science + technology news

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.

Beaming Up 3-D Objects on a Budget

April 5, 2007

Laser scanners with arrays of cameras can create digital models of objects that encode all the significant bumps, cracks, corners and facets of real things.

The world is just beginning to grapple with the implications of this relatively low-cost duplicating method, often called rapid prototyping. Hearing aid companies, for instance, are producing some custom-fitted ear pieces from scanned molds of patients. Custom car companies produce new parts for classic… read more

A Light Switch for the Brain

April 5, 2007

Scientists have developed a light-triggered switch to control brain cells, which could aid in the development of therapies for epilepsy and other diseases–and shed light on the neural code.

Electrons caught tunnelling out of atoms

April 5, 2007

For the first time, scientists have measured electrons tunnelling their way out of atoms. Each escape happened amazingly quickly, in less than 400 attoseconds .

The finding could speed up the quest for compact X-ray lasers, which could lead to improved early-cancer diagnosis.

Solar bursts could threaten Global Positioning System

April 5, 2007

The Global Positioning System may be threatened by powerful solar flares, a panel of scientists warned yesterday.

The cause for their concern, according to David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather Service, was an unexpected solar radio burst on Dec. 6 that affected virtually every GPS receiver on the lighted half of earth. Some receivers had a reduction in accuracy while others completely lost the ability to determine… read more

Flexible Batteries That Never Need to Be Recharged

April 4, 2007

European researchers have integrated thin-film organic solar cells with a flexible polymer battery to produce a lightweight and ultrathin solar battery for low-wattage electronic devices, such as smart cards and mobile phones.

The battery can recharge itself when exposed to natural or indoor sunlight, meaning that some electronic gadgets would never need a separate charger. Researchers predict that such a device could be commercially available in some products next… read more

Imaging Cholesterol Buildup in the Heart

April 4, 2007

Researchers have developed a new medical imaging marker designed to specifically target and illuminate areas of cholesterol buildup. The marker provides clear images of cholesterol plaques from within blood vessels and could one day help prevent heart attacks and other cardiac events.

The molecule mimics the shape of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and is composed of an outer phospholipid layer (orange, blue, and red dots) surrounding a layer of peptides… read more

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