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Semiconductors get on our nerves

November 14, 2001

Scientists at the University of Texas are using a sliver of protein to connect neurons and tiny crystals of semiconductors called quantum dots.
This cross between biology and electronics could have useful applications, including the manufacture of prosthetics operated directly by a user’s nerve impulses and sensors that detect tiny quantities of neurotoxins. It could also help to study how real brains work.

Drug-discovery microchips

November 13, 2001

The microfluidic chip is designed to mix millions of potential drugs with thousands of newly discovered genes, in the hopes of finding a reaction that might lead to a cure.
These chips are made of different materials such as glass, quartz, plastic or silicone. The interiors of the chips are crisscrossed with a network of canals and tunnels thinner than human hairs.

Robotic devices deposit infinitesimal drops of experimental… read more

Robots: It’s an Art Thing

November 13, 2001

Thanks to genetics, the Internet and art, the line between robots and humans continues to shrink. Ken Goldberg, an associate professor of robotics at the University of California at Berkeley, is currently working on the Tele-Actor, a human being wired with Webcams and connected to the Internet so that other people can control where the actor moves.

Fermi’s Paradox II: What’s Blocking Galactic Civilization?

November 13, 2001

There has been plenty of time for aliens keen on colonizing the Milky Way to pull it off, but we see no signs of galactic federation. SETI astronomer Seth Shostak offers some explanations, including cost of interstellar travel and required stamina for long trips.

Nanocomputers Get Real

November 12, 2001

Nanoelectronics took a leap forward this week with the announcements of the first molecule-sized transistors and logic gates. Lucent’s Bell Labs built a Field-Effect Transistor (FET) from a single molecule and Harvard University researchers made semiconducting nanowires that assembled themselves into simple circuits.

Nanowires May Lead to Superfast Computer Chips

November 9, 2001

Scientists at Harvard University have grown tiny crystal rods of silicon and other semiconductors, then sluiced them onto chips to form rudimentary circuits that perform basic logic operations.
Nanowires are easier to make and manipulate and they may be easier to miniaturize to the sizes needed for superfast computer chips.

They might also make good sensors for proteins, DNA and other biological molecules. Among other things, that could aid… read more

A Talk with the Brain behind Blue Gene

November 9, 2001

On Nov. 9, IBM will disclose a partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Labs to work on a wide range of scientific applications for Blue Gene. This will be the world’s fastest supercomputer, being designed to operate a hundred times faster than today’s speediest machines. The objective: to simulate how proteins fold themselves into their unique patterns.
With Blue Gene, IBM is trying to set a new supercomputer speed limit –… read more

Immune system booster could combat bioweapons

November 8, 2001

It could soon be possible to temporarily boost people’s immune systems to fight off all sorts of diseases, including anthrax.
The method is based on a key difference between human and bacterial DNA. In people, when the bases cytosine and guanine occur together, the cytosine usually carries a methyl group. In bacteria, it doesn’t.

Several teams are now developing synthetic CpGs that trigger this response. They have shown great… read more

RoboFly’s flight test

November 7, 2001

The first limited flight of the smallest-ever flapping-wing machine has been achieved by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Berkeley’s RoboFly has a wingspan of just three centimeters and weighs 300 milligrams. It is modeled on a fruit fly, which flaps and rotates its wings hundreds of times per second.

The inaugural flight was just 30 centimeters and used one wing, while the robot was tethered to… read more

New Life for Moore’s Law

November 7, 2001

Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography promises to create chips that have more than twenty times as many transistors as today’s models and that run thirty times as fast. The development of the EUV machine is the tech industry’s equivalent of the discovery of a vast new oil reserve.

MathWorld online encyclopedia returns

November 7, 2001

MathWorld, a free, online encyclopedia of mathematics, returned to the Web today, after legal wrangling with CRC Press. MathWorld is a comprehensive, interactive math encyclopedia intended for students, educators, math enthusiasts, and researchers.

’2001: HAL’s Legacy’ to air on PBS Nov. 27

November 6, 2001

Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Kurzweil, and other leading scholars in artificial intelligence and computer science will be featured in the forthcoming television documentary “2001: HAL’s Legacy,” to air nationwide on PBS stations starting Tuesday, November 27, according to Dr. David G. Stork, creator of the documentary.

The experts reflect upon the state of the art, how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go… read more

World’s nuclear facilities vulnerable, warns UN agency

November 5, 2001

Nuclear plants are vulnerable to attacks by terrorists, according to a stark new warning by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The world’s 1300 nuclear facilities are not hardened to withstand “acts of war” like a deliberate hit by a large, fully-fuelled passenger jet, warns the IAEA’s director general, Mohamed ElBaradei.

In the US on October 29, following intelligence reports received by the FBI, the air space around all… read more

Nanotech’s dark side debated

November 5, 2001

In light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and anthrax headlines, it’s not hard for some to imagine a nightmare scenario involving a new generation of terrorists able to obtain infinitely more powerful nanoweapons.
As nanotech makes the transition from the drawing board to reality, every development brings the fledgling industry closer to the day when many believe government regulations and secrecy will be needed to prevent abuses.… read more

Contrast agents enhance optical coherence tomography to detect tumors

November 5, 2001

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) enhanced by contrast agents, a new approach to improving the detection and removal of tumors, has been developed by scientists at the University of Illinois.

OCT allows for high-resolution imaging of tissue by focusing a beam of near-infrared light into tissue and measuring the intensity and position of the resulting reflections.

To make OCT work better, UI researchers have developed injectable contrast agents that… read more

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