science + technology news

Natural selection acts on the quantum world

December 27, 2004

Objective reality may owe its existence to a “quantum darwinisn” process that promotes certain quantum states by natural selection, say physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Information about these states proliferates and gets imprinted on the environment. So observers coming along and looking at the environment in order to get a picture of the world tend to see the same “preferred” states.

‘Jumping Gene’ Helps Explain Immune System’s Abilities

December 23, 2004

A team led by Johns Hopkins scientists has found the first clear evidence that the process behind the human immune system’s remarkable ability to recognize and respond to a million different proteins might have originated from “jumping genes,” whose only apparent function is to jump around in genetic material.

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions news release

Grape Seed May Protect Brain

December 23, 2004

University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have reported the first direct evidence that a grape-seed extract affects specific proteins in healthy brains in ways that may protect against future age-related dementia.

Grape-seed-extract supplements are thought to have health benefits due to their high content of polyphenolic compounds, which have been shown to have high antioxidant activity

New graphic displays for the blind

December 23, 2004

A new, lower-cost mechanism may replace Braille for graphical tactile displays for the blind.

The displays use metallic films featuring various shape-memory alloys (SMAs) produced layer by layer on silicon wafers using thin-film technology. Display pixels are generated when the SMA metallic film is deformed by heat pulses. The movement of the films is then transferred to the touch panel via plastic pins that can be detected by the… read more

Mobile-phone radiation damages lab DNA

December 23, 2004

Radiation from cellular phones harms the DNA in human cells, according to an extensive, pan-European laboratory study.

The researchers found that levels of radiation equivalent to those from a phone prompted breaks in individual strands of DNA in a variety of human cells. These types of damage have been linked with cancer. The level of injury increased with the intensity of radiation and the length of exposure.

The… read more

Stem-Cell Method May Cheat Death

December 23, 2004

A reproductive research team could have an answer to the ethical and scientific conundrums presented by the pursuit of stem-cell treatments: remove one cell from a very early embryo that has developed to about eight cells (called a morula), and derive stem cells from that single cell.

The embryo would still have the potential to develop into a human if implanted into a womb.

New technique provides insights into gene regulation

December 22, 2004

University of Toronto researchers have developed a technique to accurately monitor the level of individual exons (coding segments of DNA) used to produce different mRNAs.

Monitoring the production of mRNA in more detail will help understand diseases in which out-of-control RNA splicing is involved and will suggest new treatments.

University of Toronto news release

Nanotubes Form Along Atomic Steps

December 22, 2004

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have developed a new approach to aligning carbon nanotubes by forming the nanotubes on a sapphire wafer surface.

The orientation of nanotubes on these wafers follows the surfaces’ crystal planes at the atomic level. Changing how the sapphire surface is cut would produce different nanowire arrangements.

The research may eventually make it possible to assemble nanowires in ordered arrays for the production of… read more

Dr Raj Reddy makes PCs talk the masses language

December 22, 2004

Raj Reddy, Head of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Lab, is using AI and speech recognition software to empower illiterates in villages in India to use computers.

The computer will also serve as a low-cost TV, DVD player/recorder and conferencing unit.

New Clue to Nerve Growth May Help Regeneration Efforts

December 21, 2004

Johns Hopkins scientists have discovered how one family of proteins repels growing nerves and keeps them properly on track during development.

The discovery may provide a chance to overcome the proteins’ (chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans, or CSPGs) later role in preventing regrowth of injured nerves.

Johns Hopkins Medicine news release

The Ultimate Gift: 50 Years of Organ Transplants

December 21, 2004

Thursday, December 23, will be the 50th anniversary of the first successful organ transplant.

Over the last five decades, surgeons have learned how to transplant virtually every vital organ in the human body. They have also branched out to transplant an array of nonvital body parts including, most recently, the hand. Advances in surgery, medicine, anesthesia and intensive care have extended patients’ longevity and quality of life: the world’s… read more

Stem Cells Might Make Biological Pacemaker

December 21, 2004

Johns Hopkins researchers have found evidence that genetically engineered heart cells derived from human embryonic stem (ES) cells might one day be a biological alternative to the electronic pacemakers used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

Human ES cells were grown in the lab and encouraged to become heart cells. The researchers then selected clusters of the cells that beat on their own accord, indicating the presence of… read more

Translation of DNA Signals into Polymer Assembly Instructions

December 20, 2004

Researchers have built a DNA nanomechanical device that mimics the translational capabilities of the ribosome.

In response to a DNA signal, it aligns a series of molecules in specific positions; these molecules are then fused together in a specific order.

Its potential applications include designer polymer synthesis, encryption of information, and as the basis for a finite-state machine with variable input, whose output can be used for DNA-based… read more

Building Programmable Jigsaw Puzzles with RNA

December 20, 2004

Researchers have achieved reliable prediction and design of the three-dimensional structure of artificial RNA building blocks to generate molecular jigsaw puzzle units called tectosquares.

This shows that small RNA structural motifs can code the precise topology of large molecular architectures. With its underlying modular and hierarchical construction displaying a minimal set of primitive operations, the tectosquare system could possibly be a Turing-universal computing molecular system.

The tectosquares can… read more

Silicon Device Scaling to the Sub-10-nm Regime

December 20, 2004

In the next decade, advances in complementary metal-oxide semiconductor fabrication will lead to devices with gate lengths below 10 nanometers (current gate lengths in chips are about 50 nm).

Technologies being pursued include device geometries such as ultrathin channel structures to control capacitive losses and multiple gates to better control leakage pathways; improvement in device speed by enhancing the mobility of charge carriers; using strain engineering; and different crystal… read more

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