science + technology news

vCJD may lurk in more people than realised

May 22, 2006

The deadly human form of mad cow disease, vCJD, may have infected far more people than previously thought, suggests a new study in the British Medical Journal.

Variant Creutzfelt-Jakob disease is linked to eating meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad-cow disease. A rogue version of a prion protein proliferates in the brain, leading to distressing mental deterioration, loss of motor control, and eventually death.

Scientists build a world of ‘software beings’

May 22, 2006

Politicians could one day determine the results of elections before they take place, thanks to a European research project that will study social interactions between millions of virtual human beings.

A Meeting Of The Metal Minds

May 22, 2006

This year’s theme at the 2006 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation is “Humanitarian Robotics.”

A primary role of these lifelike robots is not to advance human mimicry but rather human understanding. Scientists formulate theories about how various systems of the human body work, and roboticists believe that some of these theories can be verified or rejected by building robots.

How our body’s defences aid computers in distress

May 22, 2006

The way the body’s immune system responds when its cells are under attack has inspired a new way of protecting computer networks from viruses and hackers.

Software has been developed that behaves like dendritic cells, scouring the network looking for danger signals such as sudden increases in network traffic or unusually high numbers of error messages, triggering an immune response when they increase above a preset threshold.

MIT’s Speech Recognition Baby

May 19, 2006

MIT may be on the verge of a revolutionary development in speech and video algorithmic technology. Their test subject: a 9 month-old baby boy, who is the center of a project called “The Human Speechome Project.”

Associate Professor Deb Roy, head of the MIT Media Lab’s Cognitive Machines research group, has wired his home with 11 overhead, omni-directional fisheye video cameras and 14 ceiling-mounted microphones. It will record all… read more

Engineered Evolution

May 19, 2006

‘Historian of the Future’ Charles Ostman will discuss “nanotechnology, AI, and the intersection of the Singularity, engineered evolution and the Endtimes” on the syndicated CoastToCoastAM radio network on Saturday night May 20.

Charles Ostman is chair of the Technology Development Committee of NanoSig and a senior fellow at the Institute for Global Futures.

Redesigning life: Meet the bio-hackers

May 19, 2006

For the new breed of synthetic biologists, creatures are a collection of parts for constructing living machines, as New Scientist discovers.

The turning point for Samantha Sutton came in the second year of her electrical engineering degree, while testing antilock car brakes. “There was something missing,” she says. “I felt the average engineer in my division wasn’t really hacking and constructing as I wanted to. They were fine-tuning, refining.… read more

FDA Asked to Better Regulate Nanotechnology

May 18, 2006

A coalition of consumer and environmental groups petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to beef up its regulation of nanoparticle-containing sunscreens and cosmetics and recall some products.

Last chromosome in human genome sequenced

May 18, 2006

Scientists have reached a landmark point in one of the world’s most important scientific projects by sequencing the last chromosome in the Human Genome.

‘Fly-by-wireless’ plane takes to the air

May 18, 2006

A plane with no wires or mechanical connections between its engine, navigation system and onboard computers — only a Bluetooth wireless network — has been built and flown by engineers in Portugal.

Programmer speeds search for gravitational waves

May 18, 2006

A global effort to detect gravitational waves has received an unexpected boost after a volunteer improved the Einstein@home computer code used comb through data from ground-based detectors.

Technology’s Future: A Look at the Dark Side

May 17, 2006

Any technology powerful enough to improve life radically is also capable of abuse and prone to serious, unanticipated side effects.

Frankencotton, the Shirt: Coming Soon to a Wardrobe Near You

May 17, 2006

Genetically modified cotton, also known as Bt, or transgenic, cotton, is grown all over the world and is present in unknown numbers and styles of garments.

Was our universe made for us or not?

May 17, 2006

The anthropic principle — which argues that our universe is finely tuned to support life and there is no point in asking why it is so — has been criticised as lazy, untestable science. Now there may be a way to test the theory for one of the most problematic instances of fine-tuning.

Cosmologists have observed that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, and have attributed this to… read more

Biggest map of universe reveals colossal structures

May 16, 2006

Giant structures stretching more than a billion light years across have been revealed by two new maps of the distribution of galaxies in the universe. The updated atlases lend more support to the idea that the universe is dominated by dark matter and dark energy.

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