assembly to carry out any kind of computing and nanoscale fabrication, according… read more

A Single-Protein Wet Biotransistor

April 8, 2005

A single-protein wet biotransistor has been devised by physicists. It uses a bacterial protein called azurin in a strategic position between two gold electrodes, which act as the source and drain of a transistor. A third electrode, acting as the gate, enables the centrally located azurin to allow the passage of an electrical current

The Smallest Electric Motor

April 8, 2005

The smallest electric motor in the world, devised by physicists at UC Berkeley, is based on the shuttling of atoms between two metal droplets—one large and one small—residing on the back of a carbon nanotube.

Courtesy Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley

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