science + technology news

Humanity? Maybe It’s in the Wiring

December 10, 2003

The conscience or sense of free will may be located in spindle cells in the frontoinsular cortex of the brain, according to California Institute of Technology neuroscientist Dr. John M. Allman.

This is a region closely connected to the insula and part of the same elaborate circuitry in which emotions are generated and experienced.

‘Nanofingers’ sensors developed

December 9, 2003

Future sensors may take the form of microscopic finger-like structures developed at Ohio State University. The “nanofingers” are carved onto the surface of inexpensive ceramic material and consist of a single crystal of titanium oxide.

The 50-nanometers-wide nanofingers provide a large surface area, making them good for capturing chemicals from the air, gathering light for electricity-generating solar cells, or for photocatalysis, in which light activates chemical reactions that clean… read more

Ironing Out Blood Impurities

December 9, 2003

Magnetized nanoparticles may one day be the treatment of choice for people needing to detox.

The 100 to 5,000 nanometers nanoparticles, designed at the Argonne National Laboratory, have receptors designed to identify, and then latch onto, target molecules. The nanoparticles are injected into the bloodstream, where they circulate through the body, picking up their target toxins as they go.

A magnet housed in a handheld unit and a… read more

A Step Towards Reality for VHF Internet

December 9, 2003

BushLAN, which uses a 7MHz-wide VHF channel, will support symmetrical data rates of around 250Kbps at distances of up to 40 kilometers. Over shorter distances, megabit speeds are feasible.

Note: one statement in the article is erroneous: “VHF–long known and exploited by ham radio, for example, to make international contact–is its ability to reach long distances, both because the signals follow the curvature of the atmosphere, and because they… read more

Researchers create nanotube fibers

December 9, 2003

Researchers at Rice University have discovered how to create continuous fibers from single-walled carbon nanotubes.

Scientists estimate nanotubes are about 100 times stronger than steel at one-sixth the weight. By comparison, Kevlar — the fiber used in bulletproof body armor — is about five times stronger than an equal weight of steel.

By dissolving nanotubes in strong sulfuric acid, a team of chemists and chemical engineers was able… read more

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.

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