science + technology news

Infrared-sensitive material may capture 30 percent of Sun’s radiant energy

January 11, 2005

Researchers have invented a spray-on infrared-sensitive material, using nanoparticles, that signficantly extends the ability to capture the Sun’s energy.

According to professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, “Our calculations show that, with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics could allow up to 30 per cent of the sun’s radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six per cent in today’s best plastic solar cells.”

The… read more

Voicemail software recognises callers’ emotions

January 11, 2005

A voicemail system that labels messages according to the caller’s tone of voice could soon be helping people identify which messages are the most urgent.

The software, called Emotive Alert, works by extracting the distribution of volume, pitch and speech rate – the ratio of words to pauses – in the first 10 seconds of each message, and then comparing them with eight stored “acoustical fingerprints” that roughly represent… read more

Devastating Attack In The Net’s Near Future, Experts Say

January 11, 2005

Count on at least one devastating attack on the Internet in the next 10 years, an overwhelming majority of technology experts polled by a major research group says.

The experts’ second-most agreed upon prediction was that as computing devices become embedded in everything from clothes and cars to phones and pharmaceutical packaging, governments and businesses will use them to snoop on citizens and consumers.

Supercomputing goes global

January 11, 2005

The world’s most powerful supercomputer likely will evolve into a grid architecture of loosely coupled systems harnessed logically to a single task across a global network.

A grid holds the most promise for delivering the biggest and baddest theoretical supercomputing architecture imaginable, a virtual multiple-instruction/multiple-data, or MIMD, global supercomputer.

Grid architectures rely more on specialized software than on fast hardware, and they’re attracting lots of research. Users in… read more

Life, Reinvented

January 10, 2005

MIT engineers have created the new field of synthetic biology.

Israeli ‘nano-lightbulbs’ could help detect drug’s efficiency

January 10, 2005

An Israeli researcher has developed “nano-lighbulbs” — polymer patches placed on the walls of living cells that change color and fluoresce as a result of events occurring on the cell membrane.

The research is intended to clarify how cells communicate with one another, and to investigate whether and how certain drugs and hormones are effective in penetrating cells and others are not.

Fuel cell artificial muscles being developed

January 10, 2005

Researchers at the NanoTech Institute at The University of Texas at Dallas are developing artificial muscles that convert chemical energy to mechanical energy.

The proposed artificial muscles are at the same time fuel cells, supercapacitors and mechanical actuators; the same elements convert a high energy density fuel to electrical energy, store this energy and use it to do mechanical work. The artificial muscles will also use strong, tough carbon… read more

Rats show off language skills

January 10, 2005

Rats can tell the difference between Dutch and Japanese by recognizing the difference in rhythmic properties of the languages.

Rat ancestors may have evolved the ability to sense sound patterns that might warn of predators approaching or changing predator behaviour. Humans may have evolved similar skills for similar reasons, before the ability was co-opted for other purposes, such as helping in the development and decoding of speech.

Cosmetics Break the Skin Barrier

January 10, 2005

New cosmetic innovations include muscle- relaxant GABA to reduce wrinkles and little balls of protein material that are slowly dissolved by enzymes in the skin to act as antiwrinkle moisturizers.

The current research goal: finding ingredients that act as treatments themselves as they carry other substances through the skin.

Hitachi drives get bigger–and smaller

January 10, 2005

Hitachi will release in February a 3.5-inch diameter drive with 500GB of storage, the largest-capacity 3.5-inch drive yet.

Kurzweil to discuss health and longevity on CNN Sunday

January 8, 2005

Ray Kurzweil will be interviewed live on CNN cable television on Sunday, January 9 sometime between 4 pm ET and 4:30 pm ET. The topic will be health and longevity.

Search Looks at the Big Picture

January 7, 2005

A group of European researchers is developing technology that could vastly improve image searching by identifying the components of an image.

The image-processing software looks for “key patches” in an image to determine the relative positions of different shapes to categorize the image’s contents.

IBM’s Pervasive Media Management group is also developing visualization software that can identify objects contained within one of the web’s fastest-growing content categories –… read more

Toyota to employ robots

January 7, 2005

Toyota Motor will introduce robots that can work as well or better than humans at all 12 of its factories in Japan to cut costs and deal with a labor shortage.

The robots would be able to carry out multiple tasks simultaneously with their two arms, achieving efficiency unseen in human workers and matching the cheap wages of Chinese laborers, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun report said.

Toyota plans… read more

Smart bombs to blast tumors

January 6, 2005

Exploding capsules could one day be used to deliver cancer drugs with pinpoint accuracy, New Scientist reports in its January 8 issue.

The capsules, being developed by University of Melbourne researchers, would rupture when heated by a low-energy laser pulse. Anti-cancer drugs would be more effective, and the side effects less severe, if they could home in on a tumor and be delivered in a single burst. This would… read more

God (or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a Leap

January 6, 2005

“What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”

This was the question posed to scientists, futurists and other creative thinkers by John Brockman, a literary agent and publisher of Edge.

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