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Just Like Ants, Computers Learn From the Bottom Up

September 10, 2001

Emergence — the phenomenon of self-organization, represented by feedback systems and intelligent software that anticipates our needs — is embodied by “bottom-up” systems that use “relatively simple components to build higher-level intelligence,” says Steven Johnson in the new book, EMERGENCE: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software.For example, city residents create distinct neighborhoods and simple pattern recognition software learns to recommend new books or music based on our… read more

Researchers tout touchy-feely technology

September 8, 2001

Haptic technology — computer hardware and software that simulates humans’ sense of touch and feel through tactile vibrations or force feedback — may soon become a mainstream computing phenomenon.
Uses of haptics include virtual-patient simulators for medical training, online shopping (shoppers will be able to “feel” a product), computer games, Web browsers (vibrations when a person scrolls over a hypertext link), molecular modeling, and adding the sense of touch to… read more

Accelerated Living

September 7, 2001

“Imagine a Web, circa 2030, that will offer a panoply of virtual environments incorporating all of our senses, and in which there will be no clear distinction between real and simulated people.” That’s part of Ray Kurzweil’s imaginative view of the future in PC Magazine’s special “20th Anniversary of PCs” issue.
Among Kurzweil’s other forecasts for the next 30 years:

  • Miniaturized displays on our eyeglasses will provide
  • read more

    Supercomputer Needs Super-Big Space

    September 6, 2001

    Los Alamos National Labs’ new “Q” 30 teramips supercomputer requires a 300,000-square-foot building and 7 megawatts of electricity for cooling — ten percent of all the electricity piped into Los Alamos Labs and surrounding community.While today’s fastest machine can perform 10 trillion calculations a second, visionaries are thinking about machines 100 times faster.

    That is probably eight or nine years away, Mike Vildibill, deputy director at San Diego Supercomputer… read more

    Spectrum Wars

    September 6, 2001

    The promise of ubiquitous wireless Internet access is on hold as TV broadcasters, the military, telecom companies and others secretly squabble over scarce spectrum space. Congress wants to auction off some of the prime spectrum used by the Pentagon. The Pentagon wants to take broadcasters’ HDTV spectrum, while broadcasters want to auction it off and use the money for developing digital television.

    The public knows little about this; even… read more

    Complexity science: next big thing

    September 4, 2001

    The next big thing will be complexity science, the study of how order inevitability emerges from chaos, says Internet pioneer Jim Rutt. Rutt is interested in applying the theories of complexity science to develop computers, systems and software that will independently think and learn.

    “When Ray Kurzweil wrote ‘Spiritual Age of Machines,’ I thought he was nuts,” Rutt said. “But now, I’m convinced that he is definitely onto something.… read more

    Why Did Honda Build a Humanoid Robot That Meets With the Vatican’s Approval?

    September 4, 2001

    The Vatican has assured Honda Motors that the Church won’t complain about its two-legged four-foot robot named Asimo, which can walk, dance, shake hands and speak, but has no brain (AI functions).

    So what else can it do? Honda plans to rent the robot as a guide in museums or to perform at weddings, and robots may someday sweep landmines, serve as seeing-eye dogs or work in nuclear-power plants.… read more

    Human Brains May Take Unique Turn

    September 4, 2001

    Neuroscientists have tapped into what may represent a fundamental difference in brain development between people and other mammals and may offer insight into how humans evolved an enlarged frontal cortex capable of supporting symbolic thought and language use.In the new study, researchers injected a dye into the telencephalon of living tissue slices taken from the brains of 15-to-26-week-old human fetuses, as well as from monkey and mouse fetuses of comparable… read more

    Micro Sculpture is smallest ever

    September 4, 2001
    Photo by LaSIE

    A team of Japanese engineers has created the smallest sculpture ever: a 3-D bull measuring only 10 by 7 micrometers — the size of a red blood cell.

    The bull was etched in transparent plastic with a pair of lasers. The plastic resin solidified at the focal point of the two lasers in a process called two-photon photo-polymerization.

    The tiny structures demonstrate the possibility of making micro-components for… read more

    New neurons grown in forebrain

    September 4, 2001

    New neurons are able to grow in the forebrain when stimulated by growth factor, Emory University researchers have demonstrated. The study is the first to show the presence of numerous new neurons in certain regions of the brain where they previously have not been found, and suggests that the adult brain may be able to replace neurons lost due to injury or disease. The results were published in… read more

    First self-assembling nanopatterns imaged by Sandia researchers

    September 3, 2001
    Lead atoms self-assembling on a bed of copper atoms

    Self-assembling nanostructures have been observed and recorded in real time video for the first time by Sandia National Labs researchers.

    The nanostructures, which self-assemble and transform, were observed with a low-energy electron microscope (LEEM).

    Theorists long have believed that competing attractive and repulsive inter-atomic interactions can lead to the spontaneous formation of ordered patterns in widely varying chemical and physical systems. Potentially, such… read more

    Parasite corrals computer power

    August 31, 2001

    Using the Internet itself as a computer, researchers have solved a mathematical problem with the unwitting assistance of machines in North America, Europe and Asia.The Notre Dame team exploited the Internet transmission control protocol (TCP). The TCP ensures accurate communication, using a “checksum” — a mathematical operation performed by sender and receiver. The two computers compare answers — if they differ, data has been corrupted in transit and they try… read more

    Viruses sounded out

    August 31, 2001

    A single virus particle can be spotted in medical samples by the sound it makes, UK researchers have found. The researchers used quartz crystals, which vibrate in an electrical field. They coated the crystals with an antibody, to which particles of the human herpesvirus attached.

    Increasing the voltage shook the crystal faster until the viruses became dislodged, with an accompanying burst of sound. The vibrating crystal picks up the… read more

    Denial and the Ravaging of Cyberspace

    August 30, 2001

    While some view it as an expansive bastion of decentralized communication and democratic discourse, the World Wide Web is scarcely more civic-minded than your local bank, says media critic Norman Solomon.
    Solomon sees these trends:

  • Online media consolidation. Websites operated by just four corporations account for 50.4 percent of the time that U.S. users of the Web are now spending online.
  • Web browsers will become outdated
  • read more

    Lithography Unmasked

    August 28, 2001

    Researchers are pursuing a cheaper way of designing and fabricating computer chips, using mirrors instead of masks.

    Photolithography —- the standard chip manufacturing technique — requires expensive masks costing up to $1 million to create the patterns.

    Researchers are using an array of tiny mirrors under computer control to turn individual beams on and off as the whole setup scans across the wafer.

    Maskless technologies could allow… read more

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