science + technology news

UCLA Scientists Control a Single Electron’s Spin With Commercial Transitor

July 23, 2004

A UCLA team succeeded in flipping a single electron spin upside down in an ordinary commercial integrated circut chip for the first time, and in detecting that the current changes when the electron flips.

“Our research demonstrates that an ordinary transistor can be adapted for practical quantum computing,” said UCLA professor of physics Hong Wen Jiang.

They flipped the spin of the electron by changing a microwave radio… read more

For Doctored Photos, a New Flavor of Digital Truth Serum

July 23, 2004

Dartmouth College computer scientist Hany Farid has developed algorithms that detect photographs that have been digitally tweaked by combining and editing images.

The technique uses “nearest-neighbor” and other techniques to detect alterations.

“Digital watermarking” (embedding identifying pixels in an digital photo), a technique to indicate an original photo has been altered, can now be automatically inserted in digital photos by some cameras.

Gold charges up electron by electron

July 23, 2004

IBM scientists have succeeded in changing the electrical charge of individual atoms. They used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) to deliver a single electron to individual gold atoms.

The STM can also go back over the gold atoms and sense whether they are neutral or negatively charged. A string of neutral and negative gold atoms could theoretically store information.

About Those Fearsome Black Holes? Never Mind

July 22, 2004

Stephen Hawking declared at a scientific conference in Dublin that he had been wrong in a controversial assertion he made 30 years ago about black holes.

He had said information about what had been swallowed by a black hole could never be retrieved from it. This would have been a violation of quantum theory, which says that information is preserved.

“I’m sorry to disappoint science fiction fans, but… read more

Human intelligence determined by volume and location of gray matter tissue in brain

July 21, 2004

General human intelligence appears to be based on the volume of gray matter tissue in certain regions of the brain, UC Irvine College of Medicine researchers have found in the most comprehensive structural brain-scan study of intelligence to date.

Previous research had shown that larger brains are weakly related to higher IQ, but this study is the first to demonstrate that gray matter in specific regions in… read more

Quantum change for nanotubes

July 21, 2004

A metallic carbon nanotube can be made into a semiconductor and vice versa via the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Semiconductor nanotubes would allow for building nanoscale computers.

The Aharonov-Bohm effect is a quantum phenomenon in which the wavefunction of an electron acquires a phase shift as it follows a trajectory that encloses a magnetic flux (such as the path round the surface of a cylinder in a magnetic field). This phase… read more

Bookmachine self-contained printer

July 21, 2004

Yet another technology that could potentially render bookstores obsolete: the Book Machine lets you browse for a book by author, title, subject matter, or publisher. Once selected, the book text is sent to the machine via satellite and the book printed out in standard-format softcover in three to five minutes.

This basically turns the whole book browsing and purchasing process into an ATM transaction.

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

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