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Top ten stories of 2003

January 2, 2004

The most popular stories published by New Scientist.com during 2003 include the first speed of gravity measurement, packet tracking for ultrafast Internet, the world’s first brain prosthesis, and James Watson’s statement that stupidity is a genetic disease that should be cured.

Nanotechnology’s road to artificial brains

April 26, 2010

Memristor concept and crossbar design (American Chemical Society)

Memristor devices (resistive devices with a memory property) are capable of emulating biological synapses with properly designed CMOS neuron components, University of Michigan researchers have demonstrated.

The team also demonstrated that an electrical circuit consisting of CMOS “neurons” and memristor synapses can achieve spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP), an important synaptic activity.

These findings show that it is now possible to build a brain-like computer using electronic… read more

Acoustic sensors make surfaces interactive

November 29, 2006

Tai-Chi (Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer-Human Interaction), a series of acoustic sensors that turn any surface into a touch-sensitive computer interface, has been developed by European researchers.

Two or more sensors are attached around the edges of the surface. These pinpoint the position of a finger, or another touching object, by tracking minute vibrations. This allows them to create a virtual touchpad, or keyboard, on any table or wall.

Brain’s counting skill ‘built-in’

August 19, 2008

Humans have an innate ability to do mathematics even if they do not have the language to express it, a research team has suggested.

A study in Australian Aboriginal children, whose languages lack number words, found they did just as well as English-speaking children in number skills, contradicting other research that found having “counting words” was needed.

Pig-human chimeras contain cell surprise

January 14, 2004

Pigs grown from fetuses into which human stem cells were injected have surprised scientists by having cells in which the DNA from the two species is mixed at the most intimate level.

It is the first time such fused cells have been seen in living creatures. The discovery could have serious implications for xenotransplantation — the use of animal tissue and organs in humans — and even the origin… read more

The Data-Driven Life

May 3, 2010

“Almost imperceptibly, numbers are infiltrating the last redoubts of the personal,” observes writer Gary Wolf.

“Sleep, exercise, sex, food, mood, location, alertness, productivity, even spiritual well-being are being tracked and measured, shared and displayed.

“First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to… read more

Personalized Weather Forecasts

December 11, 2006

IBM has launched a new weather service called Deep Thunder that can predict the rain, the wind, and temperature conditions down to a one-kilometer resolution. In time, IBM researchers say they should even be able to nail the resolution down to individual streets.

Deep Thunder increases the resolution by using IBM’s pSeries Cluster 1600 computers — a mini-supercomputer — to include additional information about the local area that can… read more

At Conference on the Risks to Earth, Few Are Optimistic

August 25, 2008

At a conference on global risks like cyberterrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons and the world’s lagging energy supply, participants were not particularly optimistic.

They presented data showing that the boom in biofuels was depleting Southeast Asian rain forests, that “bot herders” — computer hackers for hire — were hijacking millions of computers, and that the lack of progress over handling nuclear waste was both hampering the revival of nuclear… read more

Gulf between rich, poor will grow if nanotech opponents prevail

January 28, 2004

The chasm between have and have-not countries will grow even wider if nanotechnology research is blocked by the unbalanced positions of high-profile opponents like Prince Charles, warns a new analysis from a leading global medical ethics think tank.

In an article to be published by the Institute of Physics’ journal “Nanotechnology,” and released Jan. 28 online at Nanotechweb.org, the authors say the potential health, environmental and economic… read more

The Need for Speed on the Web

May 11, 2010

Aptimize, a startup based in Wellington, New Zealand, that launches its service for websites in the United States today, says its software can speed up website load times, bringing increases of 200 to 400 percent in some cases.

The software gets into the middle of the normally sluggish page-processing pipeline and makes it more efficient. It combines resources so they only have to be downloaded once. For example, it… read more

Pluggd: A Google for Podcasts

December 21, 2006

Pluggd has found a way to index podcasts, talk shows and other spoken-word content. The company’s service then allows users to search the audio files for specific words, which are spoken in context by the original speaker.

Two-egg diet cracks cholesterol issue

August 29, 2008

University of Surrey researchers have found that people who ate two eggs per day, while on a calorie-restricted diet, lost weight and reduced their blood cholesterol levels.

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

Giving new meaning to ‘smart car’

May 18, 2010

McMaster and IBM are investigating how the automotive industry can connect a vehicle’s multiple sensors and microprocessors in the vehicle and on roads to create a “cognitive car” that can predict vehicle failures before they happen, redirect drivers to less congested routes and help reduce traffic accidents, and give drivers real-time visual information and alerts.

The program will also study how increased computing power can help vehicles better integrate… read more

Cows Engineered to Lack Mad Cow Disease

January 2, 2007

Scientists have genetically engineered a dozen cows to be free from the proteins that cause mad cow disease, a breakthrough that may make the animals immune to the brain-wasting disease.

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