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America’s next ethical war

April 12, 2001

Politicians and regulators in America are floundering as they try to understand the immense implications of genetic science.

The first human clone could mark a turning-point in humanity’s story, joining genetically modified plants, gene patents, in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, and eugenics in prompting a whole series of perplexing ethical questions that will affect politics everywhere.

5 Patents to Watch

April 12, 2001

Growing human organs to ease the deadly shortages facing patients desperate for transplants. Deploying organic molecules to store a million times more data than silicon can. Harnessing the unused processing power on your desktop to attack gigantic computational problems, from genetic analysis to spotting hidden customer trends. Massively expanding the data capacity of optical networks to turbocharge the information superhighway. Modifying plants to grow cheap, lifesaving vaccines.

The editors… read more

Laying Down the Law: Q&A with Gordon Moore

April 12, 2001

Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, who coined Moore’s Law (the number of transistors that can be packed into an integrated circuit will double every year), believes this doubling will slow down sometime between 2010 and 2020. He doesn’t see a solution in the works.

In the meantime, what should we do with this increased power? “The one capability that to me will make a qualitative difference in how we do… read more

Nano Gets Boost from Bush

April 13, 2001

President Bush has requested $485 million for nanotechnology research in fiscal year 2002. If approved by Congress, it will fund research in areas from pollution control to biotechnology to space travel.

This month, the National Science Foundation will publish a 400-page report predicting that in ten to fifteen years, the entire semiconductor industry, as well as half the pharmaceutical industry, will rely on nanotechnology.

The Promise of Plastic Transistors

April 13, 2001

Integrated circuits made from polymers could usher in a whole new era in computing.

The idea: plastic circuits could be manufactured simply by spraying them out of ink-jet printers, ushering in an era of lightweight, ultracheap, and flexible computer displays and electronics. “Imagine a large sheet of plastic that could download your favorite newspapers and that you could roll up underneath your arm.”

Law Professor Sees Hazard in Personalized News

April 13, 2001

With the rise of personalized Internet news, the democratizing effects of streets and general interest publications are at risk of being overwhelmed by passive consumers who live in Internet-filtered information cocoons, says Cass R. Sunstein, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School in Republic.com, a new book.

Could tutoring a computer be the way to develop machines that talk back?

April 18, 2001

HAL, a software program designed by Dutch-based firm Artificial Intelligence to learn language, currently passes for a 18 month old child and has a 50 or 60 word vocabulary.

By the end of 2003, AI expects to have a version of HAL capable of talking like a three-year-old and by 2005 hopes it will have the conversational skills of an adult.

HAL uses simple learning algorithms based on… read more

DNA is model for self-assembling nanostructures

April 18, 2001

Purdue University researchers are using the same principle that makes DNA strands link together to create tiny structures that may someday be used to develop nanostructures with specific dimensions and chemical properties.

“We have perfect control over every part of the system,” says Hicham Fenniri, an assistant professor of chemistry who directed the effort. “We not only dictate how the molecule behaves, but we also can control… read more

The Programmable Pill

April 18, 2001

“Smart” methods of delivering drugs to the body—-based on micro- and nanotechnology—-could reduce side effects, make better use of existing drugs and open the door to entire classes of new treatments.

For example, Tejal Desai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago and iMedd of Ohio are building 150-microns-wide silicon particles. On one side, up to 20 drug-containing reservoirs are etched, each sealed with a… read more

Rand report examines technology trends

April 19, 2001

A Rand Corporation “foresight” report on “The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015″ examines the potential effects of several technological trends over the next 15 years, influenced by advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials technology, and information technology.

The full report is available online.

Freezing Time: Plans for a Giant Cryonics Facility Are Heating Up

April 23, 2001

Timeship will be a six-acre, $180 million “Noah’s Ark” for 10,000 people and plants and animals, as well as stem cells of near-extinct species and human organs for transplant.

The project’s architect, Stephen Valentine, was commissioned by life-extension groups, including the Stasis Foundation. He hopes to break ground by 2002, with systems for energy self-reliance in a secure facility located possibly in the American Southwest or Florida.

Plans… read more

Chameleon-nanostructure sensors developed

April 23, 2001

Intelligent nanostructures that report on their environment by changing color from blue to fluorescent red under mechanical, chemical, or thermal stress have been created by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.

The self-assembling structures, reported in the April 19 Nature, may lower costs by reducing the need for expensive manufactured devices like stress detectors, chemical analyzers, and thermometers, according the Sandia researchers.

The… read more

Big Blue’s Big Brother Lab

April 24, 2001

The IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California is developing advanced haman-interface computing devices, including:

- A Terminator-style camera with gaze-tracking technology to identify the face and display the name of the person on a sunglasses-mounted display. It could also perform automated language translation of viewed text.

- An electronic communal bulletin board that gives everyone whose personal information is in a database access to their desktop… read more

Hackers in China and US wage cyber war

April 25, 2001

American hackers are urging each other to break into websites hosted in China, and claim that US hackers have already penetrated hundreds of Chinese websites in the “China-Killer” blitz.

Chinese hackers are vowing to retaliate with a week-long attack on US-based websites and computer networks, starting May 1.

Merkle to teach half-day nanotech course at UC Berkeley

April 25, 2001

Leading nanotechnology researcher Ralph Merkle will conduct a UC Berkeley Extension course designed for the public, “Nanotechnology: Basic Concepts and Potential Applications,” on Saturday, May 5, 1-5 p.m., in Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus in Berkeley. The fee is $20.

To register, call 510/642-4111 or register online.

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