Chad’s Links #11 – May 28th, 2006

This Week’s News

The space elevator: going down? – Wires of carbon nanotubes are being touted as the best bet for a space elevator, but one scientist contends it will be impossible to manufacture a perfect nanotube for the required length (some 100,000 kilometers). The expected defects will reduce the strength of the fiber such that it won’t be strong enough to serve as an elevator. My response to this is quite simple: go read Clarke’s First Law.

Sexual ornaments grow out of all proportion – In a study of 284 species, sexual ornaments, such as a peacock’s feathers, grow out of proportion to the rest of the body. While most of the body grows at a fairly consistent rate, the sexual ornaments grow at a larger rate. I’m not sure if humans were part of the study, as our “ornaments” tend to remain hidden.

The Brain Holds the Keys to Unlock ‘Lost’ Memories – Brain scans show the brain remembers words in a list, even when the conscious mind doesn’t. This still doesn’t mean that hypnosis works, but it could help with the creation of a better lie detector.

Brain Waves Make Robot Move (link2) – Subjects were placed in an MRI machine and asked to move their hands, causing different MRI patterns for each movement. After the learning period, a robotic hand was able to recognize these patterns and make similar movements, controlled by thought alone. The real trick for a useful prosthetic, however, will be shrinking an MRI down to portable size.

Using DNA to make metal wires – Using DNA to assemble at the nano-scale is a good way to make up for the lack of cellular construction machinery. But it’s inadequate. I remember reading a recent article where a team was going to investigate various plants to see if they made medically-useful chemicals. In the perfect world, we’d be able to sythesize any molecular compound from scratch rather than relying on nature. I’m waiting for the day when we can manually create DNA, bacteria, viruses, food, etc. from the component elements.

…And Stuff That’s Just Plain Interesting

Chicken and egg debate unscrambled – The egg came first.