science + technology news

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.

Algae-Based Fuels Set to Bloom

February 5, 2007

Raw algae can be processed to make biocrude, the renewable equivalent of petroleum, and refined to make gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemical feedstocks for plastics and drugs. Indeed, it can be processed at existing oil refineries to make just about anything that can be made from crude oil.

New genomic and proteomic technologies make it much easier to understand the mechanisms involved in algae-oil production.

H5N1 bird flu outbreak confirmed on English farm

February 5, 2007

Britain recorded its first outbreak of potentially lethal H5N1 bird flu in poultry Saturday, as tests confirmed it is the highly pathogenic Asian strain similar to that found in Hungary last month.

Physicists find way to ‘see’ extra dimensions

February 5, 2007
A computer-generated rendering of a possible six-dimensional geometry similar to those studied by UW-Madison physicist Gary Shiu. Image: courtesy Andrew J. Hanson, Indiana University

Physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised an approach that may help unlock the hidden shapes of alternate dimensions of the universe.

A new study demonstrates that the shapes of extra dimensions can be “seen” by deciphering their influence on the radiation released by the violent birth of the universe 13 billion years ago. The method, published today (Feb. 2) in Physical Review Letters, provides evidence… read more

Maxwell’s Demon Becomes Reality

February 5, 2007

University of Edinburgh researchers have created an molecule-sized device — known as Maxwell’s Demon, inspired by Maxwell’s thought experiment in 1867 — that could trap molecules as they move in a specific direction, powered by light.

As stated in Nature (subscription required), this molecule, known as a rotaxane, consists of a ring threaded onto a linear unit and held in place by two bulky chemical groups (stoppers).… read more

Printing gets new dimension

February 5, 2007

EoPlex is developing a revolutionary way to print objects in three dimensions: mass-produce tiny gears and switches using a process that builds 3-D objects by layering materials on top of each other, over and over, until a third dimension takes shape.

Pandemic flu may be only two mutations away

February 2, 2007

A new study investigating the difference between the 1918 pandemic flu virus – which killed at least 50 million people — and a virus which kills but does not spread turned out to be two small mutations on the virus’ surface.

Just two amino acids need to change on the virus’s surface in order to allow it to spread easily between people, the researchers found.

Breakthrough in nanodevice synthesis revolutionizes biological sensors

February 1, 2007
Schematic of nanowire sensors operating in solution

Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering engineers have developed a novel approach to synthesizing nanowires using wet-etch lithography on commercially available silicon-on-insulator wafers.

This allows for direct integration of nanowires with microelectronic systems for the first time.

It also allows for them to act as highly sensitive biomolecule detectors that could revolutionize biological diagnostic applications, according to a report in Nature.

Sugar in the gas tank? It might run your car someday

February 1, 2007

Amyris Biotechnologies hopes to convert sugar directly to fuel by reprogramming microbes.

Jack Newman, PhD, Amyris Biotechnologies VP: “Why are we making ethanol if we’re trying to make a fuel? We should be making something that looks a lot more like gasoline. We should be making something that looks a lot more like diesel. And if you wanted to design, you name it, a jet fuel? We can make… read more

How about a bot for a boss?

February 1, 2007

Suggestbot, developed by Dan Cosley at Cornell University and colleagues, could help online communities such as Wikipedia and Slashdot distribute tasks by linking tasks with people’s interests.

Homo Futurus: How Radically Should We Remake Ourselves — Or Our Children?

February 1, 2007

Futurists see a conflict forming over our dominion over the human body, and over the choices we make about our biological future, and that of our children. Some call it a clash between “bioliberals” and “bioconservatives,” and frame it as a debate over individual rights.

Transhumanists — those who advocate the use of science to alter the human future — may be playing an instrumental role in reshaping our… read more

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