science + technology news

Bush Policy on Human Stem Cells Faces New Challenges

March 4, 2004

The White House’s policy on research with human embryonic stem cells has been put under new pressure by the dismissal of a leading biologist from the President’s Council on Bioethics last week and by the development, announced today, of new stem cell lines by a Harvard researcher.

Dr. Douglas Melton, a biologist at Harvard, reported today in The New England Journal of Medicine that he had developed 17 new… read more

Evidence of Water Found on Mars

March 3, 2004

NASA’s Opportunity rover has found convincing evidence that large quantities of water were once present in at least one location on Mars.

“The rocks here were once soaked in liquid water,” said Steve Squyres, principle investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, referring to the bedrock outcrop near the rover’s landing site in Meridiani Planum. Evidence suggests that, at some point in Mars’s past, water was present in… read more

Experts Say New Desktop Fusion Claims Seem More Credible

March 3, 2004

Scientists are again claiming they have made a Sun in a jar, offering perhaps a revolutionary energy source based on sonoluminescence.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists used ultrasonic vibrations to shake a jar of liquid solvent. They squeezed tiny gas bubbles in the liquid so quickly and violently that temperatures reached millions of degrees and some of the hydrogen atoms in the solvent molecules fused, producing a flash of… read more

Spain unveils supercomputer plans

March 2, 2004

Spain has unveiled plans to build the world’s second most powerful computer, able to process 40 teraflops.

Quantum Dots Capture First Movies of Cells ‘Talking’

March 2, 2004

Researchers at Max Planck Institute in Germany have used quantum dots to capture the first-ever movies of cells transmitting the messages that control genes. The breakthrough is expected to help pharmaceutical companies speed and enhance the process of screening candidate cancer drugs.

The quantum dot conjugates work by seeking out and bonding with target materials and emitting light. Older imaging tools such as fluorescent dyes or polymer spheres fade… read more

Magic cube conjures virtual reality kid’s tales

March 2, 2004

A novel interactive way to relate children’s stories has been developed by researchers in Singapore. The Magic Story Cube uses augmented reality technology, in which computer graphics are superimposed on the real world, to overlay an animated version of a story on top of a child’s traditional “magic cube.”

To watch the story unfold, the user wears a virtual reality headset with a small camera attached to the front.… read more

NASA to Announce ‘Significant Findings’ of Water on Mars Tuesday

March 2, 2004

NASA will hold a press conference Tuesday at 2 P.M. ET to announce “significant findings” about water on Mars based on evidence from its Opportunity Mars rover.

If there is liquid water presently at the surface of Mars, as several lines of rover evidence have hinted, then most scientists agree there is the possibility that life could exist.

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

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