science + technology news

When machines breed

August 13, 2004

Evolvable hardware — machines that design themselves — can get the job done, even if humans have no idea how they do it.

Using evolutionary processes to optimize machine performance is nothing new. What is new, however, is the application of evolutionary processes in the hardware realm. Thanks to reconfigurable devices such as the field programmable gate array (FPGA) and increasing computational power, researchers are suddenly free to let… read more

Biology Enters Fourth Dimension

August 13, 2004

A new microscope that lets scientists peer deeper into living organisms than ever before and in real time has been developed by researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

The technology, called Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy, or SPIM, allows scientists to study relatively large (2 to 3 millimeter) live organisms from many different angles, under real conditions and with minimal disruption to the specimen.

SPIM shines a very… read more

Britain Grants License to Make Human Embryos for Stem Cells

August 12, 2004

British regulators have issued the country’s first license to use cloning techniques to generate a human embryo to produce stem cells that might be used for the treatment of disease.

Emerging field shifts perceptions of human, machine limits

August 11, 2004

Canesta, a pioneering company in the perception technology field, has introduced a commercial development kit for its 3-D-sensor machine vision chip.

Applications using Canesta’s electronic perception technology include size and depth detection, image segmentation, object classification, object tracking and location analysis, and human interaction.

For example, the technology could be used to sense the location, size and shape of a person. That would allow for making an airbag… read more

Probe Set to Test Einstein Theory

August 11, 2004

NASA’s Gravity Probe B spacecraft will test Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Gravity Probe B will test two concepts of the theory: that Earth — and almost any body in space — creates a dimple in the universe’s space-time fabric; and that the rotation of the Earth twists that fabric.

It will attempt to measure those effects by aligning itself with a distant star and then measuring tiny… read more

Volcano could trigger tsunami disaster for New York

August 11, 2004

A collapsing volcano could trigger a vast tidal wave capable of wiping New York, Washington and Miami off the map, warn geologists.

Geologists are concerned that an unstable flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canaries is in danger of sliding into the sea.

If shaken loose by a volcanic eruption, the huge slab of rock would send a tsunami more… read more

Portable Internet to Be 10 Times Faster

August 11, 2004

Starting next year, South Koreans will be able to access the Internet via cell phone at 1 Mbps, ten times faster than they can currently.

RNA could form building blocks for nanomachines

August 11, 2004

Researchers have coaxed RNA to self-assemble into 3-D arrays, a potential backbone for nanotech scaffolds. These RNA structures can form a wider variety of shapes than double-stranded DNA can and are easier to manipulate than many protein alternatives.

Peixuan Guo of Purdue University and his colleagues report the findings in the August 11, 2004, issue of the journal Nano Letters.

By mixing the custom-made RNA strands with other… read more

Nature ‘mankind’s gravest threat’

August 10, 2004

Giant tsunamis, super volcanoes and earthquakes could pose a greater threat than terrorism, scientists claim.

Man and machine, between two worlds

August 10, 2004

Human consciousness can’t be saved and stored electronically — yet. But Ken MacLeod envisions just such a time in his latest novel, Newton’s Wake, on the coming nexus of man and machine.

The story unfolds in the 24th century, 300 years after “the Hard Rapture,” when machines powered by AI turned on their human creators in a nuclear war for control of Earth. The machines were victorious. The winners… read more

Alzheimer’s sufferers are more likely to have jobs that are less mentally challenging

August 10, 2004

A study published today in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology shows that Alzheimer’s sufferers are more likely to have jobs that are less mentally challenging than people without Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also found that those with Alzheimer’s disease had jobs with more physical demands.

Researchers did not control for socioeconomic status or environmental demands and exposures of occupations.

A Digital World With Analog as Its Workhorse

August 9, 2004

The digital revolution is driving strong demand for advances in analog electronics.

Intel Technicians Use Delicate Silicon Surgery to Fine-Tune Microchips

August 9, 2004

Focused ion beam technology or “silicon nanosurgery,” routinely used at nine Intel chip factories around the world, has completely transformed the way modern computer chips are developed.

It can locate design flaws and performance bottlenecks and make changes in circuit wires that are frequently no more than several hundred atoms in width.

The tools are used routinely now as part of the process of tuning new chips as… read more

Microsoft Releases Service Pack 2

August 9, 2004

Microsoft released a long-awaited security update for its Windows XP program on Friday, a response to the growing number of security shortcomings.

The upgrade is designed to make users safer from cyberattacks by sealing entries to viruses, better protecting personal data, and fending off spyware.

Service Pack 2 should be available on compact disc and from the company’s Windows Update site by end of the month.

Do You See a Pattern Here?

August 9, 2004

In a new book, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets, Benoit Mandelbrot, father of the fractal, says the world’s central banks need a risk model that “takes into account long-term dependency, or the tendency of bad news to come in waves” to avoid further global financial system crises.

He recommends that they fund “an international commission for systematic, rigorous, and replicable research into market dynamics.

“If we can map the… read more

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