science + technology news

Did humans colonise north Europe earlier than thought?

December 15, 2005

Humans may have colonized northern Europe 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. Stone tools found in eastern England suggest that humans were there at least 700,000 years ago.

Space ‘spiders’ could build solar satellites

December 15, 2005

A mission to determine whether spider-like robots could construct complex structures in space is set to launch in January 2006. The spider bots could build large structures by crawling over a “web” released from a larger spacecraft.

The engineers behind the project hope the robots will eventually be used to construct colossal solar panels for satellites that will transmit solar energy back to Earth. The satellites could reflect and… read more

Faster Plastic Circuits

December 14, 2005

Researchers have built working circuits on plastic that run at 100 megahertz — as much as a hundred times faster than previous ones on plastic.

The Sarnoff/Columbia advance could lead to displays measuring three meters or more diagonally that can also be rolled up and easily transported.

Fast transistors on plastic could also lead to portable phased-array antennas. Such antennas direct a transmission at a precise target, which… read more

Amazon to Sell Build-Your-Own Search Engine

December 14, 2005

For a fee of as little as $1 a day, Amazon will provide access to an index of 5 billion Web pages plus the Internet-based tools to create new twists to mine the information warehouse and present findings to an audience.

New Effort Aims to Unlock Secrets of Cancer Genes

December 14, 2005

The National Institutes of Health is beginning a $100 million pilot phase of a project called The Cancer Genome Atlas that aims to unlock all the genetic abnormalities that contribute to cancer, an effort that would exceed the Human Genome Project in complexity but could eventually lead to new diagnostic tests and treatments for the disease.

Self-assembling cubes could carry medicine, cell therapy

December 13, 2005

Johns Hopkins researchers have devised a self-assembling cube-shaped perforated container, no larger than a dust speck, that could serve as a delivery system for medications and cell therapy.

The relatively inexpensive microcontainers can be mass-produced through a process that mixes electronic chip-making techniques with basic chemistry. Because of their metallic nature, the cubic container’s location in the body could easily be tracked by magnetic resonance imaging.

The researchers… read more

DNA pyramids make their debut

December 13, 2005

A simple method to create robust DNA “pyramids” that self-assemble in seconds has been invented by physicists in the UK. Each side of the tetrahedral pyramid is made up of a double helix of DNA. The pyramids can then be joined together to make larger 3D nanostructures on which to build molecular electronic circuits and tiny containers for drug delivery.

Thought control brings pain into line

December 13, 2005

Researchers have managed to teach people suffering chronic pain to reduce their own discomfort simply by controlling their thoughts.

Patients were able to reduce pain by about 50 percent by viewing real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging of the activity in their rostral anterior cingulate cortex.

Trace of Human Stem Cells Put in Unborn Mice Brains

December 13, 2005

Scientists have created mice with small amounts of human brain cells in an effort to make realistic models of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

Those mice were each born with about 0.1 percent of human cells in each of their heads, raising ethical concerns about mixing human and animal cells in stem cell and cloning research.

Three researchers have applied for a patent that contemplates fusing a complete… read more

How the Neuron Sprouts Its Branches

December 11, 2005

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have found that structures called “Golgi outposts” play a central role as distribution points for proteins that form the building blocks of growing dendrites.

“This finding is important because a fundamental problem that neurons must solve is how to sort appropriate cargo molecules in the right amounts down different dendritic branches,” said investigator Micheal Ehlers. “We’ve found that these dendritic Golgi outposts are located… read more

Exploring Caves with Hopping Microbots

December 11, 2005

NASA-funded researchers are developing “hopping microbots” capable of exploring hazardous terrain, including underground caves and one day, to search for life below the surface of Mars.

Buckyballs could disrupt functioning of DNA

December 10, 2005

Computer simulations show that buckyballs have the potential to damage DNA.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University found that the buckyballs bind strongly to DNA, distorting the strands, which could interfere with the DNA’s function, disrupting replication and repair and increasing mutation rates.

But they cautioned that it remains to be determined if buckyballs even penetrate cell membranes, and if they do, whether… read more

Breakthrough chip delivers better digital pictures for less power

December 10, 2005

University of Rochester researchers have designed a prototype chip that can directly digitize each pixel location in a CMOS sensor and they plan a second technology that will compress the image with far fewer computations than the best current compression techniques while increasing dynamic range 100 times.

The new technologies may enable imaging chips to use just a fraction of the energy used today and capture high-resolutoin images while… read more

Consortium seeks to ramp nanoelectronics research

December 10, 2005

Seeking to accelerate nanoelectronics research in the United States, a consortium of companies has announced its first research grants under the Semiconductor Industry Association’s new Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI). The goal is to demonstrate novel computing devices with critical dimensions below 10-nm.

The grants will fund the creation of two new university-based nanoelectronics research centers — one in California and the other in New York. The grants will also… read more

Public comments open on EPA nanotech white paper

December 9, 2005

The U.S. EPA is open to public comments on its Draft Nanotechnology White Paper. An excerpt:

“We are currently nearing the end of basic research and development on the first generation of materials resulting from nanotechnologies that include coatings, polymers, more reactive catalysts, etc. (Figure 2). The second generation, which we are beginning to enter, involves targeted drug delivery systems, adaptive structures and actuators, and has already provided some… read more

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