science + technology news

Pandemic flu may be only two mutations away

February 2, 2007

A new study investigating the difference between the 1918 pandemic flu virus – which killed at least 50 million people — and a virus which kills but does not spread turned out to be two small mutations on the virus’ surface.

Just two amino acids need to change on the virus’s surface in order to allow it to spread easily between people, the researchers found.

Breakthrough in nanodevice synthesis revolutionizes biological sensors

February 1, 2007
Schematic of nanowire sensors operating in solution

Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering engineers have developed a novel approach to synthesizing nanowires using wet-etch lithography on commercially available silicon-on-insulator wafers.

This allows for direct integration of nanowires with microelectronic systems for the first time.

It also allows for them to act as highly sensitive biomolecule detectors that could revolutionize biological diagnostic applications, according to a report in Nature.

Sugar in the gas tank? It might run your car someday

February 1, 2007

Amyris Biotechnologies hopes to convert sugar directly to fuel by reprogramming microbes.

Jack Newman, PhD, Amyris Biotechnologies VP: “Why are we making ethanol if we’re trying to make a fuel? We should be making something that looks a lot more like gasoline. We should be making something that looks a lot more like diesel. And if you wanted to design, you name it, a jet fuel? We can make… read more

How about a bot for a boss?

February 1, 2007

Suggestbot, developed by Dan Cosley at Cornell University and colleagues, could help online communities such as Wikipedia and Slashdot distribute tasks by linking tasks with people’s interests.

Homo Futurus: How Radically Should We Remake Ourselves — Or Our Children?

February 1, 2007

Futurists see a conflict forming over our dominion over the human body, and over the choices we make about our biological future, and that of our children. Some call it a clash between “bioliberals” and “bioconservatives,” and frame it as a debate over individual rights.

Transhumanists — those who advocate the use of science to alter the human future — may be playing an instrumental role in reshaping our… read more

Does evolution select for faster evolvers?

February 1, 2007

It’s a mystery why the speed and complexity of evolution appear to increase with time. For example, the fossil record indicates that single-celled life first appeared about 3.5 billion years ago, and it then took about 2.5 billion more years for multi-cellular life to evolve. That leaves just a billion years or so for the evolution of the diverse menagerie of plants, mammals, insects, birds and other species that populate… read more

No Big Bang? Endless Universe Made Possible by New Model

January 31, 2007

A new cyclic cosmological model demonstrates the universe can endlessly expand and contract, providing a rival to Big Bang theories and solving a thorny modern physics problem, according to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physicists.

Eating According to Your Genome

January 31, 2007

The emerging field of nutrigenomics is starting to yield some DNA-based diet tips.

Atomic ‘transistor’ may switch using quantum clouds

January 31, 2007

A Bose-Einstein condensate — a super-cold gas cloud of atoms that are all in the same quantum state — could be used to make tiny atomic transistors, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Colorado resarchers have found.

U.S. university to build ‘soft-bodied’ robots

January 30, 2007

The next generation of robots will be soft-bodied, providing more flexibility than their stiff-jointed cousins, according to researchers at Tufts University.

GOOGLE’S MOON SHOT: The quest for the universal library

January 30, 2007

Google intends to scan every book ever published, and to make the full texts searchable, in the same way that Web sites can be searched on the company’s engine at

A Wheelchair That Reads Your Mind

January 30, 2007

Researchers are developing a thought-controlled robotic wheelchair, using a small, mobile interface that works with EEG electrodes placed on the scalp.

Silicon Valley Rebounds, Led by Green Technology

January 30, 2007

After five years of job losses, Silicon Valley is hiring again. The turnaround coincides with a huge increase of investment in the emerging category of clean environment technology.

Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on It?

January 30, 2007

We will make it to 2100, a New York Times journalist bets on, challenging British astronomer royal Martin Rees’ prediction: “By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event” because “by 2020 there will be thousands — even millions — of people with the capability to cause a catastrophic biological disaster.”

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines

January 30, 2007

Market research shows that people use four main search engines for 99.99 percent of their searches: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and (in that order). But in that .01 percent lies a vast multitude of the most innovative and creative search engines you have never seen.

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