Archive for April, 2005

‘Brain’ In A Dish Acts As Autopilot, Living Computer

April 19, 2005

‘Brain’ In A Dish Acts As Autopilot, Living Computer: “GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida scientist has grown a living ‘brain’ that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.

The ‘brain’ — a collection of 25,000 living neurons, or nerve cells, taken from a rat’s brain and cultured inside a glass dish — gives scientists a unique real-time window into the brain at the cellular level. By watching the brain cells interact, scientists hope to understand what causes neural disorders such as epilepsy and to determine noninvasive ways to intervene. As living computers, they may someday be used to fly small unmanned airplanes or handle tasks that are dangerous for humans, such as search-and-rescue missions or bomb damage assessments.”

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Whoa. Artificial brains. Flying jets in a flight sim. If that doesn’t give you plot ideas, then you perhaps writing isn’t for you. Perhaps you would be happier doing something else–like bowling.

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Protein Music

April 15, 2005

Computational Biology : UWA Computer Science: “ProteinMusic is a Java program converting DNA sequences into music. The original idea for this project came from R. D. King here at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and C. G Angus from the Shamen (King, R.D. & Angus, C.G. (1996)). They developed a program written in C on an Apple Mac together with a MIDI connection to a synthesizer in 1996. This program here is a complete re-write of the original program in Java. by A. Karwath. ”

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Weird, wild stuff.

Researchers Find Largest ‘Gene Deserts’ in Human Genome

April 6, 2005

Welcome to GenomeWeb Daily News Wrapping up Chromosomes 2 and 4, Researchers Find Largest ‘Gene Deserts’ in Human Genome

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK, April 6 (GenomeWeb News) – After analyzing chromosomes 2 and 4, a research consortium supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute announced this week that it has discovered the largest “gene deserts” in the human genome, and determined the location of an ancestral chromosomal fusion event.

Led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the analysis, to be published in the April 7 issue of Nature, shows that the largest gene deserts, or regions of the genome devoid of protein-coding genes, are located in chromosome 4.

According to a statement released by NHGRI, little is known of the function of gene deserts, but they are thought to be important as they occur in other mammalian genomes as well as in birds.

NHGRI said that chromosome 4 is of interest to the medical community because it holds the gene for Huntington’s disease and other inherited disorders.

The team also discovered a 36,000-base-pair stretch of sequence in chromosome 2 that it believes is the site of the fusion that created chromosome 2 from what were previously two separate, smaller chromosomes.

Chromosome 2 is the second largest human chromosome, and scientists have speculated that a fusion of two chromosomes in a human ancestor rendered humans with 23 chromosomes, compared to the 24 chromosomes found in gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and other great apes, NHGRI said.

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It may be a gene desert, but it is a plot breadbasket! Let your imagination come up with ideas for all that data. Leftover bits of evolution? Encoded messages from aliens? God? The Illuminati? The key to the next step of evolution? Who knows?

Yahoo! News – Computers Obeying Brain Signals

April 4, 2005

Yahoo! News – Computers Obeying Brain Signals: “By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. – Researchers and volunteers around the world are taking early steps toward a complex but straightforward technological goal: to use electrical signals from the brain as instructions to computers and other machines, allowing paralyzed people to communicate, move around and control their environment literally without moving a muscle.”
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Very interesting article. I’ve tried something like that and it was quite the experience. We are getting closer and closer to science fiction here. Soon we’ll have the powered battle armor from Starship Troopers and direct neural links to control our vehicles. And best of all, people whose bodies won’t let them communicate the way most of us can will be able to.

Yahoo! News – Oil Platforms May Be Used for Fish Farms

April 4, 2005

Yahoo! News – Oil Platforms May Be Used for Fish Farms: “By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS – Thousands of oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico could be converted into deep-sea fish farms raising red snapper, mahi mahi, yellow fin tuna and flounder, under a plan backed by the Bush administration.”

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If Bush is backing it, you know it has to be in the best interest of the environment. On the up-side though, there is a good chance the fish will mutate horribly, crawl up on the platform and wreak havok leading to a runaway bestseller with lucrative movie rights.

Yahoo! News – NASA Turns to Mexican Lake for Clues to Alien Life

April 4, 2005

Yahoo! News – NASA Turns to Mexican Lake for Clues to Alien Life: “By Tim Gaynor

CUATRO CIENEGAS, Mexico (Reuters) – With cobalt waters harboring eerie, coral-like formations, this archipelago of lakes in Mexico’s searing Chihuahuan desert has always had an other-worldly appearance.

Now top researchers at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration say the calcified clumps of primitive bacteria lurking in its pools could provide important clues in their search for extraterrestrial life.

The network of 170 cactus-ringed lagoons around the town of Cuatro Cienegas have intrigued evolutionary biologists for decades because their fish, snail and turtle species rival the Galapagos Islands in their uniqueness.

Scientists from NASA’s Astrobiology Institute have begun studying the lakes’ ancient formations called stromatolites — rock structures formed by layers of algae that trap silt. Conditions within the stromatolites are similar to those that prevailed on Earth for more than 2 billion years before the dinosaurs evolved.

Studying their organisms could help NASA identify the unique atmospheric conditions created by primitive life on planets orbiting nearby stars and help settle the question of whether we are alone in the universe.

‘They may be our best example of what to look for on other planets,’ said Brad Bebout, a researcher at the NASA Ames Research Center, as he prepared to harvest methane belched out by the organisms in a shallow blue-green pool.

‘Most of the time that life has been on Earth, this is what it looked like, not like the plants and animals that you see around you now,’ he added.”
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I always knew there were strange new worlds to explore down south of here…