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Lifeboat Foundation announces new existential-risk programs

August 17, 2006

The Lifeboat Foundation said today it has launched four programs to combat existential risks (threats to human survival) — BioShield, InfoShield, NanoShield, and Space Habitats — and has announced 11 other planned programs, ranging from AsteroidShield to AntimatterShield, to “prevent antimatter-based annihilation.” Public participation is invited.

The programs fill a gap left by governments and corporations, which “only think short term, so we felt that… read more

How Human Cells Get Their Marching Orders

August 17, 2006

Stanford University biologists say they have discovered a coordinate system in human cells that may shed light on processes like wound healing and lend some hope to the prospect of regenerating human tissues from mature cells, instead of stem cells.

New brain cells die without a job to do

August 17, 2006

Salk Institute for Biological Studies researchers have found that the survival of newly formed adult brain cells depends on the amount of input they receive.

Fastest-evolving human gene linked to brain boost

August 17, 2006

The fastest evolving gene in the human genome is one linked to brain development, which has undergone “accelerated evolutionary change” in just five million years, as we evolved from our shared simian ancestor.

What do futurists really know?

August 17, 2006

The World Future Society’s annual meeting in Toronto featured keynote speaker Ray Kurzweil, citing “an impressive set of statistics about technologic acceleration to support his predictions, from the increasing number of transistors on a chip to the decreasing cost of sequencing a single unit of DNA. When Kurzweil is explaining it, a glorious future seems almost inevitable.”

The Expert Mind

August 16, 2006

Studies of the mental processes of chess grandmasters have revealed clues to how people become experts in other fields as well.

Nanotube Coating Meshes with Living Cells

August 16, 2006

Using a polymer coating that mimics part of a cell’s outer membrane, University of California, Berkeley investigators have developed a versatile method for targeting carbon nanotubes to specific types of cells.

This new coating could spur the development of new anticancer agents that rely on the unique physical characteristics of carbon nanotubes.

Reporting their work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers demonstrated that they… read more

Separated at Birth?

August 15, 2006

The universe looks eerily like a mouse’s neurons.

Digital DNA detector spots single molecules

August 15, 2006

A modified nanoscale transistor could dramatically speed up the detection of DNA sequences.

The detector consists of a quantum dot with a piece of DNA attached. It only allows current to flow when a matching sequence of DNA binds to the attached piece and could provide a simple, faster way to detect viruses or track gene expression.

Ice Age DNA may now be sequenced

August 15, 2006

We might now be able to sequence the genomes of mammoths and even Neanderthals, thanks to a new way to correct the errors in sequencing ancient DNA that are made because it degrades over time.

Making Robots for the Home or a Battlefield

August 14, 2006

iRobot Corporation, maker of Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner, has sold more than 500 PackBot robots for use in disposing improvised explosive devices.

And its Fido robot has just been tested in Iraq as a bomb-sniffing device.

Hutter Prize for Lossless Compression of Human Knowledge

August 14, 2006

Marcus Hutter has announced the 50,000 Euro Hutter Prize for Lossless Compression of Human Knowledge by compressing the 100MB file Wikipedia ‘enwik8′ file to less than the current record of 18MB.

The intent of this prize is to encourage development of intelligent compressors/programs.

“Being able to compress well is closely related to intelligence,” says the Prize for Compressing Human Knowledge” website.

“While intelligence is a… read more

Debate rages over animal-human chimeras

August 14, 2006

In its August 8 report, the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics advocates banning embryos containing human and animal genetic material and cloned embryos created by combining human cells with cow or rabbit oocytes.

Ian Wilmut of the University of Edinburgh, creator of Dolly the cloned sheep, wants to attempt this to study motor neuron disease.

PALM technique points to protein whereabouts

August 14, 2006

Researchers have developed an optical imaging technique that can pinpoint proteins in cells with nanometer resolution.

The photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) method attaches fluorescent protein molecules to the proteins of interest and photoactivates and images just a few of the fluorescent molecules at a time.

Volcanoes may reveal secrets through ‘song’

August 10, 2006

Active volcanoes are being made to “sing” by researchers who convert seismic data into frequencies audible to human ears.

The sonification ttechnique could make it easier to detect patterns that warn of an eruption.

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