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Alzheimer’s disease cause identified?

January 9, 2004

Researchers may have pinpointed the cause of Alzheimer’s disease: a rogue protein called amyloid beta that forms plaques in the brain.

Drugs that reduce this protein in humans may have the same protective effect.

In experiements with a strain of Alzheimer’s disease-prone mouse, as the animals age, amyloid beta levels rise and their memory declines. But when a key enzyme, called BACE1, is eliminated through genetic engineering, the… read more

First brainstem implants aim to tackle deafness

January 9, 2004

Two deaf women have become the first people to undergo the risky procedure of having implants in their brainstems. The devices are designed to restore hearing by directly stimulating nerves.

The procedure is needed by people with a damaged cochlea or auditory nerve, where cochlear implants cannot help. The researchers hope that the implant, in which eight electrodes of different lengths are inserted into the brainstem, will be able… read more

Verizon trumps Wi-Fi with 500 k/bits

January 9, 2004

Verizon is rolling out its “BroadbandAccess” (300 to 500 kbit/s, with with bursts of 2 Mbits/s) cell phone service nationwide this year.

Verizon promises its “iobi” service will offer features such as programmable call forwarding or voice mail showing up as email and much closer integration between landline, IP and cellular networks.

MRIs in Stanford experiments indicate active suppression of unneeded memories

January 9, 2004

fMRI studies “confirm the existence of an active forgetting process and establish a neurobiological model for guiding inquiry into motivated (voluntary) forgetting,” say Stanford University scientists.

They showed that the human brain blocks an unwanted memory, that there is such a mechanism, and it has a biological basis. The findings could encourage the development of new ways for people to overcome traumatizing memories.

Tiny particles ‘threaten brain’

January 9, 2004

Microscopic pollutant particles given off by traffic and industry can enter the bloodstream and the brain after being inhaled, scientists have found.

The particles are known to cause lung damage in susceptible patients, and are implicated in cardiovascular disease. Experiments on rats and humans have now discovered they can penetrate further into the body, including the brain, with unknown results.

UK scientists are calling for vigilance over the… read more

Nanotubes could make better brain probes

January 8, 2004

Nanotubes caused less scar tissue and stimulated neurons to grow 60 percent more fingerlike extensions, called neurites, needed to regenerate brain activity in damaged regions, according to a paper in the journal Nanotechnology.

Conventional silicon probes cause the body to regard them as foreign invaders and surround them with scar tissue. The nanotubes were designed so that their surfaces contained nanoscale bumps that mimic features found on the surfaces… read more

Mobile Robots Take Baby Steps

January 8, 2004

The Army’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) has awarded $2.25 million to two robotics firms to prototype a big mechanical dog capable of carrying ammunition, food and supplies into battle.

Depth perception is essential for recognizing obstacles and avoiding them, so NASA JPL developed a way for robots to see in three dimensions, using two separate cameras that take images of the same scene. JPL built a similar system… read more

Babel’s Children

January 7, 2004

A research project just beginning in Indonesia is examining correlations between the way concepts are expressed in languages and how native speakers of these languages think. This is a test of a hypothesis first made by Benjamin Lee Whorf, an early 20th-century American linguist, that the structure of language affects the way people think. Whorf’s hypothesis fell into disfavor half a century ago; it is now undergoing something of a… read more

New careers appear as old jobs fade

January 7, 2004

Coming new types of jobs will include A.I. programmer, bio-informatician, Wireless engineer, fuel-cell engineer, and nanotechnologist.

Radio Ready to Go Digital

January 7, 2004

Digital radio receivers finally go on sale nationwide Wednesday, pairing CD-quality audio in over-the-air broadcasts with text information such as song titles, weather and news alerts.

What the net did next

January 7, 2004

The Internet is set to become the basis for just about every form of communication, according to net pioneer Vint Cerf.

The Enum initiative attempts to turn phone numbers into net addresses and give people a universal way of contacting anyone, provided they know at least one e-mail, address, phone or pager number for them.

Naming Authority Pointer (NATPR) allows almost anything, such as book or magazine ISBN… read more

Techno hits basic beat

January 7, 2004
Complexity of nine musical genres

Physicists have quantified differences in the patterns of various musical genres and their correlations to subjective, qualitative musical aspects of these genres by using a technique called detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA). DFA has been used to study complicated signals in economic, genetic and heartbeat data.

The method produces a number, “alpha,” that quantifies the complexity of patterns in a signal, in this case, the volume of music. Western classical… read more

‘Smart Bomb’ delivery destroys tumors in mice

January 6, 2004

Weizmann Institute scientists have destroyed malignant tumors in mice using allicin, a chemical that occurs naturally in garlic.

To zero in on the targeted tumor, scientists took advantage of the fact that most types of cancer cells exhibit distinctive receptors on their surfaces. An antibody that is “programmed” to recognize the tumor’s characteristic receptor is chemically bound to the enzyme alliinase. Injected into the bloodstream, the antibody seeks out… read more

First integrated circuit with nanotube transistors created

January 6, 2004

UC Berkeley and Stanford Researchers have created the first working integrated circuit that successfully incorporates carbon nanotubes.

They developed the integrated circuit to speed the analysis of thousands of synthesized carbon nanotubes, sorting them into metallic and semiconducting nanotubes. To do that, they grew carbon nanotubes directly onto “islands” on the circuit platform that contained the necessary catalyst for nanotube synthesis.

By turning certain switches on and off,… read more

Caltech lecture by Crichton on ‘consensus science’

January 5, 2004

Michael Crichton understands the core values of science better than some prominent scientists, as he showed in this lecture at Caltech about the dangers of “consensus science”: “I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.

“Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter… read more

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