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Semantic memory pinpointed in the brain

September 8, 2006

The part of the brain responsible for the way we understand words, meanings and concepts has been revealed as the anterior temporal lobe.

The findings may one day help researchers treat dementia by targeting gene therapy or administering drugs directly into the brain region responsible for specific types of memory loss.

Fastest supercomputer to be built

September 8, 2006

IBM will build the world’s most powerful supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory by 2008.

The machine, codenamed Roadrunner, will be able to achieve 1.5 petaflops.

The new computer is a hybrid design, using both conventional supercomputer processors and the new “cell” chip designed for Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Back From the Dead

September 7, 2006

A small but passionate group of doctors say that electricity applied deep in the brain can jolt patients out of irreversible comas.

Ethical Acts in Robotics

September 7, 2006

Dresden University of Technology philospher Bernhard Irrgang has raised questions about what happens when robots are untethered from human control.

Gene genius: Are scientists closing in on the holy grail?

September 7, 2006

RNA interference (RNAi) could be the biggest advance in healthcare since the development of antibiotics. There is barely an area of medicine that may not be touched by future advances in RNAi — a technique for switching off genes selectively and precisely.

Switching off Aging in Stem Cells

September 7, 2006

A single molecular switch plays a central role in inducing stem cells in the brain, pancreas, and blood to lose function as they age, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have found.

Genetically engineered mice deficient in the p16INK4a gene show considerably reduced aging-related decline in stem cell function and tissue regeneration.

Source: Howard Hughes Medical Institute news release

Software learns new words from Wikipedia

September 6, 2006

A program that works out the meaning of newly coined words using the online encyclopedia Wikipedia could help machines understand the slang used in blogs and other informal texts.

The program, called Zeitgeist, hunts through Wikipedia looking for entries about new words that do not appear in an online resource called WordNet, an official linguistics tool that is both a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Douglas Engelbart’s HyperScope 1.0 Launched

September 6, 2006

HyperScope 1.0, a Web app based on tech legend Douglas Engelbart’s 1968 NLS/Augment (oNLine System), has been launched.

HyperScope is “a high-performance thought processor that enables you to navigate, view, and link to documents in sophisticated ways.” This is seen as the first (renewed) step towards Doug Engelbart’s larger vision for an Open Hyperdocument System — only this time round it’ll be based on Web technologies.

Microsoft Moves into Robotics

September 5, 2006

Microsoft believes the demand for consumer, research, and military robots will grow significantly–and it wants to own the market, with Microsoft Robotics Studio (MSRS) and the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE).

MSRS is a visual programming environment, similar to the LabView-based software provided with LEGO’s Mindstorms NXT kit. It allows users to drag and drop box-like symbols for simple, low-level behaviors and services (such as accessing a… read more

Multiple copies of a mystery gene may make us human

September 5, 2006

A newly discovered mystery gene may have helped build the modern human brain.

Scientists don’t know what the gene does. But they do know that humans have more copies of it than chimpanzees, monkeys, rats and mice. And they know that the DUF1220 gene gene makes a protein that is found in the human brain.

Humans carry 212 copies of DUF1220, whereas chimps have 37 copies, and monkeys… read more

‘Molecular computers’ act as tiny ID tags

September 5, 2006

Molecules capable of basic logic operations have been developed that could serve as tiny ID tags for identifying individual cells or nano-devices. The technique, called molecular computational identification (MCID), could produce tens of millions of unique tags.

The molecules use the presence of a chemical, or a mix of chemicals, as inputs, and give off light as output.

Supercentenarian Research Foundation Plans Tissue Sampling of Supercentenarians

September 5, 2006

The Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group has created a tax-exempt Supercentenarian Research Foundation to fund tissue sampling of all living Supercentenarians (persons 110 years or older) worldwide.

The aim of the Foundation is “to develop a rigorous, statistically significant database of the most important SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) of ‘gerontic’ (longevity) genes,” said Los Angeles Gerontology Research Group Co-founder L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D.… read more

Gene-therapy results touted in 2 advanced-cancer cases

September 1, 2006

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute reported they have successfully treated two patients with advanced cancer using gene therapy.

This is the first time genetically engineered immune-system cells — specifically, T lymphocytes — have produced that effect.

“I think it is an important landmark to see some cancer patients respond to a gene therapy — finally,” said Patrick Hwu, a physician and gene-therapy researcher at University of Texas… read more

‘Augmented reality’ glasses tackle tunnel vision

September 1, 2006

Superimposing computer-generated images over real scenes can dramatically help people with visual impairment, say Harvard Medical School researchers.

Their device puts a cartoon on top of a person’s regular view. It sketches out what the wider field of view looks like and superimposes that on the person’s usual view.

Lifeboat Foundation assembles 200 experts to deal with future existential risks

September 1, 2006

The roster of Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board members today totaled 200 with the addition of multidisciplinary scientist/author Howard Bloom, who is bringing together space scientists to explore beaming solar power from space and setting up a colony off-planet in case humanity is extinguished due to warfare.

The Board’s members, grouped in 23 sub-boards, include inventor/futurist Ray Kurzweil; Alex Wolszczan, discoverer of the first planets… read more

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