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In Three Dimensions, Words Take Flight. Literally.

August 20, 2002

Brown University researchers are developing a 3-D virtual-reality chamber that allows for creating interactive-theater experiences with literature in space.

Forget Nature. Even Eden Is Engineered.

August 20, 2002

Aided by satellites and supercomputers, and mobilized by the evident environmental damage of the last century, humans have a real chance to begin balancing economic development with sustaining earth’s ecological webs, said Dr. William C. Clark, a biologist at Harvard who heads an international effort to build a scientific foundation for such a shift.

The prospect of managing the planet is attracting more than 100 world leaders and thousands… read more

Cities Die. Should New York Be the First to Clone Itself?

August 20, 2002

New York City is creating of an immensely detailed, three-dimensional, interactive, constantly updated map of the city.

“NYCMap” will be stored on remote servers in case something more terrible than 9-11 hits.

Biology Seeks a Few Good Geeks

August 20, 2002

As chairwoman of the inaugural IEEE Computer Society Bioinformatics Conference, held at Stanford University last week, Vicky Markstein is trying to recruit the leading minds of computer science into what she calls “the industrial revolution of biology,” an anticipated period of discovery resulting from the analysis of genomic information.
Computer scientists will be essential for deriving useful knowledge from the large databases of genomic data that have recently become available,… read more

Does schmoozing make robots clever?

August 19, 2002

Luc Steels, a professor at the University of Brussels and director of Sony’s Computer Science Laboratories in Paris, believes that robots should learn by expressing themselves through interaction and forming their own languages and even “cultures.”

Dismissing the Turing Test as “fake,” Steels believes that machines can evolve intelligence through interaction with one another and with their ecology, but that this synthetic intelligence is unlikely to bear much resemblance… read more

Opposition to Nanotechnology

August 19, 2002

With nanotechnology moving into commercialization, environmental groups are mounting a compaign to declare a moratorium on commercial production of nanomaterials, based on the precautionary principle, the go-slower approach to new technology.

The campaign, led by the ETC Group, addresses concerns about nanoparticles interacting with living cells. For example, they warn that nanoscale particles in carrying drugs into the brain could also transport toxins and that nanoparticles absorbed by bacteria… read more

The E-Gang: Medical Marvels

August 16, 2002

Forbes profiles eight visionaries in information technology for medicine.

  • Neuroscientist Kari Stefansson’s gene-mining software will allow doctors to create genetic profiles of patients within a decade.
  • TIGR’s Claire Fraser gene tests could one day let doctors customize drug treatment for the exact genetic strain found in their patients.
  • Rosetta Inpharmatics’ Stephen Friend plans to use DNA chips to spot which genes are most active in
  • read more

    Homeland Insecurity

    August 16, 2002

    Most of the security measures envisioned after September 11 will be ineffective, and some will make Americans less safe, says security guru Bruce Schneier.

    Plans to merge hundreds of previously separate databases in the Department of Homeland Security may result in vulnerability to hackers, and plans to install biometric and other screening devices in airports without adequate supervision can result in identity theft and other problems, he believes.

    First language gene discovered

    August 16, 2002

    Scientists think they have found the first of many genes that gave humans speech. The gene, FOXP2, is thought to be linked to an ability to control facial movements — a faculty crucial to language, which would give bearers a survival advantage because they were able to communicate more clearly.

    Autism link to ‘geek genes’

    August 16, 2002

    An upsurge in autism cases diagnosed in the Silicon Valley area of California may be due to genes more common in its high-tech workers, researchers believe. They speculate that “computer geeks” may, while not fully autistic themselves, may be carrying genes that contribute to it and are more likely to meet partners who also carry autistic genes, raising the chances of children with the full-blown condition.

    The Age of Assisted Cognition

    August 16, 2002

    Researchers are developing AI and pervasive-systems technology that can adapt to elder patients’ changing needs and respond quickly in moments of agitation and distress, based on patient data gathered by sensors placed throughout an eldercare facility.

    Examples include a “gesture pendant” that can detect Parkinson’s Disease or side effects from medication; tracking elderly guests’ movements in a pervasive environment that includes electronic badges, infrared detectors and load-sensing beds; a… read more

    Speech Recognition Follies

    August 16, 2002

    Speech recognition software is stymied by word combinations that sound alike (homophones), says columnist David Pogue.

    Genome Pioneer Will Start Center of His Own

    August 15, 2002

    J. Craig Venter plans to build what he believes will be the nation’s largest genome sequencing center to introduce new technology that vastly decreases the time and cost required to determine the DNA code of people, animals and microbes.

    One goal, he said, is to get the cost down to $2,000 to $3,000 to analyze a person’s entire genome, compared with the hundreds of millions of dollars it took… read more

    Symantec Unveils Automated Norton AntiVirus

    August 14, 2002

    Symantec announced Norton AntiVirus 2003, due September 1, which it says will automatically protect a PC from evolving threats such as advanced e-mail worms and infected instant messaging attachments. Using advanced heuristics–a type of artificial intelligence–the Worm Blocking technology actually watches for programs that act like a worm.

    Students tackle rescue robot ‘war game’

    August 14, 2002

    Students gathered Monday around a cardboard mockup of Washington’s train station to try their hand at using robots to search for and assist terrorism victims in the aftermath of an explosion.

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