science + technology news

Seeing-Eye Computer Guides Blind

March 31, 2004

Researchers are developing a computerized “seeing” assistant called called Tyflos that will help blind people read books, access Web pages, recognize faces and navigate unfamiliar rooms.

Tyflos consists of a tiny camera mounted on a pair of glasses, laptop carried in a backpack, headset and microphone. The laptop process the images and converts them into verbal messages conveyed to the user.

A parallel development, the iCare-Reader, enables blind… read more

One billion people to get biometrics and RFID tracking by 2015

March 31, 2004

Civil liberties groups are railing against plans to create an international “identity register” that would force the inclusion of biometrics and controversial RFID tracking tags in all passports by 2015.

Waiter, There’s a Drug in My Rice

March 31, 2004

The California Rice Commission on Monday approved Ventria Bioscience’s request to grow the state’s first crop genetically modified to contain a drug.

The rice is genetically modified to produce two human proteins that fight infection: lactoferrin and lysozyme, both naturally present in breast milk.

Opponents say growing the crops in open fields endangers organic and conventional crops, as well as human health.

Science on verge of new ‘Creation’

March 30, 2004

Scientists now believe it may be possible to create the first artificial unit of life in the next 5 to 10 years and that for the first time, they have just about all the pieces they need to begin making inanimate chemicals come alive.

More than 100 laboratories study processes involved in the creation of life. Spearheading the drive: the European Union’s Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution project, scheduled this… read more

Boffins Get Their Circuits in a Twist

March 29, 2004

A Baltimore research team has developed a technique for building electrical circuitry that can bend and stretch like rubber. The new technology could be used to make artificial nerves, attach flexible electrodes to a beating heart, or make rubbery needles that would be safer and more reliable in the treatment of Parkinson disease, in which doctors insert probes into the sufferer’s brain.

Too High for Love: Lost Your Drive?

March 29, 2004

In “Why We Love,” authors Helen Fisher and psychiatrist James Thomson Jr. argue that certain antidepressants could be blocking chemical pathways in the brain that were paved by evolution to help us meet and keep mates.

Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft already carry warnings that they can suppress the libido and interfere with sexual functioning. But Fisher and Thomson argue that the problem may… read more

Health Concerns in Nanotechnology

March 29, 2004

Buckyballs can cause extensive brain and liver damage in fish, according to research presented yesterday at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The nanoparticles, had not been coated, a process used to limit the toxicity of such materials in applications like drug delivery.

Methane poses Mars life puzzle

March 29, 2004

Methane has been found in the Martian atmosphere, which means it’s from either active volcanoes (none have yet been found on Mars) or present-day microbes.

Now NASA looks to change Mars into a garden of Earthly delights

March 29, 2004

Some scientists hope to terraform Mars, turning it into a blue world with streams, green fields and fresh breezes and ultimately providing mankind with a new home.

But first, they would need to thicken its atmosphere and heat up the planet so ice trapped in the Martian soil would melt and be used to sustain agriculture. One proposal: place a large mirror many miles in diameter in orbit above… read more

Why the feds fear nanobots

March 26, 2004

The $3.7 billion 21st-Century Nanotech Research and Development Act excludes funding for molecular manufacturing.

One theory holds that government and business fret that any talk of nanobots would conjure up the Magician’s Apprentice scenario (in which tiny, replicating machines get out of control and cover the Earth). That could raise the odds that environmental groups would attack nanotechnology just as they have attacked genetically modified plants and foods.

Molecular logic proposed

March 26, 2004

Researchers have devised a scheme for designing logic circuits by connecting a pair of benzene molecules to two gold electrodes.

The scheme could eventually be used to produce small, fast computers and store large amounts of data in very small spaces.

Thou shalt not make scientific progress

March 26, 2004

Medical research is poised to make a quantum leap that will benefit sufferers from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and other diseases. But George W. Bush’s religious convictions stand in its way.

“Embryonic stem cells are magical,” says Michael West of Advanced Cell Technology. “We’ve never had anything like this before, they are a whole quantum leap beyond adult stem cells. They’re absolutely magical — and that magic that… read more

Robot-controlled inks create 3D structures

March 25, 2004

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are creating complex, three-dimensional structures with micron-size features using a robotic deposition process called direct-write assembly.

The precisely patterned parts could be used as bio-scaffolds, micro-fluidic networks, sensor arrays or templates for photonic materials for such applications such as drug-delivery, micro-fluidics, photonics and tissue engineering.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign news release

Asian Investors Seek Profit in Neural `Karma’

March 25, 2004

The market for esoteric trading systems, such as those based on neural networks, is hot at the moment. For example, computer scientist John Moody runs a $6 million hedge fund using a program called RoboTrader, which trains a computer to select trading strategies by trial and error.

All the news that’s fit for searching

March 25, 2004

Microsoft researchers are creating technology to make searching for news more effective. “NewsJunkie” could help Microsoft develop a search function in Windows to compete with Google.

Using AI and information retrieval, NewsJunkie keeps track of what a reader has already seen. It reorganizes news stories to rank those with the most new information at the top and push those with repetitive information to the bottom, or filter them out… read more

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