Home » Innovation Watch Newsletter 2.01 – January 11, 2003

Innovation Watch Newsletter 2.01 – January 11, 2003

SCIENCE

Gene-Engineered Rice Withstands Drought, Salt Water – [ABC] Scientists said they had genetically engineered rice to withstand drought, salt water and cold temperatures by borrowing a gene from the E. coli bacteria. They hope the new stress-tolerant rice will help farmers in poor countries grow more food under the worst conditions.

Time for a New Pair of Genes? – [Wired] Bioethicists say changing the DNA of future generations in order to correct genetic diseases raises serious ethical questions, and the National Institutes of Health has funded a study to evaluate when, if at all, hereditary genetic changes might be appropriate.

Scientists Uncover the Genetic Code of Mice – [Christian Science Monitor] Scientists announced that they have mapped the genetic code for mice, an accomplishment second in importance only to the mapping of the human genome itself.

Tiny Transistors Lift Lid on Cell Life – [Nature] Silicon sensors show cell’s molecular machinery working in real time.

Scientists Find Biological Clock Protein – [UPI] The biological clock that keeps time for almost every activity within living creatures turns out to be a single protein, Purdue University researchers have reported.

Most Distant Planet Found – [BBC] Astronomers have discovered the most distant known planet, a hot Jupiter-class world closely orbiting a star about 5,000 light-years away.

Beer Belly ‘Gene’ Found – [BBC] Genetic make-up could be to blame for the beer belly. Scientists have found that men with a certain gene variation have a tendency to get a flabby stomach.

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TECHNOLOGY

Brainless Robots Likely to Work Well – [Washington Times] A self-willed, 6-pound Frisbee on wheels probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vacuuming the house, but that could change. Which shows that robots may be better if they’re, well, sort of dumb.

Humanoid Robots: Companions or Just Costly Toys? – [Japan Times] In the 1950s, Astro Boy drew on his 100,000 horsepower and hip-mounted machineguns to fight evil-doers. Despite his supposed April 7, 2003, birthday, however, the creation of robots the likes of Astro will probably remain a superhero pipe dream forever.

Data Stored in Multiplying Bacteria – [New Scientist] A message encoded as artificial DNA can be stored within the genomes of multiplying bacteria and then accurately retrieved, US scientists have shown.

‘Gadget Printer’ Promises Industrial Revolution – [New Scientist] The idea of printing a light bulb may seem bizarre, but US engineers are now developing an ink-jet printing technology to do just that. The research at the University of California in Berkeley will allow fully assembled electric and electronic gadgets to be printed in one go.

The Network is the Battlefield – [Business Week] The Pentagon’s aim is to meld weapons systems and people into a whole, called network-centric warfare, that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Organ on the Wall – [Mechanical Engineering] An English doctor consults a four-foot, sliceable, movable image of a patient’s liver while operating on the real thing.

Automatons Acting on Attitudes – [ABC News] Researchers develop robots that react to human emotions. The line between man and machine is becoming less distinct as technology evolves.

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BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS

AOL May Write Down Billions Again – [c|net] AOL Time Warner is expected to write off several billion dollars — on top of the record $54 billion charge it took last year — increasing the strain on its balance sheet, analysts and investors say.

All Together Now – [Context] The author argues that major innovations such as the Internet take shape in waves of cooperation — and that it’s high time for us to work in unison again.

What Should I Do With My Life? – [Fast Company] Over the course of two years, a celebrated novelist and business writer listened to the life stories of more than 900 people who had decided to be honest with themselves. What he found was a way to get back to what matters — and the makings of a new era for business.

Illegal Music Sites ‘Here to Stay’ – [BBC] Illegal music download sites will never be eradicated, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has admitted.

China Comes of Age for Foreign Companies – [SMH] The Asian giant need not be a financial black hole: some Western firms are doing big business. KFC opens a new store in China every other day, all funded by profits in that market

Preview 2003 – [Washington Business Forward] Preconceptions, predictions and premonitions on the year ahead.

A Firefight Over Burning DVDs – [Business Week] 321 Studios’ software is simple to use. But the movie industry wants it off the market.

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SOCIETY AND POLITICS

Climate for Giving has been Chilly This Year – [USA Today] It’s the season for giving – but not like we used to. Charities across the USA report holiday contributions off significantly, largely the result of a sluggish economy. Making things worse: That soft economy also is driving up demand for shelter, food, counseling and other social services.

India Says ‘No’ to Food Aid from US – [India Express] India has disallowed shipment of food aid from the United States suspecting it of having genetically modified (GM) contents. According to Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh, the country has yet to take a decision on the import of GM foods.

Living with a Superpower – [Economist] Some values are held in common by America and its allies. As three studies show, many others are not.

Personalized Medicine’s Bitter Pill – [Technology Review] Drugs tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup promise to be safer and more effective, but they raise tricky economic and ethical questions.

Americans Give Thumbs-Up to Biometrics – [Register] Most Americans are willing to accept increased use of biometric technologies by private sector firms, providing proper privacy safeguards are applied.

Students Facing Computer Test for Plagiarized Work – [Ananova] British students are facing a new test following the introduction of a national computer system that identifies copied work. Academics at all British universities and colleges can now use the Plagiarism Advisory Service, which is based at the University of Northumbria.

Huge Increase in Gun Use as Crime Figures Soar – [Independent] Gun crime in England and Wales soared by 35 per cent last year and criminals used handguns in nearly 50 per cent more offences, Home Office figures revealed.

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ENVIRONMENT

Wind Farms Face Green Resistance – [CBS] Proposals to build windmills off the Atlantic coast are meeting with resistance from environmentalists who might be expected to support an alternative, "clean" energy source.

Next Generation Solar Cells Could Put Power Stations in Space – [Science Daily] Someday, large-scale solar power stations in space could beam electricity to the surface of the moon, the earth and other planets, decreasing our dependence on a dwindling fossil-fuel supply. Scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology are developing the next generation of solar cells, advancing the technology that could put a solar power system into earth’s orbit.

French Seek Oil Spill Compensation – [BBC] Two local authorities in south-west France are seeking compensation for oil damage incurred by the sinking of the tanker Prestige off the coast of Spain. Oil from the tanker has devastated the Atlantic coast of Spain and France and its precious fishing industries.

US Senate Bill Would Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions – [ENS] A bipartisan bill introduced in a U.S. Senate hearing would attempt to curb global warming by establishing a market based trading system in greenhouse gas emissions.

Drought Deprives 11 Million Ethiopians of Food – [ENS] More than 11 million people in Ethiopia are facing serious food shortages and possible starvation, following a long dry spell that led to a poor harvest in many parts of the country, says a joint report released by two United Nations agencies. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) say poor rains that came late and ended early are the main cause of grain production that fell 25 percent below last year’s harvest.

Panel: Skeptical Environmentalist Perverted Message – [ENS] An official Danish scientific ethics panel has ruled that Bjorn Lomborg "perverted the scientific message" in his book "The Sceptical Environmentalist," which disputes the seriousness of many key environmental problems.

Global Warming Will Bring Increased Costs to Communities – [Stuff] More droughts, floods and higher temperatures predicted for most parts of New Zealand as a result of global warming will mean significant costs for communities, climate change experts say.

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THE FUTURE

The World Question Center – [Edge] "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?" — GWB. Says John Brockman, "I wish the above was really an email from President Bush. It is not. It’s the set-up for this year’s Edge Annual Question — 2003, and because this event receives wide attention from the scientific community and the global press, the responses it evokes just might have the same effect as a memo to the President… that is, if you stick to science and to those scientific areas where you have expertise." Members of the Edge community respond.

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