science + technology news

CBEN launches partnership for sustainable nanotechnology

October 29, 2004

Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) today announced the formation of the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON), a collaboration among academic, industry, regulatory and non-governmental interest groups that will work to assess, communicate, and reduce potential environmental and health risks associated with nanotechnology.

CBEN news release

Adroit Droids

October 29, 2004

Advances in sensors, software, and computer architecture are beginning to give robots a sense of their “bodies” and of what sorts of actions are safe and useful in their environments.

One of the world’s most advanced robots passed an important test at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston: it learned to use tools to tighten bolts on a wheel. Rather than having to be separately programmed for each of… read more

Nanotechnology: Hell or Heaven?

October 29, 2004

Presentations at the The Foresight Institute’s First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology, held last week near Washington, D.C., covered near-term technologies and longer-term implications of nanotechology developments.

Many presentations focused on the improvements nanotechnology could bring to both developed and developing nations. Other presentations covered potential dangers of nanotechnology such as economic disruptions or concerns in the area of civil liberties and human rights.

Chris Phoenix, director of research… read more

New tool reveals molecular signature of cancer and HIV

October 28, 2004

Scientists have designed a new molecular tool, dubbed “LigAmp,” to pinpoint DNA mutations among thousands of cells, the equivalent of searching for a single typo in an entire library of books. Preliminary studies in a small number of cell lines and body fluids show the ultra-sensitive test may help detect microscopic cancer and HIV drug resistance.

The test works by creating a molecular “magnet” with an affinity for the… read more

Supercharging the brain

October 28, 2004

At least 40 new potential cognitive enhancer drugs are currently in clinical development.

These breakthroughs could turn out to be lifesavers or at least postpone the development of a devastating disease such as Alzheimer’s.

But who else should be allowed to take them?

Buzzing the Web on a Meme Machine

October 28, 2004

The World Wide Web is the perfect Petri dish for memes.

New Species Revealed: Tiny Cousins of Humans

October 28, 2004

Skeletons of a new human species, Homo floresiensis, have been discovered in a cave on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, by archaeologists.

The finding was “among the most outstanding discoveries in paleoanthropology for half a century,” said anthropologists Dr. Marta Mirazon Lahr and Dr. Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge.

The little (three and a half feet high) people were a downsized version of… read more

Advent of the Robotic Monkeys

October 27, 2004

Researchers have trained a monkey to feed itself by guiding a mechanical arm with its mind. It could be a big step forward for prosthetics.

Quantum dots identify sick cells

October 27, 2004

University of Toronto professor Warren Chan is developing quantum dots — nanoscale semiconductors — that can target a disease site and light it up.

By attaching a quantum dot to a molecule that will target a specific type of cancer, for example, over time, the dots will accumulate in the tumor and light up in that particular region.

This could someday lead to a system that would also… read more

Stem cells ‘could restore vision’

October 27, 2004

University of Toronto scientists found that human retinal stem cells regenerated when they were transplanted into the eyes of mice and chicks.

These stem cells could eventually be used to restore normal vision in people with sight problems, the researchers say.

Stimulating Nerve Cells with Infrared Lasers

October 27, 2004

Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered a method that uses laser light, rather than electricity, to stimulate and control neurons.

They discovered in an experiment with rats that low-intensity infrared laser light can activate specific nerves, exciting a leg or even individual toes without actually touching the neurons. Immediately following the experiment, the rats regained full use of their legs with no signs of weakness or damage.… read more

Electric currents boost brain power

October 27, 2004

Connecting a battery across the front of the head (the prefrontal cortex) can boost verbal skills, says a team from the US National Institutes of Health.

A current of two milliamperes applied for 20 minutes is enough to produce a significant improvement, they found.

Intel prepares for next 20 years of chip making

October 26, 2004

Intel researchers have revealed plans to use exotic materials such as carbon nanotubes and nanowires as well as novel techniques to take the transistor down to the atomic level.

Intel believes the ultimate transistor shape would be a pure cylinder with a gate wrapped entirely around the channel, striking the best balance between electron mobility and leakage control. It would be based on a silicon nanowire.

Intel is… read more

The Other Exponentials

October 26, 2004

There are other significant exponentials in IT besides Moore’s law and they suggest opportunities for new research and new business models, says Rodney Brooks.

For example, today’s iPod could store 20,000 books. But just 10 years from now, an iPod might be able to hold 20 million books. By 2017, you’ll be able to carry around the complete text for all the volumes in the Library of Congress.… read more

Signal Overload in Alzheimer Brains

October 26, 2004

In studies with mice that develop the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that brain cells’ signals confuse the movement of implanted neuronal stem cells.

The observation reinforces the idea that disease can create “microenvironments” that affect the behavior of cells.

“In normal adult mice, stem cells taken from the olfactory bulb returned to the olfactory bulb — where they belong — even though they… read more

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