science + technology news

The Web Time Forgot

June 17, 2008

In 1934, Belgium visionary Paul Otlet sketched out plans for the the Mundaneum — a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes”) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files.

He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole… read more

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google

September 21, 2006

“We teenagers have to live in ‘controlled spaces.’ Radio-frequency ID tags, real-time locative systems, global positioning systems, smart doorways, security videocams…” says science fiction writer Bruce Sterling in this spoof on a “pervasive and ubiquitous and geolocative” future.

(Accessible without subscription until Sept. 22)

Also see Bruce Sterling’s “

A fluorescent test for antioxidant drugs

November 25, 2011


A study by UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Australia, to visualize accumulation of oxidized LDL in genetically modified zebrafish could lead to a rapid test for the potential effectiveness of new antioxidant and dietary therapies for human atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a process of lipid deposition and inflammation in the artery walls. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that carries “bad” cholesterol in blood is easily oxidized, and… read more

Library Wants to Put Chips in Books

November 7, 2003

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned about the San Francisco Public Library’s plans to track the 2 million books, CDs and audiovisual materials by inserting RFID chips.

First germanium laser brings us closer to ‘optical computers’

February 5, 2010

MIT researchers have demonstrated the first laser built from germanium that can produce wavelengths of light useful for optical communication. It’s also the first germanium laser to operate at room temperature.

Free medical tool tackles disease

June 25, 2008

The Open Medical Record System (OpenMRS) is providing countries such as South Africa with an online patient medical record system. Users do not require any programming knowledge for the tool, which at its core has a “concept dictionary” that stores all diagnoses, tests, procedures, drugs and other general information.

How to create models of biomolecules using x-rays

Most of the two million proteins in the human body can’t be crystallized without destroying them, so they can't be visualized. That's about to change.
May 29, 2013

Fluctuation x-ray scattering is the basis of a new technique for rapidly modeling the shapes of large biological models, here demonstrated (gray envelopes) using existing diffraction data superposed on known high-resolution structures. Top left, lysine-arginine-ornithine (LAO) binding protein; top right, lysozome; bottom left, peroxiredoxin; and, bottom right, Satellite Tobacco Mosaic Virus (STMV).

Berkeley Lab researchers and their colleagues have created a new way to model biological molecules using x-rays.

Existing methods for solving structure largely depend on crystallized molecules, and the shapes of more than 80,000 proteins in a static state have been solved this way.

Most of the two million proteins in the human body can’t be crystallized, however, so  even their low-resolution structures are… read more

Making molecular machines work

October 6, 2006

Advances towards the construction of synthetic machines are described in Volume 1 No 1 of a new journal, Nature Nanotechnology.

The article documents approaches taken by several research groups to construct synthetic molecular machines and devices, such as molecular rotors, elevators, valves, transporters, muscles and other motor functions used to develop smart materials.

(Free access)

Massive black holes discovered

December 6, 2011

Astronomers have discovered the two most massive black holes known in the Universe, Nature News Blog reports. With masses on the order of 10 billion times that of the Sun, these gravitational monsters could represent a missing link: the first known remnants of the brightest quasars that lit the cosmos only a billion or so years after the Big Bang.

Ref.: Nicholas J. McConnell et al., Two… read more

Researchers measure the ‘heat of life,’ offering clues to DNA damage

November 18, 2003

A Rutgers-led team has produced the first-ever measurement of the “heat of life” — the energies involved in DNA replication and synthesis.

The measurements can be used to construct a virtual landscape that traces the precise energy differences between correct and incorrect DNA synthesis. The differential energy signatures signal the presence of DNA damage, potentially repairable by protein systems inside the cell or specifically designed drugs administered from the… read more

Boring conversation? Let your computer listen for you

February 12, 2010

IBM researchers have developed a system called Catchup, designed to summarize (verbally) in almost real time what has been said at a business meeting so newcomers can quickly catch up.

It identifies the important words and phrases in an automatic speech recognition transcript and edits out the unimportant ones.

To improve the quality of audio conference calls, MIT researchers have developed “Meeting Mediator,” which measures how much time… read more

How a quantum effect is gumming up nanomachines (article preview)

June 30, 2008

Researchers are making progress in overcoming static friction, or or “stiction,” which sticks together the parts of micromachines on scales of between 10 and 300 nanometers and limits progress in reducing their size, affecting computer hard drives and other devices with small moving parts.

Stiction is due to the Casimir effect, a quantum-mechanics phenomenon that causes surfaces to be attracted. Methods to reduce its effect include use of patterned… read more

Tracking Information Flow in the Brain

October 16, 2006

MIT scientists have engineered a nano-sized calcium sensor that may eventually shed light on the intricate cell-to-cell communications that make up human thought.

Alan Jasanoff and his team at the Francis Bitter Magnet Lab and McGovern Institute of Brain Research have found that tracking calcium, a key messenger in the brain, may be a more precise way of measuring neural activity, compared with current imaging techniques, such as traditional… read more

Quantum PageRank algorithm outperforms classical version

December 14, 2011

Quantum page rank

A quantum-network version of Google’s PageRank search algorithm could one day make web searches faster, Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog reports.

Ref.: G.D. Paparo, M.A. Martin-Delgado, Google in a Quantum Network,

Blood could generate body repair kit

December 1, 2003

A small company in London, UK, says it can turn white blood cells into cells capable of regenerating damaged or diseased tissues. This could transform the treatment of everything from heart disease to Parkinson’s.

Its “miracle” hinges on an antibody that binds to a receptor on the cell surface and allegedly triggers “retrodifferentiation.”

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