science + technology news

Biology Goes Open Source

February 13, 2007

Some of the world’s biggest drug companies are finding that their genetic research is worth more to them if they give it away.

Novartis has helped uncover which of the 20,000 genes identified by the Human Genome Project are likely to be associated with diabetes. It is making it available for free on the Web.

Pfizer has promised to make available for free a swath of genetic information… read more

Building the Cortex in Silicon

February 13, 2007

Kwabena Boahen, a neuroengineer at Stanford University, is planning the most ambitious neuromorphic project to date: creating a silicon model of the cortex.

The first-generation design will be composed of a circuit board with 16 chips, each containing a 256-by-256 array of silicon neurons. Groups of neurons can be set to have different electrical properties, mimicking different types of cells in the cortex. Engineers can also program specific connections… read more

Scientists Clone Mice From Hair Follicle Stem Cell

February 13, 2007

Researchers have cloned mice using stem cells from the rodents’ hair follicle region.

The skin stem cells come from adult mice, are relatively easy to obtain and inject, and may represent a good future source of stem cells for animal cloning.

Afternoon naps may boost heart health

February 13, 2007

A study of nearly 24,000 people found that those who regularly took midday naps were nearly 40 percent less likely to die from heart disease than non-nappers.

Researchers suggest that siestas might protect the heart by lowering levels of stress hormones.

‘Doomsday’ vault design unveiled

February 12, 2007

The final design for a “doomsday” vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government, to be built into a mountainside on a remote island near the North Pole.

The Arctic vault will act as a backup store for a global network of seed banks financially supported by the trust.

Intel Prototype May Herald a New Age of Processing

February 12, 2007
Teraflop Chip (Intel)

Intel will demonstrate on Monday an experimental computer “Teraflop Chip” with 80 separate processing engines, or cores, that company executives say provides a model for commercial chips that will be used widely in standard desktop, laptop and server computers within five years.

Such computing power matches the performance speed of the world’s fastest supercomputer of just a decade ago.

For example, it could make it possible… read more

$25 million prize for greenhouse gas removal

February 12, 2007

A prize of $25 million for anyone who can come up with a system for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere was launched on Friday.

It calls for devises a system to remove a “significant amount” of greenhouse gases — equivalent to 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide or more — every year from the atmosphere for at least a decade.

It is the biggest prize in history,… read more

An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change

February 11, 2007

Compilations of weather satellite data by Danish National Space Center scientists indicate that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars, contradicting the theory that the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is due to man-made greenhouse gases.

The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds,… read more

The brain scan that can read people’s intentions

February 11, 2007

A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person’s brain and read their intentions before they act.

The team used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. They revealed signatures of activity in the medial prefrontal cortex that… read more

Kurzweil: Biotech Will Drive Software Security

February 11, 2007

Software security will be even more important as humans become more of a hybrid of non-biological and biological technology and intelligence, said Ray Kurzweil in a keynote speech Wednesday at the RSA 2007 conference in San Francisco.

This convergence is already happening with neural implants designed for Parkison’s Disease sufferers that are capable of downloaded software updates. “As devices shrink and get more powerful, software security is going to… read more

Thinking Bubbles?

February 10, 2007

Neil Gershenfeld of MIT and colleagues have designed the new technology using the presence or absence of a sequence of bubbles as a substitute for the conventional “on” or “off” binary language of computer circuits, using glass tubes and liquid that perform as microprocessors.

Although still orders of magnitude slower than conventional computers, bubble logic can operate about 100 times faster than existing microfluidic chips, the researchers say. That… read more

Robotic exoskeleton replaces muscle work

February 9, 2007

A robotic exoskeleton controlled by the wearer’s own nervous system could help users regain limb function, which is encouraging news for people with partial nervous system impairment, say University of Michigan researchers.

In a Search Refinement, a Chance to Rival Google

February 9, 2007

On Friday, Xerox PARC is announcing that it is licensing a broad portfolio of patents and technology to a well-financed start-up with an ambitious and potentially lucrative goal: to build a search engine that could some day rival Google.

The start-up, Powerset, is licensing PARC’s “natural language” technology. Powerset hopes the technology will be the basis of a new search engine that allows users to type queries in plain… read more

The Big Bang and the Bucks Set to Collide in Inner Space

February 9, 2007

An international consortium of physicists released the first detailed design of what they believe will be the Next Big Thing in physics: the International Linear Collider, a machine 20 miles long that will slam together electrons and their evil-twin opposites, positrons, to produce fireballs of energy recreating conditions when the universe was only a trillionth of a second old.

The cost: cost about $6.7 billion and 13,000 person-years of… read more

New universes will be born from ours

February 9, 2007

Some physicists have argued that the universe is doomed to be ripped apart by runaway dark energy, while others think it is bouncing through an endless series of big bangs and big crunches.

Now these two ideas are being combined to create another option, in which our universe ultimately shatters into billions of pieces, with each shard growing into a whole new universe. The model could solve the mystery… read more

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