science + technology news

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

UN adopts Net ‘constitution’

December 16, 2003

Some 175 countries have endorsed the first “constitution” for the information age at a meeting of the International Telecommunication Union.

The documents, although not legally binding, propose to ensure that more than half of the world has access to the web, telephones or some other form of electronic media by 2015.

Broadband-deprived Cerritos turns to WiFi

December 16, 2003

The largest WiFi wireless networking deployment in the nation is planned for the entire city of Cerritos, California, providing broadband Interent access for 51,000 residents in the 8.6-square-mile area.

DSL and cable broadband access to the Internet is currently not available.

Nanobots, Real or Imagined

December 15, 2003

Foresight Chairman Dr. K. Eric Drexler submitted a letter to the New York Times editor protesting their framing of the Drexler-Smalley debate.

“The Times elected to edit the letter (and apparently omit Mike Treder’s separate letter), discarding a key quote from the article, and modifying the last sentence,” says Drexler.

The letter, to be published tomorrow (Dec. 16, 2003) in The New York Times, reads (omitted… read more

Digital, P.I.

December 15, 2003

The new “digital detective” firms are developing technologies that can monitor everything from deciphering buying trends in retail outlets to identifying dangerous chemicals.

The companies include Imagen, which makes software that recognizes patterns and identifies faces or scans circuit boards for flaws; Alien, which makes RFID chips that can be embedded in thin plastic sheets that can be attached to almost any type of product to track it on… read more

Scientists say poles might flip

December 15, 2003

The Earth’s protective magnetic field has fallen about 10 percent since 1845 and if that continues, the field could flip.

These flips happen every 200,000 years, on average, scientists say. The last one was 780,000 years ago.

Whether the field flips or merely continues to weaken, more harmful particles would flow in from the sun, resulting in an estimated extra 100,000 cancer cases a year; and solar particles… read more

‘AI Bush’ chatbot uses advanced natural-language programming

December 14, 2003

AI Bush, “an interactive Robot President,” is an experimental natural-language program and game from EllaZ Systems.

Announced today, it is based on the program “Ella,” which won the worldwide Loebner Prize Contest in 2002 as the “most human computer.”

AI Bush games include the strategy game “Reelect Bush?” You are a close advisor, helping him make decisions. The President’s expressions, voice clips, and tracking… read more

Comparing Genomes Shows Split Between Chimps and People

December 14, 2003

By comparing the human genome with that of chimpanzees, people’s closest living relative, scientists have identified a partial list of the genes that make people human.

Because the sequence of DNA units in the two genomes is 98.8 percent identical, just a handful of genes might define the essence of humanity.

Prominent sets of human genes show signs of accelerated evolution, under strong recent pressure of natural selection.… read more

EPA board examines environmental impacts of nanotech

December 14, 2003

Technologically intensive cleanup using nanotech could become a much cleaner and cheaper method of environmental remediation, said Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) Director of Research Chris Phoenix in testimony on Dec. 11 before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, in a session convened to assess potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology.

However, according to the CRN report, “the ability to build small-format products intended… read more

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