science + technology news

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

Researchers: Metcalfe’s Law overshoots the mark

March 15, 2005

Andrew Odlyzko and Benjamin Tilly of the University of Minnesota have written a paper arguing that Metcalfe’s Law, a rule of thumb that computes the value of communication networks, is overly optimistic.

“The fundamental fallacy underlying Metcalfe’s (Law) is in the assumption that all connections or all groups are equally valuable,” the researchers report.

The researchers propose a less dramatic rule of thumb: the value of… read more

Are Nanobacteria Making Us Ill?

March 14, 2005

Mayo Clinic scientists continue to look for evidence of DNA and RNA in nanobacteria, but are cautious about saying whether they think the particles are alive, an unknown form of crystal, or a form of archaea, a relatively new category of tiny organisms whose DNA is vastly different from that found in typical bacteria.

IBM to Provide Access to Blue Gene Supercomputer on Demand

March 14, 2005

IBM has announced the availability of its Blue Gene supercomputing system, the most powerful supercomputer, at its newest Deep Computing Capacity on Demand Center in Rochester, MN.

Customers and partners can remotely access the Blue Gene system through a secure, dedicated Virtual Private Network and pay only for the amount of capacity reserved, with peak performance of 5.7 teraflops.

IBM news release

Courtrooms could host virtual crime scenes

March 14, 2005

Lawyers, judges and jurors could soon explore crime scenes in three dimensions in the courtroom, in the same way that video gamers explore virtual worlds.

Software called instant Scene Modeler (iSM) re-creates an interactive 3D model from a few hundred frames of a scene captured by two ordinary video cameras aligned at a set distance from each other. Users can zoom in on any object in the 3D model,… read more

‘Millipede’ small scale MEMS prototype shown at CeBIT

March 14, 2005

IBM for the first time is showing a prototype of their “millipede” nanomechanical storage system, achieving data storage densities of more than one terabit per square inch.

Fujitsu Siemens eyes nanotech for chips

March 11, 2005

Fujitsu Siemens has developed a prototype of carbon nanotube technology and is now researching how to make it on a commercial scale for use in microprocessors.

“It is at least six or seven years from production,” said Joseph Reger, the chief technology officer.

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.”

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