science + technology news

Researchers unveil a self-aware robot

November 20, 2006

Scientists have created a four-legged robot resembling a starfish that can sense damage to its body and, on its own, think up a way to recover, such as limping to favor an injured leg.

It generated on its own a new concept of its structure, accurately sensing it had been altered, and then devising a new way to walk using a different gait to compensate for the injury.… read more

Serial Hybrids Are Here!

November 20, 2006

General Motors has announced plans to sell a serial hybrid car, with a prototype available early next year.

A serial hybrid means that the car has two engines, but only one engine is connected directly to the drive train, hence it is a “serial” hybrid.

It is less complex than conventional hybrid cars, because only the electric motor, with its huge range of usable RPM, is connected to… read more

Watching the Insides of a Cell

November 16, 2006

Researchers at MIT’s George R. Harrison Spectroscopy Lab have detected tiny twitches and vibrations in the live membranes of individual cells and neurons by using a powerful and noninvasive imaging technique. The technique could be used in the future to create three-dimensional images, illuminating even finer activities within living cells.

The method uses an optical technique based on interferometry: a laser beam passed through a sample is compared with… read more

Peak Oil Theory faulty: CERA report

November 16, 2006
Source: Cambridge Energy Research Associates

In contrast to a widely discussed theory that world oil production will soon reach a peak and go into sharp decline, a new report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) finds that the remaining global oil resource base is actually 3.74 trillion barrels — three times as large as the 1.2 trillion barrels estimated by the theory’s proponents — and that the “peak oil” argument is based on… read more

Robot cars rev up for the city

November 16, 2006

Sebastian Thrun and his team at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are ready to try in-car artificial intelligence, developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge last year, on city streets in the ultimate test of robot cars.

Next year’s DARPA Urban Challenge will pit robot racers against each other in negotiating a 60-mile course through a simulated city environment.

Reading of The God Delusion in Lynchburg, VA

November 15, 2006

Richard Dawkins read excerpts from The God Delusion and anwsered questions at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 23, 2006.

A Q&A features questions from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty “University” students. In Richard’s tour journal he says:

“Many of the questioners announced themselves as either students or faculty from Liberty, rather than from Randolph Macon which was my host institution. One by one they tried to trip… read more

Charging Batteries without Wires

November 15, 2006

MIT researchers have worked out a theoretical scheme for a wireless-energy transfer that could charge or power devices within a couple of meters of a small power “base station” plugged into an electrical outlet.

The power base station would emit low-frequency electromagnetic radiation in the range of 4 to 10 megahertz. A receiver within a gadget–such as a power-harvesting circuit–could be designed to resonate at the same frequency emitted… read more

Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars

November 14, 2006

Mirrors in orbit around Mars could be used for “terraforming,” creating Earth-like conditions on a small patch of the planet’s surface, according to a NASA-funded study.

The extra sunlight would provide warmth and solar power for human explorers.

Wearable instrument shirt allows for playing air guitar

November 14, 2006

Australia’s scientific research agency, CSIRO, has created a “wearable instrument shirt” (WIS) that enables users to play an “air guitar” simply by moving one arm to pick chords and the other to strum the imaginary instrument’s strings.

Textile motion sensors embedded in the shirt sleeves detect arm motion and relay it wirelessly to a computer. Custom software then maps motion data to audio samples. The technology is adaptable to… read more

A Step Closer to Nanotube Computers

November 14, 2006

Stanford University researchers have developed a method of separating out purely semiconducting nanotubes with a consistent range of diameters stretching across the source and drain.

The method is scalable to a bulk manufacturing process.

New Top 500 supercomputer sites list

November 14, 2006

The 28th TOP500 List of supercomputer sites for 2006 has been released.

IBM BlueGene/L system, installed at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, retains the No. 1 spot with a Linpack performance of 280.6 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second, or Tflop/s).

The new No. 2 systems is Sandia National Laboratories’ Cray Red Storm supercomputer, only the second system ever to be recorded to exceed the 100… read more

Space elevators: ‘First floor, deadly radiation!’

November 14, 2006

Humans might not survive the trip on space elevators, thanks to the ionizing radiation they would receive travelling through the core of the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth.

Electron beams shrink carbon nanotubes to order

November 14, 2006

A way to controllably shrink carbon nanotubes to a particular diameter could someday help electronics engineers build faster computers and other novel electronic devices.

An electron beam is fired at the tube to knock carbon atoms out of their honeycomb structure while a current is run through the tube to reshuffle the remaining carbon atoms back into a regular, albeit narrower, nanotube structure.

Natural-born painkiller found in human saliva

November 13, 2006

Saliva from humans has yielded a natural painkiller up to six times more powerful than morphine, researchers say.

The substance, dubbed opiorphin, may spawn a new generation of natural painkillers that relieve pain as well as morphine but without its addictive and psychological side effects.

IBM’s chief steps into ‘Second Life’ for incubator launch

November 13, 2006

IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano is set to launch a $100 million investment Tuesday to incubate new businesses–and he will make the announcement in both the physical and virtual worlds, via a “town hall” meeting in Beijing and in the Second Life virtual world.

Palmisano’s avatar will discuss the announcement in Second Life’s Forbidden City, a space created in the virtual environment by IBM and the Chinese government.

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