science + technology news

Fantastic Voyage: Departure 2009

January 21, 2007

An international team of scientists is developing what they say will be the world’s first microrobot that can swim through the arteries and digestive system.

The scientists are designing the 250-micron device to transmit images and deliver microscopic payloads to parts of the body outside the reach of existing catheter technology.

It will also perform minimally invasive microsurgeries.

Neural ‘extension cord’ developed for brain implants

January 21, 2007

A “data cable” made from stretched nerve cells could someday help connect computers to the human nervous system. The modified cells should form better connections with human tissue than the metal electrodes currently used for purposes such as remotely controlling prosthetics.

Connecting the chord to electrodes outside of the brain means the reaction of neurons to non-organic material can be controlled. In the future, the cord could connect an… read more

Anti-satellite weapon used simple technology

January 21, 2007

Relatively simple technology — an ordinary medium-range ballistic missile — suffices to take out a satellite the way the Chinese government apparently did last week.

The US government says China launched a ballistic missile on January 11 that destroyed one of its own spacecraft, a defunct weather satellite, in an apparent test of anti-satellite technology.

The destruction of the satellite is thought to have produced millions of fragments,… read more

How brain protein turns toxic in Alzheimer’s disease

January 21, 2007

The long-suspected link between Alzheimer’s disease and abnormalities in the way amyloid protein is processed in the brain has been confirmed.

Putting a Second Life First

January 21, 2007

Second Life creator Philip Rosedale has elected recently to open-source the software that enables real people to interact with the world.

He’s also preparing to do the same for software that runs its core computers, allowing others to add to Second Life’s virtual terrain.

The objective is to allow it to keep up with demand and extend its business model.

Putting the Brakes on Light Speed

January 21, 2007

Researchers at the University of Rochester have achieved a long-sought goal of slowing waves of light to one-three-hundredth of its normal velocity and using those harnessed pulses to store an image.

Physicists said the new approach to taming light could hasten the arrival of a futuristic era in which computers and other devices will process information on optical beams instead of with electricity.

The researchers created a four-inch-long… read more

Google plots e-books coup

January 21, 2007

Google is working on a system that would allow readers to download entire books to their computers in a format that they could read on screen or mobile devices.

Sony recently launched its Reader, a digital book device with an online book store stocking 10,000 titles. Amazon, the world’s largest online book seller, is also planning to launch an e-book service.

So much space, so little time: why aliens haven’t found us yet

January 19, 2007

Rasmus Bjork, a physicist at the Niels Bohr institute, believes he may have solved the Fermi paradox.

Using a computer simulation of our own galaxy, he found that even if the alien ships could hurtle through space at a tenth of the speed of light, it would take 10 billion years to explore just 4 percent of the galaxy.

Single-pixel camera takes on digital

January 18, 2007

Rice University researchers are developing a single-pixel camera to capture high-quality images without the expense of traditional digital photography.

This “digital micromirror device” consists of a million or more tiny mirrors each the size of a bacterium. The light is focused through a second lens on to one single photodetector. As the light passes through the device, the millions of tiny mirrors are turned on and off at random… read more

Folic acid boosts minds of over-50s, study finds

January 18, 2007

Absent-mindedness in the over-50s is significantly improved when people take folic acid supplements, according to a large study reported in today’s Lancet.

Short-term memory, mental agility and verbal fluency tests were all better among people who took high doses of the supplement for three years, compared with a group given a placebo.

New nano-detector very promising for remote cosmic realms

January 18, 2007

The “hot electron bolometer” (HEB), a superconducting detector of terahertz radiation developed at Delft University of Technology’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, offers astronomers important new information about the birth of star systems and planets.

Research removes major obstacle from mass production of tiny circuits

January 18, 2007
Nanoimprinting: liquid droplets on the surface of a silicon wafer are pressed into a pattern, which quickly hardens to form the desired circuitry.

A Princeton-led team has developed Nanoimprint, a form of nanoimprint lithography that uses a nanometer-scale mold to pattern computer chips and other nanostructures.

This technique allows for creation of circuits and devices with features not much longer than one nanometer — more than 10 times smaller than is possible in today’s mass-produced chips, yet more than 10 times cheaper.

Doomsday draws two minutes closer

January 18, 2007

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the hands of its Doomsday Clock to five minutes before midnight — the metaphorical marker of the end of humanity.

Two factors prompted the Bulletin’s board to move the clock forward by two minutes: the spread of nuclear weapons and climate change.

The chief reason for the move is the dawn of a “second nuclear age,” in which far more countries… read more

Intel builds 80-core chip

January 18, 2007

Intel’s researchers have produced a research prototype 80-core chip that uses less energy than a quad-core processor and has teraflop performance capabilities.

It expects to be able to produce a chip with 80 cores in five to eight years.

Intel shows 45-nm processor

January 18, 2007

Intel Corp. said it has completed the development of its next-generation, 45-nm process technology, scheduled for production in the second half of 2007.

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