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After 45 Years (and $700 Million), a Gravity Experiment Takes Flight

April 14, 2004

Gravity Probe B, to be launched next Monday, is an experiment to test Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicted the expansion of the universe and the existence of black holes.

The probe contains four gyroscopes and squids (superconducting quantum interference devices) to measure whether and how the spinning Earth twists space-time (frame dragging) and makes space-time sag (gamma).

It will give physicists precise measurements on ways that… read more

Working on next generation of robot warriors

April 13, 2004

iRobot yesterday signed a $32 million Army contract to develop a follow-on to its PackBot reconnaissance robot: a next-generation robot designated by the Army as the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) that’s lighter and has longer battery life.

The robots will be part of the Pentagon’s effort to transform the military to a leaner, more high-tech force able to respond swiftly to low-intensity and unconventional threats, using manned, unmanned,… read more

Firm Strives to Give Amputees a Natural Gait

April 13, 2004

Victhom Human Bionics has developed an above-knee prosthetic leg that functions like an amputee’s lost limb.

It uses a motor-driven knee and a complex system — sensors and microprocessor — that gives it the uncanny ability to move and bend naturally.

The sensors transmit information to the microprocessor, which picks out a suitable walking pattern and sends instructions to the knee’s electric motor, which moves the leg in… read more

After the Double Helix: Unraveling the Mysteries of the State of Being

April 13, 2004

DNA discoverer Dr. Francis Crick and Dr. Christof Koch, a professor of computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology, are exploring the neural correlates of consciousness” (N.C.C.’s) — the neuronal states and processes associated with conscious awareness.

Koch and his graduate students are gaining experimental evidence for what Crick had termed the “awareness neurons” that enable us to see.

While many scientists assume that consciousness… read more

A Glimmer of Hope for Fading Minds

April 13, 2004

Scientists are uncovering clues that may eventually allow them to prevent, slow or even reverse Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have found evidence suggesting that statins, drugs taken to lower cholesterol levels, may also protect against Alzheimer’s. Other researchers have hypothesized that medications that reduce inflammation might prove useful or that Alzheimer’s may result from “multiple hits” from a stroke, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Eureka! Scientists map the moment

April 13, 2004

Using MRI, neuroscientists have identified the brain region involved in the “Eureka!” moment: the anterior superior temporal gyrus.

With Tiny Brain Implants, Just Thinking May Make It So

April 13, 2004

Cyberkinetics Inc. plans to implant a tiny chip in the brains of five paralyzed people in an effort to enable them to operate a computer by thought alone.

The chip uses 100 electrodes connected by wires to an electronic device to analyze neural signals and send them to a computer. A future version will use a wireless connection.

Brain Waves Control Video Games

April 12, 2004

Researchers have developed Mind Balance, a video game in which the character is controlled directly from a player’s brain using electroencephalography (EEG) and wireless technology fitted into a sophisticated headset.

The game could help researchers develop brain-computer interfaces for those with limited body movement or who could otherwise not communicate.

MRI with 80-nm resolution

April 12, 2004

An MRI with 80-nm resolution has been achieved with a device that combines atomic force microscope (AFM) and MRI technology.

The device is intended to scan and image small objects — especially particles of biological importance, such as viruses and proteins — with atomic-scale resolution.

The best medical MRI has a spatial resolution of about a tenth of a millimeter.

Self-assembling nanotubes offer promise for future artificial joints

April 12, 2004
Self-assembly of rosettes

Researchers have discovered that bone cells called osteoblasts attach better to nanotube-coated titanium than to conventional titanium used to make artificial joints.

Conventional titanium used in artificial joints has surface features on the scale of microns, causing the body to recognize them as foreign and prompting a rejection response. This eventually weakens the attachment of the implants and causes them to become loose and painful, requiring replacement… read more

Machine rage is dead … long live emotional computing

April 12, 2004

The days of the unfeeling, infuriating machine will soon be over. Scientists are now creating computers and robots that can detect and respond to users’ feelings.

The discoveries are being channelled by Humaine, a £6 million program just launched by the EU to give Europe a lead in emotional computing.

The systems depend on scientists’ new-found ability to recognize the physiological expressions of emotions — changes in stature,… read more

Web-based program calculates effects of an Earth impact

April 9, 2004

A new web-based program tells you how an asteroid or comet collision will affect your spot on the globe by calculating several environmental consequences of its impact, including thermal radiation, seismic shaking, ejecta deposition, and air-blast effects.

University of Arizona press release

Turning Search Into a Science

April 9, 2004

If you’re looking for scientific information on the Web, Google might not be the best choice. Many researchers instead turn to Scirus, a search engine for scientists that allows them to dig through scientific journals as well as unpublished research, university websites, corporate Internet sites, conference agendas and minutes, discussion groups and mailing-list archives.

A Black Box for People

April 8, 2004

Stanford University and NASA/Ames scientists have developed the CPOD, which typically keeps track of the wearer’s heart performance, blood pressure, respiration, temperature, blood oxygen levels, and movements.

The device can store data for eight-hour periods for later downloading or send it wirelessly in real time.

While developed for astronauts, it also has possible terrestrial uses. EMT’s at an accident scene could quickly gain information about a victim’s condition.… read more

Circuit Benders Unlock the Long Riffs in Short-Circuits

April 8, 2004

Circuit bending, the creative alteration of toys and other electronic devices so they can produce new and unusual sounds, is being featured at the Bent Festival in New York.

The Darth Vader toy, for instance, was essentially an audio processor that deepened its owner’s voice. Bender Thomas Uliasz added an input jack and pitch-control knob and renamed it the Dark Side Box. Connected to a rhythm machine, the circuit-bent… read more

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