Thursday, December 27, 2007

Science/technology roundup

Google offering to help universities use massive computing power, through networks of computers working in tandem, called 'cloud computing': What is Google's cloud? It's a network made of hundreds of thousands, or by some estimates 1 million, cheap servers, each not much more powerful than the PCs we have in our homes. It stores staggering amounts of data, including numerous copies of the World Wide Web. This makes search faster, helping ferret out answers to billions of queries in a fraction of a second. Unlike many traditional supercomputers, Google's system never ages. When its individual pieces die, usually after about three years, engineers pluck them out and replace them with new, faster boxes. This means the cloud regenerates as it grows, almost like a living thing.

These huge databases of scientific information could, amazingly, eventually rival the web in size.

Brain Science: Stimulating just one neuron can be enough to affect learning and behaviour, researchers have found. The results, published this week by Nature, conflict with the long-held notion that many neurons — in the order of thousands — are required to generate a behavioural reaction.

Unfortunately that is the full extent of the information on that link, unless you have a subscription to Nature. It really is amazing information though. Rather than the whole brain being like a computer, it suggests that each neuron is like a little computer.

Physics lectures online: Walter H. G. Lewin, 71, a physics professor, has long had a cult following at M.I.T. And he has now emerged as an international Internet guru, thanks to his videotaped physics lectures, free online on the OpenCourseWare of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

New trends for 2008: Are these strange new products about to win us over? Or is the world of the ‘trendspotter’ a lot of nonsense?

Top 10 coolest laptop concepts

18th Century communications: More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an aeroplane – wireless and without need for electricity.

Where are the aliens?: As our sciences mature, and as the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continues to fail, the Great Silence becomes louder than ever. The seemingly empty cosmos is screaming out to us that something is askew.

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