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Where is the real Matrix?

November 12, 2003

Neuroprostheses — human-computer interfaces that connect directly to the human brain, spinal cord or nerves as in The Matrix — are already a reality. But misguided federal policies are keeping them from the people who need them.

The development of microelectrode arrays has allowed researchers in the field to start thinking seriously about a variety of next-generation neuroprosthetic devices, including new types of neuroprostheses. These include vision prostheses for… read more

UK moves to ban human sex selection

November 12, 2003

Britain’s fertility regulator tells the government parents should not be able to choose the sex of their children, based on potential health dangers of selecting sperm by the available methods and for social reasons.

Defense research agency seeks to create supersoldiers

November 12, 2003

Maybe humans themselves need an upgrade, say DARPA thinkers. “The human is becoming the weakest link,” DARPA warned last year in an unclassified report. “Sustaining and augmenting human performance will have significant impact on Defense missions and systems.”

A review of the agency’s latest budget request reveals a host of projects aimed squarely at making soldiers smarter, tougher, faster, and stronger — zin short, superhuman.

Memories in the Corner of My Eye

November 12, 2003

Glasses with a tiny television screen embedded into one of the lenses and hooked up to a PDA are being used to project 1/180-of-a-second subliminal reminders to wearers.

Researcher studies human brain with digital orangutan

November 11, 2003

A robot baby orangutan named Lucy may someday tell us about how the cerebral cortex works and help people develop and build new computational architectures inspired by biological systems, according to Steve Grand, Lucy’s creator and author of Growing Up With Lucy: How to Build an Android in Twenty Easy Steps (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), due out in January.

The New World of Tailored Treatments

November 11, 2003

Pharmacogenomics, or “personalized medicine,” which involves using genomic knowledge to tailor treatments that best suit the individual patient’s needs, could significantly improve treatments for cancer and other major killers.

Could We Live Forever?

November 11, 2003

By mid-century, some countries may have life expectancies approaching 100 and life expectancies might approach 130 by 2050, predicts Dr. James Vaupel, director of the laboratory of survival and longevity at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

“There is no fixed life span…. From 1840 until today, the life expectancy in the countries that are doing the best has increased two and a half years per decade.… read more

Can Robots Become Conscious?

November 11, 2003

What is consciousness? Can you put it in a machine? And if you did, how could you ever know for sure?

With the continuing gains in computing power, many believe that artificial intelligence will be attainable within a few decades.

Dr. Hans Moravec, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, believes a human being is nothing more than a fancy machine, and that as technology… read more

Science Times 25th Anniversary

November 11, 2003

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the New York Times Science News section poses 25 of the most provocative questions facing science.

How Does the Brain Work?

November 11, 2003

While lacking a coherent framework, scientists are making progress in mapping the correlations between brain activity and behavior.

New imaging tools reveal circuits and overall patterns of activity as people solve problems or reflect on their feelings. Genes expressed in mouse brain cells are being mapped so that researchers can begin to find out if neurons that look alike have different proteins and functions. A magnetic device can knock… read more

Plan for UN to run internet ‘will be shelved’

November 11, 2003

An attempt by developing countries to put management of the internet under United Nations auspices is likely to be shelved at next month’s world information summit in Geneva — but the issue is now firmly on the international agenda, summit sources say.

Defenders of the status quo say handing over power to governments could threaten the untrammelled flow of information and ideas that many see as the very essence… read more

Robots that rock

November 11, 2003

Four robots from fiction and the real world are being inducted into Carnegie Mellon University’s Robot Hall of Fame as the inaugural honorees: Mars Sojourner, GM’s Unimate, R2-D2, and HAL 9000.

The next batch of honorees will be announced in October 2004. But in the meantime, you can send in your suggestions.

Virtual TV studio gets real

November 11, 2003

“Origami,” a virtual studio that allows actors to interact with computer-generated characters and creatures in real time, has been developed by the BBC. It should lead to a new generation of programs and films made with advanced special effects at relatively low cost.

It overcomes the limitations of chromakey. The action takes place within a virtual landscape created inside a computer amd projected onto the walls and floor of… read more

Talk the talk

November 10, 2003

Australian researchers have converted a PDA into an InCA (Internet Conversational Agent), an assistant that recognizes natural language and responds.

Its text-to-speech software can also translate responses into other languages by accessing Internet translation services.

InCA’s face animates the movement of lips in sync with the audio as it “speaks” back to the user and uses facial expressions to convey emotions.

Make this nanotech/war book required reading in Congress

November 10, 2003

“Nanotechnology and Homeland Security” (by Mark Ratner and Dan Ratner, Prentice Hall, due out this month)focuses on defense applications of nanotech, such as sensors, smart materials, and ethods for thwarting or disabling biological or chemical releases. It also covers environmental, energy and social/ethical implications of technologies that could evolve from protective to intrusive.

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