science + technology news

PET Imaging Reveals the Immune System at Work

November 14, 2005

Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at the University of California Los Angeles have taken a key step toward noninvasively viewing how a cell confronts disease by using positron emission tomography (PET) to observe key cells of the immune system as they responded to tumors in mice.

In their experiments, they were able to see the lymph nodes, which resided at some distance from the tumor, spring into… read more

Interview with Robert Freitas (Part 2)

November 14, 2005

Ray Kurzweil’s scenario of billions of nanorobots positioned in our brains, to create full-immersion virtual reality, will be feasible in the future, says Robert A. Freitas, Jr., author of Nanomedicine and other works.

He believes the achievement will require noninvasive neuroelectric monitoring, neural macrosensing (nanorobots eavesdropping on the body’s sensory traffic, including auditory and optic nerve taps), modification of natural cellular message traffic by nanorobots stationed nearby (including signal… read more

Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge?

November 14, 2005

The scientific and technical building blocks of our economic leadership are eroding at a time when many other nations are gathering strength, according to a National Academy of Sciences report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.”

The report recommends enhanced math and science education in grade school and high school, a more hospitable environment for scientific research and training at the… read more

World’s Fastest Computer Gets Even Faster

November 14, 2005

The IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer, which operates at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, has doubled its performance to 280.6 trillion calculations a second (teraflops), up from 136.8 teraflops from the list released in June.

The system is used to study the United States nuclear stockpile and perform other research.

Neuroscientists break code for visual recognition

November 13, 2005

Neuroscientists in the McGovern Institute at MIT have been able to decipher a part of the code involved in recognizing visual objects.

In a fraction of a second, visual input about an object runs from the retina through increasingly higher levels of the visual stream, continuously reformatting the information until it reaches the highest purely visual level, the inferotemporal (IT) cortex. The IT cortex identifies and categorizes the object… read more

In Study, Hormone Reduced Appetite in Mice

November 11, 2005

Stanford University researchers have found a hormone that sharply reduces the desire to eat.

The new substance, obestatin (OHB-statin), is made in the stomach and small intestine, and it seems to prompt the brain to send out a signal that says “eat less.”

Interview with Robert Freitas

November 11, 2005

Robert A. Freitas, Jr., author of Nanomedicine and other works, and Ralph Merkle are writing a book-length discussion of diamond mechanosynthesis, entitled Diamond Surfaces and Diamond Mechanosynthesis (DSDM), to be published in 2006 or 2007.

Freitas is also involved in research collaborations to develop computational chemistry simulations of plausible mechanosynthetic tooltips and reaction sequences. He also filed the first-ever U.S. patent on diamond mechanosynthesis that describes a specific process… read more

Science to ride gravitational waves

November 10, 2005

Scientists hope to finally detect the most elusive of astrophysical phenomena — gravitational waves — in experiments using ultrasensitive laser interferometers, starting in November.

The aim is to gather data continuously for 18 months. In that time, they would expect to see perhaps two events, maybe more, that can be put down to a passing gravitational wave.

‘Gravity tractor’ to deflect Earth-bound asteroids

November 10, 2005

NASA scientists have come up with a surprisingly simple yet effective way to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid: park a large spacecraft close by and let gravity do the work, creating an invisible towline to tug the rock off its deadly course.

The strategy crucially relies on our ability to detect an asteroid threat about 20 years in advance. For larger asteroids this is realistic. But Erik Asphaug, a planetary… read more

High-speed robots

November 10, 2005

MIT researchers have proposed a method of making robotic muscles 1,000 times faster than human muscles, with virtually no extra energy demands and the added bonus of a simpler design.

The artificial muscles would be achieved by actuating conjugated polymers on command by sending charges to specific locations in the polymer chain in the form of solitons (charge density waves) that are activated by shining a light of a… read more

The bioweapon is in the post

November 9, 2005

It would not be difficult for a terrorist to obtain complete genes for deadly biological weapon from several biotech firms online, and receive them by mail within weeks without customer screening or investigation, according to a New Scientist investigation.

It raises the frightening prospect of terrorists mail-ordering genes for key bioweapon agents such as smallpox, and using them to engineer new and deadly pathogens.

MIT bioengineer Drew Endy… read more

Some Technologies Will Annoy

November 9, 2005

If you’re waiting for the “home of the future,” filled with talking appliances and complex networks that let all our devices communicate with each other, prepare to keep holding your breath. It’s not that those things aren’t technically possible. It’s just that if we had them, they’d irritate us.

Professional futurists weigh in.

Neural Oscillations …Still Make Waves

November 8, 2005

Synchronous oscillations (SOs) of groups of neurons could be an important extra dimension of neural communication.

A Nanotech Cure for Cancer?

November 8, 2005

The National Cancer Institute, which recently announced two waves of funding for nanotech training and research, sees nanotechnology as vital to its stated goal of “eliminating suffering and death from cancer by 2015.”

The first cancer nanotech applications will likely involve detection. Nanoparticles could recognize cancer’s molecular signatures, gathering the proteins produced by cancerous cells or signaling the presence of telltale genetic changes.

New “Chip” Could Provide Quick Bird Flu Test

November 8, 2005

A new “chip” can test for 11 different influenza strains, including avian flu, in less than a quarter of the time it now takes to diagnose flu in patients.

Samples from suspected human cases of H5N1 are now sent to central laboratories for confirmation, but that takes days. Doctors need to know sooner so they can give patients antiviral drugs within 48 hours to lessen the severity of the… read more

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