February 21, 2005

Links for Feb 21/05

Is a Trans Bunny Art? (NeoFiles)
R.U. Sirius interviews Eduardo Kac, the artist who created a biologically altered green fluorescent rabbit as an element of an art project.

The Five-Billion-Star Hotel (Popular Science)
Need to get away from it all? Popular Science presents an exclusive tour of CSS Skywalker, an orbital resort that's a lot closer to reality than you might think.

Therapy, Enhancement and the Augmented Society (World Changing)
Global warming isn't the only topic being discussed at this week's AAAS meeting. University of Pittsburgh researchers at the conference announced a significant step forward in the development of functional-replacement artificial limbs. They created a simple artificial arm which can be controlled by neural impulses directly from the brain, via a series of extremely thin implanted probes. A test monkey (its healthy real arms restrained) was able to learn to move the prosthetic arm with sufficient precision to be able to feed itself. Or, rather, the monkey and the arm co-learned: the monkey learned how to control the arm, and the arm's software learned what the various brain signals meant. The next step will be to create more complex hands and fingers for the artificial arm, and ultimately to make neurally-controlled prosthetics available to humans with missing or paralyzed limbs

UN Committee Approves Cloning Ban (Nature)
After three years of deadlock, a United Nations legal committee has recommended that member nations should be urged to ban all forms of human cloning. The decision undermines efforts to develop medical treatments with stem cells, scientists say.

Blast Affected Earth From Halfway Across The Milky Way (Space Daily)
Forget "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds." A monstrous cosmic explosion last December showed that the earth is in more danger from real-life space threats than from hypothetical alien invasions.

What makes a quantum computer so different (and so much faster) than a conventional computer? (SciAm)
Hans Robinson, assistant professor of physics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, explains.

"Evolving to Eat Mush": How Meat Changed Our Bodies (National Geographic)
Meat-eating is why our teeth grow crooked, why our jaws are small, and why we're relatively good at processing cholesterol, research shows.

[via Robots.net]: Artificial Life - Real or Simulation?
If you run a computer program that models the weather, most people would agree that it is just a simulation. There is no real weather inside your computer. But what happens when you start your word processor? Is it really a word processor or just a simulation of a word processor? Most people would say it was real, not a simulation. So, how about AI or artificial life: real or a simulation? In the case of artificial life, how do we know whether or not something is simulated or real? Is there a point at which a model of life becomes so life-like that it ceases to be a model and becomes alive? A new paper (PDF format) by Jean-Philippe Rennard proposes some new ways to think about this and suggests that a paradigm shift may be needed before we can really answer the questions involved.

World On Vege of Deadly Pandemic, US Official Says (Globe & Mail)
Washington — The Earth may be on the brink of a worldwide epidemic from a bird flu virus that may mutate to become as deadly and infectious as viruses that killed millions during three influenza pandemics of the 20th century, a federal health official said Monday. Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said scientists expect that a flu virus that has swept through chickens and other poultry in Asia will genetically change into a flu that can be transmitted from person to person. The genes of the avian flu change rapidly, she said, and experts believe it is highly likely that the virus will evolve into a pathogen deadly for humans.

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