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Dust and mirrors bring smart world closer

April 14, 2002

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are developing self-sustaining network nodes measuring millimeters in length, complete with sensors and communications. This “smart dust” could be used for environmental monitoring, health, security, distributed processing, tracking and new user interfaces, including invisible keyboards, gesture control and 3D input devices.Problems in implementing smart dust include power (tiny batteries and more efficient chips are being developed) and communications (optical links via optical… read more

Jumping genes make ‘designer’ animals easy

April 11, 2002

Biotech company Tosk says it can add genes to mammalian cells with unprecedented efficiency with the help of fruit fly DNA that can jump in and out of chromosomes.
Introducing genes into mammals is laborious and expensive at present. The new method promises to make genetically modified mammals cheap and easy and could even be used to correct genetic faults in people.

GM mammals are usually made by injecting… read more

Firm aims to ‘computerize’ common sense

April 11, 2002

The Cyc knowledge base will acquire knowledge of 100 million things — about the number a typical person knows about the world — in five years, says Cycorp CEO and founder Doug Lenat. “It’s difficult to predict the course thereafter,” he adds.

Seeing Around Corners: artificial societies

April 11, 2002

The new science of artificial societies (A-societies), using computer techniques similar to A-life (artificial life), may suggest where to look for surprises and small interventions in society that may have large, discontinuous consequences.

Microscopes move to smaller scales

April 11, 2002

The sharpest images ever achieved by optical means have been produced by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, who have imaged clumps of bacteria just 33 nanometres across, equivalent to 1/23 of the wavelength of light used to illuminate them.
The researchers hope to achieve a resolution of around 17 nanometres, using ultraviolet light. Practical devices are expected within two or three years, which could have microlithography… read more

Audio file of Drexler’s comments on dangers of nanotech

April 11, 2002

The AAAS has posted an audio file of remarks made by K. Eric Drexler, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and Foresight Board Chair, who spoke on a panel discussion during a symposium on “The War On Terrorism: What Does It Mean for Science?,” held on 18 December 2001 in Washington, D.C.

US looks to create robo-soldier

April 11, 2002

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, funded by the US Army, is setting up a $50 million research center known as the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) to develop the soldier of the future.
The center will develop futuristic cyborg technologies, such as devices that can heal soldiers, nearly invisible uniforms, clothing that can become a rigid cast when a soldier breaks a leg, shoes with built-in power packs to endow… read more

Man’s Own Brain Cells Help Treat Parkinson’s

April 9, 2002

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have transplanted a man’s own brain stem cells to stop the trembling and rigid muscles that mark Parkinson’s disease. The treatment has been effective for two years, with an initial 58 percent increase in dopamine.

Other researchers are experimenting to see if brain cells can be regenerated using stem cells The study may be used in the debate over the use… read more

Brain center searches for patterns

April 9, 2002

Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered the brain region that automatically watches for patterns in sequences of events.
In an article posted online April 8, 2002 in Nature Neuroscience, researchers Scott Huettel, Beau Mack and Gregory McCarthy reported experiments in which they asked subjects to watch simple random sequences of a circle or a square flash onto a screen. During the experiments, the scientists imaged the subjects’ brains using… read more

Image processing chip has potential as artificial retina

April 8, 2002

A new type of analog processor that is compact while offering extremely fast computations for image processing may lead to the creation of an artificial eye to replace damaged human retinas.
The cellular nonlinear network (CNN) analog computer chip is integrated with a camera to produce an image processor. The 1 cm-square CNN chip can increase processing speed while reducing the power requirements over standard digital chips by two to… read more

The ‘New Economy’ re-examined

April 8, 2002

The Internet revolution of the 1990s –and resulting worker productivity increases — created fundamental changes that are at least partly responsible for why the recent downturn was so mild, some economists believe.

A Dim View of a ‘Posthuman Future’

April 7, 2002

In a new book, “Our Posthuman Future,” political theorist Francis Fukuyama warns that biotechnology may disruptively alter human nature.Fukuyama, who is also the author of “The End of History and the Last Man,” is concerned about genetic engineering of the human germline, mood-altering drugs, and major increases in human longevity, all of which could change society and alter the balance of human nature and cause us to “lose our humanity,”… read more

Distributed program to translate many languages

April 7, 2002

The World Wide Lexicon (WWL) project is developing a distributed computer program to harness the brains of the world’s computer users to build a multilingual translation database for less common languages.
Since the project depends on volunteers, quality assurance may be problem, but software developer Brian McConnell hopes to develop an automatic peer-review system to ensure that translations are accurate.

McConnell has designed a spider program to roam the… read more

3-D nanotubes grown

April 5, 2002
3-D nanotubes

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have grown the first three-dimensional nanotubes, which are essential for next-generation computer chips and integrated circuits.

The method is based on a selective growth process that allows the nanotubes to grow perpendicular to the silica-coated substrate. By chiseling the silica into predetermined shapes, researchers can precisely control and direct the nanotube growth.

Nanotubes have properties that make them attractive as active nanoscale electronic… read more

‘We’re building a brain!’

April 5, 2002

Lobal Technologies of London is building a natural language processing system called LAD (Language Acquisition Device) that understands sentences word by word and builds its replies word-by-word, rather than just reading a script.The system is based on a model of the human brain, with emulators for the five brain areas that are most important for language processing, built using neural network technology

Lobal’s roadmap for developing LAD is based… read more

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