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Tracking Information Flow in the Brain

October 16, 2006

MIT scientists have engineered a nano-sized calcium sensor that may eventually shed light on the intricate cell-to-cell communications that make up human thought.

Alan Jasanoff and his team at the Francis Bitter Magnet Lab and McGovern Institute of Brain Research have found that tracking calcium, a key messenger in the brain, may be a more precise way of measuring neural activity, compared with current imaging techniques, such as traditional… read more

A Database for Disease

October 16, 2006

A newly developed genetic “roadmap” promises to streamline the drug discovery process. Called the Connectivity Map, this public database matches drug compounds with diseased cells and the processes occurring within them.

At any point in time, some genes in a cell are expressed, or “on,” while others are not. And a cell’s particular profile of activity is known as its gene-expression signature. When cells are exposed to a drug,… read more

Say hello to your robot self

October 16, 2006

Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro is at the forefront of designing machines that look just like us.

Equipped with off-board cameras, microphones and floor sensors, Repliee Q1Expo, an android copy of Ayako Fujii, a real newscaster, can detect human presence and interview people with a microphone, moving its upper body in a smooth, natural fashion.

Dr. Ishiguro can remote-control it, Wizard of Oz-style, using a motion-capture system that transmits his… read more

Lasers control quantum processes

October 16, 2006

A research team at the National Research Council Canada (Ottawa) has developed a method of using laser pulses to control quantum processes.

The method, described in the October 13 issue of Science, was illustrated by changing the outcome of a chemical reaction.

According to Albert Stolow, the NRC team leader, the tool could be used to directly encode nanoscale information or control nanoscale switches.

Another application is… read more

Liquid to seal open wounds fast

October 16, 2006

A biodegradable solution comprising peptides can stop bleeding in wounded rodents in less than 15 seconds.

When the solution is applied to open wounds, it forms a gel that seals the site of injury and eventually breaks down into amino acids, which can be used by surrounding cells.

Technique May Help Revive Head-Injury Victims

October 16, 2006

Doctors yesterday reported the first evidence that targeted electrical deep brain stimulation (DBS) may help head-trauma victims stuck in a state of semiconsciousness, after an experiment apparently restored some of one patient’s abilities to function and communicate.

The technique, which has been shown to be effective for treating some patients with Parkinson’s disease, severe pain, epilepsy, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, involves inserting tiny electrodes into the brain to stimulate… read more

Free stem cells for all?

October 16, 2006

Free stem cells for all? Possibly, now that the US Patent and Trademark Office is re-examining key patents on human embryonic stem cells that some say have been stifling stem cell research.

Nanosheets made by mimicking protein formation

October 16, 2006

Unravelling the complex process by which nanoparticles self-assemble into microscopic wafers could lead to new techniques for building nanoscale devices.

Cadmium telluride nanocrystals have been found to spontaneously form sheets 2 microns thick if submerged in water.

The process is similar to one employed by a protein found in bacteria to form sheets known as S-layers, which form the outermost layer of a cell.

Databases That Learn

October 12, 2006

The latest generation of security software studies the way people normally access a database to identify hackers. It learns about appropriate database usage patterns, and sounds an alarm if something anomalous happens.

Citizendium

October 12, 2006

Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia who later quit the project over differences in vision, has announced a direct competitor: Citizendium, a Wikipedia-style site with a focus on building a more scholarly, expert-centric community.

Combing the Cosmos at High Speed: The Allen Telescope Array

October 12, 2006

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a specialized radio telescope now under construction by the SETI Institute and the University of California Berkeley, will be about a hundred times faster than any previous radio search, and will simultaneously pick up all cosmic static between 0.5 and 11.2 gigahertz—a spectral range equivalent to two thousand TV channels.

Space tourism on China’s agenda?

October 12, 2006

China may one day offer trips into space for tourists. It plans to launch more rockets, explore the moon and even help farmers by using satellite transmissions.

Tiny Genome May Reflect Organelle in the Making

October 12, 2006

The record for world’s smallest genome has been smashed by a bacterium that lives inside a sap-feeding insect. The microbe is missing almost half of the genes thought to be essential for its kind to persist, raising the possibility that it is becoming an organelle similar to a mitochondrion or chloroplast.

HUMANITY: A WORK IN PROGRESS

October 12, 2006

NPR’s weekly “To the Best of Our Knowledge” show will feature interviews with Ray Kurzweil on “the future of the human brain” and James Gardner on “intelligent Life is the architect of the universe” on Sunday,
October 15th (see NPR affiliates list for local stations and times).

Gardner is author of The New Scientific Theory of Evolution: Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe.

Earth’s orbit linked to extinctions

October 12, 2006

A tiny change to the Earth’s orbit can affect the climate on Earth by altering the amount of sunlight received by different regions of the globe.

Utrecht University researchers mapped out which species lived in which time periods. With this information, they found evidence for two different cycles of die-offs, each taking up to 30% of the species alive at the time. Every 2.4-2.5 million years there was a… read more

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