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Tracing the Neural Circuitry of ‘Second Sight’

February 7, 2002

Researchers have traced the light sensing circuitry for a type of “second sight” that is distinct from the conventional visual system and seems to interact directly with the body’s internal clock. The researchers speculate that subtle genetic malfunctions of this machinery might underlie some sleep disorders.In an article published in the February 8, 2002, Science, a research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator King-Wai Yau described the circuitry,… read more

Nanothermometer takes molecular temperatures

February 7, 2002

he world’s smallest thermometer consisting of a single carbon nanotube filled with liquid gallium has been created by researchers in Japan. The instrument is so sensitive that it can measure the temperature change that occur when small groups of molecules react with each other.The nanothermometer is 10 micrometers long and has a diameter of only 75 nanometers. It length is about one tenth the width of a human hair.… read more

Cloning, germ warfare and GM crops

February 6, 2002

The biotech industry is under siege. It is faced with campaigns against cloning and GM crops — while trying to tackle the potential disaster of germ warfare. Undaunted, the European Commission, which wants to make Europe a front-runner in this fast-moving sector, has just released a policy paper, Life Sciences and Biotechnology – A Strategy for Europe. The goal is an all-encompassing biotechnology framework, a hugely ambitious project that will… read more

Arguing A.I.

February 6, 2002

Are intelligent machines transforming life as we know it? Or is A.I. yet another overhyped, self-serving fantasy by deluded scientists and technocrats talking mostly to one another, foisting their ill-conceived, poorly-engineered creations on an unsuspecting public?
Arguing A.I.: The Battle for Twenty-first Century Science by Sam Williams (published by traces the history of A.I. and talks to several of the principals guiding the A.I. debate today, like Ray Kurzweil,… read more

Robot wars for real

February 5, 2002

Robots are being let loose in a colony of machines in an attempt to find out whether they can learn from their experiences.
The scientists behind this unusual experiment describe it as an evolutionary arms race for robots, with the machines struggling to collect energy.

The Living Robots experiment will be open to the public from 27 March at the Magna science adventure centre in Rotherham in England.… read more

The Increase in Chip Speed Is Accelerating, Not Slowing

February 4, 2002

The trajectory of desktop PC performance increases of the last two years will not slow in the near future, but actually accelerate, based on an expected announcement by Intel Corp. at the International Solid State Circuits Conference. Intel will present a paper today detailing a portion of a microprocessor chip that has performed at up to 10 gigahertz at room temperature —- the fastest calculating speed yet reported… read more

Is human evolution finally over?

February 4, 2002

A group of biologists believe a Western lifestyle now protects humanity from the forces that used to shape Homo sapiens — virtually everybody’s genes are making it to the next generation, not only those who are best adapted to their environments.
In addition, human populations are now being constantly mixed, again producing a blending that blocks evolutionary change.

Peter Ward, of the University of Washington, in his book, Future… read more

Shocked into walking

February 4, 2002

A partially paralysed man is walking with the help of tiny electric shocks to his spine. With training, doctors hope to help other paraplegics walk again.
The University of Arkansas team planted electrodes in his lower back and gave low-level electrical stimulation.
After months of training, the patient can now walk up to a kilometer. The stimulation method involves reactivating an innate walking program in the spinal cord that coordinates… read more

Chip could create mass-produced clones

January 30, 2002

A chip that will automatically create hundreds of cloned embryos at a time is being developed by a Californian biotech company, New Scientist has learned.If it lives up to its promise, the chip should help make cloning cheap and easy enough for companies to mass-produce identical copies of the best milk or meat producing animals for farmers. It might even be used for cloning human embryos.

The chip automates… read more

‘Functional’ kidneys grown from stem cells

January 30, 2002

US scientists claim to have grown functional kidneys using stem cells taken from cloned cow embryos.Robert Lanza of biotech company Advanced Cell Technology told New Scientist that his team, working in collaboration with a group at Harvard University, coaxed the stem cells into becoming kidney cells, and then “grew” them on a kidney-shaped scaffold.

The two-inch-long mini-kidneys were then transplanted back into genetically identical cows, where they started making… read more

Cylinders make circuits spontaneously

January 30, 2002

Self-assembling circuits using carbon nanotube molecules could replace silicon chips.
James Heath, of the University of California and colleagues have demonstrated that if one or both of two wires crossed at right angles are semiconducting, the junction can act like an electronic device such as a diode and each device can be switched on or off without affecting the others.

This proof of principle raises hopes that a nanotube… read more

Virtual world grows real economy

January 29, 2002

A computer game played by thousands of enthusiasts over the Internet has spawned an economy with a per-capita income comparable to that of a small country, according to new research by a US economist.
The online fantasy game EverQuest lets players create and control characters–or avatars–within a fantasy world called Norrath.

Characters gain skills and possessions that they can then trade with other players using the game’s currency of… read more

Event horizon dawns on desktop

January 28, 2002

Using frozen light, physicists hope to mimic a black hole on a desktop. The miniature physics phenomena could show hidden shades of space.
The simulation could create a mock version of elusive ‘Hawking radiation.’ These weak electromagnetic waves are thought to occur when light reaches the event horizon, where dimensions as we know them disappear and light and time appear to stand still.

Imitation event horizons may help us… read more

Preventing overload in the brain

January 28, 2002

Brain researchers have observed a dual control system in the hippocampus that contributes to memory and ensures that the brain does not “crash,” as in an epileptic seizure.
The researchers studied the electrical signals that hippocampus nerve cells use to communicate. They found that interneurons inhibit pyramidal cells in two ways: some interneurons receive the same signals as pyramidal cells, so they can control what information the pyramidal cells receive.… read more

Microchip gives blind chance of sight

January 28, 2002

A computer chip implanted near the eye’s retina is may offer some restored vision to people blinded by eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related degeneration of the eye.
To capture images, an external camera mounted in an eyeglass frame captures the image and converts it into an electrical signal that is then electronically transmitted to a flexible silicon biochip surgically attached near the retina. The chip electronically stimulates… read more

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