science + technology news

Busy brains may stave off Alzheimer’s signs

March 11, 2005

Mice who keep their brains and bodies busy in an “enriched” environment of chew toys, running wheels, and tunnels have lower levels of the peptides and brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease compared to mice raised in more sparse conditions, according to a new study in the 11 March issue of the journal Cell.

Cell Press news release

Biotech Takes on New Industries

March 11, 2005

Biotech is making inroads in chemical, fuel, oil, plastics, detergents, textiles, and other industrial areas.

Next big step for the Web — or a detour?

March 10, 2005

Advocates of the Semantic Web say it will give birth to vastly more powerful ways of gleaning information from the Internet.

The Semantic Web protocols aim to let computers distinguish different kinds of data. Applications could more automatically trade information, for example between an online address book and a cell phone. A Web site could automatically reconfigure itself on the fly based on the needs of a particular visitor.… read more

Stem cell therapy safety boosted

March 10, 2005

A new way of growing human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory will reduce the risk that their use in therapy could go wrong, say scientists.

At present the cells are cultured using live animal cells, which carries the risk of contamination with viruses and other harmful agents. Researchers at Advanced Cell Technology in Boston have developed a method that replaces the use of animal cells with a sterile… read more

Moore says nanoelectronics face tough challenges

March 10, 2005

Although many believe the future of the computing industry lies with building chips out of carbon nanotubes or other novel materials, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted it won’t be easy to replace silicon.

“Any material made of atoms has a fundamental limit,” Moore said. The solution? Make the chips bigger. Carbon nanotubes, he added, won’t be completely left out. They could be used to replace the metal interconnects between… read more

Get Ready For The ‘Desktop Search’ Revolution

March 10, 2005

Google has slipped what could be a revolutionary piece of software out of beta and made it freely available to the public.

Ghosts in a machine

March 10, 2005

What is it that triggers the brain to produce a religious experience? One route to understanding is the Shakti headset, which puts brain stimulation back in the hands of the individual rather than being something done to people in a lab.

As an American chronicler in this field, John Horgan, has remarked: “Trying to understand mystical experiences without having one, is like a eunuch trying to understand sex.”

Scientists to make ‘Stuart Little’ mouse with the brain of a human

March 9, 2005

Stanford University researchers plan to create a chimera mouse whose brain cells are 100 per cent human, using stem cells from aborted fetuses.

The university’s ethics committee approved the research, under certain conditions. Prof Henry Greely, the head of the committee, said: “If the mouse shows human-like behaviours, like improved memory or problem-solving, it’s time to stop.”

How Many Variables Can Humans Process?

March 9, 2005

People cannot process more than four variables at a time, new research shows.

Recognizing these human limitations can make a difference when designing high-stress work environments — such as air-traffic control centers — where employees must keep in mind several variables all at once.

American Psychological Society news release

Nanotubes boost molecular devices

March 9, 2005

Researchers from Stanford University have constructed an extremely small transistor from a pair of single-walled carbon nanotubes and organic molecules.

The researchers cut metallic nanotubes to form electrodes, then deposited one of two organic materials to form a semiconducting channel between the electrodes. It could be used in practical applications in two to five years.

Laughing helps arteries and boosts blood flow

March 8, 2005

Laughing appears to be almost as beneficial as a workout in boosting the health of blood vessels, a new study suggests.

Results of the study, based on ultrasound measurements of blood flow and dilation in the brachial artery in the arm, suggest that laughter could help keep the lining of the arteries healthy and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Microsoft Notebook: Intelligent software aims to give users peace of mind

March 8, 2005

Microsoft Research’s Adaptive Systems and Interaction group is working on software that senses the world around it and learns from experience to adjust to situations and reason in real time.

Smarter robots of tomorrow

March 8, 2005

NASA Ames scientists are advancing the technology of remote exploration.

The K9 rover is a robot similar to the Mars rovers, but that can perform tasks 10 times faster and can figure out how to do some tasks. Snakebot, which mimics the movements of a snake, would be able to probe even crevices and small caves on another planet.

DNA Testing Goes DIY

March 8, 2005

An increasing number of online startups are marketing genetic tests that claim to show predisposition to various maladies.

With Terror in Mind, a Formulaic Way to Parse Sentences

March 7, 2005

With CIA backing, Attensity has developed a method to parse electronic documents almost instantly and diagram all of the sentences inside, helping turn chatter into information that is relevant and usable.

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