science + technology news

Hybrid imaging beats resolution limit

April 6, 2004

Scientists have found a new way to image tiny structures and molecules smaller than the 200 nm diffraction-limited resolution of optical microscopes.

The technique combined fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) with atomic force microscopy (AFM) to generate sharp images of fluorescing nanobeads just 40 nm in diameter, as well as a cluster of DNA molecules.

It involves scanning a gold-tipped silicon wand over a fluorescing sample. The gold… read more

The Altered Human Is Already Here

April 6, 2004

Technologically altered human beings are making a leap into the posthuman future, using biochemical, proton-pump inhibitors, serotonin boosters and other drugs — a social change on the same order as the advent of computers, but one taking place inside the human body.

There is now almost no bodily system that cannot be adjusted by drugs. Blood, respiration, the nervous system, hormonal regulation, muscles and bones, the cardiovascular system, reproduction,… read more

Insanely Destructive Devices

April 5, 2004

If we can’t defend against an attack, perhaps the rational response is to reduce the incentives to attack, says Lawrence Lessig.

Rather than designing space suits, maybe we should focus on ways to eliminate the reasons to annihilate us. Rather than stirring up a hornet’s nest and then hiding behind a bush, maybe the solution is to avoid the causes of rage. Crazies, of course, can’t be reasoned with.… read more

Physicists move closer to the quantum limit

April 5, 2004

A new experiment has come close to detecting quantum effects in a macroscopic object. NSA physicists have measured the vibrations of a tiny nanoelectromechanical arm to probe the limits at which quantum behavior breaks down and classical physics takes over.

The NSA physicists now plan to increase the sensitivity of the detector and further reduce thermal vibrations in the arm. They also hope to extend their study to larger… read more

Moore’s Second Law

April 5, 2004

The biggest impediment to our technological future isn’t extending Moore’s law; it’s system efficiency.

We need to improve system layouts and cooling techniques, create better interconnects, reduce sloppy software code, eschew processors that are faster than necessary, and build better batteries.

Moore’s second law could be formulated: “Overall net efficiency of any electronic system will double every 24 months.”

Moore’s Law Limits Pushed Back Again

April 5, 2004

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers have figured out how to make silicon chips with 38 nanometer rules — an order of magnitude better than what is standard at present.

The process is called liquid-immersion nanolithography, based on the phenomenon that things look bigger under water. They submerge the silicon wafer.

Computer networking event doesn’t compute as planned

April 5, 2004

FlashMob I, the world’s first attempt to create a supercomputer ranking among the top 500 by hooking together computers from volunteers, failed on Saturday at the University of San Francisco.

But the crew managed to get 256 (target was 1,200) computers working together at almost half the speed required for the top 500 status.

Bush Calls for Universal Broadband by 2007

April 2, 2004

President Bush has set a goal of broadband access for all Americans in three years to boost competitiveness with other nations and create new business opportunities at home.

Snapshot chat creates automatic captions

April 2, 2004

A new system that can automatically caption digital photos by listening to you and your friends chat about them is being developed by Hewlett-Packard.

PC software records these conversations, converts them to text using a speech-recognition program, and extracts keywords to caption and index the photos.

HP says the method should help organize digital files as hard drives approach terabyte levels over the next few years.

Smell cannon targets virtual reality users

April 2, 2004

A new “air cannon” device can track an individual, shoot an aroma directly at their nose, and leave the person next to them completely unaffected.

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan developed it for directing evocative smells to people exploring virtual-reality environments.

The device tracks the person it is aiming at with a camera mounted on top, which follows the target’s eyes. Software on a PC analyzes… read more

Heartbeats warn of sudden death risk

April 2, 2004

Measuring variations in the length of the heartbeat could provide a way to screen for people at risk of sudden cardiac death, researchers in Greece have found.

They adapted equations used to describe physical systems such as earthquakes to predict the degree of order. Beats of diseased hearts vary more randomly.

Rat genome unveiled

April 2, 2004

The Rat Genome Sequencing Consortium has sequenced the complete rat genome, about 25,000 genes.

Around 90% of these have matches in the mouse and man, so almost all known disease-related human genes have counterparts in the rat. By tweaking these, researchers should be able to make better rat models of disease.

Knowledge of their genome should also provide new targets for drug intervention.

Rat Genome Sequencing Consortium.… read more

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.

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