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To Err Is Human

July 17, 2002

The recent midair collision in Germany raises questions on the reliability of machine vs. human intelligence.

Ordered to climb higher by the electronic voice of the cockpit’s automatic collision detector, the pilot obeyed the befuddled ground controller instead. The airliner dove head-on into a DHL cargo jet — a tragedy that might have been averted if people put more faith in machines.

Blinded by Science

July 17, 2002

“Science fact is rapidly outstripping science fiction,” said Neil Gershenfeld, head of the new Center for Bits and Atoms at M.I.T.’s Media Laboratory.Examples include:

* A radio-signal message “teleported” in a laser beam

* Genetically altered goats whose milk contains a gene from the golden-orb weaving spider

* “Tooth phone”

* Using principles of insect locomotion and the suction qualities of geckos’ toes to develop lifelike… read more

It Slices! It Dices! Nanotube Struts Its Stuff

July 16, 2002

Nanotubes can be processed to acquire remarkable properties: fibers thinner than a human hair that can be woven as a cloth or into a 100-times stronger muscle, molecular-scale electronic circuits, low-cost TV displays, X-ray sources, heat sinks, and microscopic gears.

They’ve Seen the Future and Intend to Live It

July 16, 2002

The April

Human brain ‘paid off’ by long life

July 16, 2002

A theory based on an economic model has been applied to human evolution to explain long life spans. According to the model, the brain requires such an enormous investment of energy during childhood that human ancestors must have evolved long life spans to make that initial investment worthwhile.

Scientists build polio virus from scratch

July 16, 2002

Scientists have built the virus that causes polio from scratch in the lab, using only genetic sequence information from public databases and readily available technology. The finding raises the possibility that bioterrorists could use a similar approach to create devasting diseases without having to gain access to protected viral stocks.

A War of Robots

July 11, 2002

Since the United States military campaign began in Afghanistan, the unmanned spy plane has gone from a bit player to a starring role in Pentagon planning. Rather than the handful of “autonomous vehicles,” or A.V.’s, that snooped on Al Qaeda hideouts, commanders are envisioning wars involving vast robotic fleets on the ground, in the air and on the seas — swarms of drones that will not just find their foes,… read more

The Ultimate Running Machine

July 11, 2002

Inside a Soviet-style training camp, corporate scientists are reengineering neuro-mechanics, blood chemistry, and brain waves. Welcome to the Oregon Project, where Nike is rebuilding the US marathon team one high tech step at a time.

The Bear’s Lair: Exponential or asymptotic?

July 9, 2002

Do we live in an economy whose growth is primarily exponential, or primarily asymptotic (approaches a limit)?

“The transition from exponential to asymptotic growth occurs when market saturation comes into play as a constraint on growth,” says UPI Business and Economics Editor Martin Hutchinson. “The United States is today primarily an asymptotically growing economy, and … investors should buy stocks only when they can obtain a high and secure… read more

Earth ‘will expire by 2050′

July 9, 2002

The Earth’s population will be forced to colonize two planets within 50 years if natural resources continue to be exploited at the current rate, according to a study by the World Wildlife Fund.

Supercomputing: Suddenly Sexy

July 9, 2002

Supercomputing is beating Moore’s Law, with power for the same price doubling every 15 months.

NEC’s new Earth Simulator, rated at 35 teraflops is the world’s fastest and will ultimately act as Japan’s early warning of typhoons. But IBM’s 200 teraflops Blue Gene/L will soon top the list.

The next challenge for the supercomputing community is a petaflops machine, capable of a quadrillion floating-point operations per… read more

“Random walkers” may speed peer-to-peer networks

July 8, 2002

Peer-to-peer computing could reach new levels of power, stability, and scalability by having a few messages “walk” randomly between machines rather than flooding across the whole system, according to a research team from Princeton University, the University of California at Berkley, AT&T and Cisco.

Light turns into glowing liquid

July 8, 2002

“Liquid light” created by concentrating a laser beam into a tight column in nonlinear materials, would be an ideal medium for an optical computer, researchers believe.

New spin on transistors

July 5, 2002

A new “spintronic” atom-based transistor uses a new principle for controlling and switching electrical current based on electron spin.Developed at the Institute for Microstructural Science in Ottawa, the device uses a magnetic field to tune a quantum dot so that the spins of electrons hopping onto or off it must be aligned up or down. This means information can be stored, read out and erased by manipulating the spins of… read more

Document Reading Made Easy

July 5, 2002

New AI software might help journalists sort through reams of government documents in minutes to detect government corruption.

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