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Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose?

June 12, 2003

The “argument from design” for the existence of God has enjoyed a comeback recently in “intelligent design creationism.”

But adaptation, which has provided the basis of that argument, is not explained by God, but by natural selection, argues Michael Ruse in a new book, Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose?, reviewed by Mark Ridley in Nature, June 12, 2003 (Vol 423 No 6941 pp669-785).

Some scientists… read more

Scientists lose track of time

June 12, 2003

What time is it? No one knows for sure. In a controversy reminiscent of the Year 2000 bug, experts can’t agree about whether to continue the long-standing practice of inserting occasional “leap seconds” into coordinated universal time, Nature reports today.

Since 1972, 32 leap seconds have been added to universal time to keep it in synch with the rotation of the Earth as it slows down, which is needed… read more

Optical biopsies on horizon using noninvasive biomedical imaging

June 12, 2003

A new imaging technique that could lead to optical biopsies without removal of tissue is being reported by biophysical scientists at Cornell and Harvard universities.

The advance enables noninvasive microscopy scans through the surface of intact organs or body systems for diagnoses of cancers and neurodegenerative diseases, for instance.

The new imaging technique takes advantage of Cornell-patented fluorescence emission microscopy, which produces high-resolution, three-dimensional pictures of tissues with… read more

Intel takes notebook chips past 3GHz

June 12, 2003

Notebooks passed the 3GHz mark on Wednesday. The increase in speed was from a new 3.06GHz mobile Pentium 4 chip, introduced by Intel.

The new mobile Pentium 4s also include a faster 533MHz bus, boosting performance by speeding data to the processor.

U. T. Dallas Scientists Spin Carbon Nanotube Fibers with Record Strength and Toughness

June 12, 2003

Nanotechnology researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, have announced a breakthrough in spinning carbon nanotube composite fibers that are tougher than any reported polymer fiber made by man or nature.

The toughness, or capability to absorb energy, of the UTD fibers is more than four times that of spider silk and 17 times that of the Kevlar used in bullet-proof vests –… read more

Attack of the Two-Headed Scientists

June 12, 2003

One of the largest and most significant laboratory mergers in recent years is the newly created New Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now one of the largest research labs in the world, headed by Rodney Brooks.

The merger came about as MIT scientists realized that the distinction between computing science and AI had become blurred over the past few years.… read more

Intel puts Tri-Gate transistor on fast track

June 12, 2003

The Tri-Gate transistor, one of the tools that may let Intel continue to follow Moore’s Law in the second half of the decade, has been placed on the “pathfinder” development path at Intel, meaning it will get incorporated into chips by 2007.

Tri-Gate transistors avoid leakage (leads to poor battery life and excess internal heat) by increasing the surface area of the gate, which leads to a more stable… read more

Smart Airline Seat Detects Shifty Passengers

June 11, 2003

Intelligent airline seats could automatically alert busy cabin crew to nervous, shifty passengers, who might be terrorists or air-ragers. The seats will contain pressure sensors that will relay signals to a central computer to assess the seat occupant’s behavior, which can then be used to assess whether the passenger presents a risk.

Toxic sensor chip combines electronics with living cell

June 11, 2003

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have found a way to tap into the telltale electrical signals that mark cell death, opening the door to the creation of a “canary on a chip” that can be used to sound the alarm of a biochemical attack or test drug toxicity on human tissue.

The researchers used a microchip to electrically determine cell viability by detecting changes in the electrical resistance of… read more

Dolly lab to create ‘virgin birth’ embryos

June 11, 2003

The team that cloned Dolly the sheep has been granted the UK’s first stem cell research license allowing the creation of human embryos from unfertilised eggs.

The Translation Challenge

June 11, 2003

Researchers are making progress in software translation today using three basic approaches drawn from natural-language processing: lists of rules, example-based systems, and mathematical models. But accuracy rates are stilll only 70 and 80 percent.

Enough Already: Curbing Info Glut

June 11, 2003

New software developed by a team of university researchers may help soldiers and emergency workers avoid information overload and handle threats more efficiently.

CAST (Collaborative Agents for Simulating Teamwork) uses software agents to predict what kind of data people will need to handle a specific situation, then deliver that information on a need-to-know basis.

IBM, Infineon Make Memory Advances

June 11, 2003

IBM and Infineon Technologies have made a big leap forward in the development of a magnetic random access memory (MRAM) chip that could lead to “instant-on” computers that are smaller and more powerful.

MRAM uses magnetic memory to store bits of data, done by controlling the spin of electrons. It could lead to portable devices that store more data, access it faster, use less battery power, and consolidate the… read more

Intel ships billionth chip

June 10, 2003

Intel has shipped its 1 billionth computer chip since its first microprocessor for personal computers in 1978. Mercury Research calculates that the next billion X86 CPUs could come as early as 2007.

The original 16-bit 8086 chip contained only 29,000 transistors and ran at 5 megahertz. Today’s Pentium 4 processor contains 55 million transistors and runs more than 600 times as fast at 3.06 gigahertz.

A Passion to Build a Better Robot, One With Social Skills and a Smile

June 10, 2003

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York is exhibiting a “cyberfloral installation” by Dr. Cynthia L. Breazeal of MIT, which features robotic flowers that sway when a human hand is near and glow in beautiful bright colors.

“The installation,” said Dr. Breazeal, “communicates my future vision of robot design that is intellectually intriguing and remains true to its technological heritage, but is able to touch us emotionally in… read more

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