science + technology news

Top ten stories of 2003

January 2, 2004

The most popular stories published by New during 2003 include the first speed of gravity measurement, packet tracking for ultrafast Internet, the world’s first brain prosthesis, and James Watson’s statement that stupidity is a genetic disease that should be cured.

Nanotube antennas boost signal reception

December 31, 2003

Antennas in the form of carbon nanotube transistors can dramatically enhance the reception of RF signals, according to a study by USC scientist Bart Kosko, a professor in the school’s Electrical Engineering Department.

The finding is based on a theory called “stochastic resonance” that claims noise, or unwanted signals, can actually improve the detection of faint electrical signals. Kosko’s graduate student, Ian Lee, generated a sequence of faint electrical… read more

New Understanding Of Why Brain Cells Die After Stroke

December 31, 2003

Scientists have found a major mechanism that causes brain cells to die from stroke: when brain cells are deprived of oxygen and vital nutrients, as happens to parts of the brain affected by a stroke, a special channel on the surface of those brain cells is activated, triggering a lethal chain reaction.

The “TRPM7″ channel, when activated causes brain cells to produce large quantities of free radicals — toxic… read more

The Growing Web

December 30, 2003

In March 2000, 52 million Americans logged onto the Internet each day. By this past August, that figure had swelled 27 percent, to 66 million.

The Internet research project by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts has done a comparative analysis of the data collected since the project’s inception. In a report released last week, there was ample evidence that the Internet has become mainstream.

The Fantasy and Reality of 2004

December 30, 2003

Experts say what they’d like to see happen in 2004 and what they think will happen.

Howard Rheingold, author and virtual community pioneer:

“I wish an interdisciplinary investigation (PDF) of human cooperation and collective action would begin to emerge in 2004, bringing together scientists, scholars and practitioners in self-organizing Internet politics, peer-to-peer computation, the sociology of managing common pool resources, the economics of open-source production, the… read more

Are you a bot or not?

December 29, 2003

You could call it the attack of the clones. Major websites such as Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, Altavista and Ticketmaster are being inundated by malicious automated programs pretending to be humans.

The main objective of these programs or “bots” is to gain access to the websites’ services and send spam, harass users, gather personal information or hog resources.

To ward off these bots, webmasters are increasingly turning to a… read more

Caution over ‘computerised world’

December 29, 2003

A future where everyday objects have computer chips in them will have a dramatic effect on our lives.

The idea behind pervasive computing is that everything around us contains some sort of electronic device.

In their report, a Swiss team talks about a future where computer chips, remote sensors or radio transponders are scaled down to microscopic size and built into just about anything.

‘Get me rewrite!’ Now, computers can play along

December 29, 2003

MIT and Cornell researchers have created a program that can automatically generate paraphrases of English sentences.

The program gathers text from online news services on specific subjects, learns the characteristic patterns of sentences in these groupings, and then uses those patterns to create new sentences that give equivalent information in different words.

Unmaking Memories

December 29, 2003
Image: Paramount Pictures

In the sci-fi thriller movie Paycheck, an engineer has his memory erased after completing a sensitive reverse-engineering job. Scientific spoke with a leading neurobiologist to find out just how close scientists are to controlling recall.

Stem-cell ‘secret of youth’ found

December 26, 2003

Researchers may have found a way to keep Human embryonic stem (ES) cells (which can generate almost all of the body’s different cell types) young.

The discovery solves two problems in this process: it controls the cells’ transformations into other types and eliminates the need for mouse cells, which could contaminate ES cells with mouse proteins.

Is Nanotechnology Real?

December 23, 2003

The Drexler-Smalley debate about molecular nanotechnology may have even greater importance for undeveloped countries, according to Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher of IRANSCOPE.

“Nanotechnology may replicate fuel cells to put an end to the age of oil,” he said in an editorial. “It would not only impact the economy of oil producing countries like Iran, but it can change the whole economy of energy production in the world, which is the… read more

Creating robots of the future

December 23, 2003

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are working on ways to let robots interact emotionally with humans.

But in the Mall at Chestnut Hill, humans already are interacting emotionally with robots. A small crowd of shoppers gathers around a pair of bright red and blue Boxing Robots in the window of the Sharper Image….

A couple of aisles down, a sales clerk is showing off the latest model… read more

Measurements: The Brain Wave Made Me Do It

December 23, 2003

British researchers have figured out a way to use brain waves to tell if someone is about to make a mistake.

The size of the P300 brain wave, which is generated when the brain encounters a stimulus, varies according to the response the stimulus calls for. It is larger when there is a need to inhibit action. In an experiment, the size of the P300 waves proved to be… read more

New robot brain takes to the skies

December 23, 2003

“Mantis,” the world’s first small robotic helicopter that can see and think for itself, is based in part on the workings of the human inner ear.

Mantis uses an inertial sensing system and computer vision system to guide the aircraft and provide flight stability. The robot’s two cameras and software detect where objects are and how fast the Mantis is moving relative to objects around it.

Applications include… read more

Rate of broadband growth slows in US

December 23, 2003

The number of U.S. residents connected to the Internet through broadband services increased by 18 percent during the first half of 2003, from 19.9 million to 23.5 million, compared to a 23 percent increase during the last half of 2002, according to the FCC.

For the full year ending June 30, 2003, high-speed lines (more than 200 kbps) increased by 45 percent.

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