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Comparing Genomes Shows Split Between Chimps and People

December 14, 2003

By comparing the human genome with that of chimpanzees, people’s closest living relative, scientists have identified a partial list of the genes that make people human.

Because the sequence of DNA units in the two genomes is 98.8 percent identical, just a handful of genes might define the essence of humanity.

Prominent sets of human genes show signs of accelerated evolution, under strong recent pressure of natural selection.… read more

EPA board examines environmental impacts of nanotech

December 14, 2003

Technologically intensive cleanup using nanotech could become a much cleaner and cheaper method of environmental remediation, said Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) Director of Research Chris Phoenix in testimony on Dec. 11 before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board, in a session convened to assess potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology.

However, according to the CRN report, “the ability to build small-format products intended… read more

A Net of Control

December 13, 2003

Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And… read more

Linguistics Meets Linux: A Review of Morphix-NLP

December 12, 2003

Zhang Le, a Chinese scientist working on natural language processing, packed the most important language-analysis and processing applications into a single Linux-based bootable CD: Morphix-NLP.

The CD includes language-parsing systems (such as part-of-speech taggers), machine learning tools, and a software-based speech synthesizer.

Earthlike planets could be common in the universe

December 11, 2003

New research indicates Earthlike planets might be common. In 44 computer simulations of planet formation near a sun, astronomers found that each simulation produced one to four Earthlike planets, including 11 “habitable” planets about the same distance from their stars as Earth is from our sun.

The simulations show that the amount of water on Earthlike planets could be greatly influenced by outer gas giant planets like Jupiter. The… read more

Bee behavior suggests biologically inspired designs for robots and computers.

December 11, 2003
Tracked bees could help design robots and computers

Georgia Tech researchers are gathering data on the behavior of bees and ants using a computer vision system that can recognize which marked bee is doing which job. The research could have implications for biologically inspired design of robots and computers.

“Potentially, we could videotape ants for a long period of time, learn their ‘program’ and run it on a robot,” said Tucker Balch, assistant professor of… read more

Self-assembling magnetic nanorings allow for nonvolatile memory

December 11, 2003
The nanorings

A Purdue research team has created tiny magnetic “nanorings” less than 100 nanometers across that can store information at room temperature, using magnetic cobalt nanoparticles that self-assemble.

The nanorings could serve as nonvolative memory for long-term data storage and random-access memory.

Purdue press release

Light ‘frozen’ in its tracks

December 11, 2003

Harvard University researchers have stopped light with all its photons intact for the first time by firing a short burst of red laser light into a gas of hot rubidium atoms.

This is then “frozen” with the help of two control beams. The light in the control beams interacts with the rubidium atoms to create layers that alternately transmit and reflect the pulse.

As the signal tries to… read more

U.S. official calls for closer cooperation on nanotechnology

December 10, 2003

Joseph Bordogna, deputy director of the National Science Foundation, called for closer cooperation between the scientific and engineering research communities on nanotechnology development to create “nano transformations” in all scientific and social fields.

NEC claims world’s smallest transistor

December 10, 2003

NEC said it has developed the world’s smallest transistor, a breakthrough that could lead to the production of a supercomputer the size of a desktop PC.

The design is 1/18th the size of current transistors and has a gate width of only 5 nanometers.

A typical semiconductor chip will be able to hold 40 billion of the NEC transistors inside a chip measuring one square centimeter, more than… read more

Humanity? Maybe It’s in the Wiring

December 10, 2003

The conscience or sense of free will may be located in spindle cells in the frontoinsular cortex of the brain, according to California Institute of Technology neuroscientist Dr. John M. Allman.

This is a region closely connected to the insula and part of the same elaborate circuitry in which emotions are generated and experienced.

‘Nanofingers’ sensors developed

December 9, 2003

Future sensors may take the form of microscopic finger-like structures developed at Ohio State University. The “nanofingers” are carved onto the surface of inexpensive ceramic material and consist of a single crystal of titanium oxide.

The 50-nanometers-wide nanofingers provide a large surface area, making them good for capturing chemicals from the air, gathering light for electricity-generating solar cells, or for photocatalysis, in which light activates chemical reactions that clean… read more

Ironing Out Blood Impurities

December 9, 2003

Magnetized nanoparticles may one day be the treatment of choice for people needing to detox.

The 100 to 5,000 nanometers nanoparticles, designed at the Argonne National Laboratory, have receptors designed to identify, and then latch onto, target molecules. The nanoparticles are injected into the bloodstream, where they circulate through the body, picking up their target toxins as they go.

A magnet housed in a handheld unit and a… read more

A Step Towards Reality for VHF Internet

December 9, 2003

BushLAN, which uses a 7MHz-wide VHF channel, will support symmetrical data rates of around 250Kbps at distances of up to 40 kilometers. Over shorter distances, megabit speeds are feasible.

Note: one statement in the article is erroneous: “VHF–long known and exploited by ham radio, for example, to make international contact–is its ability to reach long distances, both because the signals follow the curvature of the atmosphere, and because they… read more

Researchers create nanotube fibers

December 9, 2003

Researchers at Rice University have discovered how to create continuous fibers from single-walled carbon nanotubes.

Scientists estimate nanotubes are about 100 times stronger than steel at one-sixth the weight. By comparison, Kevlar — the fiber used in bulletproof body armor — is about five times stronger than an equal weight of steel.

By dissolving nanotubes in strong sulfuric acid, a team of chemists and chemical engineers was able… read more

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