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Sysbrain Lets Satellites Think For Themselves 128

cylonlover writes "Engineers from the University of Southampton have developed what they say is the world's first control system for programming satellites to think for themselves. It's a cognitive software agent called sysbrain, and it allows satellites to read English-language technical documents, which in turn instruct the satellites on how to do things such as autonomously identifying and avoiding obstacles."

Biotech Company Making Fossil Fuels With a 'Library' of Bacteria 386

Saysys sends an excerpt from a story at the Globe and Mail: "In September, a privately held and highly secretive US biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for 'a proprietary organism' – a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that produces liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (US) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, 'fossil fuels on demand.' ... Joule says it now has 'a library' of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has 'proven the process,' has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 US gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year."

Miniature Human Livers Grown In Lab 154

Zothecula writes "In the quest to grow replacement human organs in the lab, livers are no doubt at the top of many a barfly's wish list. With its wide range of functions that support almost every organ in the body and no way to compensate for the absence of liver function, the ability to grow a replacement is also the focus of many research efforts. Now, for the first time, researchers have been able to successfully engineer miniature livers in the lab using human liver cells."

Stopping Malaria By Immunizing Mosquitoes 100

RedEaredSlider writes "Millions of people in the tropics suffer from malaria, a mosquito-borne disease that has been difficult to treat and which costs many developing countries millions of dollars per year in lost productivity. Up to now, efforts at controlling it have focused on attacking the parasites that cause it, keeping mosquitoes from biting, or killing the insects. But at Johns Hopkins University, Rhoel Dinglasan, an entomologist and biologist, decided to try another tack: immunizing mosquitoes. When a mosquito bites an infected human, it takes up some of the gametocytes. They aren't dangerous to people at that stage. Since plasmodium is vulnerable there, that is the point Dinglasan chose to attack. A mosquito's gut has certain receptor molecules in it that the plasmodium can bind to. Dinglasan asked what would happen if the parasite couldn't 'see' them, which would happen if another molecule, some antigen, were binding to those receptors."

Giant Lab Replicates Category 3 Hurricanes 97

Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that a new $40 million research center built by the Institute for Business & Home Safety in Richburg, SC features a massive test chamber as tall as a six-story building that can hold nine 2,300-square-foot homes on a turntable where they can be subjected to tornado-strength winds generated by 105 giant fans to simulate a Category 3 hurricane. The goal is to improve building codes and maintenance practices in disaster-prone regions even though each large hurricane simulation costs about $100,000. The new IBHS lab will be the first to replicate hurricanes with winds channeling water through homes and ripping off roofs, doors and windows. The new facility will give insurers the ability to carefully videotape what happens as powerful winds blow over structures instead of relying on wind data from universities or computer simulations. The center will also be used to test commercial buildings, agriculture structures, tractor-trailers, wind turbines, and airplanes."

Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpiles In Nevada 128

kkleiner writes "The US National Nuclear Security Administration recently announced that it has started using autonomous robot vehicles to patrol the vast desert surrounding its Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The 1360+ square miles of territory is home to millions of tons of low grade nuclear waste, as well as Cold War Era nuclear weapons, and cutting edge nuclear testing research. Guarding those precious nuclear materials is the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS) robot, which is essentially a camera on a mini-Hummer. The MDARS can roam and scout the desert on its own, alerting a remote operator when it encounters something that shouldn't be there."

Govt To Bomb Guam With Frozen Mice To Kill Snakes Screenshot-sm 229

rhettb writes "In a spectacularly creative effort to rid Guam of the brown tree snake, an invasive species which has ravaged local wildlife and angered local residents, the US Department of Agriculture is planning to 'bomb' the island's rainforests with dead frozen mice laced with acetaminophen. While it might not seem difficult to purge an island of snakes, the snake's habit of dwelling high in the rainforest canopy has so far thwarted efforts to rid the island of the pest. Eradicating the snake is a priority because it triggers more than 100 power outages a year at a cost of $1-4 million and has driven at least 6 local bird species to extinction."

Robots Taught to Deceive 239

An anonymous reader found a story that starts "'We have developed algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and we have designed techniques that help the robot select the best deceptive strategy to reduce its chance of being discovered,' said Ronald Arkin, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing."

CT Scan "Reset Error" Gives 206 Patients Radiation Overdose 383

jeffb (2.718) writes "As the LA Times reports, 206 patients receiving CT scans at Cedar Sinai hospital received up to eight times the X-ray exposure doctors intended. (The FDA alert gives details about the doses involved.) A misunderstanding over an 'embedded default setting' appears to have led to the error, which occurred when the hospital 'began using a new protocol for a specialized type of scan used to diagnose strokes. Doctors believed it would provide them more useful data to analyze disruptions in the flow of blood to brain tissue.' Human-computer interaction classes from the late 1980s onward have pounded home the lesson of the Therac-25, the usability issues of which led to multiple deaths. Will we ever learn enough to make these errors truly uncommittable?"

Penny-Sized Nuclear Batteries Developed 444

pickens writes "Nuclear batteries that produce energy from the decay of radioisotopes are an attractive proposition for many applications because the isotopes that power them can provide a useful amount of current for hundreds of years at power densities a million times as high as standard batteries. Nuclear batteries have been used for military and aerospace applications for years, their large size has limited their general usage. But now a research team at the University of Missouri has developed a nuclear battery the size of a penny that could be used to power micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. The researchers' innovation is not only in the battery's size, but also that the batteries use a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor. 'The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor,' says Jae Wan Kwon. 'By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem.' The batteries are safe under normal operating conditions. 'People hear the word "nuclear" and think of something very dangerous,' says Kwon. 'However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites, and underwater systems.'"

Cyber-criminal Left In Charge of Prison Computer Network 389

samzenpus writes "A 27-year-old man serving six years for stealing £6.5million using forged credit cards over the internet was recruited to help write code needed for the installation of an internal prison TV station. He was left unguarded with unfettered access to the system and produced results that anyone but prison officials could have guessed. He installed a series of passwords on all the machines, shutting down the entire prison computer system. A prison source said, 'It's unbelievable that a criminal convicted of cyber-crime was allowed uncontrolled access to the hard drive. He set up such an elaborate array of passwords it took a specialist company to get it working.'"

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