science + technology news

A New Kind of Genomics, With an Eye on Ecosystems

October 21, 2003

Researchers are beginning to sequence “metagenomes,” the DNA of entire microbial ecosystems.

Some scientists think can will be used to find new enzymes, monitor the health of environments, predict environmental impacts, and find patterns in the bacterial population in humans that will predict when someone is about to get sick.

Regrow Your Own

October 21, 2003

Researchers have succeeded in making mouse stem cells mature again to resemble muscle, bone, or fat cells, similar to what happens with newt tissue.

The research could lead to humans regrowing cells in damaged organs.

Sexual Identity Wired by Genetics

October 21, 2003

Sexual identity is wired into the genes, which discounts the concept that homosexuality and transgender sexuality are a choice, University of California researchers reported.

Tiny tubes squeeze electricity from water

October 21, 2003

An entirely new way of generating electricity has been discovered.

How it works: you squeeze water through fine channels. The surface of the channel walls becomes charged, which builds up a charge on opposite ends of the channel, generating an electrical current when connected.

German chatty bot is ‘most human’

October 20, 2003

Jabberwock by Juergen Pirner was awarded first place for human-like communication in the Loebner Prize Contest 2003, held at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK on Saturday October 18.

Science Plans “Non-stick” Submarine

October 20, 2003

Nanotechnologists are developing what could be the ultimate non-stick surface. The material is covered with nano-scale needles that enable a liquid, for example, to slip straight off it. One application could be non-stick submarines, which would glide through the water with much less resistance and require less force and fuel.

Discovery May Spur Cheap Solar Power

October 20, 2003

A major European chipmaker says it had discovered new ways to produce solar cells that will generate electricity 20 times cheaper than today’s solar panels. Over a typical 20-year life span of a solar cell, one watt should cost as little as $0.20, compared with the current $4.

Messaging Worms Could Infect At Lightning Speed

October 20, 2003

A computer worm transmitted via instant messaging programs could infect half a million computers within 30 seconds, simulations have shown.

Self-assembled nanocells function as non-volatile memory

October 20, 2003

“Nanocells,” disordered assemblies of gold nanowires and conductive organic molecules, can function as non-volatile memory, Rice University chemists have found.

NanoCells offer the potential to reduce device size and fabrication costs by several orders of magnitude

The research appears in the Oct. 29 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. It marks the first time that a self-assembled ensemble of molecular electronic components has been used… read more

Candle in the Dark

October 20, 2003

Cable Science Network, or CSN, is in the offing, offering in-depth coverage of science issues.

Moms Battle Genetic Engineering

October 20, 2003

A group of New Zealand mothers led by a former pop star have launched a provocative billboard campaign to protest their government’s decision to allow agricultural genetic engineering.

The billboard ads feature a four-breasted woman attached to a milking machine.

Gene linked to poorer memory

October 20, 2003

People with one form of a serotonin receptor short-term memory. This discovery is a first step towards finding the genes for intelligence.

Digging for Nuggets of Wisdom

October 17, 2003

“Text mining” is a technique that academics have been experimenting with for years but for which tools have only recently become commercially available. The prospect of rapidly scanning through reams of documents is stirring interest among researchers and analysts faced with more material than they can handle.

Bush’s Advisers on Biotechnology Express Concern on Its Use

October 17, 2003

The President’s Council on Bioethics has issued an analysis of how biotechnology could lead toward unintended and destructive ends, called “Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Concerns include selecting the sex of children, prescribing mood-changing drugs (such as Ritalin for children), and extreme longevity (“The pursuit of an ageless body may prove finally to be a distraction and a deformation”).

Mission Possible: Asteroid Tugboat Backed for Trial Run

October 17, 2003

An expert team of astronauts and space scientists has blueprinted a safety strategy for Earth — an asteroid tugboat — and they propose a mission to demonstrate the concept by 2015.

Details are in the November 2003 issue of Scientific American.

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