science + technology news

Artificial emotion

March 1, 2004

Sherry Turkle will host a Symposium at MIT on March 5 to discuss “Evocative Objects.”

We become attached to sophisticated machines not for their smarts but their emotional reach, she says. “They seduce us by asking for human nurturance, not intelligence.”

The market for robotics in health care is about to explode, Turkle says. The question is: Do we want machines moving into these emotive areas?… read more

An Extra Eye in Combat, and Maybe Aboard Airplanes

March 1, 2004

A new video surveillance system compresses video data and sends it with virtually no delay over just about any communication network.

Essential Viewing’s software compresses signals by effectively making a sketch of each image rather than transmitting it pixel by pixel. A neural network breaks each image down into a series of shapes from a code book that contains 512 curves, triangles and so forth. The program then translates… read more

Marine sponges provide model for nanoscale materials production

March 1, 2004

University of California, Santa Barbara researchers are learning how to harness the biomolecular mechanism that directs the nanofabrication of silica in living organisms.

“This is to learn to direct the synthesis of photovoltaic and semiconductor nanocrystals of titanium dioxide, gallium oxide and other semiconductors — materials with which nature has never built structures before,” said Dan Morse, who directs the new Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies at UCSB.

Morse… read more

First robot moved by muscle power

March 1, 2004

A silicon microrobot just half the width of a human hair has begun to crawl around in a Los Angeles lab, using legs powered by the pulsing of living heart muscle. It is the first time muscle tissue has been used to propel a micromachine.

The development could lead to muscle-based nerve stimulators that would allow paralysed people to breathe without the help of a ventilator. And NASA which… read more

Gates Speaks on Spam, Searching, Jobs

March 1, 2004

Bill Gates described new innovations in spam filtering, image browsing, and portable media to an audience of more than 1,000 MIT students on Feb. 26.

Gates showed prototypes of future Microsoft products, including a Portable Media Center (automatically downloads movies, videos, photos on a device that you can carry around) and a Smart Personal Objects Technology watch (displays weather, news, and stock information and receives/sends short text messages).… read more

The Problem with Dead White Males

February 27, 2004

A recent poll suggests an alarming gap in university presidents’ knowledge: the entire past 200 years. Asked to name the books “you believe every undergraduate university student should read and study in order to engage in the intellectual discourse, commerce, and public duties of the 21st century,” the academic leaders came up with a list highly deficient in science and that pretty much excluded anything written after 1800.

The… read more

Self-assembly wins with gold rosette

February 26, 2004

Scientists at the MESA Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have used the self-assembly of hydrogen-bonded rosettes to create nanostructures containing gold. The technique could have applications in the fabrication of nanowires.

Crops ‘widely contaminated’ by genetically modified DNA

February 26, 2004

Scientists are warning of a potentially “serious risk to human health” after the discovery that traditional varieties of major American food crops are widely contaminated by DNA sequences from GM crops.

In trials, crops have been genetically engineered to manufacture proteins for healing wounds and treating conditions such as cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis of the liver and anemia; antibodies to fight cancer and vaccines against rabies, cholera and foot-and-mouth disease.… read more

Doubt cast on free radical theory

February 26, 2004

Research by University College London, published in Nature, contradicts the theory that molecules called free radicals, produced when the body fights infection, are a contributory factor in a wide range of diseases.

The researchers discovered that it is not free radicals that give white blood cells their destructive power against foreign invaders, but enzymes. When these were blocked, the cells were unable to kill off foreign invaders.

This,… read more

The Complete Guide to Googlemania!

February 25, 2004

They named their new search engine Google, for the biggest number they could imagine. But it wasn’t big enough. Today Google’s a library, an almanac, a settler of bets. It’s a parlor game, a dating service, a shopping mall. It’s a Microsoft rival. It’s a verb. At more than 200 million requests a day, it is, by far, the world’s biggest search engine. And now, on the eve of a… read more

Researchers Successfully Force Evolutionary Leap

February 25, 2004

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan have forced an unprecedented evolutionary leap in E. coli bacteria, and findings from their study could have ramifications on protein production for the biotechnology industry.

The development, reported in the Feb. 20 issue of Science, demonstrated how the bacterium created an entirely new way to make disulfide bonds. These bonds compose a protein’s stiffening struts that… read more

Planetary Defense: Planning with Phantom Asteroids

February 25, 2004

Authorities in defending the Earth from a cosmic run-in with an asteroid or comet are meeting to detail ways to thwart future impacts and deal with the calamity if our planet is struck.

Researchers discover way to grow silicon nanowires

February 24, 2004

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have discovered a new way to accurately grow silicon nanowires on an electrode for use in fabricating nanoscale electronic devices.

Silicon nanowires are typically between 5 and 20 nanometers in diameter. They are grown in a quartz reactor using a technique developed decades ago by Bell Labs called vapor-liquid-solid deposition. “The addition of the electrical fields is what’s new,” said Raj Solanki, Ph.D.,… read more

U.S. Still Mining Terror Data

February 24, 2004

The government is still financing research to create powerful tools that could mine millions of public and private records for information about terrorists despite an uproar last year over fears it might ensnare innocent Americans.

Some of the projects from DARPA’s Total Information Awareness effort were transferred to U.S. intelligence offices; others went to a $64 million research program run by a little-known office called the Advanced Research and… read more

World Awaits More GM Crops as Safety Debate Rages

February 24, 2004

The global sowing of genetically modified (GM) crops will continue rising in the next few years, gaining more of a foothold in the world’s food supply, but millions still need convincing that the food is safe to eat.

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