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Supercharging the brain

October 28, 2004

At least 40 new potential cognitive enhancer drugs are currently in clinical development.

These breakthroughs could turn out to be lifesavers or at least postpone the development of a devastating disease such as Alzheimer’s.

But who else should be allowed to take them?

Buzzing the Web on a Meme Machine

October 28, 2004

The World Wide Web is the perfect Petri dish for memes.

New Species Revealed: Tiny Cousins of Humans

October 28, 2004

Skeletons of a new human species, Homo floresiensis, have been discovered in a cave on Flores, an island 370 miles east of Bali, by archaeologists.

The finding was “among the most outstanding discoveries in paleoanthropology for half a century,” said anthropologists Dr. Marta Mirazon Lahr and Dr. Robert Foley of the University of Cambridge.

The little (three and a half feet high) people were a downsized version of… read more

Advent of the Robotic Monkeys

October 27, 2004

Researchers have trained a monkey to feed itself by guiding a mechanical arm with its mind. It could be a big step forward for prosthetics.

Quantum dots identify sick cells

October 27, 2004

University of Toronto professor Warren Chan is developing quantum dots — nanoscale semiconductors — that can target a disease site and light it up.

By attaching a quantum dot to a molecule that will target a specific type of cancer, for example, over time, the dots will accumulate in the tumor and light up in that particular region.

This could someday lead to a system that would also… read more

Stem cells ‘could restore vision’

October 27, 2004

University of Toronto scientists found that human retinal stem cells regenerated when they were transplanted into the eyes of mice and chicks.

These stem cells could eventually be used to restore normal vision in people with sight problems, the researchers say.

Stimulating Nerve Cells with Infrared Lasers

October 27, 2004

Vanderbilt University researchers have discovered a method that uses laser light, rather than electricity, to stimulate and control neurons.

They discovered in an experiment with rats that low-intensity infrared laser light can activate specific nerves, exciting a leg or even individual toes without actually touching the neurons. Immediately following the experiment, the rats regained full use of their legs with no signs of weakness or damage.… read more

Electric currents boost brain power

October 27, 2004

Connecting a battery across the front of the head (the prefrontal cortex) can boost verbal skills, says a team from the US National Institutes of Health.

A current of two milliamperes applied for 20 minutes is enough to produce a significant improvement, they found.

Intel prepares for next 20 years of chip making

October 26, 2004

Intel researchers have revealed plans to use exotic materials such as carbon nanotubes and nanowires as well as novel techniques to take the transistor down to the atomic level.

Intel believes the ultimate transistor shape would be a pure cylinder with a gate wrapped entirely around the channel, striking the best balance between electron mobility and leakage control. It would be based on a silicon nanowire.

Intel is… read more

The Other Exponentials

October 26, 2004

There are other significant exponentials in IT besides Moore’s law and they suggest opportunities for new research and new business models, says Rodney Brooks.

For example, today’s iPod could store 20,000 books. But just 10 years from now, an iPod might be able to hold 20 million books. By 2017, you’ll be able to carry around the complete text for all the volumes in the Library of Congress.… read more

Signal Overload in Alzheimer Brains

October 26, 2004

In studies with mice that develop the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that brain cells’ signals confuse the movement of implanted neuronal stem cells.

The observation reinforces the idea that disease can create “microenvironments” that affect the behavior of cells.

“In normal adult mice, stem cells taken from the olfactory bulb returned to the olfactory bulb — where they belong — even though they… read more

Physicists Transfer Quantum Information Between Matter and Light

October 26, 2004

Georgia Institute of Technology physicists have successfully transferred quantum information from two different groups of atoms onto a single photon.

The researchers report transferring atomic state information from two different clouds of rubidium atoms to a single photon. In the photon, information about the spatial states of the atom clouds was represented as vertical or horizontal optical polarization. The work is believed to be the first to demonstrate transfer… read more

Smart Fabrics Make for Enhanced Living

October 26, 2004

Imagine a handbag that warns you if you are about to forget your umbrella or wallet, and which you can later turn into a scarf that displays today’s pollution levels.

A variety of information-providing or environment-sensing objects like these could be possible using a system of computerized fabric patches developed by MIT engineers.

Each patch contains a functional unit of the system — a microprocessor and memory plus… read more

Tiny Ideas Coming of Age

October 25, 2004

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has announced a new registration category just for nanotechnology inventions.

The patent office’s definition requires that a least one dimension of an invention be less than 100 nanometers and the nanoscale element of the product or process must be essential to whatever properties make it novel.

The patent office began training its examiners in nanotechnology concepts and terminology in November, and has… read more

Brain-in-a-dish flies simulated plane

October 25, 2004

A University of Florida scientist has grown a living “brain” that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.

The “brain” — a collection of 25,000 living neurons taken from a rat’s brain and cultured inside a glass dish — gives scientists a unique real-time window into the brain at the cellular level.

By watching the brain… read more

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