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Wheelchair moves at the speed of thought

July 24, 2003

A system that lets severely disabled people steer a wheelchair using only their thoughts is under development.

Using a skullcap with electrodes, it noninvasively monitors the electrical activity of the wearer’s brain. A neural network can be trained to recognize different mental states, currently: “turn left,” “turn right” and “move forward.”

Poetry website goes from bad to verse

July 24, 2003

David Rea of Greenwich, Connecticut, has written a genetic algorithm-based program that allows a poem to evolve, to see if people with diverse tastes in poetry can work together to create attractive verse.

World’s smallest electric rotor made

July 24, 2003

Scientists have built an electric rotor with a gold blade 300 nanometers long. This sits atop an axle made from a multiwalled carbon nanotube; gold electrodes at either end of the axle lash the device to a silicon chip.

Applying a voltage between the nanotube and one of three more electrodes around it rotates the blade. The nanotube rotor can operate at great speed, over a wide range of… read more

Your Permanent Record

July 24, 2003

By the decade’s end, we’ll have a fully realized digital memory management system, with the storage capacity approaching the largest paper-and-ink archive on earth, says Microsoft CTO David Vaskevitch.

Every picture or video snippet that you shoot be embedded with date and GPS location information. Your OS will include sophisticated face-matching software. Photos will categorize themselves “automagically” and provide us with a second memory system — a backup for… read more

Get Ready for New ‘Nano’ Products

July 24, 2003

Boosters claim that nanotech-derived products may some day cure disease, slow the aging process and eliminate pollution.

But for now, the human race will have to settle for tennis balls that keep their bounce longer, flat-panel displays that shine brighter, and wrinkle-free khaki slacks that resist coffee stains.

New Detector May Test Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

July 23, 2003

Scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara have devised an extremely precise detector able to detect a flexing of the beam of about one one-thousandth of a nanometer.

Using such a device, the researchers hope to determine whether Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle still holds when billions of atoms are assembled as an object.

Comment by Ray Kurzweil: “This is picotechnology, at least a very early example.”

‘Ape diet’ lowers bad cholesterol levels

July 23, 2003

A vegetarian “ape-diet” is as effective in lowering cholesterol as an established cholesterol-lowering drug.

The diet includes plant sterols (found in plant oils and enriched margarines), viscous fiber (found in oats, barley and aubergine), and soy protein and nuts.

David Jenkins, a vascular biologist at the University of Toronto, believes that humans may be evolutionarily adapted to the diet.

Star survey reaches 70 sextillion

July 22, 2003

The total number of stars in the known universe visible with modern telescopes is 7 x 10^22, according to a study by Australian astronomers.

The actual number of stars could be infinite, said Dr. Simon Driver, speaking at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union meeting in Sydney. The universe is so big, light from the other side of the universe “hasn’t reached us yet.”

Turing Test Dead End

July 22, 2003

“The failure of computers, with all their power, to do much more than ELIZA [a simulated psychologist] is pathetic,” says curmudgeon PC Mag. columnist John Dvorak.

“With computer programs such as Deep Blue able to analyze millions of chess moves in order to make informed decisions, you’d think developers could somehow apply similar technology…”

GM food risk to humans ‘very low’

July 22, 2003

The independent review of over 600 scientific papers concludes that existing genetically modified crops and foods pose a “very low” risk to human health.

Sensors guard privacy

July 22, 2003

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have addressed the privacy problem with a way to set up networks of tiny sensors that allows users to gain useful traffic statistics but preserves privacy by cloaking location information for any given individual.

On the Edge: Hidden in Plain Sight

July 21, 2003

The 2001 movie “Along Came A Spider” probably marks the debut of steganography in mainstream culture. Steganography usually involves image files such as JPEGs, and unlike the better-known process of encryption, where a message is garbled but remains in plain view, steganography hides it altogether.

Switch on for Powered Data Networks

July 21, 2003

Instead of needing adapters, computer networks could soon be supplying the devices they interconnect with both data and power. The basic plugs for computer networks are the same all over the world, raising the possibility that powered data cables could become a universal back-up power supply.

Taking a Quick Swipe at Cancer

July 21, 2003

A new handheld scanner will allow the doctor to simply swipe a 30-centimeter baton over the patient’s body. Information on irregular tissues will be displayed on a computer screen and in five minutes the exam will be over. The new device, TRIMprob (Tissue Resonance InterferoMeter Probe), consists of a battery-powered baton that produces a signal when it hits a tumor.

Scientists Discover a New Way to Slow Speed of Light

July 21, 2003

Researchers say they have slowed light in specially treated crystals of alexandrite and at room temperature. This could lead to a new generation of components to build optical and quantum computers and more-efficient optical communications systems.

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