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Engineering God in a Petri Dish

September 29, 2004

Advisors to the International Association for Divine Taxonomy, which include biochemists, biophysicists, ecologists, geneticists and zoologists from the University of California at Berkeley, the Smithsonian and other institutions, are attempting to determine where on the phylogenetic map to put God.

If evolutionary theory is accurate, God’s genetic makeup should most resemble Earth’s first life forms. Or if creationists are right, God’s DNA is more like the life forms he… read more

I.B.M. Supercomputer Sets World Record for Speed

September 28, 2004

IBM’s BlueGene/L supercomputer has surpassed the Earth Simulator as the world’s fastest supercomputer by attaining a sustained performance of 36.01 teraflops, eclipsing the top mark of 35.86 teraflops reached in 2002 by the Earth Simulator.

BlueGene/L is only one-hundredth the physical size of the Earth Simulator and consumes one twenty-eighth the power per computation, the company said.

The BlueGene/L will have wide commercial applications, first in the petroleum… read more

Eavesdropping Call Center Computers Cut Talk Time

September 28, 2004

IBM researchers are developing an artificial intelligence system for call centers that uses speech recognition and search engine technology to search a call center’s databanks for the information a customer wants and present it to the operator before the caller has finished explaining what they want.

The system works by listening in to the conversation and identifying keywords spoken by the customer. It then flashes up the most relevant… read more

An Important Step Toward Molecular Electronics

September 28, 2004

Northwestern University engineers have precisely aligned multiple types of molecules on a silicon surface to achieve patterning on a scale 10,000 times smaller than that of microelectronics at room temperature.

The nanofabrication process, called multi-step feedback-controlled lithography, works at room temperature and on silicon, which suggests that it can be made compatible with conventional silicon microelectronics. Previously the researchers were working with single types of molecules: with the new… read more

Rice Finds ‘On-Off Switch’ for Buckyball Toxicity

September 27, 2004

A new study in the journal Nano Letters describes a simple way to make buckyballs ten million times less toxic.

Buckyballs, nanometer-wide carbon molecules, show promise in everything from fuel cells to pharmaceuticals, but early studies raised concerns about their toxicity. Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology compared the toxicity of pure and modified buckyballs and found the greater the degree of surface modification, the lower the… read more

Researchers Create Nanotubes That Change Colors, Form ‘Nanocarpet’ and Kill Bacteria

September 27, 2004

University of Pittsburgh researchers have synthesized a simple molecule that produces perfectly uniform, self-assembled nanotubes which organize themselves into a “nanocarpet” of upright clusters resembling a carpet (including a self-assembled backing) and can act as a bacterial biosensor or biocide.

These nanotubes can change color in the presence of chemical agents. In tests with E. coli the nanotubes changed color when the bacteria were present. The tubes also killed… read more

Brain’s ‘Storehouse’ for Memory Molecules Identified

September 27, 2004

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and Brown University have pinpointed the molecular storehouse that supplies the neurotransmitter receptor proteins used for learning-related changes in the brain.

Their finding constitutes an important step toward understanding the machinery by which neurons alter their connections to establish preferred signaling pathways in the process of laying down new memories. Understanding such machinery could also offer clues to how it might degenerate in… read more

Microscope Etches Ultrathin Lines

September 24, 2004

University of Sheffield researchers have shown that it is possible to achieve electron beam resolution for organic materials using an ultraviolet laser shown through a near-field optical microscope.

The researchers etched 20-nanometer features into a single layer of molecules on a gold surface using 244-nanometer ultraviolet light. The method could be used to make highly miniaturized arrays of proteins and DNA for biological sensors and analyzers.

In principle.… read more

NSF Announces Six New Centers for Nanoscale Research

September 24, 2004

The NSF announced awards of $69 million over five years to fund six major centers in nanoscale science and engineering, to be located at the University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University in California, the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Northeastern University in Massachusetts.

These awards complement eight existing centers established since 2001. The awards are part of a series of NSF grants totaling $250… read more

Virus Forms Nano Template

September 24, 2004

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Brown University have showed how self-assembly mechanisms that bring together charged membranes and oppositely charged polymers like biological molecules can be understood in terms of simple rules, and have applied the rules to make virus-membrane complexes with pore sizes that can be used to organize molecules.

These complexes are made from alternating layers of membranes and viruses. They could be… read more

Key Cell-Death Step Found

September 24, 2004

Researchers at UC Davis and Johns Hopkins University decoded a fundamental cellular event related to apoptosis — programmed cell death — caused when necessary mitochondrial fusion goes awry.

UC Davis news release

Electrical Detection of Single Viruses

September 22, 2004

Harvard University scientists have found that nanowire field effect transistors can be used to electrically detect the presence of single viruses in real time, with near-perfect selectivity.

These detectors can also differentiate among viruses with great precision, suggesting that the technique could be scaled up to create miniature arrays easily capable of sensing thousands of different viruses.

Abstract: Electrical Detection of Single Viruses

NEC Extends Quantum Cryptography Range and Speed

September 22, 2004

NEC Corporation researchers have developed a quantum cryptography system that can generate quantum keys at a speed of 100Kbps and transmit them up to 40 kilometers along commercial fiber optic lines.

This combination of speed and distance is a world record. NEC expects to offer the system commercially in the second half of 2005.

Spinach Could Power Better Solar Cells

September 22, 2004

MIT Researchers integrated a protein complex derived from spinach chloroplasts with organic semiconductors to make a solar cell that could be combined with solid state electronics.

Previous efforts to integrate the energy harnessing capability of chlorophyll with conventional electronics have failed because it normally requires a watery environment in which to work. Here researchers artificially stabilized the protein complex at the heart of their system using synthetic peptides to… read more

UIC Unveils World’s Most Powerful MRI for Decoding the Human Brain

September 21, 2004

The University of Illinois at Chicago has unveiled the world’s most powerful magnetic resonance imaging machine.

The current industry standard for MRI systems is 1.5 tesla, which limits researchers to imaging water molecules. As a result, only anatomical changes can be detected and monitored.

By contrast, UIC’s 9.4-tesla magnet will enable researchers to detect signals from sodium, phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen — the metabolic building blocks of… read more

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