Arguing A.I.

February 6, 2002

Are intelligent machines transforming life as we know it? Or is A.I. yet another overhyped, self-serving fantasy by deluded scientists and technocrats talking mostly to one another, foisting their ill-conceived, poorly-engineered creations on an unsuspecting public?
Arguing A.I.: The Battle for Twenty-first Century Science by Sam Williams (published by atRandom.com) traces the history of A.I. and talks to several of the principals guiding the A.I. debate today, like Ray Kurzweil,… read more

Cloning, germ warfare and GM crops

February 6, 2002

The biotech industry is under siege. It is faced with campaigns against cloning and GM crops — while trying to tackle the potential disaster of germ warfare. Undaunted, the European Commission, which wants to make Europe a front-runner in this fast-moving sector, has just released a policy paper, Life Sciences and Biotechnology – A Strategy for Europe. The goal is an all-encompassing biotechnology framework, a hugely ambitious project that will… read more

Nanothermometer takes molecular temperatures

February 7, 2002

he world’s smallest thermometer consisting of a single carbon nanotube filled with liquid gallium has been created by researchers in Japan. The instrument is so sensitive that it can measure the temperature change that occur when small groups of molecules react with each other.The nanothermometer is 10 micrometers long and has a diameter of only 75 nanometers. It length is about one tenth the width of a human hair.… read more

Tracing the Neural Circuitry of ‘Second Sight’

February 7, 2002

Researchers have traced the light sensing circuitry for a type of “second sight” that is distinct from the conventional visual system and seems to interact directly with the body’s internal clock. The researchers speculate that subtle genetic malfunctions of this machinery might underlie some sleep disorders.In an article published in the February 8, 2002, Science, a research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator King-Wai Yau described the circuitry,… read more

Countering the Council of Clones

February 8, 2002

Extropy Institute has issued a statement that it agrees with prominent bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan about the “disturbing composition” of the recently formed President’s Council on Bioethics. In an opinion piece on the MSNBC site, Caplan characterized the new body as a “Council of Clones” that will provide president Bush “the advice he wants to hear.”
“Marching in lock step with Kass, his cognitive clones… read more

Teleporting larger objects becomes real possibility

February 11, 2002

The dream of teleporting atoms and molecules — and maybe even larger objects — has become a real possibility for the first time. The advance is thanks to physicists who have suggested a method that in theory could be used to “entangle” absolutely any kind of particle.
Quantum entanglement is the bizarre property that allows two particles to behave as one, no matter how far apart they are. Until now,… read more

Scientists develop protein nanoarrays for biological detection

February 11, 2002

Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new detection technology on the nanometer scale that could lead to the next generation of proteomic arrays and new methods for diagnosing infectious diseases and biological weapons.
The researchers utilize a process invented at Northwestern’s Institute for Nanotechnology called Dip-Pen Nanolithography to make arrays of proteins with features more than 1,000 times smaller than those used in conventional arrays. This leads to nanoarrays… read more

Computerized moths diversify to survive

February 11, 2002

Real birds pecking virtual moths have shown how camouflage probably evolves. The computerized prey adapted to blend into their background, and developed a wide range of different markings.
University of Nebraska biologists made virtual moths. A set of computer instructions representing an electronic genome determined their wing patterns. The researchers trained captive blue jays to hunt the moths. Pecking at an on-screen moth earned a jay a food pellet. After… read more

Imaging and astronomy share new wave

February 11, 2002

The next big wave in imaging technology is terahertz radiation, now probing everything from cells to stars. Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule scientists have used terahertz radiation to spot particular sequences of DNA in a sample. This technique is quicker and more accurate than current fluorescent-labelling methods.

To detect changes in the tiny amounts of material that are typically involved in gene-chip analysis, the researchers built guide channels, just a few… read more

Biotech firms target artificial blood

February 11, 2002

Scientists may be close to an elusive goal of creating artificial blood, a breakthrough that could ease shortages and save countless lives.

Biopure Corp. in Cambridge, Mass., has produced artificial hemoglobin from the red blood cells of cows. It has been cleared for use in the Republic of South Africa and is awaiting Food and Drug Administration review of its phase III clinical trials in the United States. U.S.… read more

Cloned Mice Die Young, Japanese Team Finds

February 11, 2002

Japanese researchers who cloned a dozen mice reported on Sunday that virtually all of the animals died early, a report that casts more doubts on the safety of cloning.
The mice had abnormal livers, lungs and perhaps some immune system anomalies, the team reported.

They also noted that clones may be born
“old.” Some clones have shortened telomeres, which are a kind of cap on the chromosome, the structures… read more

Mouse cell transplants for Huntington’s patients

February 12, 2002

Transplants of mouse stem cells into the brains of patients with Huntington’s Chorea could help slow the associated dementia and loss of coordination, says UK company ReNeuron.
Huntington’s is caused by an inherited genetic mutation, which leads to a destruction of cells in a part of the brain called the striatum. ReNeuron has transplanted cells from its mouse neural stem cell line into monkeys designed to act as models of… read more

Men redundant? Now we don’t need women either

February 12, 2002

Doctors are developing artificial wombs in which embryos can grow outside a woman’s body. The work has been hailed as a breakthrough in treating the childless. The research is headed by Dr. Hung-Ching Liu of Cornell University’s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. Liu’s work involves removing cells from the endometrium, the lining of the womb.

After this Liu and her colleagues grew layers of these cells on scaffolds… read more

Games to take on a life of their own

February 12, 2002

Video games of the future could have characters with almost human intelligence, capable of understanding and acting on your commands.
Scientists from King’s College in London have created a technology called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) which emulates the functions of the brain’s frontal lobes, where humans process language and emotion.

At the moment, the LAD prototype has the learning ability of an 18-month old child. Professor John Taylor… read more

Saving Skin

February 12, 2002

Bioengineered skin — grown in the lab using small samples of human cells — offers an alternative to animal testing.
Proponents argue that tissue models provide both ethical and scientific advantages. Scientists don’t have to extrapolate human responses from animal-derived data and test results are easier to reproduce from lab to lab.

While limited, bio-engineered models are finding a niche as tools to screen out drugs likely to fail… read more

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