science + technology news

Joy still urges relinquishment of risky tech development

April 9, 2001

PALO ALTO — In a reprise of his controversial Wired article last April, “Why the future doesn’t need us,” Sun Microsystems chief scientist Bill Joy spoke at a Wired-sponsored event at Stanford University last Thursday.

Joy said the article got little response from the high-tech world. “It came out at the peak of IPOs,” he said, “when they were more concerned with launching”… read more

Aging and the Insulin Pathway

April 8, 2001

New studies show that the insulin-signaling pathway that regulates aging in roundworms serves the same function in fruit flies and yeast.

By manipulating genes relating to insulin-like hormones, scientists were able to extend the lifespan of fruit flies by 85 percent and of yeast by three times.

“If we just could tap into the mammalian version of that system, it might be possible to retard or even reverse… read more

Nanodot Lasers

April 8, 2001

MIT chemist Moungi Bawendi and Victor Klimov of Los Alamos National Lab have developed a way to create quantum-dot lasers from nanometer-size semiconductor particles.

Quantum dots, so called because quantum effects tune the color of the glow to the size of the particle, could be a boon for optical networking by providing lasers and amplifiers that work in a wide range of frequencies.

Bawendi and Klimov have discovered… read more

Sun-Seeking Robot Bound for Arctic

April 5, 2001

A sun-seeking robot created at Carnegie Mellon University will be tested for two weeks starting July 10 on Devon Island above the Arctic Circle in Nunavut, Canada, “the closest thing we have to Mars on Earth.”

The experimental Hyperion robot prototype is part of a $1 million NASA project to develop a Mars robot that seeks sunlight that feeds a solar panel on its back.

Liver on a Chip

April 4, 2001

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created silicon chips that support fully functioning liver cells.

“We’re exploring a new generation of devices in which we can maintain cells by controlling the architecture, temperature and chemical environment, and in which we can use sensors located on the same chip to monitor the health of cells,” says Sangeeta N. Bhatia, a physician and an assistant… read more

Extreme Robotics

April 4, 2001

MIT Technology Review is running a series on iRobot, founded by three veterans of the MIT AI Lab: Helen Greiner, Colin Angle and Rod Brooks (who is also director of the AI Lab).

The company is branching out from military robots to consumer products, including the My Real Baby doll, a robotic toy Velociraptor and a Web-controlled robot called the iRobot.

“One iRobot team is building robots that… read more

Computational limits of spacetime

April 3, 2001

Forget Moore’s Law. Forget quantum computing. The real limits to computational growth may be the “foaminess” (noise) of spacetime itself at the level of 10-35 meters, says Jack Ng of the University of North Carolina, as reported in Physics News 532, March 28, 2001.

“The foaminess of spacetime leads to an uncertainty in timekeeping (the more accurate the clock, the shorter its lifetime), which in turn… read more

Memetic Scientific and Technical Encyclopedia

April 3, 2001

Homo Excelsior: The Omega Database is “the most comprehensive peer-reviewed Memetic Scientific and Technical Encyclopedia.”

It is “a central database of science and technology that is peer-reviewed and … is generally concerned with the memes related to nanotechnology, megascale engineering, cryopreservation, uploading and other associated sciences and technologies.”

Carbon nanotube integrated circuit developed

April 3, 2001

A carbon nanotube integrated circuit, with a thousand nanotubes acting like transistors, has been devised by IBM, as reported in Physics News.

Besides their small size, nanotubes are strong and can withstand high current densities and heat, allowing for high packing density.

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

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