science + technology news

Gadgets Galore at CES

January 9, 2006 previews some of the best gadgets at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Hybrid structures fuse traits

January 9, 2006

Complex new structures that assemble themselves from combinations of semiconducting, metallic or magnetic nanoscale particles promise to have either the combined valuable traits of their ingredients or possess entirely new useful properties.

For example, structures that pair two different semiconductors “can be employed for new generation of solar cells and thermoelectric devices,” explained researcher Dmitri Talapin, a materials scientist formerly with IBM and now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory… read more

In Love With Reality Truly, Madly, Virtually

January 9, 2006

The Canvas virtual reality system is now available to artists for about $3,000. Software is free. All the public needs is a pair of passive stereo glasses ($1) or datagloves ($20).

This is the kind of watershed moment that video art enjoyed in 1965, when portable video recording equipment became available at mass-market prices.

Your phone records are for sale

January 9, 2006

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone — for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts.

To test the service, the FBI paid $160 to buy the records for an agent’s cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said.

Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists

January 9, 2006

An individual with access to the Internet can develop a fairly sophisticated profile of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens by using data mining of free and publicly available resources, such as’s vast database of wishlists, as programmer Tom Owad has proved.

He extracted names and cities for readers of “dangerous books” to show how easy it is. Their addresses and Google maps their homes could also have… read more

Computers estimate emotions

January 9, 2006

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research in Germany have developed a glove that senses a computer operator’s heartbeat and breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and electrical resistance and connects to a device that infers emotions.

They are also working on techniques that will enable computers to interpret facial expressions and extract emotional elements from voice signals.

Source: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft news

‘Robot agents’ to help settle disputes

January 8, 2006

The e-Dispute system provides fast online arbitration, mediation and conciliation services to help organizations quickly resolve disputes.

e-Dispute’s online collaboration tools include video, audio, live-chat, e-forum, text and transcript capabilities with full case management, fact assessment, analysis, and weighted issue/interesting variables.

MP3 players to select tunes to your taste

January 8, 2006

A new technology could let your computer recommend new music you might like based on an acoustic analysis of the tunes it already knows you enjoy.

By analyzing the characteristics of a song — like timbre, rhythm, tempo and chord changes — then comparing it to a database of a million songs, the software can recommend similar pieces of music, and even rank them by characteristics, like their key… read more

Buckypaper is 250 times stronger than steel and lighter

January 6, 2006

Buckypaper, made from carbon nanotubes, could improve computer and television screens; reduce heat in chips, allowing for more miniaturization; and protect electronic circuits and devices within airplanes from electromagnetic interference.

Florida State University is working to develop these and other real-world applications.

Source: Florida State University news release

Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip

January 6, 2006

A “hyperspace” engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States Air Force and Department of Energy.

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if… read more

Shift from TV to Internet accelerates

January 6, 2006

News and entertainment content is moving from TV to the Internet. Google and Yahoo are announcing plans at the Consumer Electronic Show to deliver TV programs directly to home computers via the Internet and to cellphones.

TV network news is already becoming available on the net — sometimes in advance of TV. And last year, Apple Computer introduced a video iPod and video downloads from… read more

The lie detector you’ll never know is there

January 5, 2006

THE US Department of Defense has revealed plans to develop a lie detector that can be used without the subject knowing they are being assessed.

The Remote Personnel Assessment (RPA) device will also be used to pinpoint fighters hiding in a combat zone, or even to spot signs of stress that might mark someone out as a terrorist or suicide bomber.

Better robots could help save disaster victims

January 5, 2006

In the wake of the tragic accident that killed 12 trapped miners in West Virginia, roboticists are saying that a new generation of search-and rescue-robots could help save lives in future disasters.

Howie Choset, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University, is working on a robot that can squirm snake-like through small spaces that might be left after a mine or building collapses. He said he and his students look… read more

Don’t Even Think About Lying

January 5, 2006

Functional magnetic resonance imaging and a new technology using near-infrared light are pushing the state-of-the-art in lie detection by measuring blood flow to key areas of the brain.

‘Hacking Matter’ revisited

January 4, 2006

The book HACKING MATTER: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms Hacking Matter “contains a deep scientific misconception,” says a leading nanotechnology expert in response to our news item Wednesday.

“The ‘programmable atoms’ of the title are quantum wells, structures much larger than individual atoms. These wells can have electron wave functions that resemble atoms in their spatial patterns, but not in scale… read more

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