science + technology news

The Virus Underground

February 11, 2004

Given the pace of virus development, we are probably going to see even nastier criminal attacks in the future.

Some academics have predicted the rise of “cryptoviruses” — malware that invades your computer and encrypts all your files, making them unreadable. “The only way to get the data back will be to pay a ransom,” says Stuart Schechter, a doctoral candidate in computer security at Harvard.

Antivirus companies… read more

Making of mouse marks move toward ‘mitochondrial medicine’

February 10, 2004

Scientists have created a new kind of mouse by replacing the genetic material in the mitochondria of one species with that from another in a gene-swapping exercise necessary if doctors are to understand several currently untreatable human diseases.

Mitochondrial medicine — how specific mitochondrial mutations and deficiencies lead to disease — deals with trouble with the cell’s powerhouse, the mitochondrion, which affects many diseases that become more common as… read more

Researchers pinpoint brain areas that process reality, illusion

February 10, 2004

Researchers have identified areas of the brain where what we’re actually doing (reality) and what we think we’re doing (illusion, or perception) are processed.

They created a virtual reality video game to trick monkeys into thinking that they were tracing ellipses with their hands, though they actually were moving their hands in a circle.

The research shows how the mind creates its sense of order in the world… read more

The Computer at Nature’s Core

February 10, 2004

The computational worldview — that the universe itself is governed by the laws of computation and is, in fact, a computer — is the death of the notion that technology is applied science.

If both the physical universe and the biological world are best understood in terms of information and computation, it no longer makes sense to think that technology results from an application of science. Indeed, if computation… read more

Cool New Ideas to Save Brains

February 10, 2004

A “cool helmet” and a corkscrew device that removes clots in blood vessels are among radical new technologies for stroke treatment.

Things fall apart

February 10, 2004

Some people think modern astronomy’s convoluted theory of “dark matter” and “dark energy” is based on a kludge similar to Ptolemy’s theory of epicycles. If something else is actually causing those effects, the whole theoretical edifice would come crashing down.

According to a paper just published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, irregularities in the cosmic microwave background may have been misinterpreted. They may have been… read more

Online search engines lift cover of privacy

February 10, 2004

Cybersecurity experts say an increasing number of private or putatively secret documents are online in out-of-the-way corners of computers all over the globe, leaving the government, individuals, and companies vulnerable to security penetration by “Googledorks,” who troll the Internet for confidential information.

The article’s reference to a file that avoids search-engine indexing is erroneous. “robots.txt” is the correct file name. – Ed

BBC Airs Scaremongering Nanotech Documentary

February 9, 2004

“The BBC saw fit to fuel the fires of fear over nanotech in last night’s Horizon. While the web content is quite moderate, the prevailing image of nanotech the program presented was a swarm of CGI grey goo flying like a whirling dervish over a blasted desert (an image straight out of Michael Crichton’s Prey, interspersed with time-lapse shots of reproducing cells and decaying animals as the commentary spoke of… read more

Mercury affects brains of adolescents

February 9, 2004

Eating seafood that contains mercury can affect the brain development of children in their adolescence, according to a study of people in the Faroe Islands.

The study contradicts the opinion of researchers who think these compounds are toxic only to babies as they develop in the womb, and that older children are unlikely to suffer developmental problems from the poison.

The group previously found that the children, when… read more

Incorporate disassembly into every self-assembled nanotech product

February 6, 2004

We can avoid the risks of molecular nanotechnology by building “self-regulating assembly” and “disassembly” into nanotechnology from the start, says Douglas Mulhall, author of “Our Molecular Future.”

Self-regulating assembly means built-in controls that limit replication rates of molecular assemblers. Ddisassembly (such as building in biodegradability) ensures that assemblers won’t be fundamentally defective from environmental and military security viewpoints.

Nanotube quantum dot doubles up

February 6, 2004

Researchers at Harvard University have made a nanotube double quantum dot by gating a carbon nanotube in a number of places. The strength of the tunnel coupling between the dots was tunable, which means the device could have applications in quantum computing.

Global Nanotechnology Market To Reach $29 Billion By 2008

February 6, 2004

The total global demand for nanoscale materials, tools, and devices was estimated at $7.6 billion in 2003 and is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 30.6% to reach $28.7 billion in 2008, according to a report from from Business Communications Company: Nanotechnology: A Realistic Market Evaluation.

The nanotechnology market is believed to be growing more than twice as fast as either the… read more

Scientists embed nanotubes in hybrid semiconductors

February 6, 2004

Scientists from the University of Copenhagen claim to have made the first electronic hybrid nanotube-semiconductor devices. They encapsulated single-walled carbon nanotubes in epitaxially grown semiconductor structures.

The development opens up possibilities for designing hybrid nanotube/semiconductor devices, where nanotubes act as interconnects in traditional semiconductor integrated circuits or as active devices.

Pentagon Kills LifeLog Project

February 6, 2004

The Pentagon canceled its so-called LifeLog project, an ambitious effort to build a database tracking a person’s entire existence, including just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.

LifeLog’s backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project… read more

Gene-altered mouse produces fish oils

February 5, 2004

Researchers have inserted a gene from a nematode worm into mice that enables them to make omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart attacks. If the same feat can be achieved in farm animals, meat, milk and eggs could all be directly enriched with the oils.

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