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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

Stem cells rebuild bladder control

December 1, 2004

University Hospital, Innsbruck researchers used patients’ own stem cells to rebuild feeble bladder-control muscles.

The researchers removed a cube of muscle tissue from the women’s biceps. Stem cells from the tissue were extracted and then grown in culture for six weeks, producing about 50 million myoblasts – the precursors of muscle fibers. The myoblasts were then injected into the urethra wall and bladder sphincter, using real-time ultrasound to make… read more

Bacteria Enlisted for New Trials on Dental Health

December 1, 2004

The FDA has approved the first clinical trial in which genetically modified bacteria will be put into people’s mouths to test if the bacteria prevent tooth decay.

The new bacteria, which are genetically neutered so they do not make the acid that eats away at teeth, would replace the acid-producing bacteria already present in most mouths.

Oxygen-platinum bonding to improve fuel cells

December 1, 2004

Emory University researchers have created stable multiple chemical bonds between oxygen and platinum — once thought impossible because oxygen is extremely unstable when combined with certain metals.

Until this work, attempts to create metal-oxo species with elements such as gold, platinum, silver, iridium and rhodium have been unsuccessful. The breakthrough holds the potential for numerous applications in fuel cells, catalytic converters and emerging “green” chemistry.

Emoryread more

Improved molecular switch could serve as sensor

December 1, 2004

Johns Hopkins University researchers have found a new way to join two unrelated proteins to create a molecular switch where which one biochemical partner controls the activity of the other.

“Last year, we reported that we’d used protein engineering techniques to make a molecular switch, putting together two proteins that normally had nothing to do with one another, but the switching properties of that version were insufficient for many… read more

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