science + technology news

Strains on Nature Are Growing, Report Says

March 30, 2005

Humans are damaging the planet at a rapid rate and raising risks of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or “dead zones” in the seas, the international Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report says.

Nanostructured iridium is model catalyst for fuel cells

March 30, 2005

A major obstacle to establishing the “hydrogen economy” is the safe and cost-effective storage and transport of hydrogen fuel.

Rutgers researchers are developing a possible solution: using iridium as a catalyst to generate hydrogen on-demand in a vehicle from liquid ammonia.

They found that heating the metal iridium in the presence of oxygen changes its shape to make uniform arrays of 5-nanometer-sized pyramids. The finely textured surface can… read more

Gene Finding with Hidden Markov Models

March 30, 2005

As more genomes are sequenced, researchers are looking to bring their computations in line with the underlying biology. They are creating software that incorporates phylogenetics, the descriptions of evolutionary distance, into the field’s favorite computational tool, the hidden Markov model (HMM).

HMMs “describe a probability distribution over an infinite number of sequences,” says Sean Eddy, associate professor at Washington University and coauthor of the textbook, Biological Sequence Analysis: Probabilistic… read more

Shape-Shifting Robot Nanotech Swarms on Mars

March 30, 2005

NASA Astronaut Journal, Mars, 2034:

The latest spacecraft sent to us is more a living thing than a robot. Shortly after launch from Earth, the tiny capsule blossomed into a sail and rode the solar wind to Mars. On the way, a meteoroid punched a hole in the sail, but surrounding material flowed in and closed the tear.

Upon arrival, the spacecraft shrunk more than 100 times its… read more

Only the ethical need apply

March 30, 2005

While artificial intelligence can perform numerous job functions, it brings no ethical considerations to bear on the tasks performed — a skill that futurist Richard Samson predicts will actually become more crucial as the world increases its reliance on technology.

Nanotech Gadgets to Be Built by Algae?

March 30, 2005
Marine diatom silica exoskeletons

Oregon State University researchers hope to use the diatom algaie’s shell-building process to manufacture nanotech materials, incorporating elements such as silicon, germanium, titanium, and gallium into the diatoms’ silica shells.

Products may include flexible computer screens, cheap and efficient solar cells, filtration devices, and drug delivery vehicles that can target, for example, a single cancer cell.

Newest Chip Is Combination of Fiber Optics and Electronics

March 29, 2005

Luxtera has announced a new class of silicon chips with the potential to blend the low-cost manufacturing prowess of the semiconductor world with the ultrahigh-speed potential of laser optical networking.

The convergence is expected to have a major impact on the computing and communications industries, both in the design of future computers and on drastically less expensive networks that will make applications of such fiber optic networks to homes… read more

Grand Odyssey Futurecast System — You Star!

March 29, 2005

Visitors to the Space Child Adventure Grand Odyssey, an animated film showing at the Aichi Expo 2005 in Japan, get a high-resolution digital full-face scan that is edited into the “film” in real time.

Every person who enters the theater gets a role; a Toshiba supercomputer inserts the necessary information and presents the one-time-only film.

Similar technology can be found in John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Neil Stephenson’s… read more

Oil and water mix for better drugs

March 29, 2005

Oil and water will mix — providing all the gas dissolved in the liquids is removed first — and the technique can be used to mix fat-soluble drugs with water.

That could do away with additives and their adverse reactions, as well as simplifying drug production.

26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs

March 27, 2005

Ray Kurzweil has been named to Inc. magazine’s “26 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs” list “because he is Edison’s rightful heir.”

Kurzweil in number 8 in Inc.’s slide show profiling innovative entrepreneurs, joining Richard Branson, Martha Stewart, Trip Hawkins, Michael Dell, and others.

“Kurzweil’s businesses rely on one basic theme: pattern recognition,” the Inc. slide show explains. “‘I gather as much data as I can to develop patterns at every… read more

Fish oil holds promise in Alzheimer’s fight

March 25, 2005

A diet high in DHA–an omega-3 fatty acid found in relatively high concentrations in cold-water fish–dramatically slowed the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice, researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of California at Los Angeles found.

After three to five months–the equivalent of several years in human biology–the high-DHA mice group had 70-percent less buildup of amyloid protein in the brain. This sticky protein makes… read more

BlueGene/L doubles up

March 25, 2005

BlueGene/L, already number one on the latest Top 500, nearly doubled its performance — now at 135.3 teraflops — after doubling its processor count at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Startling Scientists, Plant Fixes Its Flawed Gene

March 25, 2005

In a startling discovery, Purdue University geneticists have found plants that possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents.

The finding implies that some organisms may contain a cryptic backup copy of their genome that bypasses the usual mechanisms of heredity.

Equally surprising, the cryptic genome appears not to be made of DNA, but of RNA, set in motion when the plant is… read more

Common sense boosts speech software

March 24, 2005

MIT researchers have combined speech recognition software with The Open Mind Common Sense Project database to distinguish among words that sound the same or similar.

The database contains more than 700,000 facts that MIT Media Lab researchers have been collecting from the public.

Cheap material makes speedy memory

March 24, 2005

A low-cost, high-speed nonvolatile memory made from polystyrene and gold nanoparticles is being developed by researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles and the Rohm and Haas Electronic Materials Company.

The memory can be easily manufactured from inexpensive materials, making it potentially much cheaper than today’s flash memory chips; it can be read to and written electronically, making it potentially much faster than today’s CDs and DVDs.… read more

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