science + technology news

Proceed With Caution

June 7, 2004

Bill Joy says he thinks the probability of a “civilization-changing event” is most likely in the double digits, perhaps as high as 50 percent.

He doesn’t merely ascribe these odds to terrorism; he suggests a pandemic disease might arise from a sudden accident or as a consequence of cutting-edge research. For disquieting evidence, he points out that a couple of years ago scientists assembled polio in a lab.… read more

Dancing lasers levitate carbon nanotubes

June 7, 2004

Carbon nanotubes have been picked up and moved with a laser beam for the first time. The trick may make it easier to build nanotube-based microchips.

The “optical trapping” technique exploits the ability of a laser beam to trap small particles: when the beam moves, the particles move with it.

Drugs May Turn Cancer Into Manageable Disease

June 7, 2004

A new generation of “targeted” therapies are transforming cancer treatment by attacking the underlying molecular mechanisms of the disease — a harbinger of a future in which cancer, while not cured, will be held in check for years by drugs tolerable enough to take on a continuing basis.

“Medicinal” GM Crops Produced

June 4, 2004

Scientists have genetically engineered plants to produce omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, usually found in fish and known to have significant health benefits. Genes for the fatty acids were inserted into a Arabidopsis plant, but could be added to many different plants. British researchers say this could lead to a new generation of food crops able to reduce the risk of heart disease and other medical conditions.

Robots and the Rest of Us

June 4, 2004

Experts recently met to discuss how robots are challenging humankind on four frontiers: war, brain augmentation, physical augmentation, and social implications. The question: what kind of ethics, if any, applies to machines? “Robot ethicists” find that a kind of moral ethics for robots needs to be considered as they become increasingly part of our daily lives.

Atom-photon link demoed

June 4, 2004

Practical quantum information processing is likely to require atoms to process and store information and photons to transmit information within and between quantum computers.

Researchers from the University of Michigan have taken a significant step in finding a way to transfer information from atoms to photons and back by entangling a cadmium ion held in a vacuum by radio waves, and a single, free-flying ultraviolet photon. The technique is… read more

Study: Self-replicating nanomachines feasible

June 4, 2004

A useful self-replicating machine could be less complex than a Pentium IV chip, according to a new study of of “kinematic cellular automata” performed by General Dynamics for NASA.

Through simulations, the researchers demonstrated the feasibility of this kind of self-replication, which could in a decade or more lead to the mass manufacture of molecularly precise robots, display monitors and integrated circuits that can be programmed in the field,… read more

Life goes on without ‘vital’ DNA

June 4, 2004

Researchers deleted huge chunks of the genome of mice without it making any discernable difference to the animals.

The result is totally unexpected because the deleted sequences included so-called “conserved regions” thought to have important functions.

Wanted: Drugs to Fight Bioterror

June 3, 2004

Amid new warnings about a possible summer of terror, the U.S. government is preparing to spend $5.6 billion over a decade to coax pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs to fend off a biological or chemical attack.

By contrast, a single cholesterol drug — Lipitor — rakes in $9 billion in revenue each year.

Risk of radioactive “dirty bomb” growing

June 3, 2004

The risk of somebody somewhere triggering a radioactive “dirty bomb” is growing, evidence gathered by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency suggests.

The IAEA’s records show a dramatic rise in the level of smuggling of radiological materials..

The Ultimate Remote Control

June 2, 2004

Imagine what it would be like if we could turn our brains into remote controls, sending wireless commands to computers, robots and other machines.

Researchers hope ultimately to eavesdrop on the brain’s signals with electrodes, transmit them to a computer that can read the brain’s code and then use those signals to control a machine either locally or remotely via wireless or even the Internet.

Imagine a quadriplegic… read more

Live fast, die old

June 2, 2004

Mice with sky-high metabolic rates live far longer than their sluggish cousins, UK researchers have found, raising the prospect that human lifespan might be lengthened with metabolism-boosting drugs.

The group of animals with the highest metabolic rates lived over a third longer than the group with the lowest rates, they found, and had metabolisms that ran about 30% faster. If the same is true in humans, this means that… read more

Genetically-modified virus explodes cancer cells

June 2, 2004

A genetically-modified virus that exploits the selfish behaviour of cancer cells may offer a powerful and selective way of killing tumors.

Deleting a key gene from the virus enabled it to infect and burst cancer cells while leaving normal tissues unharmed.

The UK researchers deleted one such gene in an adenovirus. This meant that the virus was immediately detected by normal cells and was unable to spread. But… read more

This Is Your Brain on Drugs

June 1, 2004

Scientists are developing technology to peer into the brains of people taking antidepressants, hoping to cut down on the arduous process of evaluating the drugs.

Aspect Medical Systems has developed a system to do that based on the EEG, which records the firing of brain cells in the frontal lobe, blood flow and other activity. It uses a disposable strip of electrodes that affixes to the forehead and feeds… read more

Interview: Abrupt Climate Change, the Pentagon, and The Day After Tomorrow

June 1, 2004

Doug Randall, who co-authored “the Pentagon study” on abrupt climate change, has commented on the “Day After Tomorrow film.

“The timeframe is definitely exaggerated, but the premise is one of the real issues of our day,” he said. “The danger signs come from the world of science and have to do with things like salinity of the Atlantic Ocean and the thermohaline conveyor. Signs that point to big shifts… read more

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