science + technology news

First molecular-machine combination revealed

March 23, 2006

University of Tokyo researchers have constructed the first molecular machine, comprising a pair of double-bonded nitrogen atoms strung between two plier “handles” that open or close by exposure to visible or ultraviolet light.

A twisting motion prompted by the light exposure causes attached pedals to flap. The result is the first example of one molecular machine controllably driving the action of another, say the researchers.

Invention: Remote-controlled implants

March 22, 2006

Ear and retinal implants could be precisely positioned using a device designed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The implant is attached to a silicone tube a few millimeters long. The tube has gold particles on its tip and a current is passed wirelessly through these to create a patterned magnetic field that would allow for the implant to be moved around the patient’s head, using an external electromagnet.… read more

Photon detector is precursor to broadband in space

March 22, 2006

MIT researchers have nearly trebled the efficiency of a miniscule detector capable of capturing single photons of light.

The technology could one day be used to receive information through a laser stream of data sent from Mars to Earth and could lead to speedier, reliable relays of huge amounts of data across interplanetary distances, setting up a form of broadband communication in space.

Laser chips could power petaflop computers

March 22, 2006

Laser communications chips capable of transfering information through optical fibers at a record 25 gigabits per second in supercomputers have been demonstrated by NEC in Japan.

NEC believes the chips could prove crucial to the development of the first petaflop-class supercomputer, in about 2010.

Delving into the meaning of artificial life

March 21, 2006

Biologists have identified three critical principles that must be present in any living system: They must be self-creating, self-organizing and self-sustaining. The self-sustaining capability includes the ability to replicate components, process information and steadily consume energy from the environment. While electronic systems are highly adept at information processing, they are not self-replicating except at the software level, and they consume only one type of strictly defined electrical energy.

Synthetic… read more

For Robots, Fuel Cells That Double as Muscles

March 21, 2006

Ray H. Baughman, a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas, has built muscle fibers that power themselves.

One type is a nickel-titanium alloy coated with platinum, which causes the fuel, currently methanol, to react with oxygen, producing heat. The metal shrinks; the muscle flexes. The artificial muscle can apply 100 times as much force as real muscle.

The second artificial muscle, currently less powerful,… read more

V for Vendetta Movie Review

March 20, 2006

Get ready for the first real movie of the year that requires you to engage your brain in order to fully absorb the experience. V for Vendetta, written by the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame, is in a league of its own.

Sure to rile up those who don’t believe films should delve into politics, V for Vendetta is an explosive, timely political thriller that presents an ideology sure… read more

Sea coral tags proteins in cells

March 20, 2006

The glow emitted by Dendra, derived from the sea coral Dendronephthya, makes it possible to precisely label an object, such as a cell, organelle, or protein, with a flash of light and then to follow the object’s movement over time.

The light source of the laser-scanning confocal microscopes that researchers commonly use to peer into living cells can activate the tag, which should make the new tool useful to… read more

Bacteria could power tiny robots

March 20, 2006

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Southern California are using Shewanella oneidensis, a microorganism that consumes metals, to generate electricity.

The bacteria lives in soil, water and other environments and can extract its necessary nutrients from a variety of materials.

In a fuel cell, colonies of Shewanella would attach themselves to the anode of fuel cells and produce electrons.

Virus used to make nanoparticles

March 20, 2006

UK scientists have used a plant virus as a scaffold to create nanoparticles that function as capacitors.

The bound ferrocene compounds to amino acids on the virus surface and attached approximately 240 organometallic compounds, each containing an electronically active iron atom.

This could lead to the particles being used in biosensors, nanoelectronic devices, or for electrocatalytic processes.

Earth rocks could have taken life to Titan

March 20, 2006

Boulders blasted away from the Earth’s surface after a major impact could have travelled all the way to the outer solar system, new calculations reveal. The work suggests that terrestrial microbes on the rocks could in theory have landed on Saturn’s giant moon, Titan.

Cosmic ‘DNA’: Double Helix Spotted in Space

March 19, 2006

Magnetic forces at the center of the galaxy have twisted a nebula into the shape of DNA, the first time it has been observed in the cosmos.

The DNA nebula is about 80 light-years long and about 300 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Magnetic field lines at the galactic center are about 1,000 times stronger than on Earth. They run… read more

‘Now that we have a map, let’s start colonizing outer space’

March 19, 2006

Mapping the solar system started in 1965 when Mariner 4 sent back much improved pictures of Mars, said SETI expert Seth Shostak.

Since that time, astronomers — with the help of high-powered telescopes and various exploration vehicles and probes — have delivered stunning pictures of most of the planets and their moons. The quality of these images coupled with our knowledge has made it possible to target not one… read more

Use of Implanted Patient-Data Chips Stirs Debate on Medicine vs. Privacy

March 19, 2006

Some doctors are welcoming VeriChip technology as an exciting innovation that will speed care and prevent errors.

Emergency-room doctors could scan unconscious or incoherent patients to quickly check their blood type and find out if they are taking any medications or have allergies or other medical conditions. Nurses could identify family members and determine whether patients are organ donors or have living wills. Surgeons could scan patients on the… read more

Astronomers Find the Earliest Signs Yet of a Violent Baby Universe

March 17, 2006

Using data from a new map of the baby universe, astronomers said yesterday that they had seen deep into the Big Bang, and had gotten their first detailed hint of what was going on less than a trillionth of a second after time began.

The results, they said, validated a key prediction of the speculative but popular cosmic theory known as inflation about the distribution of matter and energy… read more

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