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The Sensor Revolution

August 25, 2003

Sensor networks promise a mammoth extension of the Internet. Within five years, these sensor computers could be shrunk to the size of a grain of sand and deployed over much of the globe, resulting in thousands of new networks.

Look for them to be scattered across farms and battlefields to monitor minute chemical and temperature changes and slapped onto trucks and shipping boxes to trace inventory automatically. Such networks… read more

2010 preview: Is this the year that we create life?

December 22, 2009

Craig Venter hopes to unveil a living bacterial cell carrying a genome made from scratch in the lab.

George Church of Harvard University expects to get synthetic ribosomes to self-replicate.

A completely synthetic cell remains a distant goal, however.

Telltale DNA Bits Give Away Presence of Secretive Invaders

May 20, 2008

Joseph Fourier University researchers have detected the presence of an invasive species by analyzing its DNA, found in water samples.

They used special DNA primers (single strands of DNA that attach to target DNA so it can be copied) to amplify a part of the DNA chain that is unique to American bullfrogs, a highly invasive species in Europe.

The technique can detect DNA even in very low… read more

What Kind of Genius Are You?

July 12, 2006

A new theory suggests that creativity comes in two distinct types — quick and dramatic, or careful and quiet.

“Conceptual innovators” make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young.

“Experimental innovators” proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers.

Scientists reveal millions of regulatory elements in human genome

October 20, 2011

Twenty-nine mammals, including the elephant, armadillo, two-toed sloth, hyrax, dog, cat, horse, and tenrec, have had their genomes  analyzed and compared (credit: Nick Dua, Broad Communications)

An international research team has mapped and compared the genomes of 29 mammals and found new regulatory elements in the human genome that govern how proteins are formed.

The researchers, led by Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. and Uppsala University in Sweden, said the findings help us understand how mutations in human genes give rise to diseases.

While… read more

Nanoscale iron could help cleanse the environment

September 4, 2003

An ultrafine nanoparticle made from iron is turning out to be a remarkably effective tool for cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater–a trillion-dollar problem that encompasses more than 1000 still-untreated Superfund sites in the United States, some 150,000 underground storage tank releases, and a staggering number of landfills, abandoned mines, and industrial sites.

When metallic iron oxidizes in the presence of contaminants such as trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, dioxins, or… read more

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 28, 2009

(Guenther, et al.)

By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, researchers led by Boston University and Harvard/MIT scientists have demonstrated the first brain-machine interface to wirelessly transmit neural signals from implanted electrodes to a speech synthesizer for real-time synthetic speech production.

Photovoltaic Moore’s Law Will Make Solar Competitive by 2015

May 23, 2008

In recent years, global photovoltaic (PV) production has been increasing at a rate of 50 percent per year, so that accumulated global capacity doubles about every 18 months. The PV Moore’s law states that with every doubling of capacity, PV costs come down by 20 percent.

Extrapolate those gains out six or seven years, and PV costs will be below $2/W, making photovolatics competitive with 2004 wind.

Scientists Hope to Unravel Neanderthal DNA

July 21, 2006

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology plan to collaborate with an American company in an effort to reconstruct the genome of Neanderthals, the archaic human species that occupied Europe from 300,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago until being displaced by modern humans.

Recovery of the Neanderthal genome, in whole or in part, would be invaluable for reconstructing many events in human prehistory and evolution.

The making of Arduino

October 27, 2011

Arduino board

Arduino recently unveiled the Arduino Due, a board with a 32-bit Cortex-M3 ARM processor that offers more computing power for makers with complex projects such as FM radios, 3-D printer kits, or drones.

Google has also released an Arduino-based developer board that lets an Android phone interact with motors, sensors, and other devices. This permits building Android apps that use the phone’s camera,… read more

Molecular library opens era of personal medicine

September 22, 2003

The U.S. National Institutes of Health is launching a national molecular library to accelerate the development of new drugs and nano-scale agents for an emerging “era of personalized medicine.”

The library will act as a repository “for some of the hundreds of thousands of molecules the pharmaceutical industry screens for their use in identifying target agents that could be used to track or treat diseases.”

Skype Goes 720p HD, Big Screen Calls Coming to LG and Panasonic HDTVs

January 5, 2010


Skype 4.2 beta users can now make HD video calls (720p HD and 30 frames per second) if they have an HD webcam* and sufficient bandwidth and processing power.

LG Electronics and Panasonic will introduce HDTVs at CES with Skype software embedded.

* A few companies will introduce HD webcams designed for Skype’s software at CES.

Computer model knows what you’re thinking

May 30, 2008

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have built a computer model that can predict which concrete noun (things that one can see, hear, feel, taste or smell) one is thinking about based on brain scans.

The model was trained to look at how words relate to sensory and movement information (“hammer” with movement areas), and how nouns are associated with 25 basic verbs (“celery” but not “airplane” with “eat”).

Volunteers… read more

Shape-shifting lens mimics human eye

August 3, 2006

A shape-shifting lens has been developed that alters its focal length when squeezed by an artificial muscle, a ring of polymer gel that expands and contracts in response to environmental changes, eliminating the need for electronics to power or control the devices.

Different polymer gels can be used to create a lens that responds to changes in acidity, temperature, light, electric fields or even certain proteins.

A lens… read more

UCSB physicists identify room-temperature quantum bits in widely used semiconductor

November 3, 2011

Synthetic silicon carbide crytals (credit: Creative Commons)

UC Santa Barbara physicists have discovered that silicon carbide (carborundum), widely used as a semiconductor, contains crystal imperfections that can be controlled at room temperature at a quantum-mechanical level.

The UCSB team discovered that electrons that become trapped by certain imperfections in silicon carbide do so in a way that allows their quantum states to be initialized, precisely manipulated,… read more

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