science + technology news

Universe Measured: We’re 156 Billion Light-years Wide!

May 25, 2004

The universe is at least 156 billion light-years wide.

The calculation is based on the calculations that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old. So one might assume that the diameter of the universe is 27.4 billion light-years wide. But the universe has been expanding ever since the beginning of time, bringing the estimated diameter to 156 billion light-years.

Malformed Proteins Found in Sheep Muscle

May 24, 2004

Prions have been found in sheep muscle, scientists announced Saturday — the first time they have been discovered in animal flesh that many humans normally eat.

The animals were infected with scrapie, a prion disease that is not the same as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Scientists believe that mutated scrapie prions may have caused the British epidemic of mad cow disease of the 1980′s, but no case of scrapie transmitted… read more

Doctors Put Hope in Thin Wires for a Life in Epilepsy’s Clutches

May 24, 2004

Deep-brain stimulators (“pacemakers for the brain”) are at the forefront of research by neuroscientists seeking to treat a variety of difficult conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and other types of tremors and movement disorders.

Conditions may eventually include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.

The devices inhibit syncronized nerve impulses in parts of the brain that are too active.

In the Era of Cheap DVD’s, Anyone Can Be a Producer

May 21, 2004

Independent filmmakers, specialty magazine publishers, artists, educators — all those with a video to sell, no matter how narrow the niche –are turning out DVD’s and distributing them through the mail.

It’s a trend that began in the era of videotape but has accelerated with DVD’s because they are inexpensive to duplicate and ship.

Semantic Web Ready for Phase Two

May 21, 2004

The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Semantic Web is ready for a new phase of development that will lead to the creation of new tools, languages and applications, Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C’s director, said.

He predicted a future where enterprises would adopt the Semantic Web and be startled by the dramatic way in which data can be collected and formatted in order to help humans and machines interact with… read more

Tonsil tests suggest thousands harbour vCJD

May 21, 2004

Almost 4000 Britons aged between 10 and 30 may be harboring the prion proteins that cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease.

The estimate is speculative since it’s based on extrapolation from only three infected tonsil or appendix samples.

BioCDs could allow for rapid disease tests

May 20, 2004

While-you-wait medical tests that screen patients for thousands of disease markers by detecting proteins could be possible with “BioCDs” –compact-disc technology patented by a team of Purdue University scientists led by physicist David D. Nolte.

CDs ordinarily store digital information as billions of tiny “pits” in their surface. The test transforms these into miniature test tubes that can hold a trace quantity of a chemical that reacts to a… read more

Nanobacteria revelations provoke new controversy

May 20, 2004

Mayo Clinic researchers have found evidence for the existence of controversial “nanobacteria” — a possible new life form. The research suggested that the organisms are self-replicating in culture and could be identified with an antibody and DNA stain.

Some scientists say nanobacteria are responsible for a wide range of diseases, including calcification of the arteries.

Others say they are simply too small (50 to 500 nm) to be… read more

Smart glasses detect eye contact

May 20, 2004

Sunglasses that can detect when someone is making eye contact with the wearer could be used to tell when someone might be too busy to receive a phone call and for automatically detecting and recording interactions and conversations with other people.

Light emitting diodes positioned around the lenses emit infrared light to locate any eyes in the scene. The system then looks for the glint created by the light… read more

1st Nat’l Bank of Stem Cells

May 20, 2004

The world’s first embryonic stem-cell bank opened in Britain Wednesday, breaking new ground in one of the most controversial areas of medical research.

The bank will store and supply tens of thousands of stem cell lines for research and possible treatment of conditions like diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Google Moves Toward a Direct Confrontation With Microsoft

May 19, 2004

Edging closer to a direct confrontation with Microsoft, Google is preparing to introduce a powerful file and text software search tool for locating information stored on personal computers.

Code-named Puffin, the project was started, in part, to prepare Google for competing with Windows Longhorn, which according to industry analysts will dispense with the need for a stand-alone browser.

‘Digital People’: The Humanoid Condition

May 19, 2004

“Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids” is a comprehensive yet compact survey of robotics and bionics.

Author Sidney Perkowitz, a physicist at Emory University, cites heart pacemakers, cochlear implants and insulin pumps as proof that there are cyborgs among us, and describes “animal cyborg” builders.

ScanSoft updates voice software

May 19, 2004

ScanSoft has announced a new version of its OpenSpeech Recognizer software with improved natural-language capabilities that lets users speak in full sentences, improves name recognition, and recognizes 40 languages.

The software also has learning capabilities, so it gets better at recognizing and interpreting an accent the more it encounters it.

The Cell Hijackers

May 19, 2004

Soon, our knowledge of life processes will let us program cells as we do computers, says Rodney Brooks.

This engineering revolution is coming to be known as synthetic biology. Examples include modifying protein production processes to turn E. coli cells into primitive digital computers; the creation of cells that are genetically altered to deliver drugs within a person’s body; programming a cell to sense blood sugar levels and produce… read more

Camera Phones Link World to Web

May 19, 2004

Semacode, a free system released this month, lets users scan bar codes on everyday objects with their camera phones and instantly pull up information about them. It’s an information bridge between the world and the Web.

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