science + technology news

Why ET’s genetic code could be just like ours

April 6, 2009

Ten of life’s 20 amino acids must be common throughout the cosmos, based on a thermodynamic analysis of the likelihood of them forming.

This turns out to match the observed abundances in meteorites and in early Earth simulations.

The combined actions of thermodynamics and the subsequent natural selection suggest that that the genetic code we observe on the Earth today may have significant features in common with life… read more

Why Earth remains capable of supporting life despite CO2 greenhouse gas emissions

It's all in the rocks
March 23, 2014


“Fresh” rock — nature’s atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator — explains why the Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars. So say researchers from USC and Nanjing University in China.

Scientists have long known that “fresh” rock pushed to the surface via mountain formation effectively acts as a kind of sponge, soaking up the greenhouse gas CO2.

Left unchecked, however, that process would… read more

Why Don’t We Invent It Tomorrow?

March 14, 2008

In his new book “Physics of the Impossible,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and a cofounder of string field theory, delves deeply into cutting-edge science to tell us what breakthrough innovations we can expect in our own lifetimes — and which our grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be dreaming about.

Why don’t we have fusion yet?

October 2, 2013


The dream of igniting a self-sustained fusion reaction with high yields of energy, a feat likened to creating a miniature star on Earth, is getting closer to becoming reality, according the authors of a new review article in the journal Physics of Plasmas.

Researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) report that while there is at least one significant obstacle to overcome before achieving the highly stable precisely… read more

Why doesn’t my phone understand me yet?

January 13, 2016

context lacking ft

Because machines can’t develop a shared understanding of the people, place and situation — often including a long social history, the key to human communication) — say University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow Arjen Stolk and his Dutch colleagues.

In other words, machines don’t consider the context of a conversation the way people do.

The word “bank,” for example, would be interpreted one way if… read more

Why do the majority of people never get cancer?

February 4, 2009

George Klein, Professor Emeritus at the Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has presented evidence of several biological cancer resistance mechanisms that some individuals have that seem to prevent them from developing cancer.

Why Diving Marine Mammals Resist Brain Damage From Low Oxygen

December 20, 2007

UCSC researchers have investigated how certain animals are protected from hypoxia by elevated levels of globins–oxygen-carrying proteins–in their brains.

The results suggest that some species have evolved the capacity to protect their brains from hypoxia. It’s not yet clear whether animals of a particular species are born with high amounts of brain globins, or whether their behavior and environment stimulate the production of globins. But in either case, the… read more

Why disorder can improve the performance of plastic solar cells

August 6, 2013

These X-ray images reveal the microscopic structure of two semiconducting plastic polymers. The bottom image, with several big crystals stacked in a row, is from a highly ordered polymer sample. The top image shows a disordered polymer with numerous tiny crystals that are barely discernible. (Credit: Jonathan Rivnay,Stanford and Michael Toney, SSRL/SLAC)

Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon.

To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell.

Several groups expected to achieve good results by redesigning pliant polymers of plastic into orderly, silicon-like crystals, but the flow of electricity did not improve.… read more

Why diets don’t work: starved brain cells eat themselves

August 4, 2011

When we don’t eat, hunger-inducing neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus start eating bits of themselves (autophagy), sending a hunger signal to prompt eating, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found in experiments with mice.

They said the new findings suggest that treatments aimed at blocking autophagy may prove useful as hunger-fighting weapons in the war against obesity.

New evidence shows that… read more

Why Did Honda Build a Humanoid Robot That Meets With the Vatican’s Approval?

September 4, 2001

The Vatican has assured Honda Motors that the Church won’t complain about its two-legged four-foot robot named Asimo, which can walk, dance, shake hands and speak, but has no brain (AI functions).

So what else can it do? Honda plans to rent the robot as a guide in museums or to perform at weddings, and robots may someday sweep landmines, serve as seeing-eye dogs or work in nuclear-power plants.… read more

Why Computers Can’t Kill Post-Its

January 23, 2009

MIT researchers argue that computers need to become as easy to use as Post-it notes, and have developed a Firefox browser add-on called List-it that attempts to achieve the ease of use of Post-it notes.

We’re giving List-it a test here at – Ed.

Why computers are like the weather

July 12, 2005

The behavior of the complex microchips that drive modern computers is inherently unpredictable and chaotic, researchers at the National Research Institute for Information and Automation in Orsay, France have found.

Why compressive sensing will change the world

March 17, 2009

A new Rice University-developed technicque for sampling signals produces 5-megapixel 2D images compressed into 50KB JPEG images using a single pixel — the image is reflected off a randomized array of micromirrors before being focused onto the single pixel.

Why complex life probably evolved only once

October 22, 2010

The universe may be teeming with simple cells like bacteria, but more complex life is probably very rare. Whenever simple cells start to become more complex, they run into problems generating enough energy, say Nick Lane of University College London and Bill Martin of the University of Dusseldorf.

Why China is poised to streak ahead of the West

May 30, 2005

China’s doing things the rest of us don’t even know about, and unless we change quickly they will streak past us, futurist Frank Ogden, aka Dr. Tomorrow, says.

“They are speeding ahead in so many areas because they have the ability to get big things done very quickly. They’re very smart, they think differently from us, and they have no restrictions on anything.

We also have to learn… read more

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