science + technology news

Pentagon plans cyber-insect army

March 16, 2006

DARPA scientists want to create an army of cyber-insects that can be remotely controlled to check out explosives and send transmissions.

The idea is to insert micro-systems at the pupa stage, when the insects can integrate them into their body, so they can be remotely controlled later.

‘DNA origami’ creates map of the Americas

March 16, 2006

A map of the Americas measuring just a few hundred nanometres across has been created out of meticulously folded strands of DNA, using a new technique for manipulating molecules dubbed “DNA origami.”

According to the map’s creator, Paul Rothemund at Caltech in Pasadena, DNA origami could prove hugely important for building future nano-devices including molecular machines and quantum computer components. The technique exploits the fact that complementary base pairs… read more

Carbon-Based electronics manipulate electrons as waves

March 15, 2006

Using thin layers of graphite known as graphene, researchers have produced proof-of-principle transistors, loop devices and circuitry. The devices have the attractive properties of carbon nanotubes but could be produced using established microelectronics manufacturing techniques.

Ultimately, the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, in collaboration with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, hope to use graphene layers less than 10 atoms thick as… read more

Researchers Grow Bone Cells on Carbon Nanotubes

March 15, 2006
Bone crystal growth on carbon nanotube substrate

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have shown, for the first time, that bone cells can grow and proliferate on a scaffold of carbon nanotubes.

Because carbon nanotubes are not biodegradable, they behave like an inert matrix on which cells can proliferate and deposit new living material, which becomes functional, normal bone, according to the paper. They therefore hold promise in the treatment of bone defects… read more

“Must-See Movie” Improved!!

March 15, 2006

Productive Nanosystems: from Molecules to Superproducts, a four-minute computer animation, goes inside a nanofactory and demonstrates key steps in a process to convert simple molecules into a billion-CPU laptop computer.

Now, that “must-see” movie, produced by engineer John Burch and nanotechnologist K. Eric Drexler, has been updated with improved visuals, mood music, and subtle sound effects.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

March 15, 2006

Atoms and electrons are bits. Atomic collisions are “ops.” Machine language is the laws of physics. The universe is a quantum computer.

So says Seth Lloyd in is new book, Programming the Universe. “The universe is a system where the very specific details and structures in it are created when quantum bits de-cohere — choose one path out of multiple possibilities — and that this process is identical to… read more

Supercomputer builds a virus

March 14, 2006

One of the world’s most powerful supercomputers has built a computer model of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus.

The researchers say the simulation is the first to capture a whole biological organism in such intricate molecular detail.

Running on a machine at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Urbana, the program calculated how each of the million or so atoms in the virus and a surrounding drop of… read more

Bird flu could reach North America this spring

March 14, 2006

One day in the next few weeks, flocks of wild birds from Asia will wing northeast across the Bering Strait to Alaska, where they’ll join other birds heading north from their winter homes in the United States and points south.

As they embark on their annual spring migration, Asian ducks and geese may be carrying some unwelcome baggage –the highly virulent H5N1 avian-flu virus — that they could pass… read more

Dangerous Knowledge

March 14, 2006

Can dangerous knowledge — such as the publication of the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet — ever be contained? Once opened, might Pandora’s Box be shut again? Those questions lie at the heart of an ongoing debate over the necessity and application of precaution in the deployment of new technologies.

“Reversibility” is a concept that Jamais Cascio proposes as a wiser alternative to the… read more


March 14, 2006

University of Michigan physician and researcher James Baker has developed multipurpose nanoparticles precisely engineered to slip past barriers such as blood vessel walls, latch onto cancer cells, and trick the cells into engulfing them as if they were food. These Trojan particles flag the cells with a fluorescent dye and simultaneously destroy them with a drug.

The heart of Baker’s approach is a highly branched molecule called a dendrimer.… read more

Software Helps Develop Hunches

March 13, 2006

Eric Bonabeau, founder of Icosystem, has introduced “the hunch engine,” software designed to enhance and refine human intuition.

When the user starts the hunch engine he or she is presented with a seed — a starting point — and a set of mutations. The user selects mutations that look promising, and the application uses that selection to generate another set of mutations, continuing in that fashion until the user… read more

Far Out, Man. But Is It Quantum Physics?

March 13, 2006

“What the Bleep, Down the Rabbit Hole,” a new sequel to the popular new-age film, “What the #$!%* Do We Know!?,” argues, based on the insights of modern quantum physics, that reality is just a mental construct that we can rearrange and improve.

The films raise a disturbing question about the muddled intersection between science and culture: do we have to indulge in bad physics to feel good?

A Fast and Simple Cocaine Detector

March 13, 2006

UCSB researchers have created sensors using specific DNA sequences, combined with off-the-shelf components, that can detect cocaine in the blood and other substances.

The sensor consists of a gold electrode covered in specific strands of DNA. When the target molecule, in this case cocaine, binds to the DNA, it changes conformation. That change increases current flow through the electrode, creating a measurable electronic signal that can be read by… read more

Black holes: The ultimate quantum computers?

March 13, 2006

Nearly all of the information that falls into a black hole escapes back out, a controversial new study argues. The work suggests that black holes could one day be used as incredibly accurate quantum computers — if enormous theoretical and practical hurdles can first be overcome.

Seth Lloyd of MIT has used a controversial quantum model, which holds that under certain extreme circumstances, such as the intense gravitational field… read more

Optic nerve regrown with a nanofibre scaffold

March 13, 2006

Hamsters blinded following damage to their optic nerve have had their vision partially restored with the help of an implanted nanoscale scaffold that has encouraged nerve tissue to regrow.

The method uses sequences of peptides made to self-assemble into mesh-like sheets of nanofibers by immersing them in salt solutions at similar concentrations to those found in the body.

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