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Genes, Medicine, and the New Race Debate

May 14, 2003

The International HapMap Project will use highly automated genomics tools to parse out the common “haplotype” patterns in DNA among a number of the world’s population groups.

The reseasrch promises to offer new tools for medicine (forewarning at-risk individuals and predicting adverse drug reactions, for example), but raises the possibility of perpetuating ethnic stereotypes.

AI Founder Blasts Modern Research

May 14, 2003

“AI has been brain-dead since the 1970s,” said AI guru Marvin Minsky in a recent speech at Boston University.

Minsky accused researchers of giving up on the immense challenge of building a fully autonomous, thinking machine.

“The worst fad has been these stupid little robots,” said Minsky. “Graduate students are wasting 3 years of their lives soldering and repairing robots, instead of making them smart. It’s really shocking.”

New breed of robots, gizmos take war to next level

May 13, 2003

“The transition to mechanized weaponry is key to the military’s transformation from heavy ground forces to smaller human units fortified with robotic weapons. The goal: to limit casualties.

“Within 20 years, squadrons of unmanned planes will swarm enemy sites like killer bees, launching missiles and avoiding detection with sophisticated jamming devices.

“Self-programmed submarines will replace dolphins to detect and disarm mines. Robotic mules the size of pickups will… read more

The Evelyn Wood of Digitized Book Scanners

May 13, 2003

New book-scanning robots can turn the pages of small and large books as well as bound newspaper volumes and scan more than 1,000 pages an hour — speed and quality control unattainable by manual systems.

Magnetic-sensing microscope removes barrier to further shrinking of integrated circuits

May 13, 2003

Scientists at Brown University have created a magnetic-sensing microscope that allows them to watch electricity flow through the world’s tiniest components. They are using the device to find defects in integrated circuits and micromachinery.

The scanner removes a barrier to further shrinking of integrated circuits: as circuits get smaller, non-visual defects become harder to find.

They are using the technology to pinpoint how electrical current can form pinholes… read more

Pattern Recognition Method Zeroes in on Genes that Regulate Cell’s Genetic Machinery

May 13, 2003

Using a new technique for recognizing patterns in biological databases, a team of scientists and geneticists from Stanford University, Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute has developed a practical computational method that zeroes in on the genes responsible for controlling the genetic machinery of a cell.

The new computational method makes the experimental process much more efficient. It identifies regulatory candidates for testing in the lab and predicts how… read more

New virtual reality array allows immersive experience without disorienting 3-D goggles

May 13, 2003

The University of Pennsylvania has developed LiveActor, a virtual reality system that allows a participant to experience full-body interaction with a virtual environment without the hassle of bulky, dizzying 3-D glasses.

The system combines an optical motion capture system to monitor the body’s movements with a stereo projection system to immerse users in a virtual environment. The combination lets users interact with characters embedded within virtual worlds.

The… read more

Proteins Are Transformed, Then Put to More Uses

May 13, 2003

Duke University scientists say they have developed powerful computational techniques to alter proteins so they can perform new functions, such as detecting the explosive TNT and the brain chemical serotonin (for possible use in a diagnostic test). They used a computer program to predict how to alter the protein so it will bind to something different.

How to Grab an Atom

May 13, 2003

Researchers at Osaka University have used an atomic force microscope (AFM) to move atoms, marking the first time single atoms have been manipulated using a purely mechanical technique, rather than one involving electric current.

The new method could allow researchers to maneuver single atoms of nonconductive as well as conductive materials, perhaps for nanoscale circuits of the future.

Nanoprobe to be developed for a ‘Fantastic Voyage’ in the human body, finding and treating deadly tumors

May 12, 2003

A UC Irvine research team has received a five-year, $2.9 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a microscopic probe for detecting and treating pre-cancerous and malignant tumors in humans.

Similar to the miniaturized vessel that explores a human body in the science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage,” the probe would be inserted into a patient and then guided through the esophagus, stomach and colon to determine if tumors… read more

Unlocking The Matrix

May 12, 2003

TIME offers “an exclusive look at the year’s most avidly anticipated film epic.”

Nantero reports 10-Gbit nanotube memory array

May 12, 2003

Nantero Inc. has said it has created the basis of a 10-Gbit memory, using an array of more than 10 billion carbon nanotube “junctions” on a silicon wafer to create nonvolatile RAM.

Nantero estimated the total market for this type of memory, a potential replacement for all today’s established memory component formats, is about $100 billion a year.

Bad News for Quantum Clones

May 9, 2003

Two physicists have shown that it is impossible to build a quantum “universal constructor” — a quantum computer that has the ability to spawn perfect copies of itself.

However, MIT prof. Seth Lloyd says it’s not necessary to make an exact duplicate of a machine for it to be able to reproduce like a living creature — an almost-perfect copy will do just fine.

Shifting Into Overdrive: What happens when mass storage leaves microchips in the dust

May 9, 2003

In mass storage, we have seen a 60,000-fold fall in price — more than a dozen times the force of Moore’s law.

Implications of lower-cost mass storage: the cheaper the disk space, the more dead the traditional business models of the entertainment industry; we will save copies of everything; and your memory will improve — there will be space to store whatever you wish to recall from your day.

Counting on Distant Worlds: Math as an Interstellar Language

May 9, 2003

We cannot count on the universality of mathematics for interstellar communication, says Physicist and philosopher Sundar Sarukkai of National Institute of Advanced Studies in India. He suggests that mathematics on other worlds may differ considerably from ours.

“If we begin with the assumption that the extraterrestrial folks have radio telescopes, then we are making an assumption about processes of their thought more than their language or even their technology.”

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