the digest

HP Unveils Plans to Replace Silicon with Nanotechnology

March 18, 2005

HP has revealed its strategy for the future of computing, replacing silicon processors with nanotechnology, in a three-pronged approach: fundamental scientific research into the quantum effects that dominate the nanometer scale, a new architecture that can tolerate defects in molecular-sized circuit components, and cost-effective methods of fabrication.

The strategy centers on HP’s crossbar architecture, which HP says is six to ten years from widespread use. Also known as the… read more

Hitachi unveils ‘fastest robot’

March 17, 2005

Japanese electronics firm Hitachi has unveiled its first humanoid robot, called Emiew, to challenge Honda’s Asimo and Sony’s Qrio robots.

Hitachi said the Emiew was the world’s quickest-moving robot yet at 6km/h (3.7 miles per hour).

Study Reveals New Difference Between Sexes

March 17, 2005

How the functioning of X chromosomes differs in women and men may help to explain biological differences between the sexes, according to a new study by researchers from Duke and Pennsylvania State Universities.

The researchers, writing today in the journal Nature, said the results implied that women make higher doses of certain proteins than men, which could result in differences in both normal life and disease.

Women turn… read more

Sequencing reveals origins of X chromosome

March 17, 2005

The complete sequence of the human X chromosome was published in Nature this week. It shows that large segments of it match parts of normal chromosomes in birds, confirming the X chromosome’s “non-sex” origins.

Wequence comparisons with rats, mice and dogs show that the X chromosome seems to have changed little since the evolution of placental mammals, supporting the idea that once genes are transferred to X, they stay… read more

Quantum computing: No turning back

March 16, 2005

The first realizations of “cluster states” and cluster-state quantum computation are reported in Nature this week (10 March issue, pp169-176).

This is the first experimental demonstration of the “one-way quantum computer,” representing a significant move from theory to reality for an alternative approach to quantum computing first proposed in 2001.

The experiment demonstrates that modifications to the entangled photons in such a state allow the system to encode… read more

Photonic crystal slows down light

March 16, 2005

Researchers have succeeded in reducing the group velocity of light by a factor of more than 100 in a novel two-dimensional photonic crystal.

The development is important for building optical interconnects for future computers operating at speeds above 20 gigahertz, where presently used electrical interconnects have severe limitations.

CMU Robot finds life ‘all by itself’

March 16, 2005

A Carnegie Mellon University rover called Zoe is the first robot to remotely detect life, finding fluorescent signals from both visible lichens and microscopic bacteria in Chile’s barren Atacama Desert.

The NASA-sponsored test thus demonstrated that scientists can use robots to identify life in harsh regions.

The CMU instrument detects life by looking for natural fluorescence from cells that contain chlorophyll. It also can spray four special dyes… read more

Intermittent fasting may reduce cancer risk

March 16, 2005

Healthy mice given only 5 percent fewer calories than mice allowed to eat freely experienced a significant reduction in cell proliferation in several tissues, an indicator for cancer risk, UC Berkeley researchers found.

The key was that the mice eating 5 percent fewer calories were fed intermittently, or three days a week.

Cutting just a few calories overall but feeding intermittently may be a more feasible eating pattern… read more

Zombie PCs being sent to steal IDs

March 16, 2005

Bot nets, collections of compromised computers controlled by a single person or group, have become more pervasive and increasingly focused on identity theft and installing spyware.

The large networks of compromised computers are now a tool for groups of criminals bent on making money through identity fraud or adware installation. A person whose computer is infected with bot software runs the risk of having sensitive information such as account… read more

Need a Building? Just Add Water

March 16, 2005

Engineers in London have come up with a “building in a bag” — a sack of cement-impregnated fabric. To erect the structure, all you have to do is add water to the bag and inflate it with air. Twelve hours later, the Nissen-shaped shelter is dried out and ready for use.

Bioterror CSIs Target Germs

March 16, 2005

New bioterrorism forensic tools, including advanced mass spectrometry, chemical analysis of water, and DNA fingerprinting, could identify the region of the country where a bioagent was grown.

Cancer hope for green tea extract

March 15, 2005

Polyphenol EGCG taken from green tea leaves inhibits cancer cell growth, researchers have found.

EGCG binds to a key enzyme–dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR)–that stops the enzyme from triggering the manufacture of new DNA in tumor cells.

It appears to work in the same way as the cancer drug methotrexate, but in practice would probably have fewer side effects. The researchers are using EGCG as the starting point to design… read more

Damaged DNA may lead to anti-cancer drugs and therapies

March 15, 2005

Johns Hopkins chemists have discovered a new way to sabotage DNA’s ability to reproduce, a finding that could eventually lead to the development of more targeted anti-cancer drugs and therapies.

They created a synthetic, double-stranded DNA with special chemical characteristics and exposed it to long wavelength light that selectively switches on the DNA damage process.

The synthetic DNA is very similar to that which is produced when cells… read more

DNA with three base pairs may expand genetic code

March 15, 2005

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have reported progress toward the creation of a system for replicating a modified form of DNA containing an unnatural base pair.

According to the scientists, this finding is a significant step towards expanding the genetic code and the ability of DNA to act as an information storage and retrieval system in the test tube and in simple, engineered organisms, such as yeast or bacteria.… read more

Scanning with robots

March 15, 2005

Engineers at Imperial College’s mechatronics in medicine laboratory are developing a robot system to allow more accurate biopsies to be taken within the cramped conditions of an MRI chamber.

The extremely strong magnetic fields generated by MRI scanners rule out the use of motors to operate the robot. So the team is investigating the use of piezo-ceramic actuators, which deflect when a voltage is applied to them, allowing them… read more

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