the digest

NASA JPL webcast timed for A.I. movie release

June 22, 2001

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists will discuss AI research in a live webcast on June 29 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

The webcast will focus on rover autonomy, machines with human vision capability, and AI software.

NASA scientists envision a future colony of robots exploring a planet’s surface. A whole fleet of ground rovers, aerovers with flying ability and burrowing, worm-like probes may make up a… read more

Scientists Take Step Toward Single-Molecule Switches

June 22, 2001
Single molecule in ON and OFF states

Computers of the future may have components that function based on the action of single molecules, according to a paper by researchers at Penn State and Rice University published in the June 22 edition of Science.

Conformational changes — which happen when molecules alter their arrangement by rotation of their atoms around a single bond, effectively changing shape by moving or turning — determine how and when… read more

Should nanotech research be halted?

June 22, 2001

Ethical questions need to be asked now before we enter the brave new nanoworld, says Bill Joy.

Nanotechnology and information technology developments raise ethical issues regarding protecting intellectual property, privacy, moral rights and responsibilities of machines; and blur the distinction between “real” and “virtual” reality, points out

Space Medicine Gets Smart

June 22, 2001

Smart medical devices that help astronauts handle emergencies such as electrical burns will become part of the International Space Station perhaps as early as next month.

Further down the road, astronauts in trouble may also rely on “virtual clinics” on earth for in-depth medical assistance, which could also be used to help people on the ground in isolated places with no doctor nearby.

If an astronaut were to… read more

Military Game Simulations Add Emotional Realism

June 21, 2001

The U.S. Army is adding emotional realism to its battlefield computer simulations, using sophisticated computer animation, voice synthesis, voice recognition, and surround theater sound in research at the University of Southern California, under a $45 million Army grant.

The exercise illustrates the latest challenge among researchers: to focus on the more unpredictable side of the human psyche, simulating emotions and the unexpected effects that panic, stress, anxiety and fear… read more

New biological weapons possible

June 20, 2001

Genetic research is opening the door for a new range of biological weapons, University of Bradford Professor Malcolm Dando plans to tell the Global Forum for Law Enforcement and National Security in Edinburgh Thursday.

Feds up nanotech budget for FY 2002

June 19, 2001

The U.S. federal government is requesting $518.9 million funding for nanotech in its FY 2002 budget, up 23% over FY 2001.

The funding is intended for eight federal departments and agencies, but most of it is earmarked for Department of Defense and university/DOD laboratory collaborative research programs in nano-electronics, optoelectronics, magnetics, nanostructured materials “by design,” and bio-nanosensor devices.

Other proposed research areas include spin electronics, nanocomponents,… read more

Positioning atoms with lasers

June 19, 2001

An atomic conveyor belt/catapult that uses lasers to position individual atoms has been developed, researchers report in the June 15 issue of Science.

The German researchers use laser beams to retard fast-moving caesium atoms, which they hold in a trap of light and magnetic fields. The team then pulls these “cold” atoms out of the trap one at a time using two laser beams. They can stop… read more

Tracing the synapses of spirituality

June 18, 2001

Religious experiences can be explained in terms of brain activity, scientists are discovering.

They can be caused by epileptic seizures, hallucinogenic drugs, magnetic fields, and decreased activity in the parietal lobe from deep meditation, inducing disorientation in three-dimensional space and loss of the boundary between the self and the rest of the world.

Immortal cells

June 18, 2001

Two mitochondria proteins, Bax and Bak, play of critical role in initiating apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrate that virtually all forms of cell death are eliminated in cells that lack Bak and Bax, allowing the cells to become immortal.

This has important implications for the development of new cancer treatments and provides new hope that cell death can… read more

Computers Here, There, Everywhere

June 15, 2001

Academic researchers are undertaking fundamental Internet design projects based on transparent software and pervasive computing.

These include MIT’s Oxygen, based on ubiquitous computing, and University of California at Berkeley’s Endeavor, based on the idea of creating ensembles of hardware and software networks, with a network that will include “Smart Dust” — tiny sensors that might form webs of sensors and actuators to help manage energy consumption or freeway traffic.… read more

‘Wavelength disk drive’ speeds distributed computing

June 12, 2001

The “wavelength disk drive” could make interactions between computers up to 20 times faster, expanding the scope of distributed computing.

Exchanged data is stored in wavelengths of light circling in a fiber-optic network. Computers on the network can perform calculations and “write” the data to an assigned wavelength. They then “read” other processors’ results from the light stream, repeating the process until the calculation is done.

Magnetic RAM To Preserve Data After Computer Shutdown

June 12, 2001

A half-metallic ferromagnetic material may eventually allow us to create magnetic random access memory (MRAM), allowing for non-volatile computer memory systems.

The secret lies in harnessing spin polarization in a magnetic tunnel junction, using chromium dioxide (CrO2). The technique enables the material to retain magnetic orientation and thus preserve data.

Head movements provide individual-recognition cues

June 12, 2001

We can recognize and identify the sex of individuals from how they move their heads and faces, according to University College London researchers.

Rigid head movements – nodding, shaking or tilting – are better than changes in expression at identifying individuals.

Click on image to see movie
© Harold Hill and Nikolaus F. Troje

The finding could improve face-recognition security and help to humanize… read more

Genetic mapping technique speeds search for genetic illness

June 11, 2001

A new genetic mapping technique could shorten from months to weeks the time needed to identify chromosomal “hot spots” associated with particular diseases, reports the June 8 Science magazine.

The algorithm swiftly finds quantitative trait loci (QTL) chromosomal regions that probably contain genes that contribute to a particular trait.

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