science + technology news

Oxygen burst: MIT is readying new technologies that put humans in the center of computing

June 22, 2004

MIT’s Project Oxygen — so named because founder Michael Dertouzos believed computers should be as invisible to their users as the air they breathe — has begun to bear technology fruit.

Last week, in a series of demonstrations at MIT’s futuristic Stata Center, researchers showed off a new reconfigurable microchip that enables a mobile device to change, chameleon-like, from cellphone to hand-held computer to music player; a 1,020-microphone array… read more

Manned Private Craft Reaches Space in a Milestone for Flight

June 22, 2004

A veteran civilian test pilot on Monday became the first human to reach space in a privately developed program, guiding a tiny rocket ship more than 60 miles above California.

“The flight today opens a new chapter in history, making space access within the reach of ordinary citizens,” said Patti Grace Smith, the associate administrator for commercial space transportation for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Your Lapel Is Ringing

June 22, 2004

Wrist-watch phones, minute handsets woven into clothes, and more are already on sale in Asia. Expect to see them in the U.S. over the next 12 months.

You’ll see cell phones that are cleverly disguised in watches, bracelets, jacket lapels, backpacks — any imaginable place that will make gabbing a fashion statement.

NTT DoCoMo is developing a technology called FingerWhisper that uses a hand’s bone structure. When a… read more

Earth Simulator still supercomputer champion

June 22, 2004

NEC’s Earth Simulator is still the fastest supercomputer in the world, according to the latest “TOP500” list, announced Monday.

At about half that rate is Thunder, built at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, followed by ASCI Q, from Los Alamos National Laboratory. A Chinese supercomputer made the top ten for the first time this year.

Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, who maintains the list, and… read more

They make mistakes ? they’re only inhuman

June 21, 2004

The Stepford Wives and I, Robot films are cautionary tales of the perils of allowing humans to be stripped of their humanity, which happens when you replace emotional people with thinking but unfeeling machines.

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

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