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Is human evolution finally over?

February 4, 2002

A group of biologists believe a Western lifestyle now protects humanity from the forces that used to shape Homo sapiens — virtually everybody’s genes are making it to the next generation, not only those who are best adapted to their environments.
In addition, human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change.

Peter Ward, of the University of Washington, in his book, Future… read more

Shocked into walking

February 4, 2002

A partially paralysed man is walking with the help of tiny electric shocks to his spine. With training, doctors hope to help other paraplegics walk again.
The University of Arkansas team planted electrodes in his lower back and gave low-level electrical stimulation.
After months of training, the patient can now walk up to a kilometer. The stimulation method involves reactivating an innate walking program in the spinal cord that coordinates… read more

Chip could create mass-produced clones

January 30, 2002

A chip that will automatically create hundreds of cloned embryos at a time is being developed by a Californian biotech company, New Scientist has learned.If it lives up to its promise, the chip should help make cloning cheap and easy enough for companies to mass-produce identical copies of the best milk or meat producing animals for farmers. It might even be used for cloning human embryos.

The chip automates… read more

‘Functional’ kidneys grown from stem cells

January 30, 2002

US scientists claim to have grown functional kidneys using stem cells taken from cloned cow embryos.Robert Lanza of biotech company Advanced Cell Technology told New Scientist that his team, working in collaboration with a group at Harvard University, coaxed the stem cells into becoming kidney cells, and then “grew” them on a kidney-shaped scaffold.

The two-inch-long mini-kidneys were then transplanted back into genetically identical cows, where they started making… read more

Cylinders make circuits spontaneously

January 30, 2002

Self-assembling circuits using carbon nanotube molecules could replace silicon chips.
James Heath, of the University of California and colleagues have demonstrated that if one or both of two wires crossed at right angles are semiconducting, the junction can act like an electronic device such as a diode and each device can be switched on or off without affecting the others.

This proof of principle raises hopes that a nanotube… read more

Virtual world grows real economy

January 29, 2002

A computer game played by thousands of enthusiasts over the Internet has spawned an economy with a per-capita income comparable to that of a small country, according to new research by a US economist.
The online fantasy game EverQuest lets players create and control characters–or avatars–within a fantasy world called Norrath.

Characters gain skills and possessions that they can then trade with other players using the game’s currency of… read more

Event horizon dawns on desktop

January 28, 2002

Using frozen light, physicists hope to mimic a black hole on a desktop. The miniature physics phenomena could show hidden shades of space.
The simulation could create a mock version of elusive ‘Hawking radiation.’ These weak electromagnetic waves are thought to occur when light reaches the event horizon, where dimensions as we know them disappear and light and time appear to stand still.

Imitation event horizons may help us… read more

Preventing overload in the brain

January 28, 2002

Brain researchers have observed a dual control system in the hippocampus that contributes to memory and ensures that the brain does not “crash,” as in an epileptic seizure.
The researchers studied the electrical signals that hippocampus nerve cells use to communicate. They found that interneurons inhibit pyramidal cells in two ways: some interneurons receive the same signals as pyramidal cells, so they can control what information the pyramidal cells receive.… read more

Microchip gives blind chance of sight

January 28, 2002

A computer chip implanted near the eye’s retina is may offer some restored vision to people blinded by eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related degeneration of the eye.
To capture images, an external camera mounted in an eyeglass frame captures the image and converts it into an electrical signal that is then electronically transmitted to a flexible silicon biochip surgically attached near the retina. The chip electronically stimulates… read more

‘Nanocircles’ act as Trojan horse to shut down disease-causing genes, study finds

January 28, 2002

Stanford scientists have synthesized a molecule of DNA that is capable of shutting off specific genes in living bacteria. Dubbed the “nanocircle,” the new nanometer-size molecule might one day give researchers the ability to target harmful genes that cause cancer and other diseases in humans.
The technique — known as “rolling circle amplification” — is now one of the hottest fields in biotechnology because it offers the potential to produce… read more

VR treatment for stroke patients announced

January 28, 2002

Rutgers researchers have filed a patent application for a PC-based virtual- reality system that provides stroke patients hand-impairment therapy. In use, the patient’s gloved hands are linked to virtual hands on the PC monitor, so the patient’s actual hand movements are mimicked on-screen. By interacting and playing with on-screen graphics — including fluttering butterflies, piano keyboards and mechanical hands — the patient performs intensive rehab exercises without drudgery, according to… read more

Flexible Displays Gain Momentum

January 24, 2002

Researchers at Cambridge, MA-based E Ink have completed the first working prototype of an electronic ink display attached to a flexible, silicon-based thin-film transistor backplane, the sheet of electronics that controls display pixels. This proof-of-concept prototype confirms that it will soon be possible to mass-produce reams of self-erasing electronic paper that combine sheets of electronic ink with flexible silicon circuitry.

The company estimates that by sometime in 2005 they’ll… read more

Fuel Cells That Fit in a Laptop

January 24, 2002

Smart Fuel Cell GmbH of Bavaria has developed a micro fuel cell that runs on methanol and provides much longer life than any other portable battery. It is the first to not require any standard batteries.
The fuel cell is aimed at power-hungry devices such as notebook computers, camcorders and specific applications for environmental and transportation markets.

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that produces electric power from… read more

Tiny sensors to be implanted in hearts

January 24, 2002

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will begin implanting tiny, experimental microchip sensors into the hearts of patients, hoping the wireless, battery-less devices will provide early warnings of danger.

The device can give doctors daily reports on pressure in the heart chambers. A change in pressure is one of the first events that occurs when patients with congestive heart failure start the slide toward hospitalization.

The micro-electrical mechanical… read more

Trapped In The Future

January 23, 2002

Ramona “embodies the cutting edge of AI,” but despite its overwhelming potential, widespread use of AI is still trapped in the future.

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