science + technology news

God vs. Darwin: no contest

August 9, 2005

“Intelligent design” boils down to the claim sarcastically summed up by aerospace engineer and science consultant Rand Simberg on his blog, Transterrestrial Musings: “I’m not smart enough to figure out how this structure could evolve, therefore there must have been a designer.”

Simberg, a political conservative, concludes that this argument “doesn’t belong in a science classroom, except as an example of what’s not science.”

Computers learn a new language

August 8, 2005

Computer scientists have developed a program that can teach itself new languages. Feed it a piece of text, in any language, and the program analyzes its structure and can then produce new, meaningful sentences.

The software learns the grammar of a new language by searching text for patterns.

Now, if My Software Only Had a Brain …

August 8, 2005

A variety of programs purport to help you save, store, organize and eventually retrieve bits of information that come into the computer.

Remote-Controlled Humans

August 7, 2005

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone researchers have developed a device based on galvanic vestibular stimulation (a weak DC current is delivered to the mastoid behind your ear) that allows the wearer to be steered by remote control.

Possible applications include gaming and flight simulators.

‘Health Chips’ Could Help Patients in US

August 7, 2005

President Bush’s former health secretary Tommy Thompson proposes that US citizens have an RFID chip inserted under their skin. Thompson also plans to have a VeriChip inserted in his arm.

The RFID capsules would be linked to a database being created by the Department of Health and Human Services to store and manage the nation’s health records. Thompson believes the capsules could help save thousands of lives every year… read more

Hidden Black Holes Finally Found

August 7, 2005

A host of hidden black holes have been revealed in a narrow region of the sky, confirming astronomers’ suspicions that the universe is loaded with many undetected gravity wells.

Black holes cannot be seen directly, because they trap light and anything else that gets too close. But astronomers infer their presence by noting the behavior of material nearby: gas is superheated and accelerated to a significant fraction of light-speed… read more

‘Thoughts read’ via brain scans

August 7, 2005

Teams at University College London and UCLA could tell which images people were looking at or what sounds they were listening to, using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scanning to monitor activity in the visual and auditory cortex.

Bacteria froze the Earth, researchers say

August 7, 2005

A Caltech team argues that 2.3 billion years ago, cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, gained the ability to break down water, which in turn released a flood of oxygen into the atmosphere.

That oxygen reacted with the atmospheric methane, which insulated the Earth at the time, and broke it down. While the oxygen-methane reaction created the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the protective nature of the barrier cracked.

Temperatures plunged… read more

A step toward the $1,000 personal genome using readily available lab equipment

August 5, 2005

The theoretical price of having one’s personal genome sequenced just fell from the prohibitive $20 million dollars to about $2.2 million, and the goal is to reduce the amount further–to about $1,000–to make individualized prevention and treatment realistic.

The sharp drop is due to a new DNA sequencing technology developed by Harvard Medical School researchers.

The new technique calls for replicating thousands of DNA fragments attached to one-micron… read more

Yahoo Debuts Audio Search

August 5, 2005

Yahoo Audio Search allows users to peruse a list of 50 million music, voice and other files for free.

Yahoo Audio Search also enables independent publishers to submit content to the index through Media Really Simple Syndication (Media RSS), providing users with open access to original and timely audio content, according to the company.

Brain Workouts May Tone Memory

August 5, 2005

Proponents of “cognitive fitness” exercises say such mental conditioning can help prevent or delay memory loss and the onset of other age-related cognitive disorders.

Drugs could head off a flu pandemic — but only if we respond fast enough

August 4, 2005

If a strain of avian influenza emerges that can spread easily from person to person, could rapid deployment of antiviral drugs stop a local outbreak from becoming a global disaster?

Yes, conclude the most detailed modelling studies yet of an emerging pandemic — if the world can muster its scientific and logistical efforts quickly enough.

Beating Hurdles, Scientists Clone a Dog for a First

August 3, 2005

South Korean researchers have cloned what scientists deem the most difficult animal, the dog.

We Are the Web

August 3, 2005

The Web, a planet-sized computer, is comparable in complexity to a human brain. Both the brain and the Web have hundreds of billions of neurons (or Web pages). Each biological neuron sprouts synaptic links to thousands of other neurons, while each Web page branches into dozens of hyperlinks.

That adds up to a trillion “synapses” between the static pages on the Web. The human brain has about 100 times… read more

Calling All Luddites

August 3, 2005

The fact that the U.S. has fallen to 16th in the world in broadband connectivity has aroused little interest.

But the world is moving to an Internet-based platform for commerce, education, innovation and entertainment. Wealth and productivity will go to those countries or companies that get more of their innovators, educators, students, workers and suppliers connected to this platform via computers, phones and P.D.A.’s.

A new generation of… read more

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