science + technology news

Doctor’s Guide: It’s in the Eyes

April 3, 2001

Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic and elsewhere are operating with a new laser retinal-imaging device, Microvision’s Nomad, which “paints” images and data directly onto their eyes.

Information taken from X-rays, MRIs or CAT scans can be displayed as high-contrast, high-resolution, full-color images superimposed directly over the target area on the patient’s body to help guide the surgeon’s hands through the procedure.

Faster ‘Net growth rate raises fears about routers

April 2, 2001

Network engineers are concerned that the Internet is growing — in size and complexity — at a faster rate than today’s routers (the traffic-cop devices that route Internet data) can handle.

Frequent updates are causing instability in the Internet’s backbone routing infrastructure, which could face a router processing-power crunch in as soon as 18 months.

Note: you can track global Internet performance at Internet Traffic Report.

New visual-processing model to be used in bionic eye

April 2, 2001

University of California, Berkeley neurobiologists have discovered that the eye sends sketchy representations (edges, shadows, bright areas, movement, etc.) of visual information to the brain, contradicting the consensus view that images from the retina are transmitted intact to the brain.

In a paper in Nature March 29, the UC Berkeley researchers provide evidence of 12 neural channels, corresponding to specific dentrite layers in the retina.… read more

Think like a bee

April 2, 2001

Are silicon circuits that mimic the nervous systems of insects and other animals the future of computing?

Nature considers the merits of neuromorphic engineering.

RNA on a Chip

April 2, 2001

A research team at Yale University has produced a prototype for an RNA-based microarray that promises to put a powerful diagnostic lab on a dime-sized chip.

The invention opens the way for future RNA chips capable of revealing the molecular composition of drugs, toxins metabolites, proteins and nucleic acids and even regulate gene expression.

NASA gets parallel-processing supercomputer

March 30, 2001

NASA Langley Research Center has received the first HAL (Hyper Algorithmic Logic)-15 desktop supercomputer from Star Bridge Systems.

HAL-15 operates 2,000 times faster than a Pentium 800. It replaces traditional central processing units with Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), which can reconfigure themselves thousands of times a second, enabling massively parallel processing applications. NASA uses include pattern recognition and atmospheric science analysis.

News tip: Anthony Zidek

House hearings turn skeptical eye on cloning

March 29, 2001

Republican Rep. Brian Kerns of Indiana introduced HR 1260, the “Ban on Human Cloning Act,” to ban human cloning in the United States at a congressional hearing today.

“Even if cloning begins with a benign purpose, it could lead to scientific categories of superior and inferior people,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R., Florida.

Brigitte Boisselier, director of Clonaid — an arm of the Raelian Movement, which believes life… read more

‘Crystal Ball’ Volumetric 3-D Display Announced

March 28, 2001

Actuality Systems announced it has created a prototype of a Volumetric 3-D Display. The display acts as a “crystal ball” for the computer — it accepts 3-D data from standard sources and converts it into volume-filling imagery that can be seen from any angle without goggles.

Uses include 3-D display of molecules for design of new pharmaceuticals.

Fiber Crosses the 10-Trillion-Bit Barrier

March 28, 2001

French (Alcatel) and Japanese (NEC) engineers have transmitted more than 10 trillion bits per second through single optical fibers, setting a new record.

Currently, the fastest commercial fiber-optics systems can transmit up to 1.6 trillion bits per fiber.

Of Nanotubes and Buckyballs: Atomic-Scale Building Blocks

March 27, 2001

An IBM scientist described a method of shaping nanotubes to form semiconductors at a recent meeting of the American Physical Society in Seattle. The discovery could lead to computer miniaturization breakthroughs.

NEC scientists also described research in creating “nanohorns,” using carbon molecules shaped like megaphones. These could be used for storage of hydrogen fuel and light emitters for flat panel displays.

For good or ill, rapid change is on the way

March 27, 2001

We’re seeing the pace of change accelerate, exemplified by imminent human cloning, DNA engineering, and increased computer intelligence, as noted by Ray Kurzweil in Talk magazine.

Human Markup Language

March 27, 2001

A Human Markup Language discussion group has been formed to help define XML standards for gestures, thoughts, emotions, and attitudes. There’s an initial proposal.

Computing, One Atom at a Time

March 27, 2001

Scientists are Los Alamos National Laboratory are pushing the state of the art in quantum computing. Currently, they’ve achieved calculations involving seven atoms. This year they are shooting for 10 atoms, allowing for 1024 calculations at the same time.

Robot to counsel families

March 26, 2001

NEC’s new talking PaPeRo (Partner-type Personal Robot) is designed to counsel families.

It has two digital cameras, four microphones, five sensors and a motor that lets it move. It can utter 3,000 phrases, recognizes 650 expressions and responds depending on the speaker.

All Science Is Computer Science

March 24, 2001

Research in physics, biology and other fields of science are becoming increasingly dependent on complex simulations using supercomputers.

Celera’s computerized genomic map required analyzing some 80 trillion bytes of data. Other complex computational modeling projects include the rise and fall of native cultures, subnuclear particles and the Big Bang.

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