science + technology news

I.B.M. Decides to Market a Blue Streak of a Computer

June 21, 2004

I.B.M. intends to announce this week its plans for a commercial version of the Blue Gene/L supercomputer, intended to study protein-folding.

Two new Blue Gene/L prototype supercomputers are ranked in the top 10, as the fourth fastest and the eighth fastest.

A Blue Gene/L machine that I.B.M. is building for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory should be up and running next year. According to I.B.M. and… read more

Human embryo research plan is first of its kind

June 18, 2004

If approved, a team of British researchers plans to perform therapeutic cloning of human embryos. They will be used as sources of embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to form any of the hundreds of different tissues found in the body.

The researchers hope their work will lead to huge advances in medicine, among them novel treatments for disease.

Q&A With MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte

June 18, 2004

According to Nicholas Negroponte, founding chairman of MIT’s Media Laboratory, new products or services likely to make the biggest splash will be peer-to-peer “in every form conceivable: cell phones without towers, sharing leftover food, bartering, etc. Furthermore, you will see micro-wireless networks, where everyday devices become routers of messages that have nothing to do with themselves.”

Strange food for thought

June 17, 2004

The brain-gain revolution is already under way. But will these “neural enhancement” drugs turn us into Einsteins or Frankensteins?

Artificial Intelligence: Animation Finally Gets NextGen Technology

June 17, 2004

New animation technology applies artificial intelligence to character animation.

In video games, characters can learn to compete and make it more challenging for the user. In movies, animators can automate characters in scenes so they don’t have to tell each character what to do.

Power implant aims to run on body heat

June 17, 2004

Biophan Technologies is developing an implantable power source that recharges an implant’s batteries using electricity generated by the patient’s own body heat.

The “biothermal battery” uses arrays of thousands of thermoelectric generators. Biophan plans to produce an array 2.5 centimetres square that generates 4 volts and delivers a power of 100 microwatts.

The technology would require fewer surgical procedures, which are stressful and carry the risk of infection.

Alarm Sounded on Global Warming

June 16, 2004

Ten of the nation’s top climate researchers warned yesterday that policymakers must act soon to address the dangers associated with global warming, which they described as a looming threat that will hit hardest and soonest at the world’s poor and at farmers.

The academics emphasized that if international leaders do not act soon, they will not have the option of reversing global warming.

Researchers, including Chris Field of… read more

Capturing Thinking As It Happens

June 15, 2004

A team led by UC San Diego neurobiologists has developed a method of interpreting brain EEG signals that allows for real time visualization of thought and action. It has the potential to advance our understanding of disorders like epilepsy and autism.

Thought processes occur on the order of milliseconds but current brain imaging techniques, such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and traditional EEGs, are averaged over seconds. This provides… read more

Gene doping

June 15, 2004

Gene therapy for restoring muscle lost to age or disease is poised to enter the clinic. But elite athletes
are eyeing it to enhance performance.

Treatments that regenerate muscle, increase its strength, and protect it from degradation, degradation will soon be entering human clinical trials for musclewasting disorders.

Among these are therapies that give patients a synthetic gene, which can last for years, producing high amounts of indetectable,… read more

Computing needs a Grand Challenge

June 15, 2004

Sir Tony Hoare, British computing pioneer and senior scientist at Microsoft Research, believes the computer industry needs a “grand challenge” to inspire it.

By 2020, Hoare predicts, the world will contain 100 times as many computers as it does now, each with 100 times as much power and memory, all interconnected. And to best understand this world, he says, we should not think of it as containing many discrete… read more

Inventor plans ‘invisible walls’

June 15, 2004

The inventor of an “invisibility” cloak has said that his next project will be to develop the technology to allow people to see through walls.

The cloak works by projecting an image onto itself of what is behind the wearer, using a new material called “retro-reflectum” that allows you to see a three-dimensional image.

Phone Giants Are Projected to Dominate Internet Calls

June 15, 2004

As much as 30 percent of homes in the United States and Britain could subscribe to Internet-based phone services in the next three years if major telecommunications companies offer services similar in price and quality to traditional phone connections, according to a new survey.

The findings suggest that the market for low-priced Internet phone services will most likely be dominated by phone companies, cable providers, and possibly local phone… read more

Mutant human stem cell lines created

June 14, 2004

Immortal cell lines have been made from genetically flawed human embryos. Scientists hope they will help develop new therapies.

Microscopy moves to the picoscale

June 14, 2004

Physicists have made an atomic force microscope capable of imaging features less than 100 picometers across. The new “higher-harmonic” force microscope uses a single carbon atom as a probe and has a resolution that is at least three times better than that of traditional scanning tunnelling microscopes.

How it works: As the tungsten tip of the probe is made to oscillate at sub-nanometer amplitudes, the interaction between the tip… read more

Demo: Wearable Robots

June 14, 2004

University of Utah robotics expert Stephen Jacobsen has developed a powered “exoskeleton” that allows for carrying massive loads without getting tired.

Exoskeletons could enable soldiers to haul heavier equipment over greater distances, allow rescue workers to carry survivors more safely, and eventually help disabled people get around

Each leg has powered joints at the hip, knee, and ankle and about 20 sensors, all coordinated by an onboard PC… read more

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