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As tools of surgery shrink, training expands

May 28, 2003

Minimally invasive surgery is a radical movement sweeping operating rooms across the United States. It uses new tools to minimize cutting, trauma, and hospital stay, such as small incisions and miniature cameras to guide the surgeon to the problem organ.

With SARS, Antivirus Arms Race Heats Up

May 28, 2003

The development of antiviral drugs has lagged behind that of antibacterial drugs, but a variety of approaches is currently being applied to developing defensive technologies against viruses.

Editorial comment: “Of all the things we can do for GNR [genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics] defense, developing defensive technologies against viruses is the most important right now,” comments Ray Kurzweil.

Mobile Gadgets Offer New Lessons

May 27, 2003

Using mobile phones and handheld computers to teach basic skills could help a generation of youngsters turned off by traditional education. That is the hope of those involved in the 4.5m euro (#3m) m-learning project, an EU-backed initiative taking place in the UK, Sweden and Italy.

The aim of the project is to see how mobile devices can be used to teach basic numerical and literacy skills to young… read more

From PlayStation to Supercomputer for $50,000

May 26, 2003

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has assembled a supercomputer from an army of Sony PlayStation 2′s for about $50,000.

The center’s researchers believe the system may be capable of .5 teraflops. It uses the PlayStation’s graphics co-processor, the Emotion Engine, which is capable of producing up to 6.5 gigaflops, rather than its microprocessor.

Earth Photographed from Mars in Surprising Detail

May 26, 2003

NASA has released a picture of Earth taken by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor. It is the first picture of Earth from another planet that resolves our world into a disk, rather than a point of light.

This Palm Reads Your Mind

May 26, 2003

Researchers at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute claim their new “MiniCog” PDA application will help people determine if they “need to eat, sleep, exercise or better focus (their) thoughts.”

The program includes routines that ask users to pick lowercase letters out of groups of uppercase letters and correctly identify the color of “conflicting” text.

Working Remotely, Robots in Place

May 26, 2003

The most natural way to “meet” when people are not face to face is to use robots, say Hewlett-Packard researchers.

The robot is a surrogate for remote attendees, with the face and the voice of the person who remotely controls it.

Sorenstam’s Got Game, in Reality and Virtually

May 25, 2003

A virtual golf course has been created with the strengths of male and female golfers. It rewards precision, while penalizing shots that are too long or too short, leveling the playing field between men and women.

In a simulated four rounds of golf, golfer Annika Sorenstam was the winner.

Army and M.I.T. Unveil Futuristic Soldier Center

May 23, 2003

MIT has won a $50 million Army contract to form a center that develops combat gear using nanoscale materials.

The high-tech gear that would allow soldiers to become partially invisible, leap over walls, and treat their own wounds on the battlefield.

The unnatural man/A search for meaning in a genetically engineered future

May 22, 2003

Bill McKibben’s new book, Enough: Staying Human in An Engineered Age, warns about the dangers of technological advances in biology (especially germline engineering), nanotech, and robotics. “I am very afraid of these technologies, for a long list of reasons….”

Self-Repairing Computers

May 22, 2003

Crashes happen. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley are designing systems that recover rapidly when they do — the recovery-oriented computing (ROC) approach.

ROC design principles are based on speedy recovery, better tools to pinpoint fault sources, an “undo” function, test errors to permit evaluation of system behavior and assist in operator training, and selective rebooting to minimize loss of data.

“If the… read more

Alchemy with light shocks physicists

May 22, 2003

MIT researchers have developed a way to shift the frequency of light beams to any desired color, with near 100 per cent efficiency.

The effect uses shock waves passing through a crystal to Doppler-shift the frequency. If it can be harnessed, it will revolutionize a range of fields, for example, turning heat into light or into terahertz rays for medical imaging or improving the efficiency of optical telecommunications networks.

BioBots

May 21, 2003

Some tiny new machines may be biomedical devices that could deliver drugs to precise targets inside your body, or carry out internal repairs on the spot. Nanotechnologists are working at the level of individual atoms and molecules, either to create new materials with astonishing properties, or to build miniscule machines. Right now, prototypes of these miracle machines exist. Some are made of natural molecules; others are hybrids of molecules and… read more

A Spy Machine of DARPA’s Dreams

May 21, 2003

Going beyond the controversial Total Information Awareness database project, DARPA is currently asking businesses and universities for research proposals for its LifeLog research project, intended to gather every bit of information about a person’s life and activities, index it, and make it searchable.

LifeLog would combine this information with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors… read more

Chimps are human, gene study implies

May 21, 2003

The new study found that 99.4 percent of the most critical DNA sites are identical in the corresponding human and chimp genes. With that close a relationship, the two living chimp species belong in the genus Homo, says Morris Goodman of Wayne State University in Detroit.

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