science + technology news

Massive clash of black holes raises astronomers’ hopes of witnessing gravitational waves

What do the rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 mean?
September 18, 2015

Artist’s conception of a converging supermassive black holes in the Virgo constellation (credit: P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Circling like prizefighters in a ring, a pair of supermassive black holes is heading toward an epic collision. One so powerful it would send a burst of gravitational waves surging through and distorting the very fabric of space-time.

Already, the intensity of the encounter is causing mysterious rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 — 3.5 billion light-years away in the Virgo constellation.

“This is the… read more

Can Neanderthals be brought back from the dead?

January 22, 2013

400px-George_Church_at_TED

In a SPIEGEL interview, synthetic biology expert and Harvard University professor of genetics George Church explains how DNA will become the building material of the future — one that can help create virus-resistant human beings and possibly bring back lost species like the Neanderthal.

In his new book, “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves,” which he has also… read more

‘Eternal 5D’ data storage could reliably record the history of humankind

Digital documents stored in nanostructured dots in fused quartz crystal for billions of years could survive the end of the human race
February 16, 2016

bible on disc

Scientists at the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the first digital data storage system capable of creating archives that can survive for billions of years.

Using nanostructured glass, the system has 360 TB per disc capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C, and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (or 13.8 billion years at 190°C ).

As a “highly stable and safe form… read more

You don’t ‘own’ your own genes

All human genes are patented many times over.
March 28, 2013

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Court-proposed molecular points of distinction that allow claims on isolated DNA sequences. On the basis of two molecular changes (small circles) to a single phosphate and one hydroxyl group, the Federal Circuit court suggested that a new DNA fragment is patentable subject matter. (Credit: Genome Medicine)

Humans no longer “own” their own genes.

The more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules have allowed companies to essentially claim the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

The research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered… read more

Is climate science ‘settled’?

"Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is 'settled' (or is a 'hoax') demeans and chills the scientific enterprise."
September 23, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The claim that “climate science is settled,” which runs through today’s popular and policy discussions, is misguided, says computational physicist Steven E. Koonin*, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, writing in The Wall Street Journal Friday.

“It has … distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment … and inhibited… read more

Revolutionary space engine turns an airplane into a spaceplane

July 1, 2013

skylon

A revolutionary engine that can turn an aircraft into an orbiting spaceplane has won fresh backing from the British Government.

The hybrid engine called Skylon (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) — is currently being developed by Reaction Engines, SEN reports.

Until now, spacecraft heading for orbit have had to be launched by conventional rockets because of the amount of fuel needed to be get them… read more

Bitcoin attracts major investors

May 24, 2013

bitcoin

Bitcoin is gaining traction outside its existing community of enthusiastic early adopters.

An estimated 1,100 people attended Bitcoin 2013, the first large conference dedicated to Bitcoin, MIT Technology Review reports. The conference also showed that Bitcoin has begun to attract the backing of conventional technology industry investors, who have sunk millions of dollars into a handful of Bitcoin startups.

In the Bitcoin system,… read more

New theory uncovers cancer’s deep evolutionary roots

Authors predict that if cancer cells are saturated with oxygen but deprived of sugar, it will slow them down or even even kill them
July 16, 2013

This typical four-week-old human embryo looks similar to fish embryos, with proto-gills and a tail.(credit: University of New South Wales)

A new way to look at cancer — by tracing its deep evolutionary roots to the dawn of multicellularity more than a billion years ago — has been proposed by Paul Davies of Arizona State University’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science in collaboration with Charles Lineweaver of the Australian National University.

If their theory is correct, it promises to transform the approach to… read more

Factory-grown meat is coming

February 29, 2012

Hamburger

Dr. Mark Post of Eindhoven University in the Netherlands hopes to produce meat in factoriesThe Economist reports.

He derives stem cells from cattle muscle,which are then multiplied a millionfold before they are put in Petri dishes and allowed to turn into muscle cells.

He plant to scale the process up by growing the cells on small spheres floating in tanks. Ultimately, he will use scaffolds made of… read more

Don’t fear the Cybermind

August 6, 2012

(credit: Christine Daniloff)

The line that separates my mind from the Internet is getting blurry, Harvard professor of psychology Daniel M. Wegner writes in the New York Times Sunday Review.

“This has been happening ever since I realized how often it feels as though I know something just because I can find it with Google. Technically, of course, I don’t know it. But when there’s a smartphone or… read more

Tesla plans self-driving ‘autopilot’ Model S feature via software update this summer

Car is "sophisticated computer on wheels," says Musk
March 19, 2015

Model S (credit: Tesla Motors)

A software update will give Tesla Model S cars the ability to start driving themselves in “autopilot” mode on “major roads” like highways this summer, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk announced today (March 19).

He also said Tesla had been testing its autopilot mode on a route from San Francisco to Seattle, largely unassisted, and that the cars will be able to park themselves in a private garage… read more

When will a computer pass the Turing Test?

An interview with Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
August 14, 2013

Schmidt

“Many people in AI believe that we’re close to [a computer passing the Turing Test] within the next five years,” said Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google, speaking at The Aspen Institute on July 16, 2013.

In a wide-ranging interview by writer/biographer Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, Schmidt covered topics ranging from future user interfaces (“the next UI is AI”) to phone-based medical… read more

Chinese astronauts may grow vegetables on the Moon

December 6, 2012

800px-Kundasang_vegetables

Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extraterrestrial bases in the future, according to Deng Yibing, deputy director of the Beijing-based Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, Xinhua News reports.

Yibing said the experiment focused on a dynamic balanced mechanism of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water between people and plants in a closed system.

According to Deng, a cabin of 300 cubic meters… read more

The aliens would win

Five tips about aliens from ET searcher Seth Shostak
June 7, 2012

prometheus

Alien invasion is alive and well in Hollywood this season, given Men in Black III, Battleship, and Prometheus, which opens June 8 in the U.S., IEEE Spectrum Tech Talk reports.

Cue Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI Institute, who offers five points about aliens that don’t cut it in Hollywood:

1. Your great-great-grandma was probably not from outer space.read more

New NASA data challenges global warming theory

July 29, 2011

Particles in upper atmosphere slow down global warming, says NASA (credit: NASA)

NASA satellite data show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than current computer models have predicted, according to a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing.

Data from NASA’s Terra satellite shows that when the climate warms, Earth’s atmosphere is apparently more efficient at releasing energy to space than models used to forecast climate change have been programmed to… read more

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