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Sensory illusions dazzle at graphics conference

August 3, 2006

Inventions on display at the SIGGRAPH 2006 computer graphics conference, which opened in Boston, on Monday,
include a toy house that appears to warp into surreal shapes, a handheld device that “pulls” a person around, and a display that generates holographic illusions using scores of hidden projectors.

Shape-shifting lens mimics human eye

August 3, 2006

A shape-shifting lens has been developed that alters its focal length when squeezed by an artificial muscle, a ring of polymer gel that expands and contracts in response to environmental changes, eliminating the need for electronics to power or control the devices.

Different polymer gels can be used to create a lens that responds to changes in acidity, temperature, light, electric fields or even certain proteins.

A lens… read more

It’s Alive (ish)

August 2, 2006

Georgia Institute of Technology, scientists have developed “neurally controlled animats” — a few thousand rat neurons grown atop a grid of electrodes and connected to a robot body or computer-simulated virtual environment.

They have programmed a robot to associate neural firing patterns with actions such as movement of a cursor on a screen, creating an interactive system between a culture of cells placed on a culture dish and the… read more

BYU scientists create tool for ‘virtual surgery’

August 2, 2006

Computer scientists at Brigham Young University have created a “virtual surgery” tool that lets surgeons, diagnosticians and others extract a 3-D computer image from from MRI and CT scans or similar data.

The “Live Surface” software also can be used to extract a single actor’s performance or inanimate objects from video clips.

Oceans teeming with 10 million kinds of microbe

August 2, 2006

The diversity of microbes living in the world’s oceans may be more than 100 times greater than previously estimated, according to researchers working on the International Census of Marine Microbes, part of the Census of Marine Life.

Life After Earth: Imagining Survival Beyond This Terra Firma

August 1, 2006

The Alliance to Rescue Civilization advocates a backup for humanity by way of a station on the Moon replete with DNA samples of all life on Earth, as well as a compendium of all human knowledge.

It would be run by people who, through fertility treatments and frozen human eggs and sperm, could serve as a new Adam and Eve in addition to their role as a new Noah.… read more

The next computer interface: your finger

August 1, 2006

The “Fingertip Digitizer,” which users wear on the tip of the index finger, can transfer to the virtual world the meaning and intent of common hand gestures, such as pointing, wagging the finger, tapping in the air or other movements that can be used to direct the actions of an electronic device, much like a mouse directs the actions of a personal computer, but with greater precision.

What’s more,… read more

Visualising invisibility

August 1, 2006

A new study published in the New Journal of Physics describes the physics of several theoretical devices that could create invisibility.

The ideas in the paper are based around devices that will bend light or radio waves around a hole inside a device. Any object placed inside the hole will become invisible.

There are advances being made in metamaterials that mean the first devices will probably be used… read more

Calculating the speed of sight

July 31, 2006

University of Pennsylvania researchers have found that a guinea pig retina transfers data at about 875 kilobits per second. Human retinas have about ten times as many ganglion cells, giving a bandwidth of 8.75 megabits per second per eye, comparable to Ethernet speed.

Researchers use text mining to analyze 330,000 New York Times stories

July 31, 2006

Scientists at UC Irvine have used a text-mining technique called “topic modeling” to complete in hours a complex topic analysis of 330,000 stories published primarily by The New York Times.

Topic modeling looks for patterns of words that tend to occur together in documents, then automatically categorizes those words into topics. UCI researchers developed a technique that allows the technology to be used on huge document collections.

The… read more

Newfound Blob is Biggest Thing in the Universe

July 31, 2006

An enormous amoeba-like structure 200 million light-years wide and made up of galaxies and large bubbles of gas is the largest known object in the universe.

Some of the gas bubbles are up to 400,000 light years across. Scientists think they formed when massive stars born early in the history of the universe exploded as supernovas and blew out their surrounding gases. Another theory is that the bubbles are… read more

Japan Bests IBM in Supercomputer Stakes

July 31, 2006

The MDGrape-3 supercomputer at Riken in Japan has been clocked at one petaflop (10^15) floating-point calculations per second — three times faster than IBM’s BlueGene/L, the current fastest supercomputer.

The MDGrape-3 will let scientists screen proteins that can potentially be used to make new drugs.

Electromagnetic space travel for bugs?

July 30, 2006

Life on planets such as Earth or Mars could have been seeded by electrically charged microbes ejected from a planet by bacteria could easily be ejected from the Earth’s gravitational field by the same electric fields that generate auroras or by magnetospheric plasmoids — at speeds capable of taking them out of the solar system and on to the planets of other stars.

Quantum leap

July 28, 2006

Quantum technology effects on the world over the next 20 years will include ubiquitous computers, a human-brain-imitating neural network and true (or near-true) artificial intelligence, and “network-enabled telepathy” (headbands with direct coupling into the right side of the brain).

Coming soon: Google on your brain

July 28, 2006

Our software and data is moving to giant remote servers connected to the Internet while other trends are taking us toward ultimate mobility.

The cellphone is becoming more like a PC while the PC is becoming more like a cellphone. In short, the next great era of computing — succeeding the PC one — will likely be about smaller, cheaper, more-powerful portable devices.

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