science + technology news

Optical fibres cut their losses

December 18, 2003

New super-thin optical fibers confine light signals much more securely than their thicker counterparts. The new low-loss design will combat the leaks that can severely weaken a telecommunications signal when conveyed over many kilometers.

The new fibers are 50 nanometers across — around 10,000 times thinner than current optical fibers. They are also highly flexible, so they can guide light signals around tight bends, which will help the production… read more

‘Humanised’ organs can be grown in animals

December 18, 2003

Injecting human stem cells into sheep fetuses produces animals with partially human organs — a possible source of matched transplants.

It would also allow doctors to obtain immune-compatible cells without having to create human embryos by therapeutic cloning.

The idea of using part-human, part-animal chimeras as living factories for producing cells or organs raises a host of ethical and safety issues.

Google tests book search

December 18, 2003

Google has launched Google Print Beta, which lets Web surfers access brief excerpts from books, critic reviews, and bibliographic and author’s notes.

The experiment is similar to Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book,” a searchable index of millions of pages of books.

The Google Print feature works by typing “” and any desired term or phrase into the Google search bar.

The Rise of India

December 17, 2003

India’s technological success is challenging the definitions of globalization and Corporate America is becoming concerned. “There’s just no place left to squeeze” costs in the U.S., says Chris Disher, a Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. outsourcing specialist.

“That’s why every CEO is looking at India, and every board is asking about it.” neoIT, a consultant advising U.S. clients on how to set up shop in India, says it has been… read more

Terrorism Lends Urgency to Hunt for a Better Lie Detector

December 17, 2003

A near-infrared light can detect lies as they form in the brain of volunteers. It may replace the often-inaccurate polygraph to detect lies told by spies, saboteurs and terrorists.

E-textiles: The Ultimate in Flexible Computing

December 17, 2003

E-textiles are being developed that can sense tank movements, monitor homes for noxious chemicals, help firefighters maneuver in smoky buildings, and perhaps help stroke victims recover their function.

A Brain Scan Identifies Race Bias

December 17, 2003

Scientists have developed a brain scan that can purportedly identify racists.

The technique was used on white volunteers shown photographs of black individuals. In those with racist tendencies, a surge of activity was seen in part of the brain that controls thoughts and behavior. Scientists believe this reflected volunteers’ attempts to curb their latent racism.

“To my knowledge, this is the first study to use brain imaging data… read more

Red Sea Urchin Almost Immortal

December 17, 2003

The red sea urchin can last for more than 200 years with few signs of age-related disease, researchers have found. This could help scientists uncover the secret of longevity and aging.

Execs beg nanotech funding; paying for better homeland security devices called risky

December 17, 2003

Nanotechnology could strengthen the nation’s shield against terrorist bombs, biological weapons or attacks on power plants and reservoirs, participants at the Nanotechnology and Homeland Security Forum said Monday.

But homeland security may not benefit from nanotechnology’s potential unless government funding lays the groundwork for the private businesses that could produce new defense products, most experts agreed.

Possible nanotech uses could include self-copying nanoparticles that could be spread in… read more

Materials Retain Useful Properties At Nanoscale Researchers Find

December 17, 2003

Ferroelectric materials, used in modern electronics devices, have been discovered to retain their properties when present in extraordinarily tiny amounts. This discovery implies that this and other materials with similar properties may be valuable at nanoscale in the production of small, smart communications devices, tiny diagnostic instruments and nano-robots.

Nanowire sensors to allow instant medical tests

December 17, 2003

A silicon nanowire sensor has the potential to detect diseases never before possible with conventional tests, according to researcher Charles M. Lieber, a professor of chemistry at Harvard.

An array of sensors could ultimately be configured to a handheld PDA-type device or small computer, allowing almost instant test results during a doctor’s visit or possibly even at home by a patient. It could potentially be used to screen for… read more

Will Telephone Calls Be Free?

December 17, 2003

Futurists sometimes see Internet telephony as the death knell for traditional phone companies. But that’s not going to happen: those companies also own the last few miles of the old-fashioned copper and switches.

Which is why Verizon, AT&T, Quest and SBC have all announced they will begin to sell lower-priced (and lower quality) Internet telephone services next year, using VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).

Service providers as well… read more

Technology Said to End Errors in Chips Caused by Radiation

December 16, 2003

Researchers at an STMicroelectronics laboratory in France have developed a semiconductor memory technology that is immune to soft errors caused by background radiation, potentially eliminating an important barrier to shrinking the size of computer chips.

To defeat soft errors without adding additional circuitry (thus increasing the size of the chip), the STMicroelectronics researchers stacked a capacitor on top of a memory circuit, lowering the chances that a logic bit… read more

Net beats the papers

December 16, 2003

Americans logged onto the Internet to learn about the capture of Saddam Hussein because the news broke after most of the nation’s newspapers had “gone to bed.”

A generation of younger readers admits to getting their news from the Internet, not newspapers.

Internet competition is forcing newspapers — and their giant newsgathering forces — to publish more original reporting on their Web sites, a practice they have resisted… read more

Coral reveals ancient origins of human genes

December 16, 2003

A study of coral found that about 500 gene sequences out of 1300 had matches in gene databases.

Of these 500, 90% were present in humans, and about 10% were found in humans but not in the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster or the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. This finding suggests that many genes thought to be vertebrate-specific may in fact have much older origins, and have been lost during the… read more

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