science + technology news

Saving the universe by restricting research

April 15, 2003

History’s worst technological catastrophes could kill millions or billions of people in this century, and to prevent them, society may need to consider restricting specific types of scientific research, says Sir Martin Rees, Britain’s astronomer royal, in the book, “Our Final Hour.”

His concerns include gray goo (nanobots out of control) and experiments that could create a black hole. “I think the odds are no better than 50-50 that… read more

Individuals In Vegetative States Can Learn, Scientists Find

September 21, 2009

Some individuals in vegetative and minimally conscious states can learn and thereby demonstrate at least partial consciousness, scientists in Argentina and the UK report.

By using classical Pavlonian conditioning, the researchers played a tone immediately prior to blowing air into a patient’s eye. After some time training, the patients would start to blink when the tone played but before the air puff to the eye. This type of learning… read more

Artificial cell can make its own genes

April 1, 2008
(David Kong/MIT)

An “artificial cell” capable of synthesising genes and making them into proteins quickly and cheaply has been developed by MIT researchers.

The first part of the device synthezises the genes using enzymes to join together DNA strands from a pool of short templates. The finished genes are then copied to produce many versions of the final product. Cycles of heating and cooling control the enzymes carrying out… read more

Rehab’s robotic revolution

January 31, 2006

Researchers envision a day when robots will become standard equipment in rehabilitation centers, giving stroke patients — and possibly patients with spinal cord injuries — a chance to take their recovery further than previously possible.

The KineAssist, just one of a legion of smart machines poised to bring physical therapy into the high-tech age, was developed at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. It is essentially a hip brace and… read more

Genetically enhanced humans to come, say DNA pioneers

April 28, 2003

Humans will begin to genetically enhance themselves — and their unborn children — in the next 50 years, said DNA pioneers at the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s structure.

Burst of Technology Helps Blind to See

September 28, 2009

Advances in technology, genetics, brain science and biology are making the goal of restoring sight more feasible.

The approaches include gene therapy, which has produced improved vision in people who are blind from one rare congenital disease, stem cells, light-responding protein, retinal transplants, and implanted electrodes to stimulate visual areas.

Stem cell breakthrough for producing pancreatic tissue

April 4, 2008

University of Manchester and University of Sheffield researchers have discovered a new technique to turn embryonic stem cells (ESCs) into insulin-producing pancreatic tissue through genetic manipulation.

By making the ESC produce transcription factor PAX4, 20% became pancreatic beta cells.

Scientists have had difficulty turning stem cells into the specific cell required for any particular condition. Unprompted, the majority of stem cells turn into neurons.

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NY team confirms UCLA tabletop fusion

February 14, 2006

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researchers have developed a tabletop accelerator that produces nuclear fusion at room temperature, confirming an earlier experiment conducted at UCLA, while offering substantial improvements over the original design.

The device is essentially a tabletop particle accelerator. At its heart are two opposing “pyroelectric” crystals that create a strong electric field when heated or cooled. The device is filled with deuterium gas. The electric field rips electrons… read more

Oversight of animals containing human material in biomedical research

July 25, 2011

Researchers at the British Academy of Medical Sciences have examined the use of animals containing human material (ACHM) in biomedical research and identified areas of sensitivity including cognition, reproduction, or creating visual characteristics perceived as uniquely human. They have called for additional oversight to ensure innovative science can flourish within clearly defined ethical boundaries with public support.

The working group considered evidence from experts in academia, government, industry, animal welfare groups… read more

‘Digital Organisms’ Illuminate Evolution

May 6, 2003

Seeing every step along the way in an evolutionary sequence that unfolds over millions of years is of course impossible, but researchers have found a way to see this process unfold in its entirety without any ‘missing links’. Computer programs designed to “evolve” solutions to mathematical problems support the idea that complexity in nature emerges in small, often apparently unremarkable, steps. This may help computer programmers make more efficient evolutionary… read more

Why One Way Of Learning Is Better Than Another

October 2, 2009

Different patterns of training and learning lead to different types of memory formation, McGill University researchers have found in a study with the Aplysia mollusk.

Spaced training, with trials distributed over time is superior at generating long-term memories than massed training, with trials presented at very short intervals, they found.

Mitochondrial Mutations Make Tumors Spread

April 8, 2008

University of Tsukuba researchers and colleagues found that tumor metastasis can be spurred by mutations in mitochondrial DNA that create reactive oxygen species (ROS).

Antioxidants helped prevent this metastasis in mice.

Two mutations caused the mitochondria to overproduce ROS, which are toxic, DNA-damaging molecules. Transplanting this DNA into non-metastasizing tumors made them more likely to metastasize, but transplanting it into ordinary cells did not cause them to make… read more

Taking Spying to Higher Level, Agencies Look for More Ways to Mine Data

February 27, 2006

Intelligence agency systems are taking data mining techniques further, applying software analysis tools now routinely used by law enforcement agencies to identify criminal activities and political terrorist organizations that would otherwise be missed by human eavesdroppers.

Graphene used to increase storage density and speed of electronic memory devices

August 1, 2011

Graphene has been selected by an international research team, led by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers, to help increase storage density and speed of electronic memory devices.

Graphene was used to read and write the electric dipole moments of an underlying ferroelectric material. A spin-transfer-torque device relies on storing and accessing information in a magnetic dipole moment, similar to a hard drive. Information… read more

It’s a knockout: first rat to have key genes altered

May 20, 2003

Researchers have altered genes in rats to create strains with genetic characteristics of their choosing, a long-sought tool for studying disease.

The animals, called knockout rats, were stripped of a gene that suppresses breast cancer in humans and will help researchers unravel the genetics of the disease. Future knockout rats will help researchers study other cancers and diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

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