science + technology news

Scientists say nerves use sound, not electricity

March 12, 2007

Copenhagen University researchers theorize that propagation of sonic solitons is a much more likely explanation for propagation of signal in neurons than electrical impulses.

The physicists say because the nerve membrane is made of a material similar to olive oil that can change from liquid to solid through temperature variations, they can freeze and propagate the solitons.

The scientists, whose work is in the Biophysical Society’s Biophysical Journal,… read more

Probe to detect cancer in intestines

May 5, 2004

A UC Irvine research team has received a $2.9 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a microscopic probe for detecting and treating pre-cancerous and malignant tumors in humans.

The probe would guided through the esophagus, stomach and colon to determine if tumors are growing on the wall of the intestine. It would be remotely controlled by a surgeon operating an endoscope. The probe uses optical coherence tomography… read more

Robot pool player

June 18, 2010

Willow Garage has programmed its PR2 robot to play pool.

Technical challenges included engineering a special grip and bridge so the PR2 could hold the cue, a ball detector, table localization, visualizations, input tools, and shot selector.

More info: The PR2 Plays Pool, Willow Garage Blog

A New Type of Atomic Microscope Getting Closer

October 1, 2008

Researchers at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid have created an ultrasmooth mirror that reflects a beam of helium atoms instead of electrons and could provide the same resolution as existing electron microscopes without damaging or destroying delicate biological samples.

Catalyst could help turn CO2 into fuel

March 16, 2007

A new catalyst that can split carbon dioxide gas could allow us to use carbon from the atmosphere as a fuel source in a similar way to plants.

Interesting SXSW talks on Tuesday

March 13, 2012


Wall-E or Terminator: Predicting the Rise of AI
Tuesday, March 13, 9:30AM -10:30AM, by Chris Robson, Daniel Wilson, and William Hertling.

This fun and thought provoking session will look at fundamental issues about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). When is human-level AI likely to emerge? When it does emerge will it be more likely to be friendly, hostile, or… read more

Robots: Today, Roomba. Tomorrow…

May 11, 2004

Roomba is a first step, but there are many tasks within the home that are ripe for robotic automation, says iRobot CEO Colin Angle.

Mountain View’s global teacher of 1,516 lessons and counting

June 28, 2010

Sal Khan is educating the globe for free.
His 1,516 videotaped mini-lectures are transforming the former hedge fund analyst into a YouTube sensation, reaping praise from even reluctant students across the world.

DNA could reveal your surname

October 8, 2008

Scientists at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester are developing techniques that may one day allow police to work out someone’s surname from the DNA alone.

Isotope-enhanced food may extend life

March 26, 2007

Oxford University scientists have found that nematode worms fed nutrients reinforced with natural isotopes had life spans extended by 10 percent.

With humans expected to routinely live until 100, this could add a further 10 years to human life.

Food enhanced with isotopes is thought to produce bodily constituents and DNA more resistant to detrimental processes, like free radical attack. The isotopes replace atoms in susceptible… read more

Molecular graphene heralds new era of ‘designer electrons’

March 16, 2012

Precisely positioned carbon monoxide molecules (black) guide electrons (yellow-orange) into a nearly perfect honeycomb pattern called molecular graphene. Electrons in this structure have graphene-like properties; for example, unlike ordinary electrons, they have no mass and travel as if they are moving at the speed of light in a vacuum.  To make this structure, scientists from Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory used a scanning tunneling microscope to move individual carbon monoxide molecules into a hexagonal pattern on a perfectly smooth copper surface. The carbon monoxide repels the free-flowing electrons on the copper surface, forcing them into a graphene-like honeycomb pattern (credit: Hari Manoharan/Stanford University)

Researchers from Stanford University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have created the first “designer electrons” — exotic variants of ordinary electrons with tunable properties that may ultimately lead to new types of materials and devices.

“The behavior of electrons in materials is at the heart of essentially all of today’s technologies,” said Hari Manoharan, associate professor of physics at Stanford and a member… read more

Tonsil tests suggest thousands harbour vCJD

May 21, 2004

Almost 4000 Britons aged between 10 and 30 may be harboring the prion proteins that cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease.

The estimate is speculative since it’s based on extrapolation from only three infected tonsil or appendix samples.

Imitating a distracted human, blind robot with human gait learns to walk on rough terrain

July 6, 2010

A robot named MABEL that can walk over rough terrain with a human-like gait has been developed by University of Michigan electrical engineering professor Jessy Grizzle and students.
First attempt at walking over rough ground for Bipedal Robot MABEL

Grizzle was surprised that she was able to perform as well as she did. What a robot can step over usually depends on what it can see, but… read more

Surfing the Web Stimulates Older Brains

October 15, 2008

In an experiment, adults 55 to 78 years old who have regularly searched the Internet showed twice the increase in brain activity in MRI scans when performing a new Internet search than their counterparts without Internet search experience, especially in the areas of the brain that control decision making and complex reasoning, UCLA researchers have found.

How to make a brain transparent

April 3, 2007

The entire neural network of a mouse’s brain has been seen in 3D for the first time, using a new “ultramicroscopy” technique that renders tissues transparent.

By comparing the scans of mouse embryos with those of adult mice they hope to get a better view on how mammalian brain networks change during development. This could give new insight into how mammalian brains change over time and what happens to… read more

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