science + technology news

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

New studies back vitamin D for cancer prevention

February 6, 2007

Two new vitamin D studies by University of California, San Diego cancer specialists have revealed new prescriptions for possibly preventing up to half of the cases of breast cancer and two-thirds of the cases of colorectal cancer in the United States.

The studies used a sophisticated form of analysis called meta-analysis in which data from multiple reports is combined.

Q&A: Suranga Chandratillake

February 6, 2007

Blinkx’s technology allows users to search more than seven million hours of Internet video to find exactly the clip they want.

It employs speech recognition, neural networks, and machine learning to create transcripts, allowing for the words spoken in the videos to be searched.

Human metabolism recreated in lab

February 5, 2007

University of California researchers have created a virtual model of all the biochemical reactions that occur in human cells.

They hope the computer model will allow scientists to modify metabolic processes to find new treatments for conditions such as high cholesterol. It could also be used to individually tailor diet for weight control.

More efficient solar greenhouse developed

February 5, 2007

Researcher Rachel van Ooteghem of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research has designed a control system for an improved solar greenhouse that yields more for less.

It uses an improved roof cover, heat regulation system, and humidity regulation system. A control system maintains the correct climate in the greenhouse, whatever the weather outside. Different climate factors in the greenhouse, such as temperature and relative humidity, can be… read more

Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers

February 5, 2007

University of Alberta scientists have tested dichloroacetate (DCA) on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells.

Fueling Brain Research

February 5, 2007

Neuroscientists at MIT’s McGovern Institute Neurotechnology Program plan to create reporter molecules that are sensitive to different neurochemicals.

A marker that changes with calcium concentration, for example, could allow for MRI imaging of neural activity with much greater resolution than current methods.

They also visualize miniature devices that would lodge in the capillaries and record from close-by neurons and transmit that data through the skull.

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