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Computers gain power, but it’s not what you think

March 21, 2005

Performing complex tasks at lightning speed is the machine’s greatest strength; thinking and intelligence are still in our heads.

After decades of trying to create machines that can think, researchers now just want to take advantage of computers’ speed and make them less stupid.

Intellext’s Watson, which uses pattern recognition to find relevant documents, is one example of software that takes advantage of more powerful computers. Another is… read more

MRI visualizes gene expression in real time

March 21, 2005

Carnegie Mellon University scientists have “programmed” cells to make their own MRI contrast agents, enabling unprecedented high-resolution, deep-tissue imaging of gene expression.

The results, appearing in the April issue of Nature Medicine, hold promise for conducting preclinical studies in the emerging field of molecular therapeutics and for monitoring the delivery of therapeutic genes in patients.

To trigger living cells into producing their own contrast agent, the researchers gave… read more

Prefrontal cortex brain waves predict body movement

March 21, 2005

California Institute of Technology scientists have confirmed that the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vPF) area of the brain is involved in the planning stages of movement.

They were able to predict where a target the patient was looking at was located, and also where the patient was going to move his hand. The work currently appears in the online version of Nature Neuroscience.

The work has implications for the… read more

Nanotechnology’s progress and challenges addressed during ACS meeting

March 18, 2005

More than 60 presentations, in symposia ranging from medicine to the environment to business, highlight nanotechnology’s progress and challenges during the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, March 13-17.

American Chemical Society news release

Microbes used to make bioelectronic circuits

March 18, 2005

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have used single bacterial cells to make tiny bioelectronic circuits.

The bacteria, are guided, one at a time, down a channel to a pair of electrodes and become electrical “junctions,” allowing researchers to capture, interrogate and release bacterial cells one by one. Built into a sensor, such a capability would enable real-time detection of dangerous biological agents.

University of Wisconsin-Madison news release

13 things that do not make sense

March 18, 2005

There are many scientific observations that simply defy explanation, such as the placebo effect, the horizon problem (the microwave background radiation filling the cosmos is at the same temperature everywhere), ultra-energetic cosmic rays, dark matter, and Viking’s methane.

Human embryonic stem cells grown animal-free

March 18, 2005

Three teams have managed to derive and grow human embryonic stem cells without using any animal cells that might contaminate them.

All existing embryonic stem cells lines could be tainted with animal diseases or substances that would trigger transplant rejection.

Plasmonic computer chips move closer

March 18, 2005

Mark Brongersma of Stanford University has found a new way to model the three-dimensional propagation of plasmons.

Plasmons travel at the speed of light and are created when light hits a metal at a particular angle, causing waves to propagate through electrons near the surface. They could be used to move data around computer chips and could operate at frequencies 100,000 times faster than today’s Pentium chips, without requiring… read more

HP Unveils Plans to Replace Silicon with Nanotechnology

March 18, 2005

HP has revealed its strategy for the future of computing, replacing silicon processors with nanotechnology, in a three-pronged approach: fundamental scientific research into the quantum effects that dominate the nanometer scale, a new architecture that can tolerate defects in molecular-sized circuit components, and cost-effective methods of fabrication.

The strategy centers on HP’s crossbar architecture, which HP says is six to ten years from widespread use. Also known as the… read more

Hitachi unveils ‘fastest robot’

March 17, 2005

Japanese electronics firm Hitachi has unveiled its first humanoid robot, called Emiew, to challenge Honda’s Asimo and Sony’s Qrio robots.

Hitachi said the Emiew was the world’s quickest-moving robot yet at 6km/h (3.7 miles per hour).

Study Reveals New Difference Between Sexes

March 17, 2005

How the functioning of X chromosomes differs in women and men may help to explain biological differences between the sexes, according to a new study by researchers from Duke and Pennsylvania State Universities.

The researchers, writing today in the journal Nature, said the results implied that women make higher doses of certain proteins than men, which could result in differences in both normal life and disease.

Women turn… read more

Sequencing reveals origins of X chromosome

March 17, 2005

The complete sequence of the human X chromosome was published in Nature this week. It shows that large segments of it match parts of normal chromosomes in birds, confirming the X chromosome’s “non-sex” origins.

Wequence comparisons with rats, mice and dogs show that the X chromosome seems to have changed little since the evolution of placental mammals, supporting the idea that once genes are transferred to X, they stay… read more

Quantum computing: No turning back

March 16, 2005

The first realizations of “cluster states” and cluster-state quantum computation are reported in Nature this week (10 March issue, pp169-176).

This is the first experimental demonstration of the “one-way quantum computer,” representing a significant move from theory to reality for an alternative approach to quantum computing first proposed in 2001.

The experiment demonstrates that modifications to the entangled photons in such a state allow the system to encode… read more

Photonic crystal slows down light

March 16, 2005

Researchers have succeeded in reducing the group velocity of light by a factor of more than 100 in a novel two-dimensional photonic crystal.

The development is important for building optical interconnects for future computers operating at speeds above 20 gigahertz, where presently used electrical interconnects have severe limitations.

CMU Robot finds life ‘all by itself’

March 16, 2005

A Carnegie Mellon University rover called Zoe is the first robot to remotely detect life, finding fluorescent signals from both visible lichens and microscopic bacteria in Chile’s barren Atacama Desert.

The NASA-sponsored test thus demonstrated that scientists can use robots to identify life in harsh regions.

The CMU instrument detects life by looking for natural fluorescence from cells that contain chlorophyll. It also can spray four special dyes… read more

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