science + technology news

Superconductors inspire quantum test for dark energy

April 3, 2007

Quantum mechanics says that the vacuum of space is seething with virtual photons that are popping in and out of existence. Physicists suggest that when these virtual photons have a frequency below around 2 terahertz, they are able to interact gravitationally, contributing to dark energy.

Physicist Paul Warburton at University College London is building such a dark energy detector and could have results next year.

Universal Blood

April 3, 2007

Researchers have found a way to efficiently convert different human blood types into a neutral type that can be given to any patient by cleaving identifying sugars from the surface of red blood cells.

The process is currently in human testing and could be available within five years.

How to make a brain transparent

April 3, 2007

The entire neural network of a mouse’s brain has been seen in 3D for the first time, using a new “ultramicroscopy” technique that renders tissues transparent.

By comparing the scans of mouse embryos with those of adult mice they hope to get a better view on how mammalian brain networks change during development. This could give new insight into how mammalian brains change over time and what happens to… read more

Congress and the Singularity

April 3, 2007

“Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think” is the title of a new congressional report that predicts “dramatic breakthroughs will occur in diverse areas such as medicine, communications, computing, energy, and robotics…. Every exponential curve eventually reaches a point where the growth rate becomes almost infinite. This point is often called the Singularity.”

Deep Impact

April 3, 2007

According to a new report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, some 100,000 asteroids and comets routinely pass between the Sun and the Earth’s orbit. About 20,000 of these orbit close enough to us that they could one day hit the Earth and destroy a major city.

But the really worrying news from NASA is that over a thousand of these things are large enough (almost a mile… read more

Body Hacking slides from ETECH

April 3, 2007

Slides from a talk on “Body Hacking” at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2007 last Thursday are now posted online.

“Quinn went well beyond modern primitivism and piercings and delved into the social mores of self-improvement through surgery and chemicals, the creation of new senses and new ‘super-powers.’”

A video of Quinn giving this talk in Berlin in December is available.

God’s Numbers

April 2, 2007

The latest NEWSWEEK poll shows that 91 percent of American adults surveyed believe in God — and nearly half reject the theory of evolution.

Thirty-four percent of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. Seventy-three percent of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41 percent of… read more

Surgical drill feels its way through tissue

April 2, 2007

A medical drill being tested in the UK simplifies delicate surgical procedures by sensing the properties of surrounding tissue. It has already been used to give profoundly deaf patients cochlear implants — a process that requires extreme caution to avoid damaging delicate tissues inside the ear.

Human heart tissue grown from stem cells

April 2, 2007

Part of a human heart has been grown from stem cells for the first time. The small discs of tissue could represent the first step towards building a whole heart from stem cells.

IBM Technology Helps Disabled Surf the Web

April 2, 2007

IBM this week demonstrated more than 20 new technologies, including several that make the Internet and offline applications more accessible to the disabled.

A technology called Easy Web Browsing helps the elderly, people with limited vision and the color-blind by reading text out loud and allowing users to customize the size and color of Web content.

Invisible Accessibility, which is in development, creates a delay in activating a… read more

Augmented Fluid Intelligence

April 2, 2007

We’ll soon be moving from a world of Continuous Partial Attention (an “artificial sense of constant crisis” due to multitasking) to one of Continuous Augmented Attention (a bot could learn what kinds of messages you pay attention to and filter them, allowing for increased “fluid intelligence” — the ability to find meaning in confusion and to solve new problems).

Case in point: “Twitter,” a cross between blog… read more

Terahertz filter could harness unused spectrum

March 30, 2007

A “metamaterial” that selectively filters terahertz radiation could perhaps be used for short-range wireless communications.

The device is essentially a sheet of metal foil incorporating a carefully designed pattern of holes. It is a so-called metamaterial, since it interacts with electromagnetic waves in novel ways, thanks to partly regular sub-wavelength structural features.

The X-Mice

March 30, 2007

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Santa Barbara genetically engineered mice to express a third, humanlike photoreceptor, giving them human color vision.

Can they do the same for humans? Turns out some people may actually have a fourth photoreceptor that detects light within the visible range at a slightly different wavelength range than the other three.

Selfish genes may drive out diseases

March 30, 2007

Researchers have come up with a new way to establish desirable genes in insect populations. They created a synthetic selfish genetic element that propagates rapidly through Drosophila populations — an approach they say could also help drive malaria-resistance genes into mosquito populations.

What if Humans were Designed to Last?

March 30, 2007

Experts across fields were challenged to imagine a new way to solve the problems of human aging by fiddling with physiology and tinker with the inner mechanics of life at the cellular or even molecular level.

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