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Custom-Made Microbes, at Your Service

January 17, 2006

Synthetic biologists, scientists who seek to create living machines and biological devices that can perform novel tasks, “want to do for biology what Intel does for electronics,” said George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard and a leader in the field.

“We want to design and manufacture complicated biological circuitry.”

Stem cells from cloned embryos keep genetic integrity

January 17, 2006

Stem cells derived from cloned embryos appear genetically identical to those created by fertilisation in mice, researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research report.

The results of the new study — which examined gene expression patterns in the stem cells — suggest that there is no subset of genes that is universally activated or disabled in cloned stem cells as compared with their normal stem cell counterparts.… read more

Exercise linked to big drop in dementia risk

January 17, 2006

Regular exercise may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly by as much as 40 percent, according to a new study by Group Health Cooperative in Seattle.

Sandia Labs developing nanobattery implant

January 17, 2006
Schematic of nanobattery that would be implanted in or near the eye

Sandia National Laboratories researchers are developing a nano-size battery that one day could be implanted in the eye to power an artificial retina. The artificial retina and accompanying nanobattery will be used to correct certain types of macular degeneration.

“We will use our expertise in multi-scale modeling to understand and predict how transporter structure leads to function, with an initial focus on specialized transporters found in the… read more

Bioterrorism: Preparing to Fight the Next War

January 16, 2006

A robust biodefense plan must be anticipatory, flexible, and rapidly responsive. It should exploit crosscutting technologies and cross-disciplinary scientific insights and use broadly applicable platforms and methods that offer substantial scalability.

Examples include the use of “lab-on-a-chip” technology, based on advances in microfluidics, for rapid, sensitive, point-of-care diagnostics; computational approaches for predicting drug-ligand interactions; genomic tools such as microarrays and genome-wide screening for protective antigens; and automated robotic systems… read more

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Robot

January 16, 2006

The 2005 Fourth British Computer Society’s Annual Prize for Progress towards Machine Intelligence has been won by IFOMIND, a mobile robot system that demonstrates intelligence as it meets a new object in its world.

IFOMIND reacts initially in an “instinctive” way to its first perception of an unknown object that it encounters; at first it is generally fearful. But the robot observes the object from a distance and takes… read more

15 Tech Concepts You’ll Need To Know In 2006

January 16, 2006

The body area network, perpendicular storage on hard drives, 10 GB NAND flash memory, and mobile satellite video are among the scientific and technological breakthroughs expected in 2006.

Across the Megaverse

January 15, 2006

In Leonard Susskind’s new book, “The Cosmic Landscape,” he says the latest version of string theory (now rechristened M-theory) yields a gargantuan number of models: about 10 to the 500th power — the “megaverse.”

Each potential model, he suggests, corresponds to an actual place –another universe as real as our own.

Susskind eagerly embraces the megaverse interpretation because it offers a way to blow right through the intelligent… read more

Learning Retinal Implant System

January 15, 2006

Intelligent Medical Implants AG, a Switzerland-based company, announced that its first-generation Learning Retinal Implant System, containing a 50-electrode device, was successfully implanted in two patients in December 2005.

IMI’s Learning Retinal Implant System replaces the signal-processing functions of a healthy retina and provides input to the retinal nerve cells.

The System comprises three main components:

1. an implant, “The Retinal Stimulator”, which is surgically placed into the… read more

Taiwan breeds green-glowing pigs

January 13, 2006

Scientists in Taiwan say they have bred three pigs that glow in the dark.

The pigs are transgenic, created by adding genetic material from jellyfish into a normal pig embryo. The scientists will use the transgenic pigs to study human disease.

Because the pig’s genetic material is green, it is easy to spot. So if, for instance, some of its stem cells are injected into another animal, scientists… read more

St Lawrence of Google

January 13, 2006

Google is already working on a massive and global computing grid. Eventually, says Mr Saffo, “they’re trying to build the machine that will pass the Turing test,” in other words, an artificial intelligence that can pass as a human in written conversations. Wisely or not, Google wants to be a new sort of deus ex machina.

Spin Doctors Create Quantum Chip

January 13, 2006

University of Michigan scientists have created the first quantum microchip, using an ion trap to isolate individual charged atoms and manipulate their quantum states.

To isolate an ion, scientists confine it in the ion trap while applying electric fields. Laser light manipulates the spin of the ion’s free electron to flip it between quantum states.

The new chip, which is made of gallium arsenide, should be easily scaled… read more

Doomsday vault to avert world famine

January 13, 2006

A “doomsday vault” designed to hold around 2 million seeds, representing all known varieties of the world’s crops, is being built 1000 kilometers from the North Pole by the Norwegian government to safeguard the world’s food supply against nuclear war, climate change, terrorism, rising sea levels, earthquakes and the ensuing collapse of electricity supplies.

Nanoscale magnets promise more-shrinkable chips

January 13, 2006

University of Notre Dame researchers have produced an experimental universal logic gate, using nanomagnets, that could replace transistors.

Simulations show processing speeds of at least 100 megahertz should be possible using magnets 110 nanometers wide, with smaller ones expected to do much better.

Stem cell experts seek rabbit-human embryo

January 13, 2006

British scientists are seeking permission to create hybrid embryos in the lab by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs. If granted consent, the team will use the embryos to produce stem cells that carry genetic defects, in the hope that studying them will help understand the complex mechanisms behind incurable human diseases.

To make a hybrid embryo, a human skin cell would be taken from a person with motor… read more

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