science + technology news

Asteroid threat demands response, experts warn

February 19, 2007

Aasteroid Apophis, which researchers now say has a 1 in 45,000 chance of hitting Earth on 13 April 2036. Calculations show it would strike somewhere along a narrow track that stretches eastward from Siberia to the west coast of Africa.

The Association of Space Explorers, founded by Russell Schweickart, a former Apollo astronaut, will host a series of meetings to provide the UN with a “decision process” for assessing… read more

Retinal Implant Helping Blind People See Again

February 18, 2007

Some people who became blinded by eye diseases, such as pigmentosa or macular degeneration, are beginning to get some vision back after receiving a retinal implant, called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, from Doheny Eye Institute researchers.

Patients who have damaged photoreceptor cells in their retina received 16 electrodes which were inserted into their eye. Six patients who were blind were able to see light, detect movement, and… read more

Some sweet news: Chocolate could be good for your memory

February 18, 2007

Flavanols found in unprocessed chocolate could boost brain power as well as in treating certain kinds of stroke and dementia, researchers suggest.

The chemicals stimulate an increase of blood flow to the brain, particularly in areas that light up during tasks that require alertness.

Google at work on AI?

February 18, 2007

“When AI happens, it’s going to be a lot of computation, not so much … clever algorithms,” says Google co-founder Larry Page. Given the size of DNA (~600 MB compressed), the algorithms of the brain are “probably not that complicated.”

“To do the perfect search, you could ask any query and it would give you the perfect answer, and that would be artificial intelligence, based on everything being on… read more

Silicon Valley Meets ‘American Idol’ With Prizes to Inspire Inventors

February 16, 2007

A fund-raiser at Google on March 3 is intended to raise a chunk of $50 million to operate the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit group that already has awarded $10 million to designers of a private spacecraft.

The foundation plans to use the money to develop prizes in fields like medicine, poverty reduction and fuel-efficient cars. But the foundation’s next stage of prize-giving will also include partnerships with venture… read more

The Father of Quantum Computing

February 15, 2007

“The watershed moment with quantum computer technology will be when a quantum computer — a universal quantum computer — exceeds about 100 to 200 qubits,” according to Oxford University theoretical physicist David Deutsch. In practice, “that probably means several hundred, or perhaps 1,000 or more, physical qubits.”

He said the most important applications of quantum computing in the future are likely to be a computer simulation of quantum systems,… read more

RFID ‘Powder’ — World’s Smallest RFID Tag

February 15, 2007

The world’s smallest and thinnest RFID tags have been introduced by Hitachi, measuring just 0.05 x 0.05 millimeters.

The new “powder type” chips have a 128-bit ROM for storing a unique 38 digit number and could be worked into any product to assure theft of consumer goods would be practically impossible.

These devices could also be used to identify and track people. For example, suppose you participated in… read more

Brain creates ‘new’ nerve cells

February 15, 2007

Researchers have discovered a type of brain stem cell that continuously regenerates in humans.

“Resting cells” migrate to create new nerve cells in the part of the brain that deals with smell.

Experts said the findings could be important for future research into brain cell repair in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Kaiser starts major study of members’ health

February 15, 2007

Kaiser Permanente launched a survey of its Northern California membership Wednesday in the first phase of an ambitious multiyear study into the genetics and lifestyle factors that give rise to common diseases.

Researchers said the project could last 50 years and draw information from 500,000 adult health plan members who agree to participate — making this potentially the biggest study of its kind in the United States and one… read more

Breaking fish advice during pregnancy might benefit babies

February 15, 2007

Women who follow government guidelines and eat no more than three portions of fish a week during pregnancy increase the risk of their children developing poor verbal and social skills, a new study by the National Institutes of Health suggests, because omega-3 fatty acids in fish appear to promote brain growth during fetal development.

In 2004 the US Environmental Protection Agency and FDA jointly advised pregnant and nursing women… read more

To Add Speed, Chipmakers Tune Structure

February 15, 2007

Chip companies are finding ways around the physical problems that have held them back from making chips go faster.

On Feb. 14, IBM said it plans to combine microprocessor and memory chips onto a single piece of silicon to substantially improve processor performance.

Earlier this week, Intel announced that it had built a chip with 80 cores that is capable of completing 1 trillion computations every second.… read more

Moving pictures

February 15, 2007

A project combining 3D imagery with hand-tracking and speech recognition technology could change the way the next generation of computers presents information, as well as how we interact with it.

The system uses gesture recognition technology that tracks natural hand movements and uses the information to manipulate images. Speech recognition enables the user to turn, flip or resize 3D objects with simple verbal commands, and call up contextual information… read more

Telescoping nanotubes promise ultrafast computer memory

February 15, 2007

University of California, Riverside have developed a conceptual design for a macroscopically addressable data storage device based on carbon nanotubes, which can be used as nonvolatile random access memory and for terabit solid-state storage.

The design involves inserting one hollow nanotube, closed at both ends, into a slightly larger one, open at both ends, creating a telescoping motion using an electrostatic charge. That contact between the nanotube and the… read more

Data Center Energy Consumption Has Doubled Since 2000

February 15, 2007

The energy consumed by data center servers and related infrastructure equipment in the U.S. and worldwide doubled between 2000 and 2005, according to a new study.

A jump in the volume of servers in data centers is accountable for 90 percent of the growth in power consumption. The total 2005 electric bill to operate those servers and related infrastructure equipment was $2.7 billion in the U.S. and $7.2 billion… read more

Medtronic discloses component for “brain radio”

February 15, 2007

Engineers from Medtronic disclosed a novel amplifier that is a key component in an implantable “brain radio” the company is developing to monitor and control nervous disorders.

The devices measures the average activity of thousands of brain cells.

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