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Internet-everywhere access by satellite

June 7, 2001

The Internet can now be accessed from every part of the globe, says Iridium.

Iridium uses a constellation of 66 low-earth orbiting satellites operated by Boeing to deliver communications services anywhere on the globe at 10 kilobytes per second — very slow but accessible on oceans, polar regions and mountaintops.

Bill Joy promos Sun’s new P2P scheme

June 7, 2001

Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems’ co-founder and chief scientist, pitched Sun’s new JXTA peer-to-peer networking “core architecture” at the JavaOne conference.

A new JXTA app called the PeerSwitch “turns clients into routers” — people running this program can give others access to content they’ve downloaded from the Web.

Thanks to JXTA, the Sun execs said, we’ll soon be seeing hordes of peer-to-peer Java programs available on the Web.

Thinking ‘drains the brain’

June 5, 2001

Concentration drains glucose from a key part of the brain, based on University of Illinois research on rats. The effect was more dramatic in older rats, whose brains also took longer to recover.

Researchers said the findings may have implications for the way schools schedule classes and meals.

AI game programming book articles solicited

June 1, 2001

Charles River Media is launching the “AI Game Programming Wisdom” book series. The book publisher of Game Programming Gems 1 & 2 is soliciting articles for the first book in the series, covering topics such as designing agent personalities, expert systems, genetic algorithms, and fuzzy state machines. Article proposals are due June 15.

Robots Square Off for Firefighting Title

May 31, 2001

An annual robot firefighting competition has led to big improvements in speed and smarts in fighting house fires at the recently held annual Trinity College event in Hartford, Connecticut.

It took robots about five minutes to find a fire in the first year of the contest. In this year’s event, some of the robots did the job within 10 seconds under far more complicated conditions.

Tycoon wants to launch private space station

May 31, 2001

A Las Vegas hotel tycoon wants to launch his own space station and is seeking FAA approval.

Robert Bigelow said he anticipates that his Bigelow Aerospace division will be able to launch a full-size space station module into orbit within 30 months.

Bigelow said the private space station would be a destination for space tourists and could be used by drug firms and other manufacturers who benefit from… read more

Neural networks diagnose cancer

May 31, 2001

Artificial neural networks have succeeded in diagnosing cancers based on gene expression signatures for the first time, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in the June issue of Nature Medicine.

Using data from gene chips (wafers filled with DNA that are analyzed to identify which genes are expressed, or turned on), the researchers fed the neural network software 6,000 genes containing 88 types of… read more

Ray Kurzweil: Don’t Fear the Nanofuture

May 31, 2001

Ray Kurzweil talks about virtual reality, nanobots, and Bill Joy’s view of the future.

How the brain ‘sees’

May 30, 2001

Neurons in the human visual cortex can detect patterns that are too fine to be consciously perceived, based on research by Sheng He, assistant professor of psychology, University of Minnesota.

Inability to see the too-fine lines is due to a blurring that occurs after the visual cortex receives input.

AI Software to Command NASA Mission

May 30, 2001

AI software will make real-time decisions on a NASA satellite mission in 2002, NASA JPL announced today.

NASA’s Continuous Activity Scheduling, Planning Execution and Replanning (CASPER) software will guide three identical miniature satellites, which will be launched from the Space Shuttle and fly in formation as part of the Three Corner Sat mission.

CASPAR will make decisions based on the images it acquires and… read more

Tiny ‘big bang’ performs quantum computations

May 29, 2001

A fractal interference pattern emerging from quantum waves (a “tiny big bang”) can perform useful calculations, says University of Arkansas physics professor William Harter, who predicted bucky balls in 1986.

“If you pump the electron, say by hitting it with a laser, you can force it to simultaneously occupy more and more of these ascending energy states,” says Harter. If all the stored energy is released in a “pop,”… read more

High-Temperature Superconductors Find a Variety of Uses

May 29, 2001

High-temperature superconductors could allow utilities to triple power capacity without disruptive digging and enable more efficient electric motors and other electronic devices.

Cooled by liquid nitrogen, superconductors are already being used to improve signal reception in cell phone towers and for sensitive magnetic probes in scientific equipment.

Smart dust may help save energy

May 29, 2001

Sand-grain-sized sensors that can measure ambient light and temperature, linked to a wireless network, could help conserve energy, say researchers at UC Berkeley.

Each room in an office building might have hundreds or thousands of these “motes,” which would tie into a central computer that regulates energy usage by turning off lights and air conditioning/heating in empty rooms.

I.B.M. Meets With 52,600, Virtually

May 28, 2001

I.B.M. held a week-long Internet-based brainstorming session called WorldJam last week, with nearly 52,600 employees participating via moderated chat, electronic bulletin boards and online polls.

A major goal: “Study its potential as a social forum for helping clever ideas that people do not know enough about to spread horizontally across I.B.M.,” said an I.B.M. executive.

I.B.M. developed logic games called “thinklets” to prod the imagination, a stick figure… read more

Smart bacteria

May 28, 2001

Genetically engineered bacteria that function like microchip components are being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Researchers modified Pseudomonas putida cells to produce AND and OR gates. For the AND gate, they used chemical “inducers” as inputs. One causes a gene to make a protein that the second input inducer must have to express the output enzyme.

In theory, a single cell could do massively parallel computations.

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