science + technology news

Robot swarms ‘evolve’ effective communication

February 26, 2007

Robots that artificially evolve ways to communicate with one another have been demonstrated by Swiss researchers.

The “genomes” of the bots that found food and avoided poison most efficiently were recombined, mimicking biological natural selection.

“We saw colonies that used their lights to signal when they found food and others that used signals to communicate they had found poison,” said biologist Laurent Keller from the University of Lausanne.

Genetic privacy protected by law

February 26, 2007

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), introduced into Congress on January 16, if passed, will become the first federal law to prevent employers from collecting genetic information on their employees.

It would also outlaw genetic discrimination, preventing insurers from denying coverage or charging higher premiums based on a person’s predisposition to disease.

Agenda Set For Upcoming Planetary Defense Conference

February 26, 2007

The second Planetary Defense Conference will bring together scientists and engineers from the international space community on March 5 – 8 in Washington DC to assess our ability to discover and track near-Earth objects and deflect an asteroid or comet that poses a threat to Earth.

Darpa Chief Speaks

February 23, 2007

“We’re on the verge of having computers with densities approaching a monkey’s brain, and it won’t be long before we’ll have a computer with … the equivalent to neurons and almost human,” says DARPA director Tony Tether.

Scientists produce neurons from human skin

February 23, 2007

Scientists from Universite Laval’s Faculty of Medicine have succeeded in producing neurons in vitro, using stem cells extracted from adult human skin.

This breakthrough could eventually lead to revolutionary advances in the treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.

Protein Drugs with More Power

February 22, 2007

Yale University researchers have taken a step toward controlling the structure of proteins called beta-peptides.

Eventually, these peptides could become the basis for drugs that are cheaper to manufacture than existing protein-based pharmaceuticals and last longer in the body.

The Promise of Personal Supercomputers

February 22, 2007

Intel’s “terascale” supercomputer on a chip is one of Intel’s first steps toward massively multicore (multiprocessor) technology.

The goal: test techniques that could make massively multicore technology faster, more energy efficient, and easy to program. These techniques will be “funneled into future products” that could appear within five to ten years.

Intel thinks that recognition, mining, and synthesis (RMS) applications will be key. These technologies could allow for… read more

Super Robots Gear Up for Space

February 22, 2007

Superbots — robots made up of identical modular units that plug into one another to create robots that can stand, crawl, wiggle, and roll — are being developed mainly to carry out multiple complex tasks, such as assembly, inspection, maintenance, habitat construction, surface landing, and exploration in space and on planet surfaces.

Hot Advance for Thermoelectrics

February 22, 2007

By trapping organic molecules between a gold surface and the ultrafine gold tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, researchers have shown that the molecules could be used to generate electricity.

“Thermoelectric devices” based on the molecules could prove to be an important source of power.

Estonia to hold first national Internet election

February 22, 2007

Estonia plans to become the world’s first country to allow voting in a national parliamentary election via the Internet.

The voting next month will take place by people putting their state-issued ID card, which has an electronic chip on it, into a reader attached to a computer and then entering two passwords.

NASA And Virgin Galactic To Explore Future Cooperation

February 22, 2007

NASA officials announced they have signed an agreement with a U.S. company, Virgin Galactic, to explore collaborations on development of future space systems and support to commercial human spaceflight activities.

These areas of research will include hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound, employing NASA Ames’ unique capabilities and world-class facilities.

Biologically Inspired Vision Systems

February 21, 2007

Neuroscientists at MIT have developed a computer model that mimics the human vision system to accurately detect and recognize objects in a busy street scene, such as cars and motorcycles.

Such biologically inspired vision systems could soon be used in surveillance systems, or in smart sensors that can warn drivers of pedestrians and other obstacles. It may also help in the development of so-called visual search engines.

A Digital Life

February 21, 2007

New systems may allow people to record everything they see and hear–and even things they cannot sense–and to store all these data in a personal digital archive

Microsoft Research’s Gordon Bell has launched a research project, called MyLifeBits, aimed at creating a digital archive of all his interactions with the world. Bell’s digital memories include documents from his long career in the computer industry, all the photographs he takes… read more

Renewable fuels will revolutionize agriculture, says U.S. official

February 21, 2007

Growing demand for grains that can be converted to clean ethanol or biodiesel fuels distilled from plants will likely revolutionize agriculture in both rich and poor countries, a top U.S. agriculture official said.

Concerned about global climate change and dependence on Middle East oil, U.S. and European leaders have set high targets for increasing the use of biofuels. Some experts question whether farmers in those regions can meet the… read more

The Problems in Modeling Nature, With Its Unruly Natural Tendencies

February 21, 2007

A new book by Orrin H. Pilkey, a coastal geologist and emeritus professor at Duke, argues that nature is too complex and depends on too many processes that are poorly understood or little monitored to be modeled using computer programs.

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