the digest

Bezos brings space race to Kent as he plans a passenger rocket

December 26, 2005 billionaire Jeff Bezos is building a rocket-ship complex set to open early next year.

Blue Origin, Bezos’ aerospace company, plans to develop a vehicle that can take passengers on a thrill ride to the edge of space. But eventually, Bezos has said, he wants to build spaceships powerful enough to orbit the Earth. He even hopes to establish permanent colonies in space someday.

Ray Kurzweil: Life in the Future

December 26, 2005

Ray Kurzweil appeared on NPR’s Science Friday show on December 23, speaking on accelerating technological change and its effects on everything from health to artificial intelligence.

(Listen here)

Evolution takes science honours

December 25, 2005

Research into how evolution works has been named by Science Magazine as top science achievement of 2005, a year that also saw fierce debate erupt over “intelligent design.”

Science magazine’s breakthroughs of 2005:

Winner: Evolution in action. Genome sequencing and painstaking field observations shed light on the intricacies of how evolution works.

Runner up: Planetary blitz. Europe’s Huygens probe touched down on Saturn’s moon Titan in January.… read more

Better than people

December 25, 2005

Japanese find robots less intimidating than people.

“The prevailing view in Japan is that the country is lucky to be uninhibited by robophobia. With fewer of the complexes that trouble many westerners, so the theory goes, Japan is free to make use of a great new tool, just when its needs and abilities are happily about to converge.

“What seems to set Japan apart from other countries is… read more

The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years

December 25, 2005

PC World’s list of the top tech gadgets of the last half century, rated by “usefulness, design, degree of innovation, and influence on subsequent gadgets, as well the ‘cool factor,’” includes Sony Walkman (1979), Apple iPod (2001), and a tie between ReplayTV RTV2001 and TiVo HDR110 (1999) — the top three.

Other cool items include iRobot Roomba Intelligent Floorvac (2002), Sharp Wizard OZ-7000 (1989), and MITS Altair 8800 (1975).

Singularity Is Near is #13 on NY Times most-blogged-about list

December 23, 2005

Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology has been named #13 on the New York Times list of “most blogged about books of 2005.”

New way to switch therapeutic genes ‘on’ and ‘off’

December 23, 2005

A gene therapy research team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has developed a new method of signaling therapeutic genes to turn “off” or “on,” a mechanism that could enable scientists to fine-tune genetic- and stem cell-based therapies so that they are safer, more controllable and more effective.

Although other similar signaling systems have been developed, the Cedars-Sinai research is the first to give physicians the flexibility to arbitrarily turn the… read more

How new neurons integrate into the brain

December 23, 2005

Scientists from Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering have discovered the steps required to integrate new neurons into the brain’s existing operations.

For more than a century, scientists thought the adult brain could only lose nerve cells, not gain them, but in fact, new neurons do form during adulthood in all mammals, including humans, and become a working part of the adult brain in mice at the very least.… read more

Researchers develop new method for studying ‘mental time travel’

December 23, 2005

Neuroscientists at Princeton University have developed a new way of tracking people’s mental state as they think back to previous events — a process that has been described as “mental time travel.”

The findings, detailed in the Dec. 23 issue of Science, will aid efforts to learn more about how people mine the recesses of memory and could have a wide-ranging impact in the field of neuroscience, including studies… read more

DNA self-assembly used to mass-produce patterned nanostructures

December 23, 2005

Duke University scientists have used the self-assembling properties of DNA to mass-produce nanometer-scale structures in the shape of 4×4 grids, on which patterns of molecules can be specified.

They said the achievement represents a step toward mass-producing electronic or optical circuits at a scale 10 times smaller than the smallest circuits now being manufactured.

The smallest features on these square DNA lattices are approximately 5 to 10 nanometers,… read more

Creating first synthetic life form

December 21, 2005

Work on the world’s first human-made species is well under way at the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form — a microbe made from scratch.

The controversial project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter.

One option for sparking life in a lab-made genome is to transplant the synthetic DNA… read more

Single molecule absorption spectroscopy developed

December 21, 2005

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a powerful new tool for probing molecular structure on surfaces, combining the chemical selectivity of optical absorption spectroscopy with the atomic-scale resolution of scanning tunneling microscopy.

“First, the sample molecule is placed on a transparent silicon substrate,” said Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a researcher at the Beckman Institute. “Laser light will either be absorbed by… read more

Invention: The inkjet-printer pen

December 21, 2005

The pen of the future will use inkjet technology to deliver multiple colors from a battery-powered microelectromechanical print head near the tip that pumps out fine jets of ink from a replaceable cartridge, according to recent patent filings by Silverbrook Research.

Wikipedia alternative aims to be ‘PBS of the Web’

December 21, 2005

Digital Universe, a new online information service launching in early 2006, aims to build on the model of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia by inviting acknowledged experts in a range of subjects to review material contributed by the general public.

Ray Kurzweil to be interviewed on NPR Friday

December 20, 2005

Ray Kurzweil will be featured in a live interview on NPR Science Friday on Friday, December 23rd, at 3:00 to 4:00 pm ET. Science Friday host Ira Flatow will discuss with Kurzweil his latest book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.

(Listen to archived show)

Science Friday is a weekly science talk show broadcast live over public radio stations nationwide as part… read more

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