Tuesday, March 28, 2006

New data transmission record - 60 DVDs per second

Sweet, when can I get one to my house?

New data transmission record - 60 DVDs per second
March 24, 2006
As the world's internet traffic grows relentlessly, faster data transmission will logically become crucial. To enable networks to cope with the phenomenal surge in data traffic as the internet population moves past a billion users, researchers are focusing on new systems to increase data transmission rates and it's not surprising that the world data transmission record is continually under threat. Unlike records where human physical capabilities limit new records to incremental growth, when human ingenuity is the deciding factor, extraordinary gains are possible. German and Japanese scientists recently collaborated to achieve just such a quantum leap in obliterating the world record for data transmission. By transmitting a data signal at 2.56 terabits per second over a 160-kilometer link (equivalent to 2,560,000,000,000 bits per second or the contents of 60 DVDs) the researchers bettered the old record of 1.28 terabits per second held by a Japanese group. By comparison, the fastest high-speed links currently carry data at a maximum 40 Gbit/s, or around 50 times slower.
"You transmit data at various wavelengths simultaneously in the networks. For organizational and economic reasons each wavelength signal is assigned a data rate as high as possible", explains Prof. Hans-Georg Weber from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut HHI in Berlin, who heads a project under the MultiTeraNet program funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
A few weeks ago the scientist and his team established a new world record together with colleagues from Fujitsu. Data is transmitted in fiber-optic cables using ultrashort pulses of light and is normally encoded by switching the laser on and off. A pulse gives the binary 1, off the 0. You therefore have two light intensity states to transmit the data. The Fraunhofer researchers have now managed to squeeze more data into a single pulse by packing four, instead of the previous two, binary data states in a light pulse using phase modulation."
"Faster data rates are hugely important for tomorrow's telecommunications", explains Weber. The researcher assumes the transmission capacity on the large transoceanic traffic links will need to increase to between 50 and 100 terabits per second in ten to 20 years. "This kind of capacity will only be feasible with the new high-performance systems."

A Machine With a Mind of Its Own

And here we go, Biology and CS coming together more and more all the time.

Ross King wanted a research assistant who would work 24/7 without sleep or food. So he built one.
By Oliver Morton
For a machine that's changing the world, the device on the lab bench in front of me doesn't look very impressive - it just goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. A contraption about the size of a human hand moves from side to side along a track. At the far right end of its trajectory, a proboscis-like pipette pecks into a foil-covered plastic container and sucks up some liquid; the hand moves a foot or so to the left, and the pipette squirts out the liquid a few drops at a time onto a rectangular plastic platter covered with an array of 96 tiny depressions. Then it repeats the routine. Whirr, plunge, suck, whirr, plunge, squirt - a mechanical counterpoint to the cries of the seagulls outside the lab in this Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth. The effect is oddly hypnotic. Ross King, a professor of computer science at the University of Wales and the Dr. Frankenstein behind this most humdrum of monsters, watches me watching it with a wry amusement that might mask a touch of embarrassment. "It comes across better on radio than on TV," he says.
Indeed, King's robotic lab assistant is something of an ugly duckling. High-throughput screening - testing vast libraries of chemical compounds on various types of cells to see whether they interact in ways that might be useful - has become a routine function in modern bio labs, and at the high end machines that do it are positively telegenic. For instance, the Automation Partnership, based in Royston, England, offers one that bobs, weaves, shakes, and stirs like a possessed bartender. Such uncanny dexterity costs roughly $1.8 million - but if you're a pharmaceutical company interested in performing as many experiments as quickly as possible, it's money well spent.
King's humble robot is based on a Biomek 2000, a low-rent fluid-handling device that goes for only $37,900. But it can do something its more nimble cousins can't. Its components - the tireless robot arm, an incubator in which cells cultured on the platter either wither or thrive, and a plate reader that examines the little depressions to see whether anything is growing there - are linked up to a much more exceptional brain. The artificial intelligence routines in that brain can look at the results of an experiment, draw a conclusion about what the results might mean, and then set off to test that conclusion. The "robot scientist" (King has resisted the temptation of a jazzy acronym) may look like a mere labor-saving gizmo, shuttling back and forth ad nauseam, but it's much more than that. Biology is full of tools with which to make discoveries. Here's a tool that can make discoveries on its own.
If this slightly faded town has any contemporary claim to fame, it's Malcolm Pryce's surreal pastiche-noir novels about private eyes and druid mafiosi, Last Tango in Aberystwyth and Aberystwyth Mon Amour. The University of Wales tends to operate well under the radar. It's a quiet hive of computational biology that benefits from small departments and relative isolation, conditions in which like minds are bound to find each other.
Ross King dresses in the black shirt, black jeans uniform that might be called goth geek, a voguish look in bio labs these days. He's soft-spoken and so even-keeled that his flashes of intensity aren't always obvious. But when he tells you that computers will surpass human scientific endeavor in every way, there's true-believer zeal behind the quiet Scots accent.
King came to the borderlands of information technology and biology by chance. When he was an undergraduate microbiologist at the University of Aberdeen in the early 1980s, no one in his class wanted to take on a computer modeling assignment offered as a final project. King literally drew the short straw, and soon he was programming the characteristics of microbial growth into a primitive mainframe. He has hardly looked back since.
Studying AI at the Turing Institute in Glasgow, he set about using machine-learning techniques to predict the shapes of proteins, one of the fundamental challenges of bioinformatics. King, though, found a twist. With his friend Colin Angus, whom he'd met at Aberdeen, he developed software that translated protein structures into musical chord sequences, one of which ended up as a track called "S2 Translation" on Axis Mutatis, an album by Angus' band, the Shamen. Later, at London's Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now called Cancer Research UK), he moved on to using AI to control the drug-related properties of various molecules. However, he soon found that his chemist colleagues weren't interested.
"We'd say, 'We want to make this drug to see if it will work,'" King recalls. "But we could never get any chemists to make the drug. They didn't explicitly say, 'Our intuition is better than your machinery.' They'd just never make the compound we wanted."
It wasn't until he moved to Aberystwyth in the mid-'90s that King found comrades who fully appreciated the potential of AI and machine learning. One of the first people he encountered there was Douglas Kell, a voluble, handlebar-mustached biologist with a clear view of where his field was headed. Kell felt that the piecemeal approach typical of molecular biology from the 1970s onward had been an unrewarding detour. The true aim of biology, he believed, was not the study of individual components and their interactions but a predictive knowledge of whole biological systems: metabolisms, cells, organisms.
In the 1990s, biology was poised to go Kell's way. Genomic research - using then-new hardware like the Biomek 2000 - was starting to produce data at a phenomenal rate, data that covered entire biological systems. That information wouldn't just challenge the capacity of molecular biology to explain what was going on molecule by molecule; it would highlight the inadequacy of the molecule-by-molecule approach.
Automation made it possible to find genes among the growing mountains of data, but it did little to illuminate how they work as a system. King and Kell realized they could begin to tackle that challenge by letting computers not only sift the data but also choose what new data should be generated. That was the key idea behind the robot scientist - to close the loop between computerized lab tools and computerized data analysis.
Once the goal was clear, the collaboration expanded. Steve Oliver at the University of Manchester, who had led the first team to sequence a complete chromosome, lent his expertise in yeast genomics. Another addition was AI specialist Stephen Muggleton, who had passed through the Turing Institute a few years ahead of King on his way to becoming a professor at Imperial College in London. He had worked with King before, and he, too, had been thwarted by chemists unwilling to follow up on ideas arising from his research. For King's team, making machines that could take the next step without human intervention was something of a declaration of independence (and perhaps just deserts).
By summer 2003, the robot scientist was fully programmed and ready to perform its first experiment. The team selected a problem based on a fairly simple and well-known area of biology - "something tractable but not trivial," as King puts it. The assignment was to identify genetic variations in differing strains of yeast.
Yeast cells, like other cells, synthesize amino acids, the building blocks of proteins that King and Angus had used to create their music. Generating amino acids requires a combination of enzymes that turn raw materials into intermediate compounds and then the final products. One enzyme might turn compound A into compound B, which then might be made into C by another enzyme, or D by yet another, while another turns surplus G into yet more C, and so on.
Each enzyme along the way is the product of a gene (or genes). A mutant strain that lacks the gene for one of the necessary enzymes will stall out, unable to continue the process. Such mutants can be easily "rescued" by receiving a sort of food supplement consisting of the intermediate substance they can't make themselves. Once that's done, they can get back on track.
The robot scientist's job was to take a bunch of different strains of yeast, each lacking one gene relevant to synthesizing the three so-called aromatic amino acids - three related chords - and to see which supplements they required and thus work out what gene does what. The machine was armed with a digital model of amino acid synthesis in yeast, as well as three software modules: one for making what might be called informed guesses about which strains lacked which genes, one for devising experiments to test these guesses, and one for transforming the experiments into instructions to the hardware.
Crucially, the robot scientist was programmed to build on its own results. Once it had conducted initial tests, it used the outcomes to make a subsequent set of better-informed guesses. And when the next batch of results arrived, it folded them into the following round of experiments, and so on.
If the process sounds familiar, that's because it fits a textbook notion of the scientific method. Of course, science in the real world progresses on the basis of hunches, random inspirations, lucky guesses, and all sorts of other things that King and his team haven't yet modeled in software. But the robot scientist still proved awfully effective. After five cycles of hypothesis-experiment-result, the automaton's conclusions about which mutant lacked which gene were correct 80 percent of the time.
How good is that? A control group of human biologists, including professors and graduate students, performed the same task. The best of them did no better, and the worst made guesses tantamount to random stabs in the dark. In fact, compared with the inconsistency of human scientists, the machine looked like a radiant example of experimental competence.
The robot scientist didn't start out knowing which strains of yeast were missing which genes. Its creators, however, did. So, from a biologist's point of view, the machine made no valuable contribution to science. But, King believes, it soon will. Even though yeast is fairly well understood, aspects of its metabolism are still a mystery. "There are basic bits of biochemistry that have to be there or the yeast wouldn't exist," King explains, "but we don't know which genes are coding for them." By year's end, he hopes to set the robot scientist searching for some of these unknown genes.
Meanwhile, the team is designing new hardware and software to upgrade the robot's mechanics. King and company received a grant to buy a machine like those from the Automation Partnership, one that can deal with far more samples and keep them from becoming contaminated with airborne bacteria. Then they would like to give the device's brain an Internet connection, so the software can reside in a central server and control several robots working in far-flung locations.
King has his eyes on different fields of science, too. The robot scientist's hypothesis-generating behavior might be just the thing for using pulsed laser energy to catalyze chemical reactions. Applying lasers to chemistry could be very powerful in theory, but variables like frequency, intensity, and timing are hard to calculate, and chemical reactions happen so quickly that it's tricky to make adjustments on the fly. A robot scientist's reasoning and reflexes would be quick enough to try lots of different approaches in a fraction of a second, learning what works and what doesn't through ever-better-informed guesses. King recently started testing this idea at a new femtosecond laser facility in Leeds.
For now, however, the emphasis remains on biology. Stephen Muggleton argues that the life sciences are peculiarly well suited to machine learning. "There's an inherent structure in biological problems that lends itself to computational approaches," he says. In other words, biology reveals the machinelike substructure of the living world; it's not surprising that machines are showing an aptitude for it. And that aptitude makes the machines a bit more lifelike themselves, developing plans and ideas - in a limited sense - and the means to carry them out. If you believe living things are uniquely mysterious, it's easy to imagine that fathoming the secrets of life would be the last intellectual quest to become fully automated. It may be the first.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

SpaceX private rocket flight a bust - Yahoo! News

This is unfortunate, but as Musk said, not unexpected. Hopefully the next one will be a success.

By Irene Klotz Fri Mar 24, 8:27 PM ET

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - The debut flight of a low-cost launcher developed and financed by Internet billionaire lasted about a minute before the rocket failed due to unknown technical reasons on Friday.

The 70-foot, two-stage was launched at 5:29 p.m. from a U.S. base on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands.

The rocket lifted off from the launch pad but was destroyed about a minute later. It was unknown why the rocket failed.

The rocket was designed and built by privately held Space Exploration Technologies, or , of El Segundo, California.

"Clearly this is a setback, but we're in this for the long haul," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development, told reporters on a teleconference call.

Musk, who sold his electronic payment service firm PalPay to Ebay for $1.5 billion in 2002, has high ambitions for SpaceX. He aims to drastically cut the price of launch services with a family of semi-reusable rockets called the Falcon.

Even before its debut flight, SpaceX, which Musk founded four years ago, had won nine launch services contracts worth more than $200 million.

The cargo aboard the Falcon 1 rocket lost on Friday was a 43-pound, $750,000
Department of Defense satellite called FalconSat 2, which was to study how space plasma can disrupt communications and navigational positioning satellites.

The spacecraft was built by U.S. Air Force Academy students and supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

SpaceX sells its smallest vehicle, the Falcon 1, for $6.7 million -- about one-third the price of similarly sized rockets. The Falcon 1 is a two-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and purified kerosene.

Musk, who has sunk more $100 million of his own funds into Falcon's development, has said repeatedly a launch failure would not be unexpected.

SpaceX has three more flights scheduled over the next 12 months and plans to debut its heavy-lift Falcon 9 in 2007.

It is among 20 companies competing for a commercial contract with
NASA to launch cargo to the
International Space Station. Eventually, NASA would like to hand over launches of its astronaut crews to a commercial carrier as well.

Friday's liftoff of Falcon 1 followed three unsuccessful attempts that were canceled due to technical issues.

In an earlier news conference, Musk said he figured his company could withstand one or two major launch failures, but a third disaster would probably put him out of business.

"I really feel that one successful launch will establish us as being fairly reliable," he said.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

China to build world`s first "artificial sun" experimental device

As opposed to the "cold" going on with sonofusion, we are also approaching from the hot side, one or the other should be producing good clean abundant energy for us soon.
A full superconducting experimental Tokamak fusion device, which aims to generate infinite, clean nuclear-fusion-based energy, will be built in March or April in Hefei, capital city of east China`s Anhui Province.

[Via Kurzweil AI]

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Shape of Robots to Come

March 16, 2006
A segmented tower on a metal and plastic base swiveled around. Two glowing segments, suggesting a head, tilted forward and spoke: "Hello. My name is Scoty. Let me explain a few things about myself."
In a vaguely female synthesized voice — but always in plain English — Scoty, the latest robot from the robotic-toy maker WowWee, demonstrated its functions for a visitor recently.
Chief among them are managing a personal computer's communication and entertainment abilities, finding and playing songs by voice request, recording television shows, telling users when they have e-mail and, again by voice request, reading the e-mail aloud. It takes and then sends voice-to-text e-mail dictation. It takes pictures, and gives the time when asked.
Scoty, pronounced Scotty, has no keyboard and does not require mastery of any specialized computer languages to nudge it to perform and reply in a likeable human manner, its makers said.
While its name stands for smart companion operating technology, "Scoty is more of a companion than operating technologies," said Richard Yanofsky, president of WowWee, which is based in Hong Kong. For lack of a better term, he said, Scoty, which is 24 inches tall, is a "digital maid."
As robots increasingly migrate from heavy industrial tasks, like welding automobile chassis on assembly lines, to home uses as restless toys and venturesome vacuum cleaners, a fetching personality and appealing appearance become critically important. A flashy show called "Robots: The Interactive Exhibition" is touring museums and science centers in the United States through 2012 with the aim of demystifying robotics, especially their harder edges.
"Robots are an evergreen," said Eddie Newquist, president of the creative division at the Becker Group, which makes displays for malls, museums and theme parks and created the interactive exhibition based on the computer-animated feature film "Robots" and its themes of invention. "Kids are always fascinated by robots."
But robotics makers and experts say marvelous mechanics and electronic intelligence are not enough to lure consumers. Robotic novelties that could command steep prices from some early adopters are giving way to lower-priced products (though still rather expensive for toys) that offer personality, utility or both.
At the American International Toy Fair last month in New York, being a robot for a robot's sake appeared to be a losing bet. Sony said it was ending production on its $2,000 Aibo robotic dogs, which are shiny and aggressively techie. In the meantime, Hasbro announced that it was adding cuddly electronic animals to its successful and largely modestly priced FurReal line of toys, including a $30 baby chimpanzee.
"The impetus for FurReal was that we wanted to make the most realistic plush animal that existed up until that time," said Sharon John, general manager of Hasbro, which is based in Pawtucket, R.I. "Robotics were a means to an end, not the end itself."
In a departure from its smaller toys, Hasbro is introducing what it calls a "realistic, life-size" miniature pony, Butterscotch My FurReal Friends Pony, that will be sensitive to light and touch and will embody enough robotics to, among other things, turn its head to see who tickled its ears and shake its head after "eating" its carrot.
It will sniff and whinny and respond to soothing voices when it becomes frightened by the dark or by too much commotion around it, company spokesmen said. And it is made to bear the weight of young children and simulate galloping. Available in the fall, it is expected to cost $300.
Like Butterscotch, many of the robotic toys shown at the toy fair were engineered to conceal their joints and metallic jowls beneath furry pelts and cute doll faces. Even traditional robots, like WowWee's Robosapien series, were packed with more personality than previous models.
Some strived to be friendly, like the coming I-Cat "interactive music companion" from Hasbro's Tiger Electronics brand, a follow-up on last year's I-Dog, a robotic dog speaker accessory for digital music players.
While both the I-Cat and the I-Dog are furless and highly stylized, Ms. John noted that both make use of colored L.E.D. lights that are diffused inside their smooth, seamless and translucent bodies. Scoty, whose core technologies were developed by Philips Home Dialogue Systems in Germany, uses the same approach. Its smooth, segmented body glows with different colors signifying that it is "listening" to and "understanding" requests.
"The overall mission is to find ways of bringing robotics into useful interaction with people," said Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot, the makers of government and industrial robots as well as consumer ones, including its Roomba series of vacuum cleaners and Scooba floor washers.
"We tried to figure out how to do that," he said. "The challenges are that high technologies can be viewed as scary and distancing."
Besides, Mr. Angle said, his company, which is based in Burlington, Mass., near Boston, is less interested in selling robots to "gadget people" than to residents of "Middle America looking for better ways of living their lives and looking for a little help."
IRobot's popular consumer robots are shaped like overfed Frisbees and roll inconspicuously on tiny wheels performing their tasks. Mr. Angle said there was little efficiency in building highly functioning robots in anthropomorphic form. "It's wildly impractical to do so in any real sense," he said of organic-looking robots.
Yet, many Roomba owners say they discern endearing traces of a personality in the artificially intelligent discs, prompting some users, Mr. Angle said, to name their robots. It was such emotional attachments that led the company to base its new television advertising campaign on the phrase "I love robots."
IRobot, which went public last November, has sold more than 1.5 million Roombas, which cost about $300, since they were introduced in late 2002. The company reported revenue of $142 million in 2005, a 49 percent increase over 2004.
Late last year, the company introduced the iRobot Scooba floor-washing robot, a $400 device that washes, scrubs and dries hard floors with no more prompting than a touch of a button.
"The simplicity of the interaction is one of the most critical things," Mr. Angle said.
It is a point not lost on a range of robots heading for store shelves this year.
Playmates Toys is extending its Amazing series of computerized dolls, which introduced the voice-recognition-assisted Amazing Amanda last year. In the fall it will introduce Amazing Allysen, which is a "tween" rather than a baby doll like its little sister, and requires little more from children than simply to touch it and talk to it.
Its face emotes electronically as it speaks and listens, its makers say. The $100 doll also has a richer vocabulary and keener object recognition than its predecessor, said a spokesman for Playmates, which is in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Mr. Yanofsky of WowWee said he and his company had worked hard to ensure that when Scoty was released later this year — at a price he expected to be $400 — it would be simple to set up and operate.
A demonstration video shows Scoty being removed from its packaging and prompting a new user. "You need to install some software in your computer before I become fully alive," it said.
Mr. Yanofsky said that WowWee planned to release additional robotic companion devices in the coming years. "At the end of the day there will be a seamless interaction with machines in a manner that will be very close to human experience," he said.
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

New Artificial Muscles Are Powerhouses

New Designs Are More Than 100 Times Stronger Than Natural Muscle
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
on Thursday, March 16, 2006

March 16, 2006 -- The latest artificial muscles make natural muscles look like weaklings, according to a study in Science.
Researchers invented two types of artificial muscles that use high-energy chemical fuels -- such as methanol and hydrogen -- instead of batteries. The inventions can outwork natural muscles, with one design showing 100 times the strength of natural muscles.
The scientists included Von Howard Ebron, PhD, and Ray Baughman, PhD. Both work at the University of Texas at Dallas.
The invention should lead to powerful devices that truly "keep on going," states a journal editorial. But the new muscles don't yet give the "exquisite control" needed for tasks like catching and throwing balls, the editorial also notes.
Unplugging Artificial Muscles
Artificial muscles and electrical motors in robots and prosthetic limbs "are typically battery powered, which severely restricts the duration of their performance and can necessitate long inactivity during battery recharge," write Ebron and colleagues.
"Because of high electrical power needs, some of the most athletically capable robots cannot freely prance around because they are wired to a stationary power source," the scientists add.
Their artificial muscles work differently, tapping chemical energy in fuels instead of relying on batteries. One model converts chemical energy in fuels to electrical energy for movement or storage. The other model mixes fuel and oxygen to create heat for energy.
The latter version is "especially easy to deploy in robotic devices," Baughman says in a news release. "Students and scientists of all ages will be working on optimizing and deploying our artificial muscles," he predicts.
"The approach is not without challenges, but it could transform the way complex mechanical systems are built," writes editorialist John D. Madden, PhD. Madden works at Canada's University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Developing fine control over such artificial muscles is one of those challenges, Madden notes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Researchers simulate complete structure of virus -- on a computer

This looks like the first step toward a virtual brain simulation. When we can map and simulate all the neurons in a human brain, will that be true AI, or just an electronic human conciousness? From there it won't be long before we simulate the entire body, and we can live virtually forever.

An overall computer-simulated view of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus credit: University of Illinois/NCSA
Click here for a high resolution image.

When Boeing and Airbus developed their latest aircraft, the companies' engineers designed and tested them on a computer long before the planes were built. Biologists are catching on. They've just completed the first of an entire life form -- a virus.

In their quest to study life, biologists apply engineering knowledge somewhat differently: They "reverse engineer" life forms, test fly them in the computer, and see if they work in silico the way they do in vivo. This technique previously had been employed for small pieces of living cells, such as proteins, but not for an entire life form until now.

The accomplishment, performed by computational biologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and crystallographers at the University of California at Irvine, is detailed in the March issue of the journal Structure.

Deeper understanding of the mechanistic properties of viruses, the researchers say, could not only contribute to improvements in public health, but also in the creation of artificial nanomachines made of capsids -- a small protein shell that contains a viral building plan, a genome, in the form of DNA or RNA.

es are incredibly tiny and extremely primitive life forms that cause myriad diseases. Biologists often refer to them as particles rather than organisms. Viruses hijack a biological cell and make it produce many new viruses from a single original. They've evolved elaborate mechanisms of cell infection, proliferation and departure from the host when it bursts from viral overcrowding.

For their first attempt to reverse engineer a life form in a computer program, computational biologists selected the satellite tobacco mosaic virus because of its simplicity and small size.

The satellite virus they chose is a spherical RNA sub-viral agent that is so small and simple that it can only proliferate in a cell already hijacked by a helper virus -- in this case the tobacco mosaic virus that is a serious threat to tomato plants.

A computer program was used to reverse engineer the dynamics of all atoms making up the virus and a small drop of salt water surrounding it. The virus and water contain more than a million atoms altogether.

The necessary calculation was done at Illinois on one of the world's largest and fastest computers operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The computer simulations provided an unprecedented view into the dynamics of the virus.

"The simulations followed the life of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus, but only for a very brief time," said co-author Peter Freddolino, a doctoral student in biophysics and computational biology at Illinois. "Nevertheless, they elucidated the key physical properties of the viral particle as well as providing crucial information on its assembly."

It may take still a long time to simulate a dog wagging its tail in the computer, said co-author Klaus Schulten, Swanlund Professor of Physics at Illinois. "But a big first step has been taken to 'test fly' living organisms," he said. "Naturally, this step will assist modern medicine as we continue to learn more about how viruses live."

The computer simulations were carried out in Schulten's Theoretical and Biophysics Group's lab at the Beckman Institute for Avanced Science and Technology.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Nanotechnology May Repair Damaged Brains

TUESDAY, March 14 (HealthDay News) -- Rodents blinded by damage had their vision partially restored within weeks after being treated with developed by bioengineers and neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The findings provide evidence that similar strategies might someday work in humans.
"If we can reconnect parts of the brain that were disconnected by , then we may be able to restore speech to an individual who is able to understand what is said but has lost the ability to speak," study co-author Rutledge G. Ellis-Behnke, research scientist in MIT's department of brain and cognitive sciences, said in a prepared statement.
This method uses an extremely tiny biodegradable scaffold that provides brain cells with a place to re-grow -- like a vine on a trellis -- in the damaged area of the brain. This is the first study to use nanotechnology to repair and heal the brain and restore function in a damaged brain region. The approach may one day help treat stroke patients and people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
The findings appear online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study included young and adult hamsters with severed neural pathways. The animals were injected with a solution containing certain kinds of peptides (protein fragments) that create a mesh or scaffold of tiny, interwoven fibers. Brain cells are able to grow on this mesh.
Within about six weeks, the hamsters had regained useful and the adults' brains responded as well as the younger animals' brains.
"This is not about restoring 100 percent of damaged brain cells, but 20 percent or even less may be enough to restore function, and that is our goal," Ellis-Behnke said.
More information
The Brain Injury Association of America has more about types of brain injury.
Copyright © 2006 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Swedish plans to colonise space


This looks very cool.  I think with a lot of the new technologies we have for low-cost pre-fab housing, we should be able to apply the principles to something like this and be able to do this kind of colonization for a lot cheaper than what the US government and NASA are proposing it to cost.  Just get government out of the way and let the private industries go at it.  If there is money to be made, they will do it better.

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