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Earth sows its seeds in space

February 23, 2004

Deep-frozen spores that spread life in space (the Panspermia concept) could survive if they can escape the Sun’s gravity more quickly. And that might happen if the rocks they sit on are first ground to dust, says William Napier, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland.

The pressure of sunlight can quickly blow grains this small out of the solar system and such a grain could travel… read more

Biochemical clues to long lifespan revealed

February 20, 2004

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have found that longer life results, at least in part, from biochemical interactions that boost cells’ ability to resist environmental stresses while inhibiting them from committing suicide.

The team found that the Sir2 gene regulates a group of proteins known as FOXO transcription factors. These proteins have been linked with longevity; they control the expression of genes that regulate cell suicide, and also enable… read more

Researchers Find a Type of Stem Cell May Have the Ability to Repair the Brain

February 20, 2004

Neural stem cells, whose function has been a mystery, may have the potential to repair brain damage or disease, scientists reported in Nature, Feb. 19.

The cells form ribbons of astrocytes, which produce different types of brain cells, including neurons. Found in the lining of two fluid-filled pockets near the front of the head, they may turn out to serve no purpose or may migrate to other parts of… read more

Cdn. researcher: Cells can grow on silicon

February 20, 2004

Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that nerve cells grown on a microchip can learn and memorize information which can be communicated to the brain.

The findings could help in the design of devices that combine electronic components and brain cells. That includes controlling artificial limbs or restoring sight for the visually impaired.

Future research will focus on interfacing silicon chips with the human brain to… read more

Five Robots That Will Change Your Life

February 20, 2004

For decades, science fiction has been promising a future filled with robots that will make the various annoyances and dangers of life easier or more bearable.

But now a new generation of robots–either available now or in development–will take on a whole new range of tasks, and could conceivably change your life….

Huge black hole tears apart star

February 19, 2004
Illustration

Astronomers have observed a “super-massive” black hole ripping apart a star and consuming part of it.

Scientists Say Administration Distorts Facts

February 19, 2004

More than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement yesterday asserting that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad.

According to the report, the Bush administration has misrepresented scientific consensus on global warming, censored at least one report on climate change, manipulated scientific findings on the… read more

On the Therapist’s Couch, a Jolt of Virtual Reality

February 19, 2004

A Georgia-based company called Virtually Better creates virtual environments with 3-D imaging software for use by psychologists, psychiatrists and researchers.

The scenes combine video images of real people with special effects. A patient wears a helmet with screens extending over each eye that create a lifelike stereoscopic view, a motion sensor that adjusts the scene to correspond to the head position, and audio headset. Vibrating platforms and odors optional.… read more

Signs of Success

February 18, 2004

Linguists in Nicaragua have witnessed the rare formation of a new language: a sign language that arose spontaneously in deaf children. The new Nicaraguan language and several other sign languages spoken by children around the world resemble fully formed-languages. Studies of these new languages could help linguists answer the question of whether there is some sort of grammatical template that acts as part of a language instinct and is wired… read more

Researchers Develop Nanoscale Fiber Optics

February 18, 2004

Researchers from Harvard University, Zhejiang University Tohoku University have made glass optical fibers only 50 nanometers wide that guide light with minimal losses.

Because the wires are thinner than the wavelengths of light they transport, the material serves as a guide around which light waves flow. The researchers can fabricate the wires with a uniform diameter and smooth surfaces down to the atomic level, so the light waves remain… read more

Stem cells found in adults may repair nerves

February 18, 2004

Researchers have learned that some nerves, even nerves in parts of the brain, can regenerate or be replaced, using stem cells. However, the pace of stem-cell repairs in humans is slow. And in some cases, they can even impede healing.

“We’re studying ways that this process is regulated to see if it can be manipulated to promote healing,” according to Dr. Philip Horner, an assistant professor in the Department… read more

Brain fingerprints under scrutiny

February 18, 2004

“Brain fingerprinting,” a controversial technique using involuntary brainwaves that could reveal guilt or innocence is about to take center stage in a last-chance court appeal against a death-row conviction.

The accuracy of this technology lies in its ability to pick up the electrical signal, known as a p300 wave, before the suspect has time to affect the output. “Brain fingerprinting doesn’t have anything to do with the emotions, whether… read more

New optical recording technique can see millisecond nerve impulses

February 17, 2004
Second-harmonic generation microscopy image of a sea slug (Aplysia) neuron

High-resolution images of millisecond-by-millisecond signaling through nerve cells is now possible by combining the bright laser light of multiphoton microscopy with specially developed dyes and a phenomenon called second-harmonic generation, say biophysicists at Cornell University and Université de Rennes, France.

This technique allows for looking at membrane potential in nerve-cell signaling with high resolution deep in intact tissue. And by “stacking” multiple images at various depths of focus, the… read more

From Space, a New View of Doomsday

February 17, 2004

Recent astronomical measurements, scientists say, cannot rule out the possibility that in a few billion years a mysterious force permeating space-time will be strong enough to blow everything apart.

The “The Big Rip” is only one of a constellation of doomsday possibilities resulting from the discovery by two teams of astronomers six years ago that a mysterious force called dark energy seems to be wrenching the universe apart.

Doctors need to get wired

February 17, 2004

Around 100,000 deaths each year in US hospitals are thought to be due to medical error. But up to 60% of them might be avoided if doctors had access to a national computerized information system in which doctors could immediately call up a patient’s healthcare history, says medical information expert Paul Tang, who works at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California.

One study found that US doctors lacked… read more

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