science + technology news

Mileage from megawatts: Study finds enough electric capacity to ‘fill up’ plug-in vehicles across much of the nation

December 12, 2006

If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

A new study for the Department of Energy finds that “off-peak” electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country’s 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

Why a hydrogen economy doesn’t make sense

December 12, 2006

In a recent study, fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains that a hydrogen economy is a wasteful economy. In contrast, in an efficient “electron economy” most energy would be distributed with highest efficiency by electricity and the shortest route in an existing infrastructure.

The large amount of energy required to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds (water, natural gas, biomass), package the light gas by compression or liquefaction, transfer the… read more

Portable, Magnetic DNA Detector

December 11, 2006

Stanford researchers have integrated an array of tiny magnetic sensors into a silicon chip containing circuitry that reads the sensor data. The magnetic biochip could offer an alternative to existing bioanalysis tools, which are costly and bulky.

It could also be useful at airports for detecting toxins such as anthrax and at crime scenes for DNA analysis.

Personalized Weather Forecasts

December 11, 2006

IBM has launched a new weather service called Deep Thunder that can predict the rain, the wind, and temperature conditions down to a one-kilometer resolution. In time, IBM researchers say they should even be able to nail the resolution down to individual streets.

Deep Thunder increases the resolution by using IBM’s pSeries Cluster 1600 computers — a mini-supercomputer — to include additional information about the local area that can… read more

Bio-ink printer makes stem cells differentiate

December 11, 2006

An inkjet device that prints tiny “bio-ink” patterns has been used to simultaneously grow both muscle and bone tissue from the stem cells of adult mice.

Surgeons could one day use the technology to repair various damaged tissues at the same time.

Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution

December 11, 2006

A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest lactose, the principal sugar of milk, in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found.

Nanotechnology Report Creates Urgency for Preparation

December 11, 2006

A congressionally mandated review of US nanotechnology policy includes a study of “the feasibility of manufacturing systems capable of building, with molecular precision, complex systems that consist of multiple components.”

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) expects that the report will accelerate research toward the development of molecularly-precise manufacturing. “However, without adequate understanding and preparation, exponential atom-by-atom construction of advanced products could have catastrophic results. Conclusions published in this… read more

Alloy Holds Out Promise of Speedier Memory Chip

December 11, 2006

Scientists at IBM and two partner companies have developed a material that could lead to a new kind of computer memory chip that is more than 500 times as fast as today’s flash chips and just 3 nanometers high by 20 nanometers wide, offering the promise that the technology can be shrunk to smaller dimensions than could be attained by flash manufacturers.

The compounds, known as GST, or germanium-antimony-tellurium… read more

Enzyme-Free Nucleic Acid Logic Circuits

December 8, 2006

California Institute of Technology researchers have reported the design and experimental implementation of DNA-based digital logic circuits.

They demonstrated AND, OR, and NOT gates, signal restoration, amplification, feedback, and cascading. The modular gates use single-stranded nucleic acids as inputs and outputs, and the mechanism relies exclusively on sequence recognition and strand displacement.

Biological nucleic acids such as microRNAs can serve as inputs, suggesting applications in biotechnology and bioengineering.… read more

Ultrastrong Carbon-Nanotube Muscles

December 8, 2006

By spinning carbon nanotubes into yarn a fraction of the width of a human hair, researchers have developed artificial muscles that exert 100 times the force per area of natural muscle.

Natural protein stops deadly human brain cancer in mice

December 8, 2006

Scientists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Milan have proven that they can inhibit lethal human brain cancers in mice using a protein that selectively induces positive changes in the activity of cells that behave like cancer stem cells.

The bone morphogenic proteins cause neural stem-cell-like clusters to lose their stem-cell properties, which in turn stops their ability to divide.

Physicists Find Tiny Particle With No Charge, Very Low Mass And Sub-nanosecond Lifetime

December 8, 2006

A tiny particle with no charge, a very low mass and a lifetime much shorter than a nanosecond, dubbed the “axion,” has been detected by Dr. Piyare Jain, University at Buffalo professor emeritus in the Department of Physics.

The axion has been seen as critical to the Standard Model of Physics and is believed to be a component of much of the dark matter in the universe.

NYU chemists create ‘nanorobotic’ arm to operate within DNA sequence

December 8, 2006

New York University chemistry professor Nadrian C. Seeman and his graduate student Baoquan Ding have developed a DNA binding site through which a nanomechanical device can be inserted and function within a DNA array, allowing for the motion of a nanorobotic arm.

The results, reported in the latest issue of the journal Science, pave the way for creating nanoscale “assembly lines” in which more complex maneuvers could be executed,… read more

Genomic atlas of the mouse brain revealed

December 7, 2006

A genomic atlas of the mouse brain, the Allen Brain Atlas, has been completed. It contains 85 million images and documents the activity of more than 21,000 genes across the entire mouse brain in such fine detail that it is possible pick out individual cells.

Already, the atlas has revealed that the mammalian brain contains “hidden” structures, defined by common patterns of gene activity and that at least 80… read more

Solar cell breakthrough claimed

December 7, 2006

A breakthrough in solar cell technology promises to make solar power a cost-competitive energy option and to reduce U.S. dependence on oil.

With funding from the Department of Energy, Boeing-Spectrolab has managed to create a solar cell with 40.7 percent sunlight-to-energy conversion efficiency, said DoE assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy Alexander Karsner.

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