science + technology news

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.

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.

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