science + technology news

Scots scientists unveil ‘spray-on’ computer

April 10, 2007

Scottish scientists have developed a computer the size of a matchstick head, thousands of which can be sprayed onto patients to give a comprehensive analysis of their condition.

The individual appliances, or “specks,” will form networks that can be programmed like ordinary computers.

Spraying them directly onto a person creates the ability to carry out different tests at the same time, for example muscle movement and pulse rate.… read more

Flying wind farms

April 10, 2007

Sky WindPower has developed a flying generator that could produce power for as little as two cents a kilowatt hour.

That is cheaper than the three to five cents that conventional energy generation costs.

Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future

April 10, 2007

Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx’s proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132 percent, while Europe’s drops as fertility falls. “Flashmobs” – groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups.

This is the world in 30 years’ time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a… read more

Researchers Demonstrate ‘Nano Generators’

April 10, 2007

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have demonstrated a new nanometer-scale generator that they claim can produce a continuous flow of electricity by harvesting energy from things like ultrasonic waves, mechanical vibrations, and even blood flow.

It could be used to power other nanodevices in the future, without the need for batteries or other impractical or toxic external power sources.

With further optimization, the researchers expect their nanogenerators could… read more

MIT model helps researchers ‘see’ brain development

April 10, 2007

MIT, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School researchers have developed a tool that could help researchers “see” how cerebral folds develop and decay in the cerebral cortex.

By applying computer graphics techniques to brain images collected using MRI, they have created a set of tools for tracking and measuring these folds over time. Their resulting model of cortical development may serve as a biomarker, or biological… read more

Thin Carbon Is In: Graphene Steals Nanotubes’ Allure

April 10, 2007

The latest craze in materials science is graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon that looks like molecular chicken wire and is the thinnest of all possible materials in the universe.

Graphene can be made from graphite flakes using ordinary Skotch tape. Physicists have made transistors out of graphene and used it to explore odd quantum phenomena at room temperatures.

Taming data overload with AI and grid computing

April 9, 2007

Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Information Sciences Institute are building a prototype of a system that will address the problem of data overload by automating scientific workflows.

The $13.8 million Windward project aims at “Scaleable Knowledge Discovery through Grid Workflows,” using AI and grid computing.

A Plastic Wrapper Today Could Be Fuel Tomorrow

April 9, 2007

A “fuel-latent plastic,” designed for conversion, can be used like ordinary plastic, but when it is waste, the “bioplastic” can easily be turned into a substitute diesel fuel.

How to Confine the Plants of the Future?

April 9, 2007

A new generation of genetically engineered crops that produce drugs and chemicals is fast approaching the market — bringing with it a new wave of concerns about the safety of the global food and feed supply.

The containment practices used by developers assume an ability to control living and propagating organisms, which scientific evidence does not support.

DNA Factories

April 9, 2007

Codon Devices aims to streamline genetic engineering with made-to-order DNA strands, freeing scientists from the finicky work it takes to put together a complicated piece of DNA.

That capability could soon change the face of molecular biology. As it becomes cheaper and cheaper to create large chunks of genetic material from scratch, scientists will be able to make ever more complex biological creations.

Engineers Create Optical Cloaking Design For Invisibility

April 9, 2007

Purdue University researchers have taken a practical step toward creating an “optical cloaking” device that could render objects invisible by guiding light around anything placed inside this “cloak,” an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke.

Calculations indicate the device would make an object invisible at a wavelength of 632.8 nanometers, which corresponds to the color red. The same design, however, could theoretically be used to… read more

Virtual Maps for the Blind

April 9, 2007

Researchers in Greece have developed a new system that converts video into virtual, touchable maps for the blind.

The software tracks each structure and determines its shape and location. That data is used to create a three-dimensional grid of force fields for each structure. Two common-touch interfaces simulate the force fields by applying pressure to the user’s hand: the CyberGrasp glove, which pulls on individual fingers, and the Phantom… read more

The Memory Hacker

April 8, 2007

USC’s Center for Neural Engineering researchers have developed a chip that can communicate with brain cells, a first step toward an implantable machine that could restore memories in people with brain damage or help them make new ones.

The chip can receive analog signals from live brain tissue, convert them to digital signals, and then reconvert them to an analog signal relayed to healthy neurons on the other side.… read more

Bacteria vs. Humans: Score One for Us

April 6, 2007

Biochemist Floyd Romesberg of the Scripps Research Institute has discovered a molecule that inhibits a specific gene’s ability to cause mutations and slips easily into a bacterial cell.

Taken in combination with antibiotics, it would prevent the bugs from mutating in response to the antibiotics, thereby preventing resistant strains from developing. The drug could also be used to restore the effectiveness of older antibiotics that have been rendered almost… read more

Cheaper solar cells

April 5, 2007

Dye-sensitized solar cells being developed at Massey University, New Zealand may generate electricity from sunlight at a tenth of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells.

The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature, including a synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment that plants use for photosynthesis.

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