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Biotech’s Sparse Harvest

February 14, 2006

The next generation of biotech crops — the first with direct benefits for consumers — is finally on the horizon. But the list does not include many of the products once envisioned.

Developing such crops has proved to be far from easy. Resistance to genetically modified foods, technical difficulties, legal and business obstacles, and the ability to develop improved foods without genetic engineering have winnowed the pipeline.

Rats in a Maze Take a Moment to Remember, but in Reverse

February 14, 2006

When rats pause in running through a maze, they play back their memory of points along their route, but in reverse order.

The discovery may provide a deep insight into how memory works in humans. The reverse replay mechanism seems to be part of a neural editing process in which memories are selected, combined and stored as a set of edited movies, as it were, of important experiences in… read more

If Robots Ever Get Too Smart, He’ll Know How to Stop Them

February 14, 2006

In his new book, “How to Survive a Robot Uprising,” roboticist Daniel H. Wilson offers humorous advice on evading and outsmarting robots as a literary device to combat dystopian robot scenarios while serving as a state-of-the-art robotics primer.

NY team confirms UCLA tabletop fusion

February 14, 2006

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, confirming an earlier experiment conducted at UCLA, while offering substantial improvements over the original design.

The device is essentially a tabletop particle accelerator. At its heart are two opposing “pyroelectric” crystals that create a strong electric field when heated or cooled. The device is filled with deuterium gas. The electric field rips electrons… read more

Fraunhofer makes tool to fight music piracy

February 13, 2006

The Fraunhofer Institute has developed a digital watermarking technology for tracking pirated audio files in peer-to-peer filesharing networks.

The system lets content providers embed a watermark in their downloadable MP3 files. Watermark technology makes slight, imperceptible changes to data in sound and image files.

Life inside a black hole

February 13, 2006

There is a way for you to live inside a black hole: find one that has five dimensions.

In the 4D case, you would experience “tidal” forces that vary so vastly over short distances that your body would be pulled apart. But in the 5D case, there is no physical plughole, and the tidal forces are negligible, so you could happily explore without fear of dismemberment.

And, according… read more

Robot moved by a slime mould’s fears

February 13, 2006

Kobe University researchers have developed a slime mold-controlled bot in an effort to find simpler ways to control a robot’s behavior in a complex or paradoxical environment.

They grew slime in a six-pointed star shape on top of a circuit and connected it remotely, via a computer, to the hexapod bot. Light sensors on top of the robot controlled light shone onto one of the six points of the… read more

Toxoplasma Parasite Mind Control

February 13, 2006

Half of the world’s human population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii, parasites in the body — and the brain.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey (Associate Director for Laboratory Research at the Stanley Medical Research Institute) noticed links between Toxoplasma, a common parasite found in the guts of cats, and schizophrenia in human beings, approximately three billion of whom are infected with T. gondii.

Skip Your Veggies? Not So Fast

February 13, 2006

A recently published study of 48,835 women, questioning low-fat diets, had serious design defects, experts say.

Subjects with “healthier” diets cut calories from fat by only 8.2 percent compared with the normal group and ate only 1.1 additional servings of fruits and vegetables a day — too small a difference to expect health benefits.

And hy focusing only on total fat intake, the study misleadingly failed to distinquish… read more

US group implants electronic tags in workers

February 12, 2006

An Ohio company has embedded RFID chips in two of its employees — the first known case in which US workers have been “tagged” electronically as a way of identifying them.

CityWatcher.com, a private video surveillance company, said it was testing the technology as a way of controlling access to a room where it holds security video footage for government agencies and the police.

Faster technology lets atomic force microscope capture nano movies

February 10, 2006
FIRAT probe

Georgia Tech researchers have created a highly sensitive atomic force microscopy (AFM) technology capable of high-speed imaging 100 times faster than current AFM. This technology could prove invaluable for many types of nano-research, in particular for scanning integrated circuits for mechanical and material defects and observing fast biological interactions on the molecular scale, even translating into movies of molecular interactions in real time.

FIRAT (Force sensing Integrated… read more

Chips that really get under your skin

February 9, 2006

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have developed a chip that allows you to listen to an iPod using your forearm as the transmission wire for the audio signals.

To reduce power consumption and boost data rate, the chip sends low-power ultra-wideband signals over a wide range of frequencies, rather than sending a high-power signal at a narrow frequency.

The chips can produce data… read more

Software That Learns by Doing

February 8, 2006

Attempts to create self-improving software date to the 1960s. But machine learning has remained mostly the province of academic researchers, with only a few niche applications in the commercial world, such as speech recognition and credit card fraud detection.

Now, researchers say, better algorithms, more powerful computers and a few clever tricks will move it further into the mainstream.

Has BYU prof found AIDS cure?

February 7, 2006

Brigham Young University researchers believe they have found a new compound that could finally kill the HIV/AIDS virus, not just slow it down as current treatments do.

CSA-54, one of a family of compounds called Ceragenins (or CSAs), mimics the disease-fighting characteristics of anti-microbial and anti-viral agents produced naturally by a healthy human immune system. It attacks HIV at its molecular membrane level, disrupting the virus from interacting with… read more

Low-Fat Diet Does Not Cut Health Risks, Study Finds

February 7, 2006

The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet has no effect.

The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as… read more

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