science + technology news

Bioinformatics moves into the mainstream

December 8, 2003

Genome mappings have generated a vast amount of biological data and now more than ever, scientists need sophisticated computational techniques to make sense of it.

For example, the Human Genome Database contains approximately 3 terabytes of data and the volume of life sciences data is doubling every six months.

To meet those ever-increasing needs, bioinformatics is shifting from software designed for a specific project in academic laboratories to… read more

IBM gets chip circuits to draw themselves

December 8, 2003

IBM researchers have developed polymer molecules that can assemble themselves into tiny, precise and predictable hexagonal patterns that serve as a stencil for mapping out circuits on silicon wafers.

Incorporating very small structures such as nanocrystals into chips could also become far more feasible.

New net will bypass recreational users

December 8, 2003

The National LambdaRail system, described by some as “the Internet of the future,” is an $80 million fiber-optic network intended to become the largest and fastest scientific research network in the world, with 16,000 kilometers of fiber.

The first leg, brought online in November, links supercomputing centers in Chicago and Pittsburgh and runs at 70 Gbps.

Smart assistant will cut driver distraction

December 8, 2003

A smart assistant is being developed to help drivers cope with the increasing number of electronic devices in cars. It will decide — based on road conditions, car performance, and other factors — when it is too dangerous for a driver to be disturbed and will divert phone calls to voicemail, hide arriving emails, and lock the controls of the satellite navigation system, radio, CD player, and other devices.

Humans and computers compete in virtual creature game

December 8, 2003

Sodarace, an online game that lets contestants build and race virtual beasts, is being used to pit humans against a variety of artificial-intelligence algorithms.

Each creature is constructed of “mass,” muscles,” “limbs” and “joints” that control the way it moves. A creature’s key parameters can driven by a computer program; AI programmers are being invited to take part.

A variety of programming approaches are being tested, including genetic… read more

Kurzweil lectures on accelerating change at MIT

December 5, 2003

Ray Kurzweil was an invited guest lecturer Wednesday Dec. 3 at MIT’s Engineering Systems Doctoral Seminar, speaking on “Insights for Complex Engineering Systems from Evolutionary Theory.”

The seminar, co-lead by Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division, brings together diverse areas of expertise in the emerging field of engineering systems.

Kurzweil presented a broad overview of current thinking on the exponential pace of technological change in semiconductor technology,… read more

Cal researchers advance goal of artificial muscles

December 5, 2003

University of California at Berkeley researchers have taken a significant step in the development of synthetic muscles for patients who experience significant muscle loss due to injury or to diseases such as muscular dystrophy.

The rise of the machines

December 5, 2003

She’s young, beautiful, and fluent in several languages. Sakura Sanae, one of the newest entrants to the Japanese diplomatic corps, and Tokyo’s goodwill ambassador to the ASEAN nations, is also entirely computer generated….

Robotics As Art

December 4, 2003

Robot creation can propel you into the world of kinetic and interactive art.

Robotic additions and creations can be simple control mechanisms or elaborate constructions. Parts and supplies can be obtained from objects which are no longer useful. Remote controls, old computer parts, erector sets, toys, etc., which you might have lying around in closets, garages, and basements, can become perfectly usable parts for a robotic work of art.… read more

Microbeams have big impact on cancer cells

December 4, 2003

Scientists microbeams have discovered that targeting just a few cells with a “microbeam,” which launches streams of helium ions a micron wide, can cause massive destruction to other diseased cells.

The findings could have important implications for improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy for cancer. It also means that even very low doses of radiation may be doing more damage to normal cells than scientists thought.

Nanotech R&D act becomes law

December 4, 2003

President Bush signed into law the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act on Wed. Dec. 3, with a $3.7 billion appropriation.

The bill authorizes the President to create a permanent National Nanotechnology Research Program (NNPR) to replace the expiring National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The new NNRP, according to the bill, is a “coordinated inter-agency program that will support long-term nanoscale research and development leading to potential breakthroughs in… read more

Biochip puts it all together

December 4, 2003

Researchers from Arizona State University have fabricated a lab-on-a-chip that can detect and analyze microorganisms and chemicals and is very cheap to produce.

The chip could eventually be used in portable devices that do genetic analysis, environmental testing, and biological warfare agent detection in the field.

What sets the chip apart from other prototype biochips is that it carries out all the work needed to prepare a sample… read more

Software paraphrases sentences

December 4, 2003

Researchers at Cornell University have combined on-line journalism and computational biology to make it possible to automatically paraphrase whole sentences. The method could eventually allow computers to more easily process natural language, produce paraphrases that could be used in machine translation, and help people who have trouble reading certain types of sentences.

The researchers’ system uses word-based clustering methods to identify sets of text that have a high degree… read more

Exploding black holes rain down on Earth

December 4, 2003

High-energy cosmic-ray particles from space may create black holes when they collide with molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, say physicists.

These black holes would be invisibly small (only 10 micrograms or so) and would be so unstable that they would explode in a burst of particles within around a billion-billion-billionth of a second.

If such tiny black holes exist, it would unveil hidden dimensions in our universe and… read more

Materials research courts biotechnology

December 3, 2003

Biomaterials presentations are peppering the weeklong series of research reports at the annual Materials Research Society meeting held in Boston. Since MRS is involved in virtually every area of modern industry and technology, its shift in emphasis from inorganic to organic and biological processes may suggest a trend for society as a whole.

Key developments:

  • MEMS will play a large role in implantable therapeutic devices as sensors
  • read more

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