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Sunday, May 30, 2004

NYPD Blue on Big Screen
With millions of emergency calls every year, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) decided to invest in a new command and visualization center in order to keep up with the ocean of data it has to deal with. According to this article from BusinessWeek Online, the display system consists of hundreds of Mitsubishi digital light-processing (DLP) monitors covering three walls.

The NYPD thinks it will help it to also manage the hundreds of thousands of annual arrest records and to further reduce crime in the city. You'll find more details and references in this overview, which includes impressive pictures of former visualization centers built by Imtech, which will integrate the NYPD one.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:43 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Robotic Space Workers of the Future
In an article named "Puckish robots pull together," Nature describes the work done at the Polymorphic Robotics Laboratory (PRL) of the University of Southern California on self-reconfigurable teams of robots. There, Wei-Min Shen and his colleagues simulate the absence of gravity by creating a 2D representation of space by using an 'air-hockey table.'

With jets of air flow blowing on the surface, the 30 cm-wide robots, working in pairs, evolve in a frictionless environment, pick elements such as girders to assemble structures like if they were in space. NASA will use these teams of autonomous robots to build space systems like 10 km-long arrays of solar panels and other huge spatial structures.

You'll find more details, illustrations and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:02 PM Comments (0)
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Welcome to the Mojave Spaceport
The Mojave Airport is expected to be certified next month as spaceport to handle non-federal space missions of reusable spacecrafts. This article from SPACE.com says that the site is already home for several suborbital projects. For example, the SpaceShipOne from Scaled Composites or the EZ-Rocket from XCOR Aerospace are launched from the Mojave Airport.

If you want to visit the future spaceport, please note it is also home of the Voyager Restaurant where you could eat a "SpaceShipOne" (ham and eggs) for $5.75. Just fly in to these coordinates: Lat. 35° 03.56' N, Long. 118° 09.11'W, Elev. 2791 feet.

You'll find more details and a picture of one spacecraft flying over a wind farm in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:58 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Would You Like to Save $438 Billion a Year?
It should be easy to do, according to this report from Cornell University, "Low hydrocarbon diet." Like some of us change diet to lose some weight, we also should change the way we're using fossil fuels.

David Pimentel, Cornell professor of ecology, and his students, write that stopping subsidies to the energy industries will stimulate energy conservation. They estimate that the U.S. could reduce their energy consumption by 33 percent in ten years if the policies evolve, resulting in annual savings of $438 billion. You'll find the arguments of these ecologists in this summary.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:26 PM Comments (0)
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Nanobatteries Are Coming
Let's face it. Our computing devices are going faster year after year. But our laptop batteries don't show the same performance improvement. They still work only for a few hours, just a little bit more than ten years ago. Several companies want to change this, according to this UPI report, "Nanotechnology improving energy options."

For example, mPhase Technologies plans to introduce smart batteries based on millions of silicon nanotube electrodes. These nanobatteries, to be introduced before the end of 2005, will last longer than traditional ones.

Meanwhile, Konarka Technologies wants to reduce the weight of batteries with its flexible solar-fueled nanobatteries. You'll find more details and pictures in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:19 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Take the (NASA) A-Train
The "A-Train" satellite formation consists of six satellites flying in close proximity in a near future. The first one, Aqua, was launched in 2002. The second one, Aura, will be launched in June 2004, while CloudSAT, CALIPSO and PARABOL will start their missions in October 2004. The last one, OCO, will join them in 2006. The individual missions and the A-Train formation are described in this paper, "Formation Flying: The Afternoon 'A-Train' Satellite Constellation" (PDF format, 6 pages, 263 KB).

The satellites will cross the equator within a few minutes of one another at around 1:30 p.m. local time. By combining the different sets of observations, scientists will be able to gain a better understanding of important parameters related to climate change.

A pretty interesting image of the A-Train formation in the sky is featured in this long overview, which also contains descriptions, images and links to the different satellites, and what they are supposed to tell us -- if they can successfully fly harmoniously in a coordinated formation.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:25 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, May 24, 2004

Now in Mindjack
Will Digital Radio Be Napsterized? by J.D. Lasica
The Recording Industry Assocation of America has discovered that digital radio broadcasts can be copied and redistributed over the Internet. The horror. And so the RIAA, the music business's trade and lobbying group, has asked the Federal Communications Commission to step in and impose an "audio broadcast flag" on certain forms of digital radio.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:10 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, May 23, 2004

When Will You Board An Airship?
Hokan Colting founded his Canadian company, 21st Century Airships Inc., in 1988 to build lighter-than-air crafts, such as balloons and airships. He recently gave an interview to New Scientist.

In this conversation, he speaks about his latest spherical airship with which he reached a record altitude of 6,234 meters in June 2003. He says that his spherical airships are safe, reliable and need less space to land than cigar-shaped ones. He envisions that his airships will soon be used to carry wireless communications and for surveillance missions. He also wants to circle the world in a non-stop flight as early as next year.

Finally, he says that his airships will be used for sightseeing rides, such as photo safaris in Africa. You'll find selected excepts from his interview in this overview, which also includes pictures and more references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:18 PM Comments (0)
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What to Wear on Mars
If men ever land on Mars, what will they wear to protect them from radiation, micrometeors and the very cold climate? Several students from the University of Alberta tackled the problem and designed space suits for Mars.

Their prototype suit is composed of twelve layers of materials, including one made from Demron, a new nanotechnology material developed by a Florida-based company, Radiation Shield Technologies. The students and their professor, Dr. Barry Patchett, think their suit will largely be ready before real missions to Mars start in about twenty years.

They also hope that NASA will pick their design. More details and references are available in this overview, including some illustrations.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:15 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, May 21, 2004

Evolution Trains Robot Teams: Meet the EvBots
If the theory of evolution has worked well for us -- even if this is arguable these days -- why not apply it to mobile robots?, asks Technology Research News. Several U.S. researchers just did that and trained neural networks to play the Capture the flag game. Once the neural networks were good enough at the game, they transferred them to the robots' onboard computers. These teams of mobile robots, named EvBots (for Evolution Robots), were then also able to play the game successfully.

This method could be used to build environment-aware autonomous robots able to clear a minefield or find heat sources in a collapsed building within 3 to 6 years. But the researchers want to build controllers for robots that adapt to completely unknown environments. And this will not happen before 10 or maybe 50 years. You'll find more details and references in this overview, including a picture of EvBots trying to find their way during a game.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:27 PM Comments (1)
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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Will BioCDs Catch Diseases?
A revolution in medical testing will soon come to a doctor's office near you, thanks to a simple CD player. A team of Purdue University scientists led by physicist David Nolte devised a method to create analog CDs which will be able to screen thousands of proteins in your blood for potential diseases while you wait. You will no longer have to wait for weeks before getting the results provided by a specialized lab.

Still, expect a few years before this technology comes to your physician's office. In "BioCDS could hit No. 1 on doctors' charts," Nolte says that "it will be at least 10 years before doctors have Bio-CDs at their disposal." You'll find more details, pictures and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:42 PM Comments (0)
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The Match of the Space Telescopes: Hubble vs. Webb
As reports Forbes in "Peering Back At The Universe's Past," space telescopes are really acting as time machines. They can watch objects which are so far from us that light has taken billions of years before reaching their mirrors. The Hubble telescope is able to look at events that took place 13.3 billion light-years ago.

But the James E. Webb space telescope, currently under construction, and scheduled to be launched in 2011, will be able to see even further and catch phenomena which happened 13.5 billion light-years ago. The astronomers think the Webb telescope might even be able to see up to 13.7 billion light-years ago, when our universe was just 200 or 300 million years old.

We are used to see fantastic images from Hubble, without paying too much attention to the characteristics of the telescope itself. So here is a thorough comparison between the two space telescopes.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:36 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

China Cancels Moon Mission
CNN reports that China has abandoned plans for a manned moon mission due to costs. However, it still plans to build a manned space station by 2020 and conduct a lunar orbiting program. (via Slashdot)
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 5:41 PM Comments (0)
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Something Special in the Air
WiFi access successfully launched on a flight from Germany to LA Monday. The passengers shared a 5Mb/sec download link and a 1Mb/sec upload link for a mere $10 per 30 minutes or $30 for the flight. This sounded steep until I read that the previous services charged as much as $16 per email when using the seatback equipment. This certainly gives the name AirSnort more meaning.
:: posted by Doug, 3:39 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, May 17, 2004

Now in Mindjack
VRML creator and all-around visionary Mark Pesce joins Mindjack this issue with Redefining Television, an insightful examination of the state and future of the medium.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 11:13 PM Comments (0)
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The Arrival of the 'Plogs'
No, it's not a typo. A plog is short for 'project log' like a blog is short for 'weblog' or 'web log.' And plogs start to be used as tools to manage projects, especially in the IT world, as discovered Michael Schrage of the MIT. He reports his findings in an article published by CIO Magazine, "The Virtues of Chitchat." Schrage found that if plogs are not really commonplace, they're not exactly rare. And they are even used to manage large IT projects, such ERP rollouts.

I totally agree with him that a plog is of great value to integrate people in a team or to keep track of the advancement of a project. And you, what's your view? If you're a project manager, do you use a plog for better control? And if not today, will you use one in the future?

This overview contains selected excerpts from Schage's article which will help you to answer the above questions.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:24 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Shopping Carts Used to Create a DNA Sculpture
The U.K. supermarket chain Somerfield decided last year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA in an original way. It commissioned British artist Abigail Fallis to create a sculpture of a DNA double helix made of shopping carts and to display it during the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign of 2004.

The sculpture, named DNA DL90, is 31 feet high and weighs more than three tons. It is on display since April 2004 at "Sculpture at Goodwood," the 21st century British sculpture park in Surrey. This photo gallery contains several pictures of this original artwork.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:24 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 15, 2004

(Nano) Body Building
In this article from Backbone Magazine, Douglas Mulhall, author of "Our Molecular Future" tells us about the future of nanomedicine. He thinks that medical diagnosis will be the first successful steps, involving nanorobots which will raise alerts when they detect pre-cancerous cells.

And twenty years from now, researchers envision that nanomedicine will be a trillion dollar industry. Around 2025, you'll pay $1,000 a year for a nanopill that will extend your life by suppressing heart attacks, diabetes and other diseases.

Other scientists say that nanotechnology will be used to build synthetic bone and tissue, an opinion shared by Scientific American, which warns that growing replacement organs is still at least another 10 to 20 years in front of us.

More details and references are available in this overview focused on how nanomedicine is going to totally take over healthcare in the 21st century.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:39 PM Comments (0)
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The World's First Origami Folding Robot
Devin Balkcom, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student in robotics, has built the world's first origami-folding robot as the subject of his thesis. Origami, the geometry of paper folding, looks simple when you're a kid. But it's actually quite challenging to design a robot to do it. Movements are quite complex, and paper, because it is flexible, is difficult to be manipulated by a robot.

This news release says that the project uses kinematics, the study of mechanisms, to determine how folding is done and how paper can be treated as a flexible and rigid material. You'll find more details and references in this overview, including some frames extracted from videos showing the robot at work.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:35 PM Comments (0)
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The ButtKicker Will Rock Your Chair
Walter Mossberg, from the Wall Street Journal, has found a new $150 gadget to enhance video gaming and music listening. The ButtKicker Gamer is a device that you attach to the bottom of your chair and emits sound waves from your favorite games or music. These sound waves send vibrations through your body, starting from the bottom up. Mossberg gives us his impressions in this article (paid registration needed).

He tells us that male testers enjoyed more the gadget than female ones. He also says that it is more an enhancement to videogames than to music. You'll find more details and references in this overview, including a photograph of this new gadget.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:31 PM Comments (0)
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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Sweet Smell of Wine
Cosmetics companies and retail malls have discovered the power of smell a long time ago. It can evoke emotions or trigger your buying decision. Several attempts have been made to add this sense of smell to e-mail messages or Internet browsing, but with a very limited success. Now, a new initiative targets wine lovers. On the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) booth at next month Londonís Wine and Spirits Fair, visitors "will be able to smell the many aromas from Burgundyís wine region over the internet," reports the Scotsman in "Delicate aroma of wine from a computer near you."

When the user is connected, a special software recognized certain tags when clicked upon and releases specific fragrances from a hand-held diffuser attached to the computer. These devices should be available on the consumer market by the end of this year. You'll find more details and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 5:50 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Webby Award Winners
The 2004 Webby Award Winners have been announced. A special congratulations to Mindjack pal Derek Powazek and everyone at Fray for a well-deserved win in the print and zines category.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:43 PM Comments (0)
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Proba Sees the Great Wall of China from Space
When Yang Liwei, the first taikonaut, orbited 14 times around Earth in October 2003, he didn't see the Great Wall of China from his Shenzhou V capsule. He was disappointed, and so were his countrymen. China said for decades that the Great Wall was the only manmade object visible from space. So, the Chinese government was tempted to modify the schoolbooks to remove this reference.

But now, Proba, the polyvalent satellite launched in 2001 by the European Space Agency (ESA), was able to capture images of the Great Wall from space taken at an altitude of 600 km.

As a practical consequence, millions of books will not have to be printed again, saving probably a large forest. You'll find more details and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:24 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Sony's Handheld PlayStation

Also announced at E3 today is Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP). The specs are impressive: 4.3 inch widescreen TFT display, 32MB of main RAM, and a 333mhz processor. It also has a wireless port, USB and a rechargable lithium iom battery that promises 10 hours of play time. No price was announced, however, and it won't be available in North America until early next year. Gamesindustry.biz has more details.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:52 PM Comments (0)
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Nintendo DS Unveiled

Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo DS at E3 today. The much anticipated handheld console has two screens and is purported to have greater 3D imaging capabilities than the Nintendo 64. It is also compatible with existing GameBoy Advance games. No firm release date has been set but it is promised "before the end of the year".
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 5:17 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, May 10, 2004

Blogger Upgrades
Blogger relaunched today with a slew of new features. As a result, you'll notice a few changes to Mindjack's Daily Relay. Not everything is implemented yet, but you should see better comments, better archiving (each post now has its own page), and probably some other nifty features that I don't even know about.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 5:44 PM Comments (1)
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The Face Detector
Almost all human faces have common characteristics, such as two eyes and one mouth. Still, some people, affected by face blindness, cannot recognize one face from another one. So it's understandable that face recognition is a major challenge for computer vision systems. In "Facing facts in computer recognition,", the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that a team from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute has developed a very accurate software to find faces within images.

By analyzing only 768 pixels, the system can detect 93 percent of the faces in a set of images while falsely identifying four objects as faces. The Face Detector Demo is available online and you can submit an image for analysis and receive the results by e-mail.

The technology will be used for security purposes, but also by digital photography companies who want to automatically reduce "red eye" effects. You'll find more details and references in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:40 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 08, 2004

(Nano) Skin Science
Cosmetics companies are always launching new products. And they are increasingly turning to nanotechnology to improve these new cosmetics. For example, L'Orťal introduced nanocapsules in its products since 1995. These nanocapsules release their active components when the skin's enzymes dissolve their envelopes. Now the company wants to closely look to your individual skin. It has developed a sensor on a chip, the SkinChip, in collaboration with STMicroelectronics. In "Skin Science," ScienCentral News says that the SkinChip takes very detailed images of your skin, up to the nanoscale level.

The company hopes that it will help to tailor its products to individual customers. This overview contains more details and pictures.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 11:29 AM

Friday, May 07, 2004

Storing Three Bits In One Spot
Increasing storage density by packing more than 0 or 1 in a single memory cell is an appealing idea. Now, "researchers from the University of Southern California and NASA have built a prototype molecular memory device that stores three bits in the same spot." Each memory cell is a field-effect transistor (FET) made from a 10-nanometer-diameter indium oxide wire. By applying current to a gate electrode, the nanowire can have eight discrete levels of electrical conductance, therefore representing the eight combinations of 3 bits.

The prototype can retain data for 600 hours and provides a data density of 40 gigabits per square centimeter. The researchers think they can reach a density of 400 gigabits per square centimeter within 5 to 10 years. More details and references are available in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 1:33 PM

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Teacher Suspended for Showing 'Merchants of Cool'
Via Douglas Rushkoff:

A Sandy business teacher is on administrative leave after showing her eighth-grade class an inappropriate video.

The Albion Middle School principal says he received phone calls yesterday from parents whose children told them they watched the video Tuesday.

The documentary called Merchants of Cool depicts American marketing strategies executives use to sell products to teens. The video contained sexuality, violence and foul language.

AP story on KUTV.com
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:31 PM

Is AOL for Sale?
Susan Mernit points to a few stories suggesting Time Warner could sell off AOL sometime this year. UK pub Media Week has the initial report, The New York Daily News follows up saying that while there has been offers for AOL, they're nowhere near the $20 billion Time Warner chairman Dick Parsons is looking for. Time Warner and AOL merged in 2000 in a $350 billion deal.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7:34 PM

A DNA Nanowalker -- or a Nanoworker Robot?
Two chemists from New York University, William B. Sherman and Nadrian C. Seeman, have created a DNA nanowalker with two legs, each one being 10-nanometers long. This nanoscale bipedal robot moves from one pair of anchors -- strands of DNA -- to another one. This is a major breakthrough for nanoscale manufacturing. And New Scientist says this opens the way for future nanoscopic robots that will assemble other nanomachines or manipulate individual molecules.

Obviously, this is still at the experimental stage. Even the researchers don't say when such nanowalkers will be able to do some real work. More details are available in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:43 PM

Proba, the Washing-Machine-Like Satellite
Proba, short for Project for Onboard Autonomy, doesn't look like an ordinary satellite. Launched in 2001 by the European Space Agency (ESA), it has the shape and the size of a washing machine. Located 600 km above our heads, it gathers 14-km square images of the Earth's surface at a resolution of 18 meters with its main instrument, the Compact High Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (CHRIS). And this is a very polyvalent satellite, used for agricultural mapping, water quality monitoring, charting forest fire damage and disaster management.

This overview looks at specific projects which used Proba, such as inspecting trees in Belgium or looking at cotton crops in Australia. And of course, it includes a rendering of Proba in orbit.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 12:39 PM

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I Stand Corrected
When I posted below that old technology never dies, I should have mentioned that it may eventually rot, however. Either through bad manufacturing or mishandling, it's best to remember that CDs are not eternal. A Dutch test showed that some CDs errored after 20 months, let alone 20 years. Best to move your archives onto DVD or a nice 400GB hard drive.
:: posted by Doug, 10:20 PM

Old Technology Never Dies
This article in Wired made me wish I hadn't tossed my two Newtons:

Programmer Mike Manzano maintains his Dumb Blogs Have More Fun mobile blog, or moblog, almost entirely from his Newton MessagePad.

"It's been working out great," said Manzano. "The form factor is just right. It's not too small like a Palm Pilot, and it's not too big like a Microsoft pad computer."
:: posted by Doug, 10:16 PM

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Ein Film Blog Von Donald Melanson
Thanks to the magic of JavaScript you can now read my film blog in Mindjack's Film/DVD section as well as at melanson.ca/movies/.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:47 PM

Quantum Cryptography Flies at 1Mbps
Physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have established a world's speed record for 'unbreakable' encryption with their cryptographic system based on the transmission of single photons. With this kind of method, messages cannot be intercepted without detection, meaning transmission is always safe. The NIST "quantum key distribution" (QKD) system was used between two buildings located 730 meters apart for transmitting a stream of photons at a rate of 1 million bits per second.

This might not look very fast, but it's 100 times faster than with previous quantum distribution systems. This overview contains more details and references about information theory. It also includes a cartoon showing Alice and Bob, as are usually called the sender and the receiver of the streams of photons.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:43 PM

Monday, May 03, 2004

PDAs and Cellphones Can Save Lives
In "Saving Lives With a Simple PDA," FORTUNE looks at how technology can bring changes and benefits to developing countries. The article focuses on bridges.org, a nonprofit consulting firm based in Cape Tow, South Africa. This group consults for governments in Africa as well as for the World Bank on IT-related projects.

In one successful project, doctors in Kenya received Palm handhelds loaded with up-to-date medical reference documents. In another one in South Africa, people affected by tuberculosis receive daily SMS messages in local languages to remind them to take their medications. You'll find more details in this overview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:29 AM

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Paul Saffo on What's Next
In its latest issue, BusinessWeek Magazine publishes a special report, "E-Biz Strikes Again!," which states that after transforming the book, music and travel industries, the Internet is well on its way to deeply affect six more industries, such as jewelry or real estate sales. The online version of this report includes an interview of Paul Saffo from the Institute for the Future, "Trading In A Cloud Of Electrons." In it, Saffo talks about the big changes that the Web has brought to business and culture. He also delivers some provocative thoughts about what's next.

He says that services will replace physical products as business opportunities. For example, he thinks that the auto makers will give you cars for free, making money by selling you lots of services, such as a $30 chip which will transform your car into a Ferrari-class vehicle. This overview contains some selected excerpts of the interview.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 7:31 AM

Saturday, May 01, 2004

New Nano Weapons to Fight Cancer
In this article, the MIT Technology Review says that different new nanotools will help us to diagnose or kill cancerous tumors. 'Nanoshells' invented at Rice University could become an alternative to chemotherapy by killing only cancerous cells after injection into patients' bloodstream. And nanoparticles created at the University of Washington in Seattle could be used to noninvasively diagnose and treat brain tumors. Meanwhile, a biochemist from Brigham Young University has developed "a method for examining mutations in DNA to determine a personís genetic predisposition for developing cancer."

This overview contains more details and a diagram showing how nanoshells are conjugated with antibodies to kill cancerous cells.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 7:38 AM

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