science + technology news

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.

DNA copied with convection

October 17, 2003

A new automated process speeds up DNA copying for genetic analysis and biotechnology.

Using convection, the circulation of hot liquids, it can drive a chain reaction that makes strands of DNA multiply exponentially fast. A prototype system generates DNA copies four times faster than standard techniques and could be miniaturized to just .1 millimeter, the researchers claim.

The convection method could drive pocket-sized devices for quick, on-the-spot DNA… read more

Simulated patient helps prepare military medical care teams for bio/chem warfare

October 17, 2003

Medical Learning Company (MLC) has announced it expects to receive $1.75 million from the Army’s Telemedicine Advanced Technology Research Center to further develop SynPatient online patient simulation training software.

The goal is to enhance the military’s ability to rapidly train and prepare medical care-team personnel for biological and chemical warfare.

Headed by CEO Ray Kurzweil, MLC is a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies Inc. and the… read more

The Future of Intelligent Technology and Its Impact on Disabilities

October 16, 2003

We will have pocket reading machines for the blind within a few years that read text ubiquitously — from signs, packages, menus, electronic displays, etc., says Ray Kurzweil.

“By 2010, these devices will be very tiny. You will be able to wear one on your lapel and scan in all directions. These devices probably will be used by sighted people as well, because they will allow us to get… read more

Relativity theory’s light-speed limit validated

October 16, 2003

Addressing a controversy first raised around 1910, three researchers have validated anew the special theory of relativity’s limitations on the speed of light.

In a paper published in the Oct. 16 issue of the research journal “Nature,” they reached their findings by applying information theory to experiments with lasers. They recorded experimental conditions in which the posted light speed limit appeared to be vastly exceeded — until they subtracted… read more

Nanotubes boost storage

October 16, 2003

Scientists have demonstrated that multiwalled carbon nanotube tips can be used to write more than 250 gigabits per square inch of data onto a polymer film.

The power efficiency of indent writing with MWCNT tips was found to be higher than that of conventional silicon tips owing to better heat transfer at the tip-polymer interface.

Lantz, M. et al. Carbon nanotube tips for thermomechanical data more

Design enables large neural nets

October 16, 2003

Researchers from Carlos III de Madrid University in Spain and MIT have devised a neural network architecture that uses a different mix of optics and electronics than previous schemes to accommodate large numbers of neurons.

The architecture leverages the computational strength of electronics and the fast communications abilities of light. It could be useful in systems that require optical input and neural net computation, like those used for robotic… read more

Mac Supercomputer: Fast, Cheap

October 15, 2003

The new “Big Mac” supercomputer at Virginia Tech could be the second most powerful supercomputer on the planet. The Big Mac’s theoretical peak is 17.6 teraflops, which would put it in second place behind Japan’s Earth Simulator.

The machine is the first supercomputer based on Macs; it is one of the few supercomputers built entirely from off-the-shelf components and cost only $5.2 million. Most of the top 10 supercomputers… read more

Data Faster Than Speeding Bullet

October 15, 2003

Two major scientific research centers, CERN and Caltech, said they have set a new world speed record by sending 1.1 terabytes of data across the Internet at 5.44 gigabits per second.

Computer researchers on the prowl for human ‘common sense’

October 15, 2003

Two Carnegie Mellon University researchers using the ESP Game Web site are among a growing number nationwide tapping into human brains for common-sense knowledge to improve AI algorithms.

The game pairs a player with an anonymous Internet partner who are both asked to type in words that describe a series of images. The players win points when they match words and this creates another label researchers can… read more

Human fertility experiment prompts wrath

October 15, 2003

US doctors have created the first pregnancies using a controversial technique related to cloning. The babies died before birth.

Other experts have condemned the procedure because the health risks are unknown.

The team fertilized eggs from two women in test tubes. They then sucked out the nucleus of one egg and injected it into the other, which they had stripped of its own nucleus. The idea is that… read more

Rob Cohen Puts Josh Lucas in Stealth Mode

October 15, 2003

Columbia Pictures’ big-budget action film Stealth tells the story of an artificial intelligence pilot who is brought aboard to learn combat skills from human pilots. When the A.I. pilot begins to have ideas of his own, complications ensue.

It is slotted for Memorial Day, 2005 release.

Turn That PC Into a Supercomputer

October 15, 2003

ClearSpeed Technologies has announced a new high-performance, low-power, floating-point parallel processor capable of performing 25 gigaflops/second.

According to the company, the chip has the potential to bring supercomputer performance to the desktop. An ordinary desktop PC outfitted with six PCI cards, each containing four of the chips, would perform at about 600 gigaflops (or more than half a teraflop).

At this level of performance, the PC… read more

Leading humanity forward

October 14, 2003

Project Cyborg 4.0 is Prof. Kevin Warwick’s plan to be the first human with a brain inplant.

“I can see a future when we do link human brains and machine brains together to create cyborgs, and this oldfashioned way of communicating by speech will be thrown out. We’ll communicate just by thinking at each other,” he says.

Egnineers grow tissues in 3-D using stem cells on polymer scaffold

October 14, 2003

MIT engineers report a new approach to creating three-dimensional samples of human tissue that could push researchers closer to their ultimate goal: tissues for therapeutic applications and replacement organs.

The team “seeded” human embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to differentiate into a variety of specialized cells, onto a biodegradable polymer scaffold. By treating the scaffold/stem cell structure with chemical cues, or growth factors, known to stimulate the… read more

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