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Robots and the Rest of Us

June 4, 2004

Experts recently met to discuss how robots are challenging humankind on four frontiers: war, brain augmentation, physical augmentation, and social implications. The question: what kind of ethics, if any, applies to machines? “Robot ethicists” find that a kind of moral ethics for robots needs to be considered as they become increasingly part of our daily lives.

Atom-photon link demoed

June 4, 2004

Practical quantum information processing is likely to require atoms to process and store information and photons to transmit information within and between quantum computers.

Researchers from the University of Michigan have taken a significant step in finding a way to transfer information from atoms to photons and back by entangling a cadmium ion held in a vacuum by radio waves, and a single, free-flying ultraviolet photon. The technique is… read more

Study: Self-replicating nanomachines feasible

June 4, 2004

A useful self-replicating machine could be less complex than a Pentium IV chip, according to a new study of of “kinematic cellular automata” performed by General Dynamics for NASA.

Through simulations, the researchers demonstrated the feasibility of this kind of self-replication, which could in a decade or more lead to the mass manufacture of molecularly precise robots, display monitors and integrated circuits that can be programmed in the field,… read more

Life goes on without ‘vital’ DNA

June 4, 2004

Researchers deleted huge chunks of the genome of mice without it making any discernable difference to the animals.

The result is totally unexpected because the deleted sequences included so-called “conserved regions” thought to have important functions.

Wanted: Drugs to Fight Bioterror

June 3, 2004

Amid new warnings about a possible summer of terror, the U.S. government is preparing to spend $5.6 billion over a decade to coax pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs to fend off a biological or chemical attack.

By contrast, a single cholesterol drug — Lipitor — rakes in $9 billion in revenue each year.

Risk of radioactive “dirty bomb” growing

June 3, 2004

The risk of somebody somewhere triggering a radioactive “dirty bomb” is growing, evidence gathered by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency suggests.

The IAEA’s records show a dramatic rise in the level of smuggling of radiological materials..

The Ultimate Remote Control

June 2, 2004

Imagine what it would be like if we could turn our brains into remote controls, sending wireless commands to computers, robots and other machines.

Researchers hope ultimately to eavesdrop on the brain’s signals with electrodes, transmit them to a computer that can read the brain’s code and then use those signals to control a machine either locally or remotely via wireless or even the Internet.

Imagine a quadriplegic… read more

Live fast, die old

June 2, 2004

Mice with sky-high metabolic rates live far longer than their sluggish cousins, UK researchers have found, raising the prospect that human lifespan might be lengthened with metabolism-boosting drugs.

The group of animals with the highest metabolic rates lived over a third longer than the group with the lowest rates, they found, and had metabolisms that ran about 30% faster. If the same is true in humans, this means that… read more

Genetically-modified virus explodes cancer cells

June 2, 2004

A genetically-modified virus that exploits the selfish behaviour of cancer cells may offer a powerful and selective way of killing tumors.

Deleting a key gene from the virus enabled it to infect and burst cancer cells while leaving normal tissues unharmed.

The UK researchers deleted one such gene in an adenovirus. This meant that the virus was immediately detected by normal cells and was unable to spread. But… read more

This Is Your Brain on Drugs

June 1, 2004

Scientists are developing technology to peer into the brains of people taking antidepressants, hoping to cut down on the arduous process of evaluating the drugs.

Aspect Medical Systems has developed a system to do that based on the EEG, which records the firing of brain cells in the frontal lobe, blood flow and other activity. It uses a disposable strip of electrodes that affixes to the forehead and feeds… read more

Interview: Abrupt Climate Change, the Pentagon, and The Day After Tomorrow

June 1, 2004

Doug Randall, who co-authored “the Pentagon study” on abrupt climate change, has commented on the “Day After Tomorrow film.

“The timeframe is definitely exaggerated, but the premise is one of the real issues of our day,” he said. “The danger signs come from the world of science and have to do with things like salinity of the Atlantic Ocean and the thermohaline conveyor. Signs that point to big shifts… read more

The Little Engine That Could

June 1, 2004

Robert X. Cringley predicts the coming demise of the landline telco monopolies from VoIP (voice over Internet) and Linux running on the latest generation of WiFi routers connected to local subscribers via a mesh network.

“The result is a system with economics with which a traditional local phone company simply can’t compete,” he says.

Puckish robots pull together

June 1, 2004

The frictionless conditions of space are being simulated by air-hockey tables, as a new generation of intelligent robots is trained to build space stations and solar arrays.

The work demonstrates how teams of mobile, communicating robots can perform complex tasks: for example, they can collaborate to push objects over a surface. This is reminiscent of the way ants show group intelligence when carrying out collective tasks such as foraging.… read more

Disaster Movie Makes Waves

June 1, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow eco-disaster film’s premise that human activity could trigger a sudden ice age is unlikely, say scientists.

‘Earthshine’ fall heats global warming debate

June 1, 2004

A new study of earthshine, the sunlight reflected back onto the Moon from our planet, suggests that falling cloud cover could explain the warming of the Earth’s lower atmosphere seen over the last 20 years.

The decline suggests fewer clouds, which reflect sunlight, and therefore that more sunlight has been making it into the lower atmosphere (troposphere).

The idea presents a controversial alternative to most scientists’ prime suspect… read more

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