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Talking to bacteria

February 12, 2004

Scientists have genetically engineered bacteria to “talk” to each other in a new language, bringing us one step closer to turning cells into tiny robots that we can control by flooding them with chemicals.

Bacteria already communicate with each other by sending out chemical signals, in response to stress, for example, causing them to switch on genes in neighboring cells that change their behavior.

“You could use this… read more

Benign Viruses Shine on the Silicon Assembly Line

February 12, 2004

MIT professor Angela M. Belcher has altered the DNA in a virus to generate a variety of self-assembling, regular nanowires made of magnetic and semiconducting materials that may one day be part of the extremely small circuitry in the next generation of ever-shrinking high-speed electronic components.

Dr. Belcher has jointly founded a company, Semzyme, with Evelyn L. Hu, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California at… read more

PC drives will reach 600GB by 2007, industry says

February 11, 2004

The standard desktop PC of 2007 will have a hard disk drive with capacity between 500GB and 600GB, according to research company TrendFocus Inc.

The most immediate advance in storage technology is the move to perpendicular storage of data on hard disks, which will begin to appear later this year. It can provide storage capacities of up to 1 terabits per square inch.

Superconductors, Quantum Mechanics and Nanotech to the Rescue

February 11, 2004

A trio of high technologies — superconductors, quantum mechanics and nanotech — may allow cancer specialists to spot tumors so small they elude today’s best imaging methods.

A “Superconducting QUantum Interference Device,” or SQUID, lets oncologists and surgeons locate previously injected tumor-specific nanoparticles that act like submicroscopic cancer-detection beacons.

Tiny scales weigh virus

February 11, 2004

Purdue University scientists have developed a scale that can weigh a 10 femtograms virus.

It uses a laser beam to measure the variation of wobble of a 30 nanometer-thick silicom springboard from the virus. Coating the springboard with antibodies will allow onlyone particular type of virus to stick to the scales. Such detectors could one day be used to monitor air purity in hospital or to assist in security… read more

IBM Supercomputer to Forecast Global Warming

February 11, 2004

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine will use an 528 gigaflops (peak) IBM supercomputer to predict the impact of global warming on the Earth up to 300 years into the future.

The Earth System Modeling Facility will enable researchers to simulate how pressures on the planet’s climate — from pollutants and chemicals to the melting of the polar ice and global warming — will affect future changes.

The Virus Underground

February 11, 2004

Given the pace of virus development, we are probably going to see even nastier criminal attacks in the future.

Some academics have predicted the rise of “cryptoviruses” — malware that invades your computer and encrypts all your files, making them unreadable. “The only way to get the data back will be to pay a ransom,” says Stuart Schechter, a doctoral candidate in computer security at Harvard.

Antivirus companies… read more

Making of mouse marks move toward ‘mitochondrial medicine’

February 10, 2004

Scientists have created a new kind of mouse by replacing the genetic material in the mitochondria of one species with that from another in a gene-swapping exercise necessary if doctors are to understand several currently untreatable human diseases.

Mitochondrial medicine — how specific mitochondrial mutations and deficiencies lead to disease — deals with trouble with the cell’s powerhouse, the mitochondrion, which affects many diseases that become more common as… read more

Researchers pinpoint brain areas that process reality, illusion

February 10, 2004

Researchers have identified areas of the brain where what we’re actually doing (reality) and what we think we’re doing (illusion, or perception) are processed.

They created a virtual reality video game to trick monkeys into thinking that they were tracing ellipses with their hands, though they actually were moving their hands in a circle.

The research shows how the mind creates its sense of order in the world… read more

The Computer at Nature’s Core

February 10, 2004

The computational worldview — that the universe itself is governed by the laws of computation and is, in fact, a computer — is the death of the notion that technology is applied science.

If both the physical universe and the biological world are best understood in terms of information and computation, it no longer makes sense to think that technology results from an application of science. Indeed, if computation… read more

Cool New Ideas to Save Brains

February 10, 2004

A “cool helmet” and a corkscrew device that removes clots in blood vessels are among radical new technologies for stroke treatment.

Things fall apart

February 10, 2004

Some people think modern astronomy’s convoluted theory of “dark matter” and “dark energy” is based on a kludge similar to Ptolemy’s theory of epicycles. If something else is actually causing those effects, the whole theoretical edifice would come crashing down.

According to a paper just published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, irregularities in the cosmic microwave background may have been misinterpreted. They may have been… read more

Online search engines lift cover of privacy

February 10, 2004

Cybersecurity experts say an increasing number of private or putatively secret documents are online in out-of-the-way corners of computers all over the globe, leaving the government, individuals, and companies vulnerable to security penetration by “Googledorks,” who troll the Internet for confidential information.

The article’s reference to a file that avoids search-engine indexing is erroneous. “robots.txt” is the correct file name. – Ed

BBC Airs Scaremongering Nanotech Documentary

February 9, 2004

“The BBC saw fit to fuel the fires of fear over nanotech in last night’s Horizon. While the web content is quite moderate, the prevailing image of nanotech the program presented was a swarm of CGI grey goo flying like a whirling dervish over a blasted desert (an image straight out of Michael Crichton’s Prey, interspersed with time-lapse shots of reproducing cells and decaying animals as the commentary spoke of… read more

Mercury affects brains of adolescents

February 9, 2004

Eating seafood that contains mercury can affect the brain development of children in their adolescence, according to a study of people in the Faroe Islands.

The study contradicts the opinion of researchers who think these compounds are toxic only to babies as they develop in the womb, and that older children are unlikely to suffer developmental problems from the poison.

The group previously found that the children, when… read more

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