science + technology news

The Dream Factory

November 29, 2004

Neil Gershenfeld of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and his students are cobbling together mobile manufacturing systems they call fabrication laboratories, or fab labs — miniature factories for the digital age.

The latest version consists of three Linux PCs, a laser cutter, a combination 3-D scanner and drill, a numerically controlled X-Acto knife, and a handful of RISC chips. You can crank out not only solid objects like… read more

Hydrogen Production Method Could Bolster Fuel Supplies

November 29, 2004

Researchers have found a way to produce pure hydrogen with far less energy than other methods.

The development would move the country closer to the Energy Department’s goal of a “hydrogen economy,” in which hydrogen would be created through a variety of means, and would be consumed by fuel cells, to make electricity to run cars, and for other purposes.

The new method involves running electricity through water… read more

Smallest ‘test tube’ scoops world record

November 24, 2004

Scientists at the University of Oxford and the University of Nottingham created the world’s smallest test tubes out of carbon nanotubes: each nanotube has an inner diameter of 1.2 nm and is roughly 2000 nm long

They used the tubes to polymerize fullerene oxide molecules in an ordered way as a result of the tube’s shape. However, there is not yet a way to extract the polymerized material from… read more

Human embryonic stem cells create new tissue to aid spinal cord repair

November 24, 2004

University of California at Irvine researchers have used human embryonic stem cells to create new insulating tissue for nerve fibers in a live animal model.

The researchers devised a novel technique that allows human embryonic stem cells to differentiate into high-purity, early-stage oligodendrocyte cells. These cells were injected into the spinal cords of mice genetically engineered to have no myelin tissue. After transplantation, the early-stage cells formed into full-grown… read more

Report: Fast-Internet Use Doubles in U.S.

November 23, 2004

The number of Americans using fast Internet connections doubled from 2001 through late 2003. according to a Commerce Department National Telecommunications and Information Administration report.

Some experts said growth was disappointing, far behind countries that include South Korea, Taiwan and Canada. The report also identified troubling figures for use or availability of high-speed Internet services among blacks, Hispanics and people in rural areas.

Secret Speech Aid

November 23, 2004

NASA engineers are developing technology that picks up and translates throat signals into words before they’re even spoken, using subvocal speech.

Electrodes picks up electromyographic signals near the chin and larnyx, which are amplified and processed with neural network software to decipher word patterns.

Applications could include speech ailments, covert communication in military operations, private speech between individuals, situations where you can’t speak normally (underwater or in fire… read more

New Process Could Lead to Carbon Nanotube Price Cut

November 23, 2004

Researchers have described an improved method of manufacturing carbon nanotubes.

Many current production schemes for single-walled carbon nanotubes use catalyst particles to speed up the reaction, but they can become incorporated into the tubes. By adding water during the manufacturing process, the resulting nanotubes were more than 99.98 percent pure without requiring additional refinement.

New Tools to Help Patients Reclaim Damaged Senses

November 23, 2004

New technology allows one set of sensory information to substitute for another in the brain.

Using novel electronic aids, vision can be represented on the skin, tongue or through the ears. If the sense of touch is gone from one part of the body, it can be routed to an area where touch sensations are intact. Pilots confused by foggy conditions, in which the horizon disappears, can right their… read more

Nanomechanical memory demoed

November 22, 2004

A team at Boston University has made a minuscule mechanical memory cell from silicon. The device is a bistable compressed beam clamped at both ends.

The memory cell beam is 8,000 nanometers long by 300 nanometers wide by 200 nanometers high. It can be switched at 23.5 MHz. The cell’s size allows more than 100 gigabytes to be stored per square inch and uses several orders of magnitude less… read more

Nanotechnology and Risk

November 22, 2004

As molecular manufacturing develops, it will become a source of risk for a wide range of institutions, including those not involved in developing it. The effects of a manufacturing revolution could be extremely widespread, disrupting even geopolitical and macroeconomic stability.

No commercial or governmental organization has taken serious steps to study molecular manufacturing and lay the foundations for sensible policy. To begin filling the void, the Center for Responsible… read more

Computers as Authors? Literary Luddites Unite!

November 22, 2004

A computer program known as Brutus.1 is generating brief outbursts of fiction that are probably superior to what many humans could turn out.

Clear Pictures of How We Think

November 22, 2004

Psychologists are using fMRI to analyze human decision-making, such as moral judgment, evolutionary development, and love.

Scientists debate blending of human, animal forms

November 22, 2004

How human must a chimera (hybrid animal) be before more stringent research rules should kick in?

During one recent meeting, scientists disagreed on such basic issues as whether it would be unethical for a human embryo to begin its development in an animal’s womb, and whether a mouse would be better or worse off with a brain made of human neurons.

2-D Holograms Make 3-D Color Display

November 19, 2004

Researchers from Seoul National University have developed a three-dimensional color display that uses a set of six holograms and is made from relatively compact and inexpensive components.

With a parallel processing computer system and a specialized chip, the method could be used for real-time three-dimensional broadcasting, according to the researchers.

New Vehicles Will Make Own Decisions Based on Commands

November 19, 2004

The next war could be fought partly by unmanned aircraft that respond to spoken commands in plain English and then figure out on their own how to get the job done.

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