science + technology news

From Sheep to People

April 22, 2004

The Roslin Institute, creators of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first mammal cloned from an adult, want to create cloned human embryos for stem-cell research (therapeutic cloning).

The scientist who led the team that created Dolly said it would be “immoral” not to use therapeutic cloning for stem-cell research, which many scientists believe could help treat disorders such as Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Scientists Peg Data’s Speed Limit

April 22, 2004

Scientists say they’ve discovered an apparent speed limit on the scale of picoseconds (10^-12 seconds) — about 1,000 times faster than today’s state-of-the-art (gigabits per second) data-storage devices — that will restrict how quickly data can be written onto disks and then retrieved.

I Tudosa et al, “The ultimate speed of magnetic switching in granular recording media,” Nature Vol 428 No 6985 pp783-876, April 22, 2004

‘Virgin birth’ mammal rewrites rules of biology

April 22, 2004

A mammal that is the daughter of two female parents has been created for the first time.

It was created by combining the genetic material of two egg cells, circumventing the “imprinting” barrier in mammals (certain genes necessary for embryo development are shut down in the sperm and egg; only when they meet are all of the key genes available) by manipulating the nucleus of a female egg to… read more

Drexler launches

April 22, 2004

Nanotechnology pioneer Dr. K. Eric Drexler has launched

The site focuses on “the science behind emerging technologies of broad importance, summarizing research results and offering technical perspectives on research directions. It includes tutorial material, new results, annotated bibliographies and links to external web resources. Initial topics include nanotechnology-based production systems (central to the future of physical technology), and secure, distributed computing (central to the future of… read more

Layered Material Holds More Data

April 21, 2004

Clever geometry is the basis of a new material that is said to be ideal for secure data encryption and dense optical information storage.

The material consists of a lattice of onionlike nanospheres in which the particle core and its layers each contain a different dye. The material can hold four or more pieces of information in one spot — not just two as in binary optical data storage.… read more

Flaw Could Cripple Entire Net

April 21, 2004

Researchers uncovered a serious flaw in the underlying technology for nearly all Internet traffic, a discovery that led to an urgent and secretive international effort to prevent global disruptions of Web surfing, e-mails and instant messages.

Old records saved by particle physics

April 21, 2004

A technique developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory allows researchers to create digital copies of old records without damaging the fragile discs.

The technique uses a light sensor to capture images of the record’s groove. A computer then uses these to reconstruct the recording, filtering out any background noise.

The technique should be able to retrieve sound from even the earliest grooved recordings from the late nineteenth century,… read more

Broadband Revolution Is Finally Here

April 21, 2004

Broadband Internet access in American homes jumped 60 percent over the 12 months ending in February; 39 percent of all American Internet users have a high-speed modem in their home.

With a home-based Internet audience now available, developers and content providers need to start looking to take a more active role in providing fresh material. There is an entirely new audience of users seeking entertainment, news and shopping at… read more

Ethics of boosting brainpower debated by researchers

April 20, 2004

The ethical and saftey issues of memory-improving drugs or brain-enhancing implants were recently debated at a meeting of neuroscientists, ethicists and psychologists.

For example, there have been no studies that establish the long-term effects of brain function in children who take Ritalin to control hyperactivity or in people who take medication for depression. It could be that drugs alter the way the brain works, fundamentally changing personality. The drugs… read more

Integrative Annotation of 21,037 Human Genes Validated by Full-Length cDNA Clones

April 20, 2004

An international team has systematically validated and annotated just over 21,000 human genes using full-length cDNA, thereby providing a valuable new resource for the human genetics community.

The semantic engineer

April 20, 2004

Daniel Dennett is writing a new book opposing the rise of supernaturalism, to be called “Breaking the spell.”

It will attempt to extirpate supernaturalism. “I have absolutely no doubt that the secular and scientific vision is right and deserves to be endorsed by everybody, and as we have seen over the last few thousand years, superstitious and religious doctrines will just have to give way,” he said.

Humans vs. Computers, Again. But There’s Help for Our Side.

April 20, 2004

The latest race to create a true breakthrough that makes computers much more useful is “knowledge management” (KM). It is an effort to bring Google-like clarity to the swamp of data on each person’s machine or network.

Pentagon official says nanotechnology a high priority

April 20, 2004

The Pentagon expects advances in nanotechnology to impact every major weapons system and spent $315 million in fiscal 2004 on all nanotechnology research.

“Nanotechnology is one of the highest priority science and technology programs in the Defense Department,” said Clifford Lau, the senior science adviser in the Pentagon’s office of basic research.

Using M.R.I.’s to See Politics on the Brain

April 20, 2004

MRI brain imaging was used in an experiment to analyze reactions to political commercials. It could help expose manipulative techniques during political campaigns.

Software links chatbots to OpenCyc inference engine

April 19, 2004

New software called CyN allows you to talk to the OpenCyc commonsense inference engine from AIML chatbots.

A chatbot is a program with human-like personality that allows for natural-language conversations with computers. OpenCyc is the open-source version of Cyc technology, the world’s largest and most complete general knowledge base and commonsense reasoning engine. AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) is an XML type… read more

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