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Robots that rock

November 11, 2003

Four robots from fiction and the real world are being inducted into Carnegie Mellon University’s Robot Hall of Fame as the inaugural honorees: Mars Sojourner, GM’s Unimate, R2-D2, and HAL 9000.

The next batch of honorees will be announced in October 2004. But in the meantime, you can send in your suggestions.

Picture of the day

February 8, 2010

(Z. Hong Zhou / Science)

Z. Hong Zhou at the University of California, Los Angeles and colleagues have shown that the RNA and proteins in the rabies and vesicular stomatitis viruses wind together in a precise order, starting at the top of the bullet form, to form two nested helices.

Viruses use microRNA to block the immune system

June 26, 2008

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Researchers have discovered that viruses use microRNAs (small RNA molecules that suppress gene expression) to block the human immune system, making it harder to fight the virus.

The discovery could lead to new antiviral therapies that target viral microRNA. Conversely, it could lead to new methods to suppress the immune system in autoimmune diseases and transplantations, by developing synthetic microRNAs that mimic natural viral microRNAs.… read more

Gas induces ‘suspended animation’

October 10, 2006

Hydrogen sulphide was found to slow down heart rate and breathing and decrease body temperature in mice, while keeping a normal blood pressure.

The effects of the gas seemed to be reversible, with the mice returning to normal two hours after the mice started to breathe normal air again.

Award for new virtual TV guide

November 20, 2003

A virtual TV guide aimed at helping visually impaired people can switch channels at the command of the viewer.

The software chats to viewers about what they want to see, a computer linked to the TV uses voice recognition to accept their answer and then switches the set to the correct channel.

Chromosome caps presage the brain’s decline

February 15, 2010

Test subjects with long telomeres* experienced less cognitive decline compared to those with short or medium-length telomeres in a University of California, San Francisco study that followed 2734 physically fit adults with an average age of 74.

The shortening of telomeres is linked to reduced lifespan, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.

* A region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome that protects the end of the… read more

Nanoparticles protect a potent anticancer drug, allow it to be taken orally

July 1, 2008
Lodamin nanoparticle

Children’s Hospital Boston researchers have used protective nanoparticles to turn a potent anticancer medicine, TNP-470, into a nontoxic drug that can be taken orally.

The original TNP-470 opened up anti-angiogenesis (angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels) as a new way to treat cancer, but had neurotoxic side effects and a short half-life in the body.

The new researchers created a new “Lodamin” formulation by… read more

Peering deeply into sub-cellular structures

June 5, 2013

(credit: Yale University)

A dream of scientists has been to visualize details of two types of important fast-moving sub-cellular cytoskeletal structures — microtubules and actin — within our cells.

Now two groups of researchers have independently succeeded in doing that. Their research could prove vital in the study of cancer and other diseases.

Imaging microtubules in real time

Yale University researchers have developed a way to generate accurate… read more

Two vaccines show promise against prion disease

October 18, 2006

University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have developed two new vaccine therapies that produced protective immune responses against prions in mice, and believe they could be further developed to work in humans or livestock.

DNA-sorted carbon nanotubes allow for nanoelectronics building blocks

December 3, 2003

DuPont, MIT and University of Illinois scientists have discovered an innovative way to advance electronics applications through the use of DNA that sorts carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes possess excellent electrical properties that make them potential building blocks in a broad range of nanotechnology-related electronic applications, including highly sensitive medical diagnostic devices and transistors more than 100 times tinier than those found in today’s microchips. When they are fabricated, however,… read more

A midday nap markedly boosts the brain’s learning capacity

February 22, 2010

A midday 90-minute stage 2 non-REM sleep (takes place between deep sleep and the dream state known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM) period refreshes the mind and can make you smarter, UC Berkeley researchers have found.

The findings reinforce their hypothesis that sleep is needed to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and make room for new information.

AI beats human poker champions

July 9, 2008

An artificial intelligence program called Polaris 2.0 defeated human champions in the second Man-Machine Poker Competition, in Las Vegas, July 3-6.

Deveoped at the University of Alberta, Polaris 2 had learning built into its programming, thereby countering the learning ability of the humans by switching strategies whenever they did.

Sensing individual biomolecules with optical sensors inside ‘nanoboxes’

June 12, 2013


Researchers at the Fresnel Institute in Marseille and ICFO, Institute for Photonic Sciences in Barcelona have designed and built the smallest optical device capable of detecting and sensing individual biomolecules at concentrations similar to those found in cells.

The device consists on a tiny dimer (dual) sensor made out of two gold semi-spheres, separated from each other by a gap as small as 15nm (size… read more

This crop revolution may succeed where GM failed

October 30, 2006

New agricultural technology called marker-assisted selection (MAS) offers a sophisticated method to greatly accelerate classical breeding.

A growing number of scientists believe MAS will eventually replace GM food.

Rapidly accumulating information about crop genomes is allowing scientists to identify genes associated with traits such as yield, and then scan crop relatives for the presence of those genes.

‘AI Bush’ chatbot uses advanced natural-language programming

December 14, 2003

AI Bush, “an interactive Robot President,” is an experimental natural-language program and game from EllaZ Systems.

Announced today, it is based on the program “Ella,” which won the worldwide Loebner Prize Contest in 2002 as the “most human computer.”

AI Bush games include the strategy game “Reelect Bush?” You are a close advisor, helping him make decisions. The President’s expressions, voice clips, and tracking… read more

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