science + technology news

Artificial Intelligence: Working backwards from HAL

March 28, 2006

The first part of a three-part special report, looking at the past, present and future of AI, examines the origins of machine intelligence and neural networks.

Chip ramps up neuron-to-computer communicati

March 28, 2006

A specialised microchip that could communicate with thousands of individual brain cells has been developed by European scientists.

The device will help researchers examine the workings of interconnected brain cells, and might one day enable them to develop computers that use live neurons for memory.

It is capable of receiving signals from more than 16,000 mammalian brain cells in vitro, and sending messages back to several hundred cells.

Towards a new test of general relativity?

March 27, 2006

Scientists funded by the European Space Agency have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravity.

The research demonstrates that a superconductive gyroscope is capable of generating a powerful gravitomagnetic field, and… read more

Online test calculates brain speed

March 27, 2006

San Francisco-based Posit Science unveiled a program that tests how fast a person’s brain can process information, based on his or her hearing speed.

New data transmission record — 60 DVDs per second

March 27, 2006

German and Japanese scientists recently collaborated to achieve a newworld record for data transmission.

By transmitting a data signal at 2.56 terabits per second over a 160-kilometer link, the researchers bettered the old record of 1.28 terabits per second held by a Japanese group. By comparison, the fastest high-speed links currently carry data at a maximum 40 Gbit/s, or around 50 times slower.

Here’s an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas

March 27, 2006

Co-founders of Rite-Solutions, a software company that builds advanced command-and-control systems for the Navy, have created an internal “stock market” of ideas where any employee can propose that the company acquire a new technology, enter a new business or make an efficiency improvement.

These proposals become stocks, complete with ticker symbols, discussion lists and e-mail alerts. Employees buy or sell the stocks, and prices change to reflect the sentiments… read more

Bytes and Biology

March 27, 2006

The impact of computer science on science as a whole was considered by a group of leading researchers, led by Stephen Emmott of Microsoft Research. Their report, “Towards 2020 Science,” is at

2020 — Future of Computing

March 27, 2006

What will the relationship between computing and science bring us over the next 15 years?

A special Nature web focus (free access) combines commentaries from leading scientists and news features analysis from journalists assessing how computing science concepts and techniques may transform mainstream science by 2020.

2020 computing: Champing at the bits

March 27, 2006

Despite some remaining hurdles, the mind-bending and frankly weird world of quantum computers is surprisingly close.

Surface plasmons squeeze light

March 24, 2006

Physicists in Denmark and France have developed a new class of waveguide that could get round one of the biggest obstacles to photonic circuits. The devices allow light at telecommunications wavelengths to be “squeezed” to below the diffraction limit, allowing it to pass though small regions such as channels on a chip without being significantly lost.

These photonic circuits could manipulate light pulses directly and therefore increase data rates.

Nanotube circuit could boost chip speeds

March 24, 2006

IBM researchers have created field effect transistors along a carbon nanotube that had been deposited onto a silicon wafer. They could lead to near-terahertz processing, up from today’s low-gigahertz range.

Unlike shrunken conventional silicon circuits, the resulting logic circuit yielded virtually no electron flow impedance, meaning current flowed faster.

The nanotube circuit properties will allow the manufacture of smaller transistors with electrons flowing faster through their wires, making… read more

New Studies Warn of Effects of Melting Polar Ice

March 24, 2006

Within the next 100 years, the growing human influence on earth’s climate could lead to a long and irreversible rise in sea levels by eroding Earth’s vast polar ice sheets, according to new observations and analysis by several teams of scientists.

One team, using computer models of climate and ice, found that by about 2100, average temperatures could be 4 degrees warmer than today and that over the coming… read more

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.

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