science + technology news

How to discover asteroid impacts

March 12, 2006

An amateur geologist has demonstrated the power of the Internet with his discovery of two impact craters, using free distributed software (Google Earth, NASA World Wind).

The Longevity Dividend

March 10, 2006

Congress should invest $3 billion annually in understanding the biology of aging and how it predisposes us to a suite of costly diseases and disorders expressed at later ages, say a group of researchers led by S. Jay Olshansky, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois.

Spintronics may save Moore’s Law

March 10, 2006

The Western Institute of Nanoelectronics is being established with grants of $18.2 million, largely from semiconductor companies with an interest in breakthroughs in spintronics, which holds promise in minimizing power consumption for next-generation consumer electronics.

‘Mental typewriter’ controlled by thought alone

March 10, 2006

The Berlin Brain-Computer Interface (“mental typewriter”) makes it possible to type messages onto a computer screen by mentally controlling the movement of a cursor.

A user wears a cap containing electrodes that measure EEG signals and imagines moving their left or right arm to maneuver the cursor. It could allow paralysed patients to operate computers, or for amputees to operate electronically controlled artificial limbs. It could also be used… read more

Nanodevices That Assemble Themselves

March 9, 2006

A new self-assembly process uses chemical processes to create small “conjugated block copolymers,” or molecular chains, along with a thermodynamic phase diagram.

Liquid crystals show promise in controlling embryonic stem cells

March 9, 2006

UW-Madison researchers have shown that by straining mechanically the cells as they grow, it is possible to reduce significantly and almost eliminate the uncontrolled differentiation of stem cells.

“Stem cells tend to be smaller and have a slightly more compact shape than the differentiated cells,” says chemical and biological engineer Sean Palecek. “Differentiated cells appear to be much more spread and they appear to exert different levels of force… read more

Create your favourite website, automatically

March 9, 2006

Boxxet allows users to create websites on any subject, automatically filling it with relevant news stories, blog posts, maps and photos.

The site’s algorithm starts by reading through the web pages submitted by the user. It calculates the frequency of unique words and which words these unique words are likely to be adjacent to. It also notes the number of images and which news organisation or blogger created those… read more

Google looking to provide ‘infinite’ storage to computer users

March 9, 2006

Plans for a Google service offering “infinite” storage capacity leaked out last week when the company inadvertently shared some information about several projects, including one named “GDrive,” on its Web site.

In its internal notes, Google discusses an ambitious storage system that would keep its users’ word processing files, e-mails, Web history and photos on the company’s own computers, allowing users to access their data from any place at… read more

MIT researchers extend computer life without batteries

March 8, 2006

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to extend the power life of mobile computers and charge a cell phone in just a few seconds.

They draw power from an electronic device called an ultracapacitor, using nanotubes to store charge.

University to Investigate Fusion Study

March 8, 2006

Purdue University has opened an investigation into “extremely serious” concerns regarding the research of a professor who said he had produced nuclear fusion in a tabletop experiment.

The vibrations, they said, collapsed tiny gas bubbles in the liquid, heating them to millions of degrees, hot enough to initiate fusion. If true, the phenomenon, often called sonofusion or bubble fusion, could have far-reaching applications, including the generation of energy.… read more

Intel Announces a New Design for Chips

March 8, 2006

Intel Corporation has showed off a new design for powerful, energy-efficient processors.

The new chip for server computers, called Woodcrest, would offer an 80 percent performance improvement and require 35 percent less power; the Conroe chip for desktop computers, which will be released later this year, will offer 40 percent performance improvement and require 40 percent less power. The foundation for the chips is derived from the company’s popular… read more

Risky websites get a billion visits a month

March 7, 2006

Web users make a billion visits every month to websites of dubious character, according to an MIT survey.

SiteAdvisor, a company spun-off by computer security researchers from MIT, has also launched a web browser add-on that automatically checks the reputation of a site against its database. It can be downloaded as a free trial.

Many human genes evolved recently

March 7, 2006

Human genes involved in metabolism, skin pigmentation, brain function and reproduction have evolved in response to recent environmental changes, according to a new study of natural selection in the human genome.

Identifying the gene variants that are under selection may one day help medicine, because individuals with a newly evolved gene variant may be better adapted for modern human conditions and less susceptible to certain diseases. Understanding the differences… read more

Biowar for Dummies

March 7, 2006

How hard is it to build your own weapon of mass destruction? Roger Brent, a geneticist who runs a California biotech firm, is one of a growing number of researchers who believe that a bioterrorist wouldn’t need a team of virologists and state funding. He says advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could do the job.

Every hands-on… read more

The Art of Building a Robot to Love

March 6, 2006

A robot must have human emotions, but do we understand human emotions well enough to formalize them in computers?

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