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Geeks in Toyland

February 1, 2006

When the time came for a major upgrade to Lego’s Mindstorms robot kit, they turned to their obsessed fans — and rewrote the rules of the innovation game.

Robot special: Almost human

February 1, 2006

Researchers are poised to pull together developments in three key fields — walking, talking and manipulation — to produce a new generation of human-like machines.

And when artificial intelligence catches up, they will not only be able to clean the house, do the dishes and take out the garbage, but also to play with children, help care for the elderly and even explore the farthest reaches of space and… read more

Bush’s State of the Union calls for research spending

February 1, 2006

In his State of the Union address, President Bush proposed to “double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years.

“This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.”

Bush also announced the Advanced Energy Initiative — a 22-percent increase in clean-energy… read more

Words help determine what we see

February 1, 2006

University of Chicago researchers have found that language affects perception, supporting the Whorfian hypothesis. The effects were noted in the right half of the visual field, but much less, if at all, in the left half.

Language function is processed predominantly in the left hemisphere of the brain, which receives visual information directly from the right visual field. “So it would make sense for the language processes of the… read more

US ‘unaware’ of emerging bioterror threats

February 1, 2006

The life sciences are developing so quickly that a watch list of dangerous pathogens and toxins is useless in fighting the threat of bioterrorism, says a new report from the National Academy of Sciences.

Focusing on the list of about 60 “select agents,” such as the smallpox virus and botulism toxin, might simply divert resources from newer and more dangerous threats, such as RNA interference, synthetic biology or nanotechnology.… read more

Rehab’s robotic revolution

January 31, 2006

Researchers envision a day when robots will become standard equipment in rehabilitation centers, giving stroke patients — and possibly patients with spinal cord injuries — a chance to take their recovery further than previously possible.

The KineAssist, just one of a legion of smart machines poised to bring physical therapy into the high-tech age, was developed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. It is essentially a hip brace and… read more

Missing a few brain cells? Print new ones

January 31, 2006

A printer that spits out ultra-fine droplets of cells instead of ink has been used to print live brain cells without causing them any apparent harm. The technique could open up the possibility of building replacement tissue cell by cell, giving doctors complete control over the tissue they graft.

The device is a variant of a conventional ink-jet printer. Instead of forcing individual droplets of ink through a needle-shaped… read more

Prions may hold key to stem cell function

January 31, 2006

Researchers at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts have found that adult stem cells in bone marrow gradually lose their ability to regenerate without their normal complement of membrane-bound prions.

Regeneration Sans Stem Cells

January 30, 2006

Scientists are developing drugs to regenerate human tissues and organs, avoiding medical problems like immune rejection.

South Pole Neutrino Detector Could Yield Evidences of String Theory

January 30, 2006

Researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Irvine say that scientists might soon have evidence for extra dimensions and other exotic predictions of string theory. Early results from a neutrino detector at the South Pole, called AMANDA, show that ghostlike particles from space could serve as probes to a world beyond our familiar three dimensions, the research team says.

DNA-wrapped carbon nanotubes serve as sensors in living cells

January 30, 2006

Single walled carbon nanotubes wrapped with DNA can be placed inside living cells and detect trace amounts of harmful contaminants, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Their discovery opens the door to new types of optical sensors and biomarkers that exploit the unique properties of nanoparticles in living systems.

“We found that the thermodynamics that drive the switching back and forth between these two forms… read more

Linear thinking about the future of cars

January 30, 2006

A U.K. government think tank has forecast RFID-tagged driverless cars on roads by 2056.

“Given the ability of several cars to navigate a complex route in the recent DARPA competition completely autonomously and a General Motors project to demonstrate driverless cars traveling at 60 miles per hour by 2008, the projection of RFID-controlled cars by the year 2056 is a good example of linear thinking,” says Ray… read more

Brain scans may be used as lie detectors

January 29, 2006

Functional magnetic resonance imaging was able to spot lies in at high accuracy rates in recent experiments. The method detects tiny changes in blood flow in certain areas.

Collective Intelligence 2.0

January 27, 2006

Nova Spivack has proposed a “collective self-awareness” Web service that is “like a ‘Google Zeitgeist’ on steroids, but with a lot more real-time, interactive, participatory data, technology and features in it.

“The goal is to measure and visualize the state of the collective mind of humanity, and provide this back to humanity in as close to real-time as is possible, from as many data sources as we can handle.… read more

Bacteria Hunter — The Worm Medicine Nanorobotic Device

January 26, 2006

Svidinenko Yuriy has conceived a “worm nanorobotic” device that swims in the human bloodstream, removing hazardous fungi and microorganisms.

The concept is an alternative to Robert A. Freitas Jr.’s microbivore design, with simpler construction, according to Yuriy.

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