FDA Approves Brain Stem Cell Transplant

Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells

On Thursday of last week the FDA approved the first transplant of fetal stem cells into human brains. The first recipients will be children who suffer from a rare and fatal genetic disorder, but if the procedure is successful it could be the first step in making great strides toward treating, curing, and possibly preventing several more common different neurological diseases.

The procedures will be performed by doctors at Stanford University Medical Center on six children suffering from Batten disease. Batten disease is a fatal genetic disease of the nervous system that begins in childhood. The inflicted suffer from visual problems, mental impairment, and seizures, leaving them blind, bedridden, and demented. Most die in their late teens or early twenties.

Continue reading

The World’s Smallest Car


Y. Shira/Rice University

LiveScience.com is reporting that scientists at Rice University have invented the world’s smallest car. At a mere 4 nanometers wide, the car is able to roll on its buckyball wheels. While other teams have been able to make vehicle-shaped nano machines, this car is the first to actually roll versus sliding along the surface as was proved using STM analysis. The next goal for scientists is to build nano trucks able to carry molecules around in mini factories.

Read the full article here: “The World’s Smallest Car.”

Linux Powers Robotic Dairy System

Cow being milked

DeLaval, a 122 year old dairy equipment company, offers the Voluntary Milking System (VMS), an embedded Linux-controlled, robotic cow-milking system. What sets this system apart is that the process is entirely automated, and the cows themselves decide when they are ready to be milked. The VMS stands to revolutionize dairy farming as it is able to milk a herd of 60 cows three times a day with little to no human intervention, freeing the farmers to focus on other tasks.

Continue reading

Why Habits are Hard to Break

A forthcoming article in Nature explains how recent experiments by researchers at MIT have shed some light on why sometimes habits seem to be broken but never truly die. Scientists have discovered that with the proper stimulus a dormant habit can be retrieved from memory and once again influence a subject’s behavior.

Continue reading

Robots and Smart Devices in IT

Computerworld.com is reporting on some of the predictions coming out of this week’s Gartner IT Expo. Specifically, experts are predicting that robots and “sensor-rich” devices may soon play a major role in IT. Jackie Fenn, a Gartner analyst, believes that IT products will get smarter in the coming years. Integrating arrays of sensors to monitor properties and operating conditions, they will be able to communicate back through the network their status, usage, and even if they have been damaged. Gartner suggests this will allow businesses to actually charge their customers based on how they use a particular piece of equipment. His example is that of an auto insurance company that has access to actual driver performance data via onboard vehicle sensors.

Continue reading

You Don’t Really Forget

Macaca mulatta in Guiyang

By Einar Fredriksen [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

LiveScience.com published a summary today of a study that will be appearing in the October 20th issue of the journal Neuron regarding associative memories in rhesus monkeys. Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have been trying to determine how associative memory works and have produced some surprising results about what happens neurologically when it would appear that something has been forgotten.

Continue reading

Cyborg Humidity Gauge

BacteriaNature.com has published an article about the work of Ravi Saraf, a chemist from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and his student Vikas Berry in integrating living bacteria into an electrical circuit that is part of a humidity-detecting device. While there have been other instances of circuits built to react to microorganisms, this “cellborg,” as it has been dubbed, is the first time they have actually been built into the circuits themselves. This work has excited many biotechnologists as they see this as the first step towards developing biological computers.

Continue reading

Stanley the Volkswagen Wins Grand Challenge 2005

Stanley the Stanford University Volkswagon

Stanley the Stanford University Volkswagon

The results of Grand Challenge 2005 are in, and Stanley the Volkswagon is the winner! Developed by a team from Stanford University, Stanley was able to complete the 132 mile course through the Mojave Desert in 6 hours and 53 minutes beating 3 other vehicles that were able to make it to the finish line within the 10 hour deadline. A fifth vehicle finished the course but not in time.

Second and third place were both captured by the Carnegie Mellon Red Team. Sandstorm, the Humvee that actually traveled the furthest last year, finished second, and H1ghlander, the Hummer that started in the pole position finished third. Rounding out the group of vehicles completing the challenge on time was Kat-5, a Ford Escape hybrid, designed by a team of students from Louisiana who suffered a severe set back last month when Hurricane Katrina struck, destroying many of their homes and making it impossible for them to practice.

Continue reading

Fast Robot Prototyping

IBM has just published a new article in it’s developerWorks section entitled “Wireless robotics: Fast robot prototyping.” Written by Erik Zoltan, the article approaches robotics development with a “bottom-up” approach, a process during which the subsystems are built and ultimately assembled with no specific goal of what the final robot will look like. Prototyping using this method offers the advantage of working with a system that can very easily and quickly be tweaked: disassembled, reconfigured and rebuilt repeatedly before the final design is settled on, and the robot is built in a sturdier more permanent way with more durable materials.

Continue reading

Funding for Robotics R&D Urged by EU Commissioner

Europe, home to many cutting-edge robotics projects, could fall behind the rest of the world if funding for such programs fails to keep pace over the next several years suggests Viviane Reding, an EU Commissioner of information society and media issues. She is asking both government bodies and private industry to act quickly in order to secure Europe’s place as a leader and pioneer of robotics research.

Continue reading