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Comment Re:femtosec is not ultra short (Score 1) 24

Tunable, ultrafast lasers typically cost over US$100k and are widely used in microscopy. If graphene can be employed to drop the cost of these lasers, it will be very significant. I'm not holding my breath, though--demonstrating a useful optical property is not at all the same as demonstrating practical use.

Comment Re:Unfortunately... (Score 5, Informative) 307

I'll start: 1) Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an essential technique in molecular biology. It is the technique that gave us the human genome project and is a key aprt of virtually every major genetic discovery for the last 20 years. Its beginnings, however, are much more humble: PCR depends on the use of thermostable polymerases to amplify DNA strands. This brings us to 1965, when Thomas Brock was studying Thermus acquaticus bacteria from hydrothermal vents. From these, he isolated Taq polymerase. At the time, nobody had any clue that hydrophilic bacteria were of national interest.

2) The discovery of green fluorescent protein, one of the most widely used tools in molecular biology. From wikipedia: "In the 1960s and 1970s, GFP, along with the separate luminescent protein aequorin, was first purified from Aequorea victoria and its properties studied by Osamu Shimomura. . . However, its utility as a tool for molecular biologists did not begin to be realized until 1992 when Douglas Prasher reported the cloning and nucleotide sequence of wtGFP in Gene.[6] The funding for this project had run out, so Prasher sent cDNA samples to several labs. The lab of Martin Chalfie expressed the coding sequence of wtGFP, with the first few amino acids deleted, in heterologous cells of E. coli and C. elegans, publishing the results in Science in 1994."

Comment Re:Unfortunately... (Score 3, Interesting) 307

Serendipity is one of the most important forces in scientific progress. I think it would be awesome if slashdot readers could compile a list of their favorite transformative research projects that would never have been funded under the proposed bill. After a few days, we can compile them into a letter and send it to our representatives.

Comment Re:Yes (Score 0) 157

I am not a fan of the TSA, but let's be fair here: the purpose of doing security checks is not to catch terrorists with bombs in their shoes, but rather to eliminate shoe-bombing as a viable form of attack. The expectation is that anyone going to the effort to hijack a plane will have good knowledge of security procedures, so it is not really possible to say whether the TSA has prevented any terrorist attacks.

Comment Yottabytes (Score 1) 306

"Bamford projects that its processing-capacity may aspire to yottabytes, or 10^24 bytes"

Let's do some math here.. a 100,000 square-foot room with (let's be generous) 10 meter ceilings has a volume of 9.3e13 mm^3.
At 1YB, the average data density in the room would be 10 GB/mm^3, with no room left for racks, walking space, ventilation, etc.
Let's just guess that, optimistically, we can occupy about 1/10th of the total space with storage devices. Then the peak data density is 100GB/mm^3.

So a storage device with a volume of 2000 cm^3 (roughly the size of a standard hard drive) would have to hold 200 PB each. That exceeds our current capabilities by something like 10,000.

Comment Brings patch-clamp to nobody new. (Score 1, Informative) 59

This is cool, but alone it does not bring electrophysiology to anybody who did not already have it. The robot only handles the easiest part of the experiment--putting an electrode into a brain and sealing onto neurons is standard practice that most electrophysiologists learn with a few days of practice.
Generally the most difficult parts of these experiments are 1) surgery / dissection, 2) keeping your animal / slice alive, 3) _keeping_ the electrode attached to the cell, and 4) managing racks full of complex, noisy, temperamental equipment. It would probably speed up the process, particularly since the experimenter is free to do other things while the robot patches cells (like prepare new electrodes for the robot).

Comment Re:More tests please. (Score 1) 442

All clocks drift when you move them. You would have to know the precise speed of the mobile clock relative to the stationary clocks in order to make sure they stayed synchronized after the move. (If I did the math right, driving the 730km trip at 20m/s gets you about 80us of drift.) Did they use GPS for this as well?

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Logic doesn't apply to the real world. -- Marvin Minsky