science + technology news

As Gene Test Menu Grows, Who Gets to Choose?

July 21, 2004

Too many health care providers, critics say, have not educated themselves about the genetic tests that could benefit their patients.

Others, pressed for time, simply do not communicate what can be complex information. And some choose not to inform their patients of certain tests they have deemed inappropriate, in effect making a value judgment about abortion, disabilities and risk that patients say they have a right to make for… read more

Polite computers win users’ hearts and minds

July 20, 2004

Computer glitches are a lot less annoying for many users if the machines are programmed to acknowledge errors gracefully when something goes wrong, instead of merely flashing up a brusque “you goofed” message, research shows.

But Jonathan Klein, who builds robotic toys at iRobot, warns that any apology will eventually cease to sound sincere if it is repeated too often.

He believes the answer is software that will… read more

Verizon’s fiber race is on

July 20, 2004

Verizon Communications plans to debut a 30mbps broadband-over-fiber service called Fios to homes later this summer.

It will offer voice calls, video and broadband in competition with telephone and cable companies, initially in three cites.

A 2mbps to 5mbps Fios connection will cost $35 a month if purchased along with Verizon’s local and long-distance telephone service. A connection of up to 15mbps is available for $45 a month… read more

Mellow or Stressed? Mom’s Care Can Alter DNA of Her Offspring

July 19, 2004

Scientists have discovered that rat genes can be altered by the mother’s behavior.

All newborn rats have a molecular silencer on their stress-receptor gene, they found. In rats reared by standoffish mothers, the silencer remains attached, the scientists will report in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience. As a result, the brain has few stress-hormone receptors and reacts to stress like a skittish horse hearing a gunshot.

But… read more

Multimedia Scrapbooks to Share

July 19, 2004

Web users are programming their own virtual TV newscasts and eclectic collections of video clips using a free media-sharing tool called Webjay (

The site makes it easy to build, share and watch playlists of audio and video links culled from around the Internet.

Movie tests Asimov’s moral code for robots

July 19, 2004

Even if researchers are ever able to build robots with enough intelligence to comprehend Asimov’s laws, they are unlikely to be implemented.

Although they attracted some interest in the early stages of AI research, the rules were quickly abandoned as too prescriptive and simplistic.

“They stem from an innocent bygone age, when people seriously thought that intelligence was something that could be ‘programmed in’ as a series of… read more

Using Carbon Nanotubes For Quantum Computing

July 16, 2004

Academics at the University of Oxford have developed a design protocol for inserting filled molecules of Buckminsterfullerene (“Buckyballs”) into carbon, and other types of nanotubes.

The Buckyballs are themselves filled with molecules that have either an electronic or structural property that can be used to represent a quantum bit (Qubit) of information and can be associated with other adjacent Qubits. The improved stability of the system now allows several… read more

Deposit Your Stem-Cell Hopes Here

July 15, 2004

The government plans to open a “national bank” to better grow the only embryonic stem cells eligible for government-funded research, holding firm against critics who want Bush administration restrictions on the controversial cells lifted.

In addition, the National Institutes of Health plans to spend $18 million over four years to establish three “centers of excellence” to speed research on the currently available cell lines.

The proposals don’t satisfy… read more

MRI used to detect lone electron

July 15, 2004

Magnetic resonance imaging has been used to pinpoint the position of a single, unpaired electron for the first time.

The achievement, by a team at IBM’s Almaden Research Laboratory in San Jose, California, paves the way for scientists to map the shape of molecules and peer inside transistors to examine atomic-scale features.

“This is an impressive milestone and an essential step towards imaging biomolecules in three dimensions,” says… read more

Hawking cracks black hole paradox

July 15, 2004

After nearly 30 years of arguing that a black hole destroys everything that falls into it, Stephen Hawking is saying he was wrong. It seems that black holes may after all allow information within them to escape.

It might solve one of the long-standing puzzles in modern physics, known as the black hole information paradox. In 1976, he calculated that once a black hole forms, it starts losing mass… read more

‘High-rise’ chips sneak on market

July 15, 2004

“High-rise” three-dimensional semiconductors have quietly started making their way into consumer products.

Matrix Semiconductor is now selling its 3D memory/data storage chips, initially for use in storing pre-recorded content like games or songs.

In the company’s memory chips, planes of transistors can be stacked, which reduces the surface area of the chip and allows more chips to be produced from a single wafer. Ideally, manufacturers get the cost… read more

The rise of ‘Digital People’

July 15, 2004

Tales about artificial beings have sparked fascination and fear for centuries; now the tales are turning into reality.

Intel: Moore’s Law Here to Stay

July 14, 2004

“We see that for at least the next 15 to 20 years, we can continue staying on Moore’s Law,” said Paolo Gargini, Intel Fellow and director of technology strategy as well as chairman of the ITRS.

He predicted the convergence of emerging technologies such as quantum, optical, plastic, NEMS and SiCMOS with traditional CMOS.

Specifically, the “heterogeneous integration of alternative technologies is the way of the future,” Gargini… read more

The Coming Robot Revolution

July 14, 2004

“In the future, robots could help determine the outcome of wars and identify problems in data centers. Office buildings may come to life as they use Wi-Fi to dispatch robots to control human access, test heating and cooling systems, and fetch tools for workers.”

We, Robots

July 14, 2004

“In 2035, sleek humanoid robots that walk, talk and think will be as common as iPods. At least they are in ‘I, Robot.’

“When the big-budget thriller hits movie screens Friday, it will be hard not to notice the gap between the clunky robots of today and those doing battle with Will Smith’s Detective Del Spooner.”

“Yet the future is arriving, one bot at a time. Robots today… read more

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