science + technology news

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

First quantum computing system running commercial applications live to be unveiled

February 9, 2007
This is the core of a new quantum computer to be unveiled by D-Wave Systems, says Steve Jurvetson, Managing Director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a leading venture-capital firm. "It is attached to a Leiden Cryogenics dilution fridge, ready to begin a cool down to 0.005 degrees above absolute zero. This quantum computer employs the resources of 65,536 parallel universes to compute answers in a fundamentally new way."

D-Wave Systems, Inc. plans to demonstrate a technological first on Feb. 13: an end-to-end quantum computing system powered by a 16-qubit quantum processor, running two commercial applications, live.

D-Wave claims it is the world’s first and only provider of quantum computing systems designed to run commercial applications. The event will be hosted in Silicon Valley and Vancouver, B.C.

Engines of Creation 2.0 published as free ebook

February 9, 2007

Free-book publisher WOWIO will announce Friday the publication of Engines of Creation 2.0: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology – Updated and Expanded by K. Eric Drexler, an ebook-only version available free exclusively through WOWIO.

In addition to an updated look and feel for the ebook, Engines of Creation 2.0 has been expanded to include the first known lecture on nanotechnology by physicist Richard Feynman, the landmark open… read more

Here’s a more cerebral reason to lower your cholesterol

February 8, 2007

An unhealthy western diet could harm more than just your waistline — it may also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute researchers have found that “ABC proteins,” which help control cholesterol levels in arterial walls by expelling cholesterol from the immune cells called macrophages where it builds up, were also present in neurons.

Drugs that increase expression of ABC transporters might slow… read more

Quantum Quirk: Stopped Laser Pulse Reappears a Short Distance Away

February 8, 2007

Harvard University researchers have halted a pulse of laser light in its tracks and revived it a fraction of a millimeter away.

They stopped it in a cloud of supercold sodium atoms, known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), and then restarted it in a second, distinct BEC as though the pulse had spookily jumped between the two locations.

The technique may someday be used in optical communications or… read more

Mimicking How the Brain Recognizes Street Scenes

February 8, 2007
The Poggio model for object recognition takes as input the unlabled images of digital photographs from the Street Scene Database (top) and generates automatic annotations

A computational model of how the brain processes visual information in a complex, real world task has been applied to recognizing the objects in a busy street scene.

Scientists in Tomaso Poggio’s laboratory at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT “showed” the model randomly selected images so that it could “learn” to identify commonly occurring features in real-word objects, such as trees, cars, and… read more

Imaging Deception in the Brain

February 7, 2007

FMRI-based lie-detection systems seek to assess a direct measure of deceit: the level of activity in brain areas linked with lying.

Studies have shown that the brain appears more active when someone is telling a falsehood, especially the brain areas involved in resolving conflict and cognitive control. Scientists think that lying is more cognitively complex than telling the truth, and therefore it activates more of the brain.

Winning ways

February 7, 2007

Supercomputer programs like IBM’s Deep Blue have demonstrated their ability to outthink human chess players. There is one game, however, where humans still reign supreme: Go. Yet here too their grip is beginning to loosen.

MoGo, a program developed by researchers from the University of Paris, has even beaten a couple of strong human players, using the Monte Carlo method, a form of statistical sampling. It is ranked 2,323rd… read more

Orbiting Junk, Once a Nuisance, Is Now a Threat

February 7, 2007

Space experts have worried that a speeding bit of orbital debris might one day smash a large spacecraft into hundreds of pieces and start a chain reaction, a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.

China’s test on Jan. 11 of an antisatellite rocket that shattered an old satellite into hundreds of large fragments added about 1000 more detectable objects to the… read more

Hackers Slow Internet Root Servers With Attack

February 7, 2007

Using a botnet, online attackers disrupted service Tuesday on at least two of the 13 “root” servers that are used to direct traffic on the Internet.

The two hardest-hit servers are maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Beyond the DNA: Chemical signatures reveal genetic switches in the genome

February 6, 2007

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have made a breakthrough in identifying functional elements in the human genome.

Their novel method can identify and predict the “promoter” and “enhancer: regions that switch on transcription, the first step in gene expression. This study is an important step towards large-scale functional annotation of “enhancers,” which establish the rate at which… read more

MIT ‘optics on a chip’ may revolutionize telecom, computing

February 6, 2007

MIT researchers have

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