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Huge ‘launch ring’ to fling satellites into orbit

October 4, 2006

An enormous ring of superconducting magnets similar to a particle accelerator could fling satellites into space at lower cost than conventional rocket launches.

It would also be ideal for delivering supplies to support human spaceflight, such as food and water, which are not sensitive to such high accelerations.

And if You Liked the Movie, a Netflix Contest May Reward You Handsomely

October 3, 2006

Netflix, the popular online movie rental service, is planning to award $1 million to the first person who can improve the accuracy of movie recommendations based on personal preferences.

To win the prize, a contestant will have to devise a system that is more accurate than the company’s current recommendation system by at least 10 percent. And to improve the quality of research, Netflix is making available to the… read more

Fire and Mello win Nobel Prize

October 3, 2006

Andrew Z. Fire, a professor in Stanford University School of Medicine’s Department of Pathology and Genetics, and Craig C. Mello, professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for uncovering the mechanism of RNA interference.

Fire and Mello made their discoveries in the nematode. They investigated whether double-stranded RNAs might be the trigger for suppression of… read more

Seeing Molecular Machines

October 2, 2006

A fascinating animation of molecular processes in a cell shows a number of molecular machines–ribosomes, motors, and more–working to move molecules and structures around a cell, and even to create the structures.

2051 space oddity: TV station aims at an alien audience

October 2, 2006

Two naked television presenters hosted the first program conceived for aliens and broadcast to the star Errai, located in the Big Dipper, 45 light years away.

Attack of the killer prototype robots

October 2, 2006

Intel and Carnegie Mellon University are trying to see if millions of tiny robots can work together to create a shape-shifting intelligent fabric that could model any 3-D object and would change shape under software control.

The “Dynamic Physical Rendering” project would create a fabric composed of millions of independent silicon spheres covered in electronic actuators–half-capacitors or electromagnets. By applying charges to different actuators, different points on the sphere… read more

PC World’s 100 Fearless Forecasts

October 2, 2006

High-def video over the Net, inexpensive 20-megapixel cameras, and 50-terabyte DVDs are among PC World’s 100 forecasts of future technology.

Anthrax Dispute, Bioshield Woes

October 2, 2006

Project Bioshield, which promised to build national drug stockpiles to be used in case of a bioterror attack, has been put off until at least 2008 — and maybe later.

Powerful Batteries That Assemble Themselves

September 29, 2006

Biology may be the key to producing light-weight, inexpensive, and high-performance batteries that could transform military uniforms into power sources and, eventually, improve electric and hybrid vehicles.

Through a combination of genetic design and directed evolution, Angela Belcher, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science, and colleagues have created viruses that coat themselves with inorganic materials they wouldn’t touch in nature, forming crystalline materials, which are doped… read more

New Power Suit Amplifies Human Strength

September 29, 2006

Engineers in Japan are perfecting a wearable power suit that amplifies human strength to help lift hospital patients or heavy objects.

Advance in dip-pen nanolithography promises miniaturized gene chips, nanoscale electronics

September 27, 2006

Northwestern University researchers have developed a 55,000-pen, two-dimensional array that allows them to simultaneously create 55,000 identical patterns drawn with tiny dots of molecular ink on substrates of gold or glass. Each structure is only a single molecule tall.

The parallel process paves the way for making DPN competitive with other optical and stamping lithographic methods used for patterning large areas on metal and semiconductor substrates, including silicon wafers.… read more

New Software Can Search Podcasts

September 27, 2006

New audio-search technologies using speech-to-text and semantic analysis generate searchable transcripts of podcasts, allowing users to jump directly to certain points in a broadcast.

What if Bionics Were Better?

September 26, 2006

A tiny population of early adopters eager to test bionics by choice rather than out of need is emerging.

Move Into Space, but Where?

September 26, 2006

Attendees of the Space 2006 conference on permanent human settlements presented arguments for locations on Mars, the moon, or habitats orbiting the Earth.

Copper Circuits Help Brain Function; Could Tweaking the Circuits Make Us Smarter?

September 26, 2006

The flow of copper in the brain has a previously unrecognized role in cell death, learning and memory, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine.

The researchers’ findings suggest that copper and its transporter, a protein called Atp7a, are vital to human thinking. They speculate that variations in the genes coding for Atp7a, as well as other proteins of copper homeostasis, could partially account for differences in… read more

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