the digest

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

What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

January 4, 2006

The “third culture thinkers” in the Edge community of scientists and science-minded thinkers have written 117 original essays in response to the 2006 Edge Question: “What is your dangerous idea?”.

The answers include “The self is a conceptual chimera” (John Allen Paulos),”We are all virtual” (Clifford Pickover), and “The near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion” (Ray Kurzweil).

Mine robot bogged down in mud in West Virginia rescue

January 4, 2006

A robot designed to search mines during emergencies was bogged down by mud earlier Tuesday, and was temporarily out of service in efforts to locate 13 miners trapped in a West Virginia mine.

The rescue robot, developed for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, is 30 inches wide, 50 inches tall and was designed to find possible escape routes for those trapped inside and determine whether it’s safe… read more

Year of the Robot

January 4, 2006

Last year (2005), the news was full of stories about robots. On the industrial side, the North American robotics industry posted 30% growth through the first three quarters (the latest data available).

In other, less traditional markets such as law enforcement, there were monthly reports of mobile robots used for bomb detection and disposal in the U.S. and across the world. Unmanned robotic vehicles have been used for assessing… read more

Ray Kurzweil on The Quest For Immortality

January 3, 2006

“When we get to 2030, say, we will have the means to indefinitely extend human life,” said Ray Kurzweil, interviewed by Morley Safer in a web version of CBS 60 Minutes.

Scientists Report a Crucial Gain in Growing Stem Cells

January 3, 2006

Scientists at a laboratory affiliated with the University of Wisconsin have developed a stem-cell culture medium free of animal cells and used it to derive two new human embryonic stem-cell lines.

The work is considered a crucial step in stem-cell research because it will allow growth of these cells without using animal products that can harbor viruses and other potential sources of problems.

Biotech data mining

January 2, 2006

In the last ten years, biotech companies have been busy accumulating mountains of data. And it’s becoming more and more difficult to find useful information about interactions between genes and proteins for example.

It’s one of the reasons why the European Union has started the BioGrid project. The researchers involved in it have delivered a better search engine for PubMed by analyzing over-expressing genes and predicting the protein interactions… read more

Data, Music, Video: Raising a Curtain on Future Gadgetry

January 2, 2006

The flat-panel televisions will be getting bigger, the MP3 players and cellphones will be getting smaller. And almost everything will be getting cheaper.

But the biggest trend expected at the International Consumer Electronics Show, which begins this week in Las Vegas, is that these machines will be communicating with one another. The theme of this year’s show might best be described as Convergence: This Time We Mean It.

The Quest For Immortality

January 1, 2006

60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer interviewed Dr. Aubrey de Grey, who says that sometime in the next 20 to 30 years or so, we’ll be able to recondition ourselves for the first steps towards immortality.

(Video of interview available)

Scholars debate whether to limit scientific research

December 30, 2005

A conference titled “Forbidding Science? Balancing Freedom, Security, Innovation and Precaution” will explore whether scientific research should be restricted – and, if so, how far “too far” might be.

It will include research controversies in the areas of pathogens and toxins, nanotechnology and cognitive enhancement and will be held Jan. 12 – 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Source: Arizona State University news release

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