science + technology news

The Unconscious Mind: A Great Decision Maker

February 21, 2006

Dutch psychologists found that people struggling to make complex decisions did best when they were distracted and were not able to think consciously about the choice at all.

The research not only backs up the common advice to “sleep on it” when facing difficult choices, but it also suggests that the unconscious brain can actively reason as well as produce weird dreams and Freudian slips.

Stem Cells May Be Key to Cancer

February 21, 2006

At the heart of every tumor, some researchers believe, lie a handful of aberrant stem cells that maintain the malignant tissue.

The idea, if right, could explain why tumors often regenerate even after being almost destroyed by anticancer drugs. It also points to a different strategy for developing anticancer drugs, suggesting they should be selected for lethality to cancer stem cells and not, as at present, for their ability… read more

Culture of Fear

February 20, 2006

Attempting to avoid all risk is a recipe for technological and economic stagnation, said speakers at the “Panic Attack: The New Precautionary Culture, the Politics of Fear, and the Risks to Innovation” conference.

The strongest versions of the precautionary principle demand that innovators prove that their inventions will never cause harm before they are allowed to deploy or sell them. In other words, if an action might cause harm,… read more

Segway creator unveils his next act

February 20, 2006

Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, has invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine, that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.

The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day from any water source. The power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns.

Web program simplifies artificial gene design

February 20, 2006

GeneDesign, a new web-based program that simplifies many tricky steps involved in designing artificial DNA, has been released by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers.

But this is also a source of concern. An investigation conducted by New Scientist in November 2005 revealed that few gene synthesis companies check that the genes they are being asked to make are safe, or perform customer background checks after receiving an… read more

I.B.M. Researchers Find a Way to Keep Moore’s Law on Pace

February 20, 2006

IBM researchers plan to describe an advance in chip-making on Monday that could pave the way for new generations of superchips.

The development will make it possible to create semiconductors with features thinner than 30 nanometers, one-third the width of today’s industry-standard chips.

The researchers have created the thinnest line patterns to date using deep ultraviolet lithography, extending the life of argon fluoride excimer lasers that generate the… read more

Most likely host star for advanced life named

February 20, 2006

Beta CVn, a binary star roughly 26 light-years away that resembles our own Sun, and epsilon Indi A are on a list of likely life-bearing systems compiled by Margaret Turnbull, at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

A lost interview with ENIAC co-inventor J. Presper Eckert

February 17, 2006

The ENIAC, the first practical, all-electronic computer, unveiled on Feb. 14, 1946, was the watershed project that showed electronic computing was possible, using 18,000 vacuum tubes and programmed by plugging wires in from place to place.

Its first use was by Edward Teller in doing calculations for the hydrogen bomb.

Engineering nerve jumper cables for spinal cord repair

February 17, 2006

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have created a new way to engineer nerve structures, or constructs, in culture. This proof-of-principle research has implications for eventually becoming a new method to repair spinal cord injury in humans.

Previously, they showed that they could grow axons by placing neurons from rat dorsal root ganglia on nutrient-filled plastic plates. Axons sprouted from the neurons on each plate and… read more

Speed thrills with neural networks

February 17, 2006

Software and hardware-based neural network-based techniques are being successfully applied to engine control and diagnostics in automotive embedded systems.

Taking them further, Steve Furber, ICL Professor of Computer Engineering at Manchester University, is planning to model various ways in which neurons may express information in their patterns of spikes, based on the assumption that populations of neurons producing firing patterns have a very high information capacity, based on the… read more

The Opposite of Doping

February 17, 2006

By measuring hormone and other chemical levels before, during and after tough workouts, trainers can precisely tailor an athlete’s regimen.

Scientists at HortResearch in New Zealand are developing a non-invasive and painless method of doing that. Some trainers are already using Hort’s technology by measuring testosterone, cortisol and creatin kinase.

The ultimate goal is to create a portable, non-invasive, ultrasound testing device that can test athletes in real… read more

Evanescent wave litho to surface at SPIE

February 17, 2006

The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is expected to present a paper that claims it has produced a 26-nm image based on evanescent wave lithography (EWL).

This, in turn, opens EWL as an extension to conventional projection lithography as a means for sub-32-nm chip production, according to RIT.

How ‘hot’ emotional brain interferes with ‘cool’ processing

February 16, 2006

For the first time, researchers have seen in action how the “hot” emotional centers of the brain can interfere with “cool” cognitive processes such as those involved in memory tasks.

The Duke University Medical Center researchers’ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) images of human volunteers exposed to emotional distraction revealed a “see-saw” effect, in which activation of emotional centers damped activity in the “executive” centers responsible for such processing.… read more

Science Academy Creating Panel to Monitor Stem-Cell Research

February 16, 2006

To fill a void in federal supervision, the National Academy of Sciences is setting up a committee to provide informal oversight over research with human embryonic stem cells.

Space-elevator tether climbs a mile high

February 16, 2006

LiftPort Group has built a cable for a space elevator stretching a mile into the sky and tethered on balloons, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.

To make the cable, researchers sandwiched three carbon-fiber composite strings between four sheets of fiberglass tape, creating a mile-long cable about 5 centimeters wide and no thicker than about six sheets of paper.

The aim is to… read more

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