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Recipe for Destruction

October 17, 2005

The U.S. government’s decision to publish the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database was “extremely foolish,” say Ray Kurzweil and Bill Joy.

“The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb.”

Revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous because it would… read more

Meet the Life Hackers

October 17, 2005

New “life-hacking” software minimizes distractions and multitasking chaos, improving productivity and reducing stress.

Vista, Microsoft’s new operating system due out in 2006, may include AI software being developed to analyze the content of your incoming e-mail messages, rank them based on the urgency of the message and your relationship with the sender, weigh that against how busy you are, and only deliver superurgent email immediately.

One-Fifth of Human Genes Have Been Patented, Study Reveals

October 17, 2005

A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities.

Plasma pencil kills germs

October 17, 2005

Physicist Mounir Laroussi’s “plasma pencil” generates a “cold plasma,” which can be used to kill germs. In the future, it might be used to destroy tumors without damaging surrounding tissue.

When he turns the pencil on, it blows a high pitched whistle as a glowing, blue-violet beam about 2 inches long instantly appears at one end. Stick your finger in its path and you only feel a cool breeze,… read more

Stem Cell Test Tried on Mice Saves Embryo

October 17, 2005

Scientists have devised two new techniques to derive embryonic stem cells in mice, one of which avoids the destruction of the embryo, a development that could have the potential to shift the grounds of the longstanding political debate about human stem cell research.

The second new technique manipulates embryos so they are inherently incapable of implanting in the uterus, a possible ethical advantage in the proposed therapy.

Both… read more

Behind Artificial Intelligence, a Squadron of Bright Real People

October 14, 2005

The five robots that successfully navigated a 132-mile course in the Nevada desert last weekend demonstrated the re-emergence of artificial intelligence, a technology field that for decades has overpromised and underdelivered.

This leap was possible, in large part, because researchers are moving from an approach that relied principally on logic and rule-based systems to more probability or statistics-oriented software technologies.

Find the Protein in the Haystack

October 14, 2005

Nanosphere is preparing to launch a diagnostic system that uses nanoparticles to detect various proteins at a level of sensitivity never before seen.

Nanosphere hopes to have a prostate-specific antigen screen ready by next year for breast and ovarian cancer as well as prostate cancer.

Flea’s giant leap for mankind

October 14, 2005

Australian scientists have copied resilin, the “rubber” that fleas use to perform huge leaps and bees use to flap their wings without tiring.

Future versions of the material could be used to make resilient human spare parts, including spinal discs and artificial arteries.

Engineers build DNA ‘nanotowers’ with enzyme tools

October 13, 2005

Duke engineers are creating the tools that will make bio-manufacturing possible at an industrial scale.

“The development of bio-nanotechnological tools and fabrication strategies, as demonstrated here, will ultimately allow the automated study of biology at the molecular scale and will drive our discovery and understanding of the basic molecular machinery that defines life,” said Stefan Zauscher, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.

They can vertically extend… read more

MIT launches global nanotech push

October 13, 2005

Leaders of 10 research universities from around the world gathered at MIT Wednesday to launch an international collaboration to use nanotechnology tools for global health and medical research.

The collaboration, called GEM4, or Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine, represents an ambitious effort to apply global sourcing principles to research at the intersection of engineering and life sciences.

Robotic Rollouts

October 13, 2005

With the announcement of a $115 million IPO by Burlington, MA-based iRobot, though, companies commercializing robot technology are beginning to attract VC attention.

‘Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines’ Now Freely Available Online

October 11, 2005

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, the most comprehensive review of the field, co-authored by Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle, is now freely accessible online.

Published in hardback in late 2004, the book is also available in print.

With 200+ illustrations and 3200+ literature references, KSRM describes all proposed and experimentally realized self-replicating systems that were publicly known as of… read more

In HAL’s Footsteps

October 11, 2005

Real progress is being made in developing IT systems that do a better job of monitoring, analyzing, and fixing problems without human intervention.

Several server, software, and services vendors are making the creation of intelligent systems, such as IBM’s autonomic computing, and the equipment and software to go with them the underpinning of their enterprise-management development programs.

Microsoft sees a future on the small screen

October 11, 2005

Microsoft is helping phone companies build a new Internet protocol television system (IPTV) infrastructure for delivering bleeding-edge television services, superfast Internet and phone services over a single line to the home.

Microsoft TV will allow phone companies to deliver four live pictures on a screen at once, with instant channel changes and more options for on-demand video rentals, including high-definition content. It will also merge phone services, so incoming… read more

Driverless robots reach milestone in DARPA race

October 11, 2005

Stanford University’s Racing Team has accomplished a historic feat of robotics, finishing first in the DARPA Grand Challenge, a 131.6-mile driverless car race that no artificially intelligent machine has ever conquered before.

Stanford’s “Stanley,” a modified Volkswagen Touareg with sensors and radar mountings, crossed the finish line within eight hours and 14 minutes, beating the 10-hour requirement, according to times posted on the DARPA race Web site.

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