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Ant Supercolony Dominates Europe

July 25, 2002

A species of Argentine ant has developed the largest supercolony ever recorded, stretching 6,000 kilometers from northern Italy to Spain, with billions of related ants occupying millions of nests.

Scientists think high nest densities would have favored cooperative behaviour over aggression. Evolution would then have reinforced this superiority because nests without internal strife would have had time and resources to fight off their enemies.

Asteroids on collision course with Earth?

July 24, 2002
NASA hypothetical simulation

A two-kilometers-wide asteroid — large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth — could strike the planet on February 1, 2019, based on astronomers’ preliminary orbit calculations, BBC News reports. The uncertainty of the forecast is large, however — several tens of millions of kilometers, according to Dr. Donald Yeomans of NASA JPL.

Invisible comets made of an exotic material called “mirror matter” could also be on a collision… read more

Interview With a Humanoid

July 23, 2002

Five clone calves in Wisconsin have been born with 0.1 percent human DNA. They are expected to produce a human protein, C-1 Esterase Inhibitor, in their milk to treat humans suffering from angioedema.

Infigen, a biotech company in DeForest, Wisconsin, is cloning cows with human DNA to produce products such as human collagen, human fibrinogen (used to treat wounds), and human factor VIII, used for blood clotting.

The… read more

Shape Memory Alloy May Be Ready for Market

July 23, 2002

Interest is picking up in nitinol shape-memory devices for use in toys (dolls with nitinol facial muscles and mobile action figures), medical devices (stents in blood vessels and arteries to keep them from clogging), and other uses. The benefits: shrink components to reduce weight, cut materials costs and improve design flexibility.

Motivating the Masses, Wirelessly

July 22, 2002

The convergence of wireless communications technologies (such as wireless text messaging) and widely distributed networks is allowing social swarming on a scale that has never existed before.

In “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution,” due for release this fall, author Howard Rheingold envisions shifts similar to those that began to occur when people first settled into villages and formed nation-states. “We are on the verge of a major series… read more

Is Anti-Virus Software Obsolete?

July 22, 2002

Traditional desktop anti-virus software, based on the signature-based reactive approach, is no longer an adequate defense, say analysts. The new direction is “digital watchtowers”: scanning engines with artificial intelligence that look at patterns and unusual characteristics within e-mails before they come into a customer’s network.

Tweaking Single Gene Makes Mice Brainier

July 22, 2002

Scientists have succeeded in making mice cerebral cortex grow dramatically more convoluted. They developed a line of transgenic mice that carried a variant of a gene that makes a protein, beta-catenin, thought to play a role in regulating cell growth in the developing brain.

Second law of thermodynamics ‘broken’

July 22, 2002

The second law of thermodynamics has for the first time been shown not to hold for microscopic systems, which could place a fundamental limit on miniaturization.

“Their results are also in good agreement with predictions of the ‘fluctuation theorem,’ developed … to reconcile the second law with the behaviour of particles at microscopic scales.

“The results imply that the fluctuation theorem has important ramifications for nanotechnology and indeed… read more

A Flashy Web Communication Tool

July 21, 2002

The new Flash Communication Server MX allows Flash developers to create multimedia Web applications that let users talk and stream video, collaborate on documents in real time, chat, and send instant multimedia messages.

Laser delivers DNA

July 19, 2002

Lasers can open a temporary doorway into cells so that DNA can get inside, researchers at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany report. This technique might hasten gene therapy by making it easier to get new genes into living cells without harming them.

Team demos ‘first quantum crypto prototype machine’

July 19, 2002

The “first fully integrated quantum cryptography prototype machine” has exchanged encryption keys across a 67km fiber optic network.

The advance was achieved by a team from the University of Geneva and Swiss electronics company id Quantique. In contrast to methods based on codes, the keys formed by quantum cryptography can, in principle, be completely uncrackable because the legitimate receiver of a message can test whether it has been intercepted… read more

Multilingual Machines

July 19, 2002

A new language-translation system called EliMT from Meaningful Machines in New York City uses a statistical technique in an attempt to make machine translation more accurate.

EliMT looks for words with a tendency to cluster together in databases of translations and can refine itself in either a fully automated or a human-assisted manner as more data are entered.

Quantum entanglement stronger than suspected

July 18, 2002

Pairs of photons linked by entanglement can pass through gold sheets without the entanglement being destroyed, in an experiment at Leiden University. The finding means quantum linking of particles is far more robust than scientists thought and could help them develop new ways of making quantum computers.

Ebola virus could be synthesised

July 18, 2002

The technique used to create the first synthetic polio virus, revealed last week, could be also used to recreate Ebola or the 1918 flu strain that killed up to 40 million people, according to experts.

The real worry is that bioterrorists could use the method to recreate viruses such as Ebola and smallpox.

Genetic algorithm tunes up public speakers

July 18, 2002

A new voice processing system could help you “evolve” your voice so it sounds the way you want it to. An algorithm analyses the voice signal to determine which aspects of it need to be enhanced or suppressed, modifying pitch, volume and speed to produce the required effect.

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