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The Pitter Patter of Little Feet . . . Climbing Straight Up a Wall

January 30, 2008
Credit: J. Lee and R.S. Fearing, UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley researchers have developed the first adhesive that masters the easy attach and easy release seen in the padded feet of the gecko.

The new material is crafted from millions 600nm plastic microfibers that establish grip. A square two centimeters on a side can support 400 grams.

The material could prove useful for a range of products from climbing equipment to medical devices.

The Potential of MEMS

October 25, 2005

Total sales in the MEMS (microlectromechanical systems) market will reach $5.4 billion this year and will grow to more than $7 billion in 2007.

Biggest sellers: inertial devices, micromirrors for projection devices and TVs, pressure sensors, RF applications, analytical instruments, and in biomedical monitoring devices.

The power of a single neuron

December 20, 2007

Stimulating just one neuron can be enough to affect learning and behavior, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Humboldt University researchers have found, lending support to the “sparse-coding” hypothesis of neural networks, which suggests that only a few neurons need to fire to generate a response.

The results, published this week by Nature, conflict with the long-held notion that many neurons–on the order of thousands–are required to generate a behavioral… read more

The power of placebos

May 16, 2011

One in five respondents to a survey of physicians and psychiatrists in Canadian medical schools have administered or prescribed a placebo, researchers at McGill University have reported.

The survey, which was also designed to explore attitudes toward placebo use, found that the majority of responding psychiatrists (more than 60 per cent) believe that placebos can have therapeutic effects. This was a significantly higher proportion than… read more

The Power Of Plant Clock Computing

March 1, 2010

Stochastic process algebra, which encompasses concurrent processes and the communication between them, could lead to a new generation of super-efficient computing.

Process algebra, which is being used by UK scientists for computation of the complex biochemical processes that drive the circadian clock of a plant, is potentially more powerful by several orders of magnitude than sequential Turing machine-based computing processes.

The power of ‘random’: ‘Seemingly loopy’ technique could dramatically improve communications networks

February 10, 2010

MIT researchers have designed a radical new approach to communications networks, called “network coding,” which promises to make Internet file sharing faster, streaming video more reliable, and cell-phone reception better, among other improvements.

With network coding, a router mathematically combines packets into hybrid packets, making the most efficient possible use of the network’s bandwidth.

The Prize Is Won; The Simplest Universal Turing Machine Is Proved

October 25, 2007

University of Birmingham Alex Smith has won a $25,000 prize for proving that the simplest possible Turing machine is in fact universal, Stephen Wolfram has announced.

“Perhaps one day there’ll even be practical molecular computers built from this very 2,3 Turing machine,” said Wolfram. “With tapes a bit like RNA strands, and heads moving up and down like ribosomes. When we think of nanoscale computers, we usually… read more

The problem with abundance

October 28, 2003

What do traffic jams, obesity and spam have in common?

They are all problems caused by abundance in a world more attuned to scarcity. By achieving the goal of abundance, technology renders the natural checks and balances of scarcity obsolete.

The Problem With an Almost-Perfect Genetic World

November 21, 2005

Advocates for people with disabilities are troubled by how much faster the science of prenatal testing is advancing than the public discussion of how it ought to be used.

Some bioethicists envision a dystopia where parents who choose to forgo genetic testing are shunned, or their children are denied insurance. Parents and people with disabilities fear they may simply be more lonely. And less money may be devoted to… read more

The Problem with Atheism

October 3, 2007

“I think that ‘atheist’ is a term that we do not need, in the same way that we don’t need a word for someone who rejects astrology. We simply do not call people ‘non-astrologers,’” says author Sam Haris in a talk given at the Atheist Alliance conference in Washington D.C. on September 28th.

“All we need are words like ‘reason’ and ‘evidence’ and ‘common sense’ and ‘bullshit’ to put… read more

The Problem with Dead White Males

February 27, 2004

A recent poll suggests an alarming gap in university presidents’ knowledge: the entire past 200 years. Asked to name the books “you believe every undergraduate university student should read and study in order to engage in the intellectual discourse, commerce, and public duties of the 21st century,” the academic leaders came up with a list highly deficient in science and that pretty much excluded anything written after 1800.

The… read more

The Problems in Modeling Nature, With Its Unruly Natural Tendencies

February 21, 2007

A new book by Orrin H. Pilkey, a coastal geologist and emeritus professor at Duke, argues that nature is too complex and depends on too many processes that are poorly understood or little monitored to be modeled using computer programs.

The Programmable Pill

April 18, 2001

“Smart” methods of delivering drugs to the body—-based on micro- and nanotechnology—-could reduce side effects, make better use of existing drugs and open the door to entire classes of new treatments.

For example, Tejal Desai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago and iMedd of Ohio are building 150-microns-wide silicon particles. On one side, up to 20 drug-containing reservoirs are etched, each sealed with a… read more

The Promise of Personal Supercomputers

February 22, 2007

Intel’s “terascale” supercomputer on a chip is one of Intel’s first steps toward massively multicore (multiprocessor) technology.

The goal: test techniques that could make massively multicore technology faster, more energy efficient, and easy to program. These techniques will be “funneled into future products” that could appear within five to ten years.

Intel thinks that recognition, mining, and synthesis (RMS) applications will be key. These technologies could allow for… read more

The promise of personalized medicine

September 7, 2004

A new technology developed at IBM could bring the promise of personalized medicine one step closer to reality.

The “Genomic Messaging System” (GMS) uses a “smart” DNA stream that contains a patient’s entire medical record in compressed form as well as genetic information. The DNA stream could potentially even house images like MRIs and X-rays.

The objective is to allow researchers to see correlations between human disease and… read more

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