science + technology news

Conversations from Tech’s Cutting Edge

May 11, 2004

Robotics, nanotech, genomics, and search and information retrieval are featured in a Technology Special Report from BusinessWeek.

Google’s man behind the curtain

May 11, 2004

A future version of Google will have “search pets” that understand emotions and other non-factual information that even a fully intelligent computer may have trouble with, says Google’s technology director Craig Silverstein.

That will happen in 200 to 300 years, he believes.

New Way to Conduct Electricity

May 10, 2004

A team of scientists has developed a way to create a thin film of gold nanoparticles in nanocrystals that that conduct electricity in a way never seen before. “It’s an entirely new electronic device,” said Davidson physics professor Dan Boye. “It’s sort of a hybrid between a resistor and a capacitor.”

The film exhibits a quantum mechanical “tunneling” effect. Electricity traveles through the gold film not in a smooth… read more

Nano Weapons Join the Fight Against Cancer

May 10, 2004

Researchers plan to use “nanoshells” to diagnose and treat cancer.

Nanoshells are microscopic concentric spheres with silica cores and gold shells. In the lab, nanoshells are injected into an animal’s bloodstream, where “targeting” agents applied to them seek out and attach to the surface receptors of cancerous cells.

In one method, illumination with infrared light raises the cells’ temperature to 55 degrees Celsius and burns away the tumor.… read more

Big Brother to Watch Over Island

May 10, 2004

In coming years, a comprehensive network of video cameras, motion detectors and sensors will spy upon visitors to Ayers Island in Maine.
An AI system will decide who can be trusted and who is deserving of greater scrutiny.

esearchers from the University of Maine want to demonstrate that AI may be able to provide civil authorities with comprehensive, real-time intelligence about the whereabouts of individuals and cars, and the… read more

The Sound War

May 10, 2004

Two inventors have staked competing claims to a potential audio revolution in which focused beams of sound could direct music or speech to a single person in a crowd.

Known as directional sound, it uses an ultrasound emitter to shoot a laserlike beam of audible sound so focused that only people inside a narrow path can hear it.

Both inventors say the ultimate goal is to replace a… read more

Expert ‘teleports’ into conference

May 10, 2004

Company directors at a north Queensland conference glimpsed the future when an American artificial intelligence guru appeared before them at the lectern without leaving the United States.

Ray Kurzweil, keynote speaker at the Australian Institute of Company Directors conference in Port Douglas, “teleported” in to appear as a hologram-like image.

Goodbye, Evil Robot; Hello, Kind Android

May 10, 2004

In the coming months, several movies will feature humanoid mechanisms: androids in “I, Robot”; simulacra of suburban homemakers in “The Stepford Wives”; an army of giant robots in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”; and Dr. Frankenstein’s monster revived in “Van Helsing.”

But artificial entities no longer trouble us. After years of intensive media therapy, our Frankenstein complex seems to have been resolved. A fairly significant segment of… read more

Search engine tackles tricky lists

May 10, 2004

KnowItAll, a search engine under development at the University of Washington, trawls the web for data and then collates it in the form of a list.

It solves the problem of finding information (such names of scientists in a specific field) that probably does not exist on any single web page.

NASA Funds Sci-Fi Technology

May 10, 2004

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) funds long-range, wild ideas, such as a space elevator, shape-shifting space suits, antimatter-powered probes to Alpha Centauri, Robotic armada to destroy incoming asteroids, and a way to move a hurricane with satellite-beamed microwave energy.

The Google Supercomputer

May 10, 2004

A consensus now believes that Google has about 100,000 servers, aggregated into one giant supercomputer organized by a sophisticated proprietary file system that holds all of the Web and performs seamlessly.

Also see “How many Google machines,” which estimates Google’s supercomputer performance at between 126 and 316 teraflops, making it by far the fastest supercomputer in the world, based on the Top500 list. – Ed.

‘Junk’ DNA reveals vital role

May 7, 2004

University of California, Santa Cruz, researchers have found more than 480 “ultraconserved” regions of “junk” DNA that are completely identical across the man, mouse and rat species, implying that they are essential to the descendants of these organisms. The regions largely match up with chicken, dog and fish sequences too.

The most likely scenario is that they control the activity of indispensable genes. The sequences may help slice and… read more

Stem-Cell Breakthrough

May 7, 2004

Scientists have found a way to convert stem cells in human fat to human bone cells when transplanted into a mouse.

This is an important step toward using stem cells for repair of broken bones, using stem cells donated by people who have gotten liposuction.

The Bionic Running Shoe

May 7, 2004

Adidas is developing the runnning shoe that adjusts in real time to changing conditions and the runner’s particular style while in use.

Each second, a sensor in the heel can take up to 20,000 readings and the embedded electronic brain can make 10,000 calculations, directing a tiny electric motor to optimize the shoe’s cushioning compression to minimize impacts on the knee.

DNA robot takes its first steps

May 6, 2004

A microscopic biped with legs just 10 nanometers long and fashioned from fragments of DNA has taken its first steps.

The nanowalker is being hailed as a major breakthrough by nanotechnologists, since for nanoscale manufacturing to become a realistic prospect, mobile microscopic robots will be needed to assemble other nanomachines and move useful molecules and atoms around.

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