science + technology news

What’s wrong with the electric grid?

October 10, 2003

Experts widely agree that failures of the power-transmission system such as the recent Northeast United States blackout are a nearly unavoidable product of a collision between the physics of the system and the economic rules that now regulate it.

To avoid future incidents, the nation must either physically transform the system to accommodate the new rules, or change the rules to better mesh with the power grid’s physical behavior.

Tantalising evidence hints Universe is finite

October 9, 2003

Scientists have announced hints that the Universe is actually relatively small — something like 70 billion light years across — with a hall-of-mirrors illusion tricking us into thinking that space stretches on forever.

The thinking is based on observations by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which measures temperature ripples in the cosmic microwave background.

Our Universe seems like an endlessly repeating set of dodecahedrons (12 identical pentagons)… read more

GM ‘could be another Thalidomide’

October 9, 2003

Plans for the future of GM crops in Britain suffered a massive blow as insurance giants issued dire warnings about the unknown dangers posed by the supercrops.

Insurance firms are refusing to offer cover to farmers who want to plant GM crops because they fear a public health disaster and huge compensation payouts.

AAA Battery Gets a Mini-Me

October 9, 2003

The smallest implantable battery in the world may soon be powering bionic neurons. The small size allows doctors to use minimally invasive techniques when implanting the bionic neurons, reducing surgical trauma and the risk of infection.

Recharging is done wirelessly by an external electrical field, so implants no longer have to be surgically removed and replaced.

The battery may power implantables for stroke victims and people suffering from… read more

Who’s Afraid of Nanotechnology

October 8, 2003

The ability to construct molecule-size objects holds both promise and peril. Some nanotech scientists and business people fear a backlash such as the one that has stalled acceptance of genetically modified foods.

Is Life the Key to New Tech?

October 8, 2003

DNA computing has the potential to perform trillions of calculations at once and the size and the ease of interfacing with living material may make them ideal for use in medicine. But bio-molecular computers must await a breakthrough in designer enzymes.

Smart Cards Track Commuters

October 8, 2003

Civil rights campaigners have expressed concerns about new smart travelcards that track a London commuter’s movements and store them in a database.

Tumor-Busting Viruses

October 8, 2003

“Smart” virotherapy — better ways of genetically engineering viruses that selectively infect and kill cells — may play an important role in the future of combating cancer.

Remember the Six Billion

October 8, 2003

Skeptic Michael Shermer evaluates five life-extension ideas.

Radio Tag Debut Set for This Week

October 8, 2003

The new Electronic Product Code (EPC) bar code, using RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, will allow retailers and suppliers to track product codes as well as serial numbers for each individual item. But critics say RFID tags would lead to massive privacy violations by retailers, governments and crooks.

Human gene on/off switches to be mapped

October 7, 2003

The Human Epigenome Project, the world’s first project to map key chemical changes that switch human genes on and off, has begun. It could provide a crucial link between human genetics and health.

Promise and Peril of the 21st Century

October 7, 2003

“Technology has always been a double-edged sword, empowering both our creative and our destructive natures,” says Ray Kurzweil. “It has brought us longer and healthier lives, freedom from physical and mental drudgery, and many new creative possibilities. Yet it has also introduced new and salient dangers….”

Study: Fat or thin–one gene does it?

October 7, 2003

A gene in different versions may determine whether people are predisposed to being obese or thin, say researchers at Icelandic biotechnology company deCODE genetics Inc.

The finding is the result of analysis of DNA from more than 1,000 Icelandic women.

deCODE news release

The Napster of Nano

October 7, 2003

Nanotech file sharing could bridge the “nano divide” by helping developing countries launch their own nanotech industries.

Shooting for Space

October 7, 2003

Cisco and its partners, including NASA, have launched a router into low Earth orbit as a test of extending the Internet into space.

Space-based routers could be used to tie the military’s myriad networks together and the government’s research networks together so that personnel on land, in the air or at sea can communicate directly.

Cisco also sees private-sector enterprise and consumer applications.

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