science + technology news

How Does the Brain Work?

November 11, 2003

While lacking a coherent framework, scientists are making progress in mapping the correlations between brain activity and behavior.

New imaging tools reveal circuits and overall patterns of activity as people solve problems or reflect on their feelings. Genes expressed in mouse brain cells are being mapped so that researchers can begin to find out if neurons that look alike have different proteins and functions. A magnetic device can knock… read more

Plan for UN to run internet ‘will be shelved’

November 11, 2003

An attempt by developing countries to put management of the internet under United Nations auspices is likely to be shelved at next month’s world information summit in Geneva — but the issue is now firmly on the international agenda, summit sources say.

Defenders of the status quo say handing over power to governments could threaten the untrammelled flow of information and ideas that many see as the very essence… read more

Robots that rock

November 11, 2003

Four robots from fiction and the real world are being inducted into Carnegie Mellon University’s Robot Hall of Fame as the inaugural honorees: Mars Sojourner, GM’s Unimate, R2-D2, and HAL 9000.

The next batch of honorees will be announced in October 2004. But in the meantime, you can send in your suggestions.

Virtual TV studio gets real

November 11, 2003

“Origami,” a virtual studio that allows actors to interact with computer-generated characters and creatures in real time, has been developed by the BBC. It should lead to a new generation of programs and films made with advanced special effects at relatively low cost.

It overcomes the limitations of chromakey. The action takes place within a virtual landscape created inside a computer amd projected onto the walls and floor of… read more

Talk the talk

November 10, 2003

Australian researchers have converted a PDA into an InCA (Internet Conversational Agent), an assistant that recognizes natural language and responds.

Its text-to-speech software can also translate responses into other languages by accessing Internet translation services.

InCA’s face animates the movement of lips in sync with the audio as it “speaks” back to the user and uses facial expressions to convey emotions.

Make this nanotech/war book required reading in Congress

November 10, 2003

“Nanotechnology and Homeland Security” (by Mark Ratner and Dan Ratner, Prentice Hall, due out this month)focuses on defense applications of nanotech, such as sensors, smart materials, and ethods for thwarting or disabling biological or chemical releases. It also covers environmental, energy and social/ethical implications of technologies that could evolve from protective to intrusive.

Tangible Interfaces for Computers

November 10, 2003

SenseTable, by James Patten of MIT’s Tangible Media Group project, aims at conceiving better human-machine interfaces by using the concept of physical objects that the user can manipulate to represent abstract computer data and commands.

The device looks and works a lot like what was envisioned in Minority Report. It uses pressure to track blocks on a sensitive surface and feeds back to the user by superimposing graphical data.

Oldest Living Start-Up Tells All

November 10, 2003

RFco is one of several start-ups developing low-power chips that combine digital and analogy capabilities. The goal is to unify various data and voice technologies, including cell-phone transmission formats, wireless Internet access, and Bluetooth, into a single chip.

Europe Exceeds U.S. in Refining Grid Computing

November 10, 2003

Europe may have as much as an 18-month lead over the U.S. in deploying the advances in grid computing. It is preparing to start two major initiatives in early 2004.

Enabling Grids for E-science in Europe aims to build the largest international grid infrastructure to date, operating in more than 70 institutions throughout Europe, providing a 24-hour computing capacity comparable to 20,000 of today’s most powerful personal computers.… read more

Researchers create world’s fastest transistor

November 10, 2003

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created the world’s fastest transistor, with a frequency of 509 gigahertz.

It could find use in applications such as high-speed communications products, consumer electronics and electronic combat systems.

Unlike traditional transistors, which are built from silicon and germanium, the Illinois transistors are made from indium phosphide and indium gallium arsenide, which are faster and can support a much higher… read more

Library Wants to Put Chips in Books

November 7, 2003

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned about the San Francisco Public Library’s plans to track the 2 million books, CDs and audiovisual materials by inserting RFID chips.

The End of the Oil Industry

November 7, 2003

Advances in technology are allowing the developed world to diversify supplies of energy and reduce their demand for petroleum, thus loosening the grip of oil and the countries that produce it.

Electronic Memory Research that Dwarfs the Silicon Chip

November 7, 2003

Researchers have constructed an electronic memory circuit from disordered arrays of electronic clumps of gold atoms.

A Link To Longevity: Cholesterol-bearing Molecules

November 7, 2003

Centenarians tend to have larger than average cholesterol-carrying molecules, says a new study. It adds to evidence suggesting that the size of lipoproteins, both good and bad, may play a significant role in heart disease and diabetes and thus longevity. It also found that subjects with cardiovascular problems were less likely to have large lipoproteins.

Study Suggests Life Sprang from Clay

November 7, 2003

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers say materials in clay are key to some of the initial processes in forming life. A clay mixture called montmorillonite helps form little bags of fat and liquid and helps cells use RNA.

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