science + technology news

Puckish robots pull together

June 1, 2004

The frictionless conditions of space are being simulated by air-hockey tables, as a new generation of intelligent robots is trained to build space stations and solar arrays.

The work demonstrates how teams of mobile, communicating robots can perform complex tasks: for example, they can collaborate to push objects over a surface. This is reminiscent of the way ants show group intelligence when carrying out collective tasks such as foraging.… read more

Disaster Movie Makes Waves

June 1, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow eco-disaster film’s premise that human activity could trigger a sudden ice age is unlikely, say scientists.

‘Earthshine’ fall heats global warming debate

June 1, 2004

A new study of earthshine, the sunlight reflected back onto the Moon from our planet, suggests that falling cloud cover could explain the warming of the Earth’s lower atmosphere seen over the last 20 years.

The decline suggests fewer clouds, which reflect sunlight, and therefore that more sunlight has been making it into the lower atmosphere (troposphere).

The idea presents a controversial alternative to most scientists’ prime suspect… read more

Mathematical model for cell signaling developed

May 28, 2004

A new mathematical model will help researchers understand “cell signaling” and learn how single atoms travel along the circuitous pathways in a cell. It may allow researchers to study biochemistry at the atomic level.

The model is a new approach to look at percolation — the flow of a liquid or small particle through a porous material. In the simulation, materials pass through fields of complex, three-dimensional shapes.… read more

Nanoparticles illuminate brain tumors for days under MRI

May 28, 2004

Iron oxide nanoparticle ferumoxtran-10, sized as small as a virus, can outline brain tumors under magnetic resonance imaging and other lesions in the brain that may otherwise have gone unnoticed, according to a study published in the journal Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology.

The studies’ findings have the potential to assist image-guided brain surgery and improve diagnosis of lesions caused by multiple sclerosis, stroke and other neurological disorders, in addition… read more

Pharmacogenomics could replace ‘trial-and-error’ with science from the human genome

May 28, 2004

Pharmacogenomics, which bases the choice of medications and their dosages on the patient’s specific genetic makeup (“individualized medicine”) could lower the cost of health care by decreasing the occurrence of adverse drug effects and increasing the probability of successful therapy, investigators at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital report in the May 27 issue of Nature.

The key to pharmacogenomics is its ability to predict how a patient will respond… read more

Small world networks key to memory

May 28, 2004

Working memory appears to be based on simple networks of “small world” (maximally connected) neurons in the prefrontal cortex that participate in self-sustaining bursts of electrical activity.

Northwestern University researchers have created a model of these networks, using simple neurons that when activated would activate their neighbours for a brief period: an activating pulse travelled through the network and then disappeared at the fringes. They then added shortcuts to… read more

CIA’s spy tools make Maxwell Smart’s look like toys

May 28, 2004

The CIA’s future information analysis technologies will make Google look like a toy. In-Q-Tel’s investments provide a glimpse of what they might do.

  • Tacit Knowledge Systems’ software could facilitate information sharing by scanning every agent’s outgoing e-mail, looking for clusters of words that tell the system what and who each agent seems to know. And MetaCarta can figure out where the information is about.
  • PiXlogic can
  • read more


    May 28, 2004

    Smart hero. Dumb officials. Huge sheet of ice. The Day After Tomorrow,” a two-hour $125 million disaster movie opening nationwide on Friday, proposes an apocalypse that covers the Northern Hemisphere in a sheet of ice and snow.

    Some environmental groups are using the release of “The Day After Tomorrow” to raise awareness of global warming but agree that the conditions could take hundreds of years to develop.

    Looking back into the future

    May 28, 2004

    Tales of Future Past is a collection, with commentary, of early magazine covers and other speculative illustrations — portraying life on distant planets and in the distant future…like the 1970s.

    Thirty years with computers

    May 28, 2004

    “According to Moore’s Law, computer power doubles every 18 months, meaning that computers will be a million times more powerful by 2034,” estimates computer useability expert Jakob Nielsen.

    “According to Nielsen’s Law of Internet bandwidth, connectivity to the home grows by 50 percent per year; by 2034, we’ll have 200,000 times more bandwidth.

    “That same year, I’ll own a computer that runs at 3PHz CPU speed, has a… read more

    Search engines try to find their sound

    May 28, 2004

    Consumers armed with broadband connections at home are driving new demand for multimedia content and setting off a new wave of technology development among search engine companies eager to extend their empires from the static world of text to the dynamic realm of video and audio.

    StreamSage has developed speech recognition technology to transcribe audio and video content and contextual analysis to understand the language and parse the themes… read more

    Researchers zero in on a cause of aging

    May 27, 2004

    Taking a major step toward identifying one cause of aging, researchers have shortened the life of mice and created signs of old age by injecting a small genetic defect in the mice’s mitochondria, the tiny power plants within each cell.

    The New ‘Molecular Economy’

    May 26, 2004

    A new “molecular economy” is on its way, while the information economy hasn’t completely matured. As the information economy comes of age, a surprising thing is happening: Information systems are starting to take their cues from biological ones. Information is converging with biology, and business is following suit.

    (Excerpts from IT’S ALIVE: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business by by Christopher Meyer & Stan Davis.)

    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.

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