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February 14, 2005

After more than a decade of development, Avida’s digital organisms at Michigan State University are now getting close to fulfilling the definition of biological life.

These are digital organisms — strings of commands — akin to computer viruses. Each organism can produce tens of thousands of copies of itself within a matter of minutes. Unlike computer viruses, however, they are made up of digital bits that can mutate and… read more

US denies patent for part-human hybrid

February 14, 2005

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected a claim in a patent on a laboratory-conceived creature that is part human and part animal, saying the hybrid — designed for use in medical research but not yet created — would be too closely related to a human to be patentable.

The decision leaves a crucial question unanswered: At what point is something too human to patent?

The inventor, Stuart… read more

Domo Oregato, Doctor Roboto

February 14, 2005

Hospitals are experimenting with “telerounding” using robots as a way to let doctors meet with patients more frequently, or conduct virtual visits at multiple hospitals from one location.

Parents protest student computer ID tags

February 14, 2005

Brittan Elementary School in California is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will take away their children’s privacy.

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety.

Please Don’t Call the Customers Dead

February 14, 2005

The live-in customers at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation here reside in eight 10-foot-high steel tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. They are incapable of breathing, thinking, walking, riding a bike or scratching an itch. But don’t refer to them as deceased.

They may be frozen at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit and identified by prisonlike numbers. But to Alcor, the 67 bodies – in many cases, just severed heads -… read more

The Doctor Will See Your Prototype Now

February 11, 2005

The Physiome Project is assembling digital models of every system and anatomical feature of the human body – from large organs to tiny cellular and molecular functions.

The ssytem would allows physicians to test various scenarios on your digital model – surgery, radiation, chemotherapy – and watch how your system reacts.

Open-Source Practices for Biotechnology

February 11, 2005

Researchers from Australia have devised a method of creating genetically modified crops that does not infringe on patents held by big biotechnology companies.

The people behind the new technology-sharing initiative, called the Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, say that patents covering the basic tools for genetically engineering plants – which are controlled by companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience – have impeded the use of biotechnology… read more

Quantum well’ transistor promises lean computing

February 11, 2005

Researchers at Intel and Qinetiq have developed a transistor that uses one-tenth of the power of existing components.

It uses indium antimonide, which allows electrons to speed through faster than conventional silicon-based transistors due to its highly active and greater number of charge carriers.

Making better maps of cellular real estate

February 9, 2005

An new automated method for locating proteins in cells could potentially produce the proteome, a topographical map of all the proteins in a cell.

Implanting Hope

February 9, 2005

The next generation of neural prosthetics with be devices animated by human thought alone.

Can We Live to Be 1,000?

February 9, 2005

Recent advances in our understanding of aging may allow today’s sixtysomethings to reach their 1,000th birthdays, says Cambridge University scientist Aubrey de Grey.

Human cloning licence awarded to Dolly creator

February 9, 2005

A license to extract stem cells from cloned human embryos has been granted to the creator of Dolly the sheep, Ian Wilmut. The purpose of the research is to investigate motor neuron disease.

Wilmut and his colleagues will take cells from patients with motor neuron disease (MND) and create cloned embryos using a standard technique called cell nuclear replacement.

This involves stripping a human egg of its nucleus… read more

Self-assembled nano-sized probes image tumors through flesh and skin

February 8, 2005

Nano-sized particles embedded with bright, light-emitting molecules have enabled researchers to visualize a tumor more than one centimeter below the skin surface using only near-infrared light.

They used fluorescent materials called porphyrins within the surface of a polymersome, a cell-like vesicle, to image a tumor within a living rodent. It should also be possible to use an emissive polymersome vesicle to transport therapeutics directly to a tumor.

The… read more

Where does all the processing speed go?

February 8, 2005

Computers are getting faster all the time, or so they tell us. But, in fact, the user experience of performance hasn’t improved much over the past 15 years.

Program complexity is probably the biggest culprit when your supposedly speedy processor still runs slow.

Towards a truly clever Artificial Intelligence

February 8, 2005

Dr James Anderson of The University of Reading has developed the “perspective simplex,” or Perspex, a way of writing a computer program as a geometrical structure, rather than as a series of instructions.

A conventional computer program is comprised of a list of instructions, and if one of them goes missing or is damaged, the whole program crashes. However, with the Perspex, the program works like a neural network… read more

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