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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.”

Are aliens hiding their messages?

May 8, 2003

Two physicists have come up with an intriguing solution to the Fermi paradox (If we are not alone in the Universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilization?).

They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background… read more

Stem cells can become ‘normal sperm’

May 8, 2003

New research suggests it might be possible to take an individual’s cell, create embyronic stem cells from it by therapeutic cloning, and then derive healthy eggs or sperm from them for use in IVF.

The most obvious application would be to treat infertile women who cannot produce any eggs suitable for IVF, or men who cannot produce sperm. And because male ESCs can be turned into eggs as well… read more

‘Digital organisms’ evolve complex functions in short steps

May 8, 2003

“Computer programs designed to ‘evolve’ solutions to mathematical problems support the idea that complexity in nature emerges in small, often apparently unremarkable, steps. Complex biological organisms are thought to develop through a series of intermediary evolutionary adaptations, rather than in single giant evolutionary leaps.

“The researchers say their computer model will let biologists study individual evolutionary steps for the first time.”

Artificial Life Experiments Show Howread more

Flexible E-Paper on Its Way

May 8, 2003

“In a step toward electronic newspapers and wearable computer screens, E Ink scientists have created an ultra-thin screen that can be bent, twisted and even rolled up and still display crisp text. The material, less than 0.3 mm thick, displays black text on a whitish-gray background with a resolution similar to that of a typical laptop computer screen,” at 96 pixels per inch.

Companies Bet Their Money On Nano’s Workhorse: The Quantum Dot

May 7, 2003

The potential for quantum dots –- semiconductor nanocrystal particles that confine electrons in their cores — is wide open.

Applications include customizable tags for cell or tissue analysis (the largest market), solar energy, flat-panel displays, light sources, and security tags for currency or other valuable objects.

A Gaggle of Robot Movies

May 7, 2003

Robot movies coming out include The Matrix Reloaded (5/15), Terminator 3 (7/2), The Matrix Revolutions (11/11), and I, Robot (7/2/2004). Also next year, watch for Terminator 4, Robocop 4, StarTrek 11, Star Wars III, a Westworld remake, and yes, Tron 2.0.

Cold Virus Zaps Brain Tumors

May 6, 2003

A genetically altered common cold virus worked so well in destroying the most lethal type of brain tumor in experiments with mice that researchers want to take the treatment to people next year. The scientists implanted the human glioblastomas inside the brains of mice, and found only empty cavities and scar tissue where the tumors once were.

Lead researchers cautioned that the dramatic results don’t assure the virus will… read more

‘Digital Organisms’ Illuminate Evolution

May 6, 2003

Seeing every step along the way in an evolutionary sequence that unfolds over millions of years is of course impossible, but researchers have found a way to see this process unfold in its entirety without any ‘missing links’. Computer programs designed to “evolve” solutions to mathematical problems support the idea that complexity in nature emerges in small, often apparently unremarkable, steps. This may help computer programmers make more efficient evolutionary… read more

Man or Machine? (Part 1 of 3): Human or Robot?

May 6, 2003

Pattern recognition is what Ray Kurzweil calls the heart of human intelligence. “Ultimately, our machines will have equal and, in fact, even greater powers of pattern recognition,” he says.

He predicts as we reach a greater understanding of the brain, artificial intelligence will advance even more. “We’ll be able to essentially recreate the powers of human intelligence and combine them with the speed, accuracy and knowledge-sharing ability of machines.”

Shaking up system of quake predictions

May 6, 2003

“A seismologist in Wisconsin and a geophysicist in California have developed an alarm system that promises to offer at least a few crucial seconds of warning that a major quake is about to strike. Simulations so far suggest that the technique can signal a quake’s magnitude and where the most dangerous ground motion might threaten people and buildings.”

New Technique Could Stem Spread of Altered Genes From GM Crops

May 6, 2003

“A key concern regarding the use of genetically modified crops is the possibility that they will spread their altered genes to wild plants. Research published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could help prevent these occurrences. Scientists have engineered a strain of GM plant that propagates successfully on its own, but cannot mix with non-GM plants.”

Lab tests tenets’ limits

May 6, 2003

If the fundamental constants of physics change, they do so too slowly for us to detect.

Case in point: Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, have ruled out any change in the fine-structure constant (alpha) greater than between 7×10^-15 and 7×10^-16 per year.

Alpha is a measure of how strongly light interacts with matter. If it has a different value today than… read more

Gene scale scores stem cells

May 6, 2003

Scientists have proposed a simple scale of 88 genes to help researchers to determine whether they can convert adult cells from say, blood or skin, into stem cells that are able to grow medically valuable repair tissues.

New subatomic particle found

May 6, 2003

Researchers have discoverd a new subatomic particle that is causing theorists to rethink their ideas about the strong force, which binds subatomic particles together into atoms.

The “Ds (2317)” particle is probably an unusual configuration of quarks.

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