science + technology news

Google Patents Voice Search

April 12, 2006

Google, Inc. on Tuesday was granted a patent for a voice interface for search engines.

The patent document suggests that Google will be leveraging its logs of stored text and audio queries to improve speech recognition and relevancy, as the company does currently with text keywords. It says, “The query logs may consist of audio data (i.e., a recorded query) and/or a textual transcription of the audio data…. The… read more

Building a hand-held lab-on-a-chip to simplify blood tests

April 12, 2006

A cell phone-sized blood-count machine requiring less blood than a mosquito bite will make blood tests easier for many patients, from neonatal units to astronauts in space.

Source: National Space Biomedical Research Institute news release

Are laser weapons ready for duty?

April 12, 2006

The next generation of weapons in the U.S. arsenal could be straight out of science fiction: laser beams and heat rays.

Looking for alien lasers, not radios

April 12, 2006

The first optical telescope dedicated to the hunt for alien signals, the Planetary Society’s Optical SETI (OSETI) telescope at Harvard’s Oak Ridge Observatory, has opened.

Once running, OSETI’s processors will carry out a trillion measurements per second, in a year-round survey of the sky. It will be able to pick out flashes of light that are only a billionth of a second long.

Microsoft creates academic search site to rival Google’s

April 12, 2006

Windows Live Academic Search, launched in beta Tuesday night, lets researchers search the contents of academic journals to find abstracts and, if they subscribe to the journals, get the documents from the publishers’ sites.

The service, which for now focuses on computer science, electrical engineering and physics, includes tools for researchers, such as the ability to quickly extract information for citations.

Drexler on Physics and Computation

April 11, 2006

Eric Drexler has written two key new papers, published in scientific journals and linked on

Productive nanosystems: the physics of molecular fabrication deals with fabrication of a wide range of structures, operating with high productivity and precise molecular control.

Toward Integrated Nanosystems: Fundamental issues in design and modeling discusses computational design, modeling, and simulation in the development of functional nanosystems.

Regrow Your Own

April 11, 2006

Genes that regulate blastemas, which could automatically regenerate a missing human limb or organ, might be goaded into action by some drug.

Seashells hold key to building a better battery

April 11, 2006

Building on studies of seashells by the seashore, MIT scientists have harnessed genetically engineered viruses to build nanoscale components that could lead to a new generation of powerful batteries that are as small as grains of rice and that spontaneously assemble themselves in laboratory dishes.

Startup called Webaroo touts ‘Web on a hard drive’

April 9, 2006

Webaroo has developed a set of proprietary search algorithms that whittle the estimated one million gigabytes on the Web down to more manageable chunks that will fit on a hard drive.

They include up to 256 megabytes for a growing menu of “Web packs” on specific topics — your favorite Web sites, city guides, news summaries, Wikipedia and the like — that make up the service’s initial offerings; and… read more

The Knowledge

April 9, 2006

Biotechnology’s advance could give malefactors the ability to manipulate life processes, create biological weapons, and even affect human behavior.

Nano-patterns guide stem cell development

April 9, 2006

Stem cells can be prompted to develop into bone, instead of muscle or cartilage tissue, if they are grown on a substrate etched with nanoscopic patterns – and no added chemicals, University of Glasgow researchers have found.

The discovery could lead to longer-lasting artificial implants that are nano-engineered to encourage suitable tissue to develop around them.

Precisely why these patterns affect stem cell growth is unclear, but the… read more

Nanopore Method Could Revolutionize Genome Sequencing

April 7, 2006

A team led by physicists at the University of California, San Diego has shown the feasibility of a fast, inexpensive technique to sequence DNA as it passes through tiny pores. The advance brings personalized, genome-based medicine closer to reality.

The paper, published in the April issue of the journal Nano Letters, describes a method to sequence a human genome in a matter of hours at a potentially low cost,… read more

Software Out There

April 7, 2006

Blocks of interchangeable software components are proliferating on the Web and developers are joining them together to create a potentially infinite array of useful new programs.

This new software represents a marked departure from the inflexible, at times unwieldy, programs of the past, which were designed to run on individual computers.

Study, in a First, Explains Evolution’s Molecular Advance

April 7, 2006

By reconstructing ancient genes from long-extinct animals, scientists have for the first time demonstrated the step-by-step progression of how evolution created a new piece of molecular machinery by reusing and modifying existing parts.

The researchers say the findings, published today in the journal Science, offer a counterargument to doubters of evolution who question how a progression of small changes could produce the intricate mechanisms found in living cells.

Virus-Assembled Batteries

April 7, 2006

MIT researchers have demonstrated that genetically engineered viruses can assemble active battery materials into a compact, regular structure, to make an ultra-thin, transparent battery electrode that stores nearly three times as much energy as those in today’s lithium-ion batteries.

It is the first step toward high-capacity, self-assembling batteries.

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