science + technology news

Pint-sized soldier with a big wallop

January 17, 2007

The U.S. Army is developing a robot that fires a machine gun with half-mile accuracy. Troops operate the machine remotely from a suitcase-size computer that lets them peer through the robot’s five cameras and drive it by tilting a joystick.

The $250,000 robot — known as Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct-Action System, or SWORDS — is intended as a way to keep troops out of harm’s way.… read more

Researchers first to map gene that regulates adult stem cell growth

January 17, 2007

University of Kentucky researchers have genetically mapped a stem cell gene and its protein product, Laxetin, and building on that effort, carried the investigation all the way through to the identification of the gene itself.

This is the first time such a complete study on a stem cell gene has been carried out. This particular gene is important because it helps regulate the number of adult stem cells in… read more

Robo-builder threatens the brickie

January 17, 2007

Engineers are developing the worlds first robots capable of building a complete house.

One method, inspired by the inkjet printer, involves computer-controlled robotic nozzles which pipe quick-drying liquid gypsum and concrete to form walls, floors and roofs, building the shell of the house in 24 hours.

“This is a harbinger of how we will eventually build large objects (like buildings) from modules constructed by nanoassemblers,” comments Ray Kurzweil.

Brain activity provides novel biometric key

January 17, 2007

An electronic security system that identifies people by monitoring the unique pattern of electrical activity within their brain is being tested by scientists at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, in Greece.

The authentication system requires a user to have EEG measurements taken beforehand. The result of each authentication test is compared with the user’s pre-recorded measurements, using signal-processing algorithms.

Memories are made of this molecule

January 16, 2007

European scientists have isolated a receptor molecule called TrkB that initiates a signalling pathway for long-term potentiation (LTP) in the brain of a living mouse.

Scientists Warn of Diminished Earth Studies From Space

January 16, 2007

The nation’s ability to track retreating polar ice and shifting patterns of drought, rainfall and other environmental changes is being put “at great risk” by faltering efforts to replace aging satellite-borne sensors, the National Research Council of the National Academies warned.

By 2010, the number of operating Earth-observing instruments on NASA satellites, most of which are already past their planned lifetimes, is likely to drop by 40 percent.

Can HP fool Moore’s Law?

January 16, 2007

Researchers from HP Labs plan to publish a paper this month that outlines how it may become possible to substantially increase the performance of certain types of chips, and reduce their power consumption, by replacing the communication wires inside chips with a crossbar grid of nanowires.

By removing the traditional interconnects, the size of a given chip would naturally and drastically shrink. Performance would increase, but the chips could… read more

March of the consumer robots

January 15, 2007

Home robotics is a growing trend at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The Future of Robotics

January 15, 2007

Robotics researchers should be working on achieving the visual object recognition capabilities of a two-year-old child and the manual dexterity of a 6-year-old child, says Rodney Brooks, director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Teeny-Weeny Rules for Itty-Bitty Atom Clusters

January 15, 2007

Berkeley has become the first government body in the United States — and possibly anywhere, according to some analysts — to explicitly regulate businesses that make or use nanoparticles.

The new regulation requires businesses to annually identify any materials they use or produce with at least one dimension of 100 nanometers or less, no matter how small the quantities. They must also share what they know about how toxic… read more

Silicon ‘Lego bricks’ used to build 3D chips

January 14, 2007

Silicon wafers covered with matching patterns of Lego-like teeth and holes could aid the development of 3D electronics.

Must-know terms for the 21st Century intellectual: Redux

January 12, 2007

George P. Dvorsky has created a list of the most fundamental and crucial terms that re-define the human condition and should be known by any expert generalist.

They include Accelerating Change, Anthropic Principle, Artificial General Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Cosmological Eschatology, Engineered Negligible Senescence, Mind Transfer (Uploading), Molecular Assembler, and of course, Technological Singularity.

Laser-induced explosion of gold nanoparticles: potential role for nanophotothermolysis of cancer

January 12, 2007

Researchers have used laser-induced explosion of absorbing nanoparticles in selective nanophotothermolysis of cancer.

This is realized through fast overheating of a strongly absorbing target during a short laser pulse. The resulting explosion of nanoparticles may be accompanied by optical plasma and shock waves with supersonic expansion and particle fragmentation with fragments of high kinetic energy. These can contribute to the killing of cancer cells.

A Better Artificial Skin

January 12, 2007

University of Cincinnati scientists have grown artificial skin cells, using collagen scaffolds. They could ultimately produce a type of artificial skin that can sweat, tan, and fight off infection more effectively.

Shrinking telomeres linked to heart disease

January 11, 2007

People who go on to have heart attacks have much shorter telomeres than those who remain healthy, a major new study has shown.

Telomeres are strands of DNA that cap chromosomes and wear away with each cell division.

Statins’ ability to protect patients from heart disease and stroke so effectively might be due to limiting the damage caused by telomere shortening, said Leicester University cardiologist Nilesh Samani.

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