science + technology news

Virtual professors draw student attention

November 21, 2005

There’s a simple reason why computers have not taken over teachers’ jobs: They’re boring, unpersuasive, unattractive and soulless.

That may soon change if Amy Baylor can perfect the virtual professors she’s working on. Baylor, a professor of instructional systems at Florida State University, is focusing on friendly facial expressions, soothing hand gestures, and a “coolly intelligent voice” to create characters that are “both disarmingly lifelike and surprisingly persuasive.”… read more

The Problem With an Almost-Perfect Genetic World

November 21, 2005

Advocates for people with disabilities are troubled by how much faster the science of prenatal testing is advancing than the public discussion of how it ought to be used.

Some bioethicists envision a dystopia where parents who choose to forgo genetic testing are shunned, or their children are denied insurance. Parents and people with disabilities fear they may simply be more lonely. And less money may be devoted to… read more

Kill or cure: the smallest help must wait till we’ve conquered our fear of grey goo

November 21, 2005

The European Commission’s latest advisory group on ethics in science has made its first task to examine the ethical issues of nanomedicine research, as fears continue to grow about the risks to human health and the environment.

For the commercial world, this debate is more likely to be viewed from the perspective of public opinion rather than ethical absolutes. With memories of the backlash against GM foods still fresh… read more

Turner Entertainment turns to holographic storage

November 21, 2005

Turner Entertainment Networks plans to use holographic storage for storing and retrieving its movies, cartoons and commercial spots.

According to Turner, the first version of the holographic disc will store 300GB per disc, with 160MB/sec. data throughput rate. It promises to retail for $100, and by 2010, each disc will have a capacity of 1.6TB.

Geneticists claim ageing breakthrough but immortality will have to wait

November 21, 2005

A genetic experiment to unlock the secrets of the aging process has created organisms that live six times their usual lifespan, raising hopes that it might be possible to slow aging in humans.

In the experiment, Valter Longo, a biomedical gerontologist at the University of Southern California and his team knocked out two key genes, named Sir2 and SCH9, in yeast cells.

SCH9 governs the cells’ ability to… read more

Nanotubes beam out bright light

November 19, 2005

Physicists have generated extra-bright beams of infrared light from single-walled carbon nanotubes. The new technique is more efficient than many existing methods for producing light and could have applications in optoelectronics.

The IBM-Duke team found that when certain voltages were applied, the nanotubes emitted infrared light localized in a nano-sized area. This resulted in a very bright source of light: a 3 milliamp current was able to produce about… read more

Gene turn-off makes meek mice fearless

November 18, 2005

Deactivating the gene that codes for the protein stathmin transforms meek mice into daredevils, researchers have found. The team believe the research might one day enable people suffering from phobias or anxiety disorders to be clinically treated.

The protein is known to destabilise microtubule structures that help maintain the connections between neurons. This allows the neurons to make new connections, allowing the animal to learn and process fear experiences,… read more

The food you eat may change your genes for life

November 18, 2005

Normal rats have been made to behave differently just by injecting them with L-methionine, a common amino acid and food supplement. The change to their behavior was permanent. The amino acid altered the way the rat’s genes were expressed, raising the idea that drugs or dietary supplements might permanently halt the genetic effects that predispose people to mental or physical illness.

Can Earth’s seismic radio help predict quakes?

November 18, 2005

Scientists are studying possible earthquake precusors based on ultra low frequency (ULF) signals generated in the Earth and ionospheric disturbances between 3 and 30 kilohertz.

UN predicts ‘internet of things’

November 18, 2005

Changes brought about by the Internet will be dwarfed by those prompted by the networking of everyday objects, says a report by a UN body.

The study looks at how the use of electronic tags and sensors could create an “internet of things”.


E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago

November 18, 2005

Corporate workers are ditching e-mail in favor of other software tools that function as real-time virtual workspaces.

Among them: private workplace wikis (searchable, archivable sites that allow a dedicated group of people to comment on and edit one another’s work in real time); blogs (chronicles of thoughts and interests); Instant Messenger (which enables users to see who is online and thus chat with them immediately rather than send an… read more

Hyper-Entangled Photon Pairs

November 17, 2005

Physicists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated for the first time the entanglement of two objects not merely in one aspect of their quantum natures, such as spin, but in a multitude of other ways: energy, momentum, and orbital angular momentum.

For the purpose of quantum computing or communication it might be of some advantage if multiple quantum bits (or qubits) of information can be encoded… read more

Connective tissue cells from lungs fused with heart muscle to form biological pacemaker

November 17, 2005

Johns Hopkins scientists fused common connective tissue cells taken from lungs with heart muscle cells to create a safe and effective biological pacemaker whose cells can fire on their own and naturally regulate the muscle’s rhythmic beat.

“This work with fibroblasts could pave the way to an alternative to implanted electronic pacemakers,” says Eduardo Marban, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chief of cardiology at Hopkins and its Heart Institute. “Such… read more

Artificial and Biological Intelligence

November 17, 2005

If machines with consciousness are created, they would be living machines, that is, variations on life forms as we know them, says Subhash Kak, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Louisiana State University.

The material world is not causally closed, and consciousness influences its evolution. Matter and minds complement each other. At the level of the individual, even medical science that is strongly based on the machine paradigm has now… read more

Visionary Kurzweil Touts Technologies Of Tomorrow

November 17, 2005

Computer visionary Ray Kurzweil examined the effects of accelerating growth of technologies on the present and future of human technological innovation during a speech at the ninth annual CRN Industry Hall of Fame, held Tuesday in Santa Clara, Calif.

The bulk of human intelligence is pattern recognition, which Kurzweil said is the quintessential example of a self-organizing system. This will be instrumental in the development of future Web-based applications,… read more

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