Science & Technology

Magic Wand

France: Brittany's ancient stones said to be erected by giants, haunted by fairies

Carnac, France - The rows of ancient standing stones stretch more than 900 metres amid the rolling countryside of southern Brittany.

Jutting out of the ground in a variety of bizarre shapes - some look like whale heads covered with moss and lichen, others like abstract sculptures carved by the wind and rain over the millennia - the nearly 1,100 stones form an extraordinary panorama.

©Corel Photography
This is photograph of the rows and rows of standing stones, Menhirs, in Carnac.
Black Cat

Machines To Achieve Human-level Artificial Intelligence By 2029?

Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted.

Humanity is on the brink of advances that will see tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent said engineer Ray Kurzweil.

He said machines and humans would eventually merge through devices implanted in the body to boost intelligence and health.

Comment: What Ray Kurzweil seems to fail to realize, for whatever unknown reasons, is that there are at least two kinds of "humans" on the planet today. One has a conscience and the other does not. Therefore to think that machines could somehow be programmed to include 'emotional intelligence' is probably incredibly short-sighted. Without a significant seed of a soul any 'emotional intelligence' would probably turn out to be nothing more than a complex set of programs that vastly pale in comparison to a genuine human being's conscience. Therefore it's likely that such machines could become sociopathic if not not psychopathic.

The potential for such nanotech is incredibly scary. Imagine waking up one day as your normal self. Then you have a glass of water, unaware that you've just swallowed water containing nanotech that will transform you into who knows what...

When psychopaths have complete control of nearly everything - as they certainly do in today's world - any technological advances will surely be used to their advantage, especially if that technology can be used to take control of those of us who have a conscience.


Top Scientists Want Research Free From Politics

Boston - Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday to make sure the next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important environmental and health research.

The Spinning Magnet Of A Sun-Like Star

An international group of astronomers that includes the University of Hawaii's Evgenya Shkolnik reported today that they have discovered that the sun-like star tau Bootis flipped its magnetic field from north to south sometime during the last year.

star tau Bootis
©Karen Teramura (UH IfA)
The magnetic field of the sun-like star tau Bootis has flipped its north and south poles, the first time this has been observed in a star other than our sun. The shortened cycle of this event may be due to interactions with its nearby massive planet.

New Approach May Render Disease-causing Staph Harmless

Researchers at the University of Illinois helped lead a collaborative effort to uncover a completely new treatment strategy for serious Staphylococcus aureus ("Staph") infections. The research, published Feb. 14 online in Science, comes at a time when strains of antibiotic-resistant Staph (known as MRSA, for methicillin-resistant S. aureus) are spreading in epidemic proportions in hospital and community settings.

Staph study
©Michael Hudock
U. of I. graduate student Fenglin Yin worked with Oldfield on the study.

Superconducting Surprise: Better Understanding Could Bring 'Endless Applications'

MIT physicists have taken a step toward understanding the puzzling nature of high-temperature superconductors, materials that conduct electricity with no resistance at temperatures well above absolute zero.

If superconductors could be made to work at temperatures as high as room temperature, they could have potentially limitless applications. But first, scientists need to learn much more about how such materials work.

Using a new method, the MIT team made a surprising discovery that may overturn theories about the state of matter in which superconducting materials exist just before they start to superconduct.

©Kamalesh Chatterjee
In this topographic image of a superconductor, some of the superconductor's atoms have been replaced with lead atoms.

'Pessimism and anger' over science funding crisis

The Royal Astronomical Society has talked of the "deep pessimism and anger" caused by funding cuts that it says will jeopardise university physics.

The recently established Science and Technology Facilities Council, STFC, has abandoned involvement in a telescope, high-energy gamma-ray astronomy and ground-based studies of the Sun's effect on the Earth amid a range of budget slashing that has been caused by an £80 million shortfall.

Comment: In order to have a better understanding in the issues involved, and how they are seen by the scientists themselves - see the Comments on the BBC News story "UK physics has a 'brighter future'"

Magic Wand

Can they make you invisible?

Roger Highfield talks to the British scientists who have found a way to make microscopic objects vanish

quantum conjurers
Quantum conjurers from Imperial College London: Dr Mark Frogley and Prof Chris Phillips

It sounds like magic: walls, curtains, even dresses could be rendered transparent by bathing them in a specially crafted beam of light. Rescuers could use the beam to peer through rubble after an earthquake, while doctors could gaze at a damaged lung after making a patient's skin and ribs vanish.

The Enduring Mystery of Light

It goes through walls, but slows to a standstill in ultra-cold gases. It carries electronic information for radios and TVs, but destroys genetic information in cells. It bends around buildings and squeezes through pinholes, but ricochets off tiny electrons.

It's light. And although we know it primarily as the opposite of darkness, most of light is not visible to our eyes. From low energy radio waves to high energy gamma rays, light zips around us, bounces off us, and sometimes goes through us.

How Writing Changed the World

Each Monday, this column turns a page in history to explore the discoveries, events and people that continue to affect the history being made today.

Humans had been speaking for a couple hundred thousand years before they got the inspiration or nerve to mark their ideas down for posterity.

But when a Mesopotamian people called the Sumerians finally did scratch out a few bookkeeping symbols on clay tablets 5,000 years ago, they unknowingly started a whole new era in history we call, well ... history.

Comment: It should be noted that female scribes were very common. According to the book "When God Was a Woman", by Merlin Stone:
"The Epic of Gilgamesh reveals that the official scribe of the Sumerian heaven was a woman, while the initial invention of writing was credited to a goddess."