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Waiting for the lights to go out

October 19, 2005

“The greatest getting-and-spending spree in the history of the world is about to end,” says Matthew Stein in his book, When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival.

“The 200-year boom that gave citizens of the industrial world levels of wealth, health and longevity beyond anything previously known to humanity is threatened on every side. Oil is running out; the climate is changing at a potentially catastrophic… read more

Life’s Building Blocks ‘Abundant in Space’

October 19, 2005

The idea that comets and meteorites seeded an early Earth with the tools to make life gained momentum recently as scientists scanning a galaxy 12 million light-years away detected copious amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), molecules critical to all known forms of life.

PAHs carry information for DNA and RNA and are an important component of hemoglobin and chlorophyll.

Evidence suggests that PAHs are formed in the… read more

Jeff Hawkins Q&A

October 19, 2005

Jeff Hawkins, the chief technology officer of Palm, has proposed an all-encompassing theory of the mammalian neocortex. “Hierarchical Temporal Memory” (HTM) claims to explain how our brains discover, infer, and predict patterns in the phenomenal world.

He has founded the company Numenta, which hopes to develop technology based on his theory.

Buckyballs may diagnose and treat brain tumors

October 19, 2005

Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech researchers are developing metal-filled buckyballs for use as a diagnostic and therapeutic agent that may boost the sensitivity of MRI techniques and improve the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumors.

They found that the nanoparticles highlighted the tumors more effectively than existing imaging agents. They provide improved brain tissue differentiation and a dark outline of the tumor margin, making surgical removal more precise.… read more

Making Sense of High-Density Nanowire Circuits

October 18, 2005

California Institute of Technology researchers have developed a method of “demultiplexing” the signals from ultrahigh-density nanowire circuits — electrically addressing large numbers of individual nanowires using many fewer electrical connectors.

The technique will help in analyzing the complex signals that such sensors generate when they are testing complex biological samples.

Dr. Heath, who is a principle investigator of one of the NCI’s Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, and… read more

Cyborg cells sense humidity

October 18, 2005

Living bacteria have been incorporated into an electronic circuit to produce a sensitive humidity gauge.

The gold nanoparticles-plated “cellborg” is “essentially a first step towards a biological computer, and would have many applications,” says Ravi Saraf, a chemist from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Saraf speculates that similar devices could one day be made that take greater advantage of living organisms, perhaps even using bacteria’s energy systems to… read more

Bird flu outbreaks expected in more countries

October 18, 2005

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is likely to spread to more and more countries, a World Health Organization official warned on Monday.

The strain, which has killed over 60 people in southeast Asia, appears to have travelled extensively in the latter half of 2005. It has affected birds in China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan and most recently reached Europe.

It is now believed that the virus has… read more

Inform.com Pulls Together News and Blogs

October 18, 2005

Inform.com, which launched in beta Monday, is an attempt to manage the overload of information we get from online news sources and blogs.

‘Nanobombs’ target cancer cells

October 18, 2005

University of Delaware researchers have created “nanobombs” by bundling carbon nanotubes and irradiating them with heat from a laser beam.

They have created the explosions in solutions including water, phosphate and salt, which means the nanobombs could possibly be used in the human body to kill cancer cells.

According to the researchers, the nanobombs are superior to current treatments because they are powerful, selective, non-invasive, nontoxic and can… read more

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.

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