science + technology news

When technology gets personal

December 7, 2004

In 2020 phones will be printed directly on to wrists, or other parts of the body, part of what’s known as a “pervasive ambient world” where “chips are everywhere” says Ian Pearson, BT’s (British Telecom’s) resident futurologist.

Researchers have developed computers and sensors worn in clothing. MP3 jackets, based on the idea that electrically conductive fabric can connect to keyboards sewn into sleeves, have already appeared in stores.… read more

Why aging reduces immune system function

December 7, 2004

Oregon Health & Science University scientists have found that human T cell diversity fades with age, potentially resulting in a higher susceptibility to disease.

In old age the population of CD8 T cells — cells that recognize and destroy abnormal or infected cells and suppress the activity of other white blood cells to protect normal tissue — is dominated by less effective T cells. This results in an immune… read more

Monkey embryos cloned for the first time

December 7, 2004

Monkey embryos have been successfully cloned for the first time, and embryonic stem cells have been extracted from them.

The success could have implications for human therapies as it means that stem cell researchers could one day test stem cell therapies in non-human primates before taking treatments into the clinic.

An Embryonic Stem Cell Road to Cardiac Cell Progenitors

December 6, 2004

Johns Hopkins Medical Institution researchers have demonstrated a system for deriving cardiac progenitor cells from embryonic stem cells through controlled differentiation.

The system is a step toward replenishing damaged cardiac tissue.

American Society for Cell Biology news release

Robotic Instrument Network Monitors Most of the Oceans

December 6, 2004

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have reached the half-way point in deploying an array of autonomous ocean-traveling robots to monitor and investigate changes in the world’s oceans.

1,500 of the 3,000 instruments in the Argo array are now operating. Researchers expect the full array to be deployed by 2007.

University of California at San Diego news release

Concentration hampers simple tasks

December 6, 2004

University of Cambridge researchers have used functional MRI brain imaging to show that thinking too hard about simple actions interferes with the learning process.

Scientists already knew that consciously trying too hard to learn can cause trouble. In this study, researchers watched the brain activity of people who were putting deliberate effort into mastering a challenge (they explicitly knew a pattern existed in the challenge) and compared it with… read more

Beating the lights

December 6, 2004

A researcher has shown that an adaptive system of traffic lights, each light sensing and responding only to local conditions, could self-organize into a system that is up to 30% more efficient than a non-adaptive traffic system.

The system of traffic lights would use low-cost traffic-flow sensors to adapt to changing traffic conditions, allowing it to find better switching sequences.

Cyber detective links up crimes

December 6, 2004

Computer scientists at DePaul University have developed an artificial intelligence system for crime solving that compares records for cases with all the files on past crimes, looking for telltale similarities in crime records and alerting detectives when it finds them.

The system uses pattern-recognition software to link related crimes that may have taken place in widely separated areas whose police forces may rarely be in close contact. The neural… read more

‘We will be able to live to 1,000′

December 6, 2004

Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey believes life expectancy will soon extend dramatically to 1,000.

The SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) project, a detailed plan to repair all types of molecular and cellular damage, should be working in humans in 20 years, he says.

“I think the first person to live to 1,000 might be 60 already.”

US review rekindles cold fusion debate

December 3, 2004

Claims of cold fusion are intriguing but not convincing, according to the findings an 18-member scientific panel tasked with reviewing research in the area.

The findings, released on 1 December by the US Department of Energy, rekindle a 15-year-old debate over whether nuclear fusion can occur at room temperature. The panel was “split approximately evenly” on the question of whether cold experiments were actually producing power in the form… read more

Replicating an Eel’s Nerve Circuitry May Aid Paralyzed

December 3, 2004

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland are unraveling the circuitry in an eel’s spinal cord to help develop a microchip implant that may someday help paralyzed people walk again.

The goal: a device that mimics signals sent by the brain and coaxes these nerve centers into sending “walking” instructions to muscles in a patient’s legs.

Johns Hopkins University news release

Human eggs divide without sperm

December 3, 2004

Researchers have developed a method to make human eggs divide as if they have been fertilized, creating a potential source of embryonic stem cells that sidesteps ethical objections to existing techniques.

The University of Wales researchers made the eggs devide by injecting phospholipase C-zeta (PLC-zeta), an enzyme produced by sperm. The eggs divided for four or five days until they reached 50 to 100 cells — the blastocyst stage.… read more

Designing new metals

December 3, 2004

The Office of Naval Research and Northwestern University researchers are exploring new approaches to designing metals for effective blast shielding by identifying the desired characteristics of the steel, then looking at elementary molecular-level composition of materials to determine the optimal mix of metallic ingredients needed.

The new BlastAlloy-160 is intended for use in fabrication of a folded-plate truss, a blast-resistant steel structure that could be used in construction of… read more

Data ‘Repair Kit’ for Quantum Computers Demonstrated

December 2, 2004

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a practical method for automatically correcting data-handling errors in quantum computers.

The NIST error correction process could be incorporated into the programs executed by quantum computers. In principle, the approach could be used to maintain the fragile quantum states of ions or atoms by repeated error correction during data processing, an essential step toward scalable, reliable quantum… read more

Smart dust gets magnetic

December 2, 2004

University of California at San Diego researchers have demonstrated a method to control and mix tiny amounts of liquids by encasing the chemicals in smart dust — silicon particles and magnetic nanoparticles.

A chemical coating causes the silicon particles to surround water droplets, and the dust changes color depending on the chemicals it is in contact with. This allows researchers to identify chemicals encased by the smart dust. The… read more

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