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Starting small: scientist uses viruses as building blocks for new technology

By Deborah Smith, Science Writer

May 3 2003


Angela Belcher is inspired by sea snails. To make their beautiful mother-of-pearl shells, the small creatures have developed a way to stack individual grains of calcium carbonate into layers so that they form a uniquely luminescent and very strong structure.


Dr Belcher, a leading American nanoscientist, also wants to manipulate atoms a few at a time, so she can build up her own completely new materials for use in computers and medical devices and for energy storage.



But how to operate at this microscopic level?


The world first solution that the 35-year-old researcher has hit upon is to get tiny viruses to do the hard yakka for her.


"Scientists didn't invent nanoscience; organisms have been doing it for a long time," said Dr Belcher, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



Viruses are a good choice for labourers, she says, because it is easy to fiddle with their DNA. "And they have evolved over millions of years to work perfectly at the nanoscale level."



A nanometer is one billionth of a metre, and nanoscience covers many areas of research that deal with nanosized particles - from quantum computers to a better sunscreen.


Dr Belcher's team has genetically engineered long, skinny viruses so they selectively bind to different kinds of nanoparticles.


Surprisingly, billions of viruses, with their loads, can self-organise to form a thin film that can be picked up with a pair of tweezers, the team found.


Dr Belcher says one potential application of this process would be to bind vaccines to virus films and dehydrate them for use in the Third World, where lack of refrigeration makes storage of liquid vaccines problematic.


Dr Belcher was a keynote speaker yesterday at a nanotechnology conference in Canberra, organised by the Australian Academy of Science.


Prince Charles is among those who have raised concerns about the safety of nanotechnology, including the fear it will lead to a catastrophe where self-assembling nanomachines devour the planet.


But Dr Belcher believes nanotechnology that mimics nature will lead to "very green chemistry", with new ways to synthesise material without producing toxic byproducts.


Her team uses a virus that only infects bacteria, called a bacteriophage. Last year, they showed bacteriophages could be genetically modified so they produced a protein on their surface that was able to bind to particles of zinc sulphide, a semi-conductor. The film made by billions of these viruses acts like the liquid crystalline films in computer displays.


In her latest research, viruses were produced that could pick up three different kinds of particles: gold, an organic dye, and a fluorescent protein. Possible applications of the process include the production of nanoscale computer chips, more efficient batteries, microscopic sensors and devices for storing DNA or drugs.


Link to Sydney Morning Herald story:





Exciting http://www.ShareScene.com/html/emoticons/graduated.gif and scary http://www.ShareScene.com/html/emoticons/lmaosmiley.gif all at the same time.


There are good and bad bacteria - some bacteria are beneficial to the human body.

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August 2003


From University of California, Santa Barbara - Engineering


Army awards up to $50 million to establish Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies Santa Barbara, Calif.


The Army Research Office (ARO) is awarding an initial grant of up to $50 million over five years to a partnership among researchers at three universities to establish the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies (ICB). The partnership includes the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Six industrial partners are also participating by developing the technologies being created in the university laboratories.

Jim Chang, ARO director, said, "Our aim in setting up this Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies is to improve dramatically the effectiveness of the Army by creating a single conduit for developing, assessing and adapting new products and new biotechnologies in direct support of the Army's mission. We are enabling a focus for biotechnology research which is advantageous to the Army and which also leverages, on the Army's behalf, investments in biotechnology research by government research funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health."


UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said, "We are delighted to be part of such a strong team with our partners at Caltech and MIT and in industry. At Santa Barbara we have been excited for some time about the emerging potential for research discoveries at the interface between biological sciences and physical and engineering sciences. This project will give scientists and engineers at the three institutions and their industrial collaborators an extraordinary opportunity to conduct research at that interface and at the forefront of new biotechnology."


Daniel Morse, chair of the UCSB Biomolecular Science and Engineering Program and a professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry, will serve as director of the new institute. Frank Doyle, a UCSB chemical engineering professor who holds the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Process Control, will serve as ICB associate director. The MIT team is headed by Angela Belcher, the John Chipman Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering. At Caltech the effort is led by David Tirrell, the Ross McCollum-William H. Corcoran Professor and chair of the Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division.


To date the industrial partners are Aerospace Corp., Applied Biosystems, Becton-Dickinson, Genencor International, IBM, and SAIC.


Robert Campbell, the ARO program officer for the ICB grant, said, "The inspiration for the ICB comes from the fact that biology uses precise mechanisms to produce exquisitely structured materials, and that coordination of biological function at the molecular, cellular and systems level takes place by remarkably effective communication and information transfer. The promise here is for providing unique enabling technology for more advanced integrated circuits for high-performance sensing, computing and information processing, and actuation than are used in existing manufacturing. This synthesis of high performance materials is accomplished with a precision of nanoscale-architectural control that exceeds the capability of current engineering, particularly in the designing and sculpting of materials in three-dimensions. Likewise, the integration of component function in biological systems is astonishing, so the lessons learned here are sure to have strong impact on engineered information processing systems integration as well.


"The idea is to understand biological mechanisms and to harness them for design and fabrication of new materials, devices and systems performance to equip the Army of the 21st century. But the benefit to the United States is more than military. The for-profit industrial partners have the opportunity and the incentive to translate to the civilian marketplace the fruits of the research findings. A thriving U.S. economy is essential to the country's defense as is a well-equipped Army," said Campbell.


Morse points out that the synthesis of materials in biology necessarily occurs under conditions amenable to life in contrast to many present manufacturing processes, which entail extraordinary conditions of temperature or deleterious chemicals or a sterile environment.


Morse is well known for discoveries that helped inaugurate the emerging field of nano-biomolecular and biomimetic materials synthesis that is illustrative of the new Institute's research direction. One example is the lessons for semiconductor fabrication learned from a marine sponge.


Silicon is an element like carbon that does not exist in nature in its free form, but is normally present in rocks as silica (i.e., sand in one form, glass in another). The rocks are melted and milled to extract the silicon that is then made into computer chips or incorporated into silicon-based polymers analogous to the more familiar carbon-based polymers. Silicon--the prime constituent of the computer chip and the preeminent element of the information age--behaves like carbon in the way its atoms connect.


Morse and his colleagues discovered that the fiberglass silica needles of a marine sponge are made via a protein, which acts as both an enzyme-catalyst and a template for growth. That discovery has now been adapted to make non-biological semiconducting and photovoltaic materials.


Said Morse, "Our research shows that biomolecular recognition and enzymatic catalysis, which evolved over millennia for the world of carbon-based materials, can be harnessed and used productively with silicon-based materials. One of ICB's missions is to take advantage of alternative pathways for synthesis that have been honed by millennia of selection.


"Our team includes the world's leaders in the discoveries of these underlying molecular mechanisms in nano-bio-fabrication," said Morse. "Our aim is to integrate work at the three campuses in a seamless way so that we can increase the rate of productivity of discoveries and transition prototype development with our industrial partners.


"The teams at UCSB, MIT, and Caltech are recognized for developing a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to this kind of research--uniting researchers from multiple departments and programs into a single working unit without disciplinary borders," Morse said. "At UCSB both the dean of engineering, Matthew Tirrell, and the dean of science, Martin Moskovits, have been integral and essential to the process of envisioning the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies."


MIT's Belcher is known for nano-biotechnology research that began with a path-breaking experiment that engineered the binding of a biological material--peptides (short chains of amino acids)--to inorganic semiconducting materials. The Belcher group selects and evolves biological organisms to grow and assemble semiconductor and magnetic materials using environmentally friendly synthesis routes. These organisms are further engineered to form liquid crystals for display technology and as components for self-assembling electronics.


This strategy for "bottom-up" fabrication, atom by atom in imitation of nature, contrasts with the current "top-down" practice via subtraction from a bulk material to make a chip. The bottom-up approach enables the assembly of particles into an electronic structure, which can consist of layers of different semiconducting materials or different phases of the same material or some combination of both.


At Caltech David Tirrell has gained wide recognition for a series of experiments showing that the molecular recognition of the cell's protein synthesis machinery can be tricked to overlook subtle modifications introduced in the laboratory. The techniques have enabled his research group to engineer proteins with new structures and functions. The resultant semi-synthetic proteins and their newly incorporated atoms provide new functionality including controlled mechanical properties and enhanced thermal and chemical stability.


The research plan for the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies will be organized around three emphases:


(1) Sensors, Electronics and Information Processing, led by UCSB Chemistry and Materials Professor Guillermo Bazan. Research will focus on the development of sensors using biological molecules and paradigms for sensing with unprecedented sensitivity, accuracy, and speed and the translation of information from sensors into electronic information for real-time sensing and response capabilities.


(2) Biotechnological and Biologically Inspired Routes to Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials, led by Morse. Research will investigate the use of biological mechanisms and biomolecular mechanisms to control nanofabrication of new materials for electronic, optical, and optoelectronic activity, including new approaches to the generation of electrical energy and portable sources of energy such as would be carried for defense applications.


(3) Biotechnological and Biologically Inspired New Routes to Information Professing, led by UCSB Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor David Awschalom and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Evelyn Hu. Research seeks to use biological systems to guide the development of new routes for information processing. Molecular signaling and recognition and integration of information will be considered from both the perspective of the small world of molecules but also from the macroscopic perspective of ecosystems. Awschalom heads the UCSB Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computing. Hu is UCSB's science director for the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), whose state-of the-art research facilities, nearing the construction phase, will greatly enhance the ability of ICB researchers at UCSB to advance their cross-disciplinary research agendas.


Three complementary emphases focus on technical foundations related to the research plan. The first two pertain to "tools for discovery"--the technical investigations and advances that enable research in the topical areas above:


(1) Discovery, Synthesis and Delivery, led by UCSB Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Patrick Daugherty, will provide a discovery pipeline for the development of innovative sensor concepts, integration and self-assembly methods, signal generation and processing.


(2) Materials and Device Characterization Over Multiple Length and Time Scales, led by UCSB Chemical Engineering Professor Brad Chmelka, will advance the existing state-of-the-art in several molecular techniques and macroscopic imaging and characterization strategies needed to evaluate and advance the performance of new molecular biomagnetic/bioelectronic materials and devices.


(3) Complex Multi-Scale Dynamic and Predictive Modeling, led by Doyle, will address the analysis and mathematical modeling of multiple-scale (gene-cell-system) complex biological phenomena and materials behavior using principles of systems biology.



The ARO announcement is available at http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/press/index.php and MIT's press release at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice.




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Aussie plastic optical fibres score Eureka award



Breakthrough work in the development of plastic optical fibres has won a


Eureka Prize for ICT innovation for the Optical Fibre Technology Centre at the


University of Sydney.



The polymer optical fibres developed by the research


have the potential to reduce dramatically the cost of delivering broadband


Internet access to homes and businesses. "Our technology will change lives


just as mobile phones, Internet access, and broadband have in the past 10


years," claimed researcher Maryanne Large.




Extract: Slattery's internetWATCH, August 16, 2004






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Konarka Technologies, a start-up solar power company based in Lowell, Mass., is expected to announce today that it has acquired from Siemens of Germany the technology to print power cells on flexible sheets of plastic.


Konarka also hired the Siemens research team that developed the organic solar technology, as the plastic films are known.


Such solar cells would, in theory, be cheaper to make and more versatile than the most widely used solar power systems, which employ rigid sheets of crystallized silicon to convert sunlight to electricity. So far, cells made with plastic have been too inefficient to compete with conventional power sources like coal-fired plants.


Siemens previously announced that it had achieved 5 percent energy conversion using organic solar technology, a record for the materials but less than a third the rate of standard silicon cells. The company predicted that its technology could be marketed as early as next year in portable devices to recharge cellphones.


Konarka said terms of the deal would not be disclosed.


Published: September 7, 2004


The New York Times




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Fascinating seven part story well worth the read - below are two parts - use URL link to view the complete article.


The hidden giants

Under land and sea, in vast subterranean laboratories, scientists are working to uncover the secrets of the universe, from 'dark matter' to global warming


By Steve Connor

22 September 2004


The Kamioka Underground Observatory in Japan


A paradox in science is that the smallest and most ubiquitous things imaginable can often only be detected by some of the biggest and most expensive scientific instruments ever built. And most of them are so sensitive they need to be shielded in deep subterranean caverns. The Kamioka Underground Observatory in Japan is housed in an old mine located 1,000 metres below ground. At its core is a giant tank of ultra-pure water weighing some 3,000 tons and surrounded by 1,000 highly sensitive light detectors.


The water tank is 16m high and 15.6m in diameter. The 1,000 photomultiplier tubes fitted around the inside of the tank are there to detect the tiny flashes of pale blue light that may be emitted as a certain subatomic particle travelling at the speed of light collides with the nucleus of a water molecule. This particle - called a neutrino - has achieved almost mythical status in physics.


The Nobel laureate Wolfgang Pauli predicted the existence of the neutrino - which means "little, neutral one" - in 1931, but it took a further 25 years to prove its existence. Physicists calculated that neutrinos must be emitted in their trillions in space as a result of the nuclear fusion reactions of the Sun and stars, and the gigantic stellar explosions of supernovae.


The problem with neutrinos, however, is that they are so small and so electrically neutral that they pass straight through most things without ever interacting with them. Billions of these ghostly elements pass through each and every one of us every second without any effect.


Rock surrounding the Kamioka water tank shields the detectors from interfering cosmic rays, which allows the faintest interaction between a neutrino and a water molecule to be picked up. On 23 February 1987, the Japanese physicist and Nobel laureate Masatoshi Koshiba used the Kamioko instrument to detect a tiny fraction of the massive flux of neutrinos that passed through the Earth as a result of a distant supernova explosion. The instrument managed to detect just 12 neutrinos out of an estimated total of a thousand trillion that passed through the detector at that moment in time.


The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada


Neutrinos are important because they are the one subatomic particle that appears not to conform to one of the great universal laws of physics - the so-called Standard Model. At one time, neutrinos were thought not to have any mass at all; now, physicists believe they have some mass, but are much lighter than other subatomic particles. At another underground mine, near Sudbury in Ontario, a different neutrino detector has been designed to study one of the particle's most unusual properties - the ability to oscillate from one form to another.


The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is located 2,000 metres below ground in another disused mine carved out of solid norite rock. This time, however, the 12m-wide tank at the core of the instrument is filled with 1,000 tons of heavy water, valued at ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚£125m and on loan from the Canadian nuclear industry.


Heavy water has the same chemical composition as normal water, except that each molecule has two atoms of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen with an extra neutron in its nucleus. The heavy water of the Sudbury experiment has helped scientists to show that neutrinos can, in fact, exist in more than one form, or "flavour".


Because heavy water can detect more than one flavour of neutrino, the Sudbury detector demonstrates that neutrinos from the Sun are emitted in one form and are transformed into another as they travel to Earth. This oscillation explains why other neutrino detectors have been unable to detect as many solar neutrinos as they should. The Sudbury machine, therefore, has helped to solve a puzzle known as the "solar neutrino problem".


But as one problem was solved, another was created. Under the Standard Model, neutrinos should not oscillate from one flavour to another. Further underground research is needed.





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Cooking oil could end burning issue




FLOWER power could be the energy source of the future, say scientists who have developed a system of generating hydrogen from sunflower oil for use in fuel cells.


The cooking oil could be used to power cars and provide energy for homes, factories and offices.

The hydrogen needed to run fuel cells usually comes from burning fossil fuels, creating pollution and greenhouse gases.


But Dr Valerie Dupont, who heads the team of scientists at Leeds University, said sunflower oil exactly like that found in millions of kitchens could solve the thorny problem.



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imagine the frequent flyer points you'd get!!!!!!! http://www.ShareScene.com/html/emoticons/wink.gif



Tuesday, October 05, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.


Houston, we have a winner: Allen's group claims X Prize


By Sandi Doughton

Seattle Times staff reporter



Enjoying a champagne celebration of SpaceShipOne's feat yesterday are, from left, X Prize Foundation President Peter Diamandis, SpaceShipOne bankroller Paul Allen, designer Burt Rutan, pilot Brian Binnie and airline executive Richard Branson.


MOJAVE, Calif. ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ A $20 million, private investment in manned space flight earned a $10 million return yesterday when a stubby, white rocket captured the X Prize by soaring to the edge of space for the second time in less than a week.


SpaceShipOne's jubilant backers predicted it won't be long before that red ink turns black, as the thirst for adventure and exploration fuels a boom in space tourism.


"There are real dollars to be made here," said St. Louis entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, who created the prize to inspire a new breed of rocketeers and move human space travel out of the exclusive domain of government.


Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who bankrolled the SpaceShipOne project and tracked the flight from mission control, said it was hard to remain calm even though the craft had performed the same feat twice before.


"When the rocket engine fires, your heart just jumps right into your throat," he said, grinning. "It's pure exhilaration."


Like Diamandis and many others involved in the project, Allen grew up marveling at America's astronauts ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ and expecting rocket trips to become as commonplace as airplane rides.


That boyish delight was evident yesterday among now-grown men who used personal fortunes and professional skills to bring their dream closer to reality.


"The 9-year-old boy inside me is jumping for joy and waiting to take a flight," Diamandis said.


SpaceShipOne's feat came on the 47th anniversary of the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, which kicked off a space race between Cold War superpowers.


The carrier plane, White Knight, took off shortly after dawn, looking like a pterodactyl clasping the egg-shaped rocket to its belly. At about 46,000 feet, the rocket detached and pilot Brian Binnie pointed its nose up and ignited its engine.


Thousands of watchers on the ground tracked the bright orange flare until Binnie switched the engine off after about 80 seconds. The rocket coasted to a height of nearly 70 miles, well above the 62-mile target spelled out in the X Prize rules.


SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan said Allen will share the prize money with the team that built and operated the rocket.


To snare the trophy, aviation maverick Rutan had to demonstrate that his rocket could reach the edge of space with at least one person and the equivalent weight of two others aboard. Then he had to repeat the process within two weeks, proving the craft could ferry people to space over and over.


In June, Mike Melvill became the first civilian pilot to earn astronaut wings by piloting SpaceShipOne's inaugural flight. Melvill was also at the controls for the first X Prize qualifying flight Sept. 29, when the rocket unexpectedly rolled 29 times on its ascent.


Yesterday, Melvill piloted the White Knight carrier plane. No explanation was given about why he did not fly SpaceShipOne, but the team has four pilots qualified to fly either craft.


Rutan and his team worked 12-hour shifts for five days to solve the problem of the Sept. 29 flight, and Binnie's flight was virtually flawless.


During the three minutes of weightlessness at the apex, Binnie let loose a paper model of SpaceShipOne and watched it float around the cockpit.


Then the craft dropped into a roller-coaster descent that briefly slammed him with five times the force of gravity.


He guided the spaceship through its long. looping glide back to Earth, with a landing more seamless than those of most commercial jetliners.


Later, he described the view from the top: the blue curve of Earth and the blackness of space.


"It's a thrill everyone should have in their lifetime," he said.


Last week, airline executive and adventurer Richard Branson announced a deal between his Virgin Group and Allen's Mojave Aerospace Adventures to license SpaceShipOne's technology as the basis for a five-person spaceliner to begin shuttling tourists by 2007, for $200,000 a head.


But skeptics question whether space tourism will ever be more than a diversion for the type of elite adventurers who now pay $60,000 for guided trips up Mount Everest.


"Space tourism conjures up the notion of going to Hawaii or the Caribbean, but this is nothing like that," said Henry Hertzfeld, an expert in the economics and laws of space at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute.


"It's a short-term thrill that will appeal to only a few people."


Brad Blake and his 11-year-old son, Zak, were enthusiastic enough about space flight to get up at 2:30 a.m. for the three-hour drive to Mojave from their home in Reedley, Calif.


But neither imagined himself flying in space anytime soon ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ not only because of the cost but also because a trip that only goes to the edge of the atmosphere is so brief.


"It would be a lot better if you could spend some time up there," Blake said.


Many experts agree.


"I don't think we'll really have an industry until we go orbital," said Dennis Parks, senior curator at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.


But pushing a spaceship all the way into orbit would require speeds in excess of 16,000 mph ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚ eight times faster than SpaceShipOne's top velocity of about 2,000 mph. And vessels would have to be heavily shielded to protect against the fierce friction and heat of re-entry, adding to weight and complexity.


An X Prize goal was to encourage the type of competition and innovation that might eventually lead to affordable orbital flights, Diamandis said.


To keep that spirit going, he is organizing an X Prize Cup for 2005 in New Mexico. Rutan and the other 25 teams that were contending for the original prize are invited to compete for multimillion-dollar purses in categories such as fastest rocket and highest altitude. And, Diamandis said, "maybe even the coolest-looking spaceship."

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Bacteria Cures Ear Infection


Swedish medical experts have successfully treated children with chronic ear infection - ironically by infecting them with bacteria.


The study in this week's British Medical Journal shows that bacteria with the ability to inhibit the growth of the pathogens responsible for ear infections can be used successfully and may help reduce the use of antibiotics.


Acute Otitis Media is one of the most common bacterial infections in young children, and is often treated with large amounts of antibiotics. It is caused by the spread of Streptococcus pneumoniae and other bacteria from the throat into the middle ear cavity.


Naturally occurring bacteria, such as alpha steptococci, protect the body from such infections. However children who get a lot of ear infections have been found to have a lower than normal amount of this bacteria.


The research studied 130 children with recurrent Otitis Media. Firstly, all the children were treated with antibiotics for 10 days, then divided into two groups. One group was given a nasal spray containing live growth-inhibiting bacteria, the other given a placebo.


After three months followup, researchers found that 42 per cent of children given the bacteria spray had no recurrence of infection, compared with only 22 per cent of those given the placebo.


What the researchers had done was to 'recolonise' the children with naturally occurring bacteria to help boost the bodies defence system.


There is concern about the growing resistance of many common human infections to antibiotics. Indeed, antibiotics will also kill the bacteria which inhibit the growth of the pathogens which cause ear infection. Ironically, a course of antibiotics then could contribute to recurrent ear infections.


The authors say that using alpha streptococci may help offset antibiotic resistance among children prone to this type of ear infection.


Dr Henley Harrison who chairs the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at Sydney Children's Hospital said it was a novel approach with impressive results.


"It's a somewhat uncoventional approach - essentially you are boosting the population of good citizens, rather than just trying to knock out the bad citizens," he said.


"In this study, all the children were given antibiotic to start with, but it would be interesting to see in future studies if children could do well with just the spray and without any antibiotic at all," he said.




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Inventing the future


Even the most important new ideas can seem silly at first, or irrelevant or downright dangerous. (You mean that thing can fly?) How do you tell which ones are worthy? The best way is to give them a try. Ten innovations that may change the way we live.


1: This Is Not A Real Diamond

By Michael Hastings


Bryant Linares has one heck of a secret family recipe: how to make world-class diamonds. Seven years ago his father, Robert, produced a diamond in a high-pressure chamber of carbon gas and dropped it into an acid solution to clean it off. When he returned the next morning, he expected to find the usual yellow stone ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ a crude artificial diamond of some use to industry, perhaps, but not the stuff of dreams. At first there didn't seem to be any stone at all. Then he saw, at the bottom of the beaker, so clear it was almost invisible, a perfect quarter-carat crystal of pure carbon. "It was the eureka moment," says Bryant. His father had managed what many scientists had given up on long ago: to manufacture a stone that wouldn't look out of place on an engagement ring.


Man-made diamonds are nothing new ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ industry started making them in the 1950s, and each year about 80 tons of low-quality synthetic diamonds are used in tools like drill bits and sanders. High-quality crystals, though, open up huge possibilities, jewelry being the least of them. Scientists are most excited about the prospect of making diamond microchips. As chips have shrunk over the years, engineers have struggled with ways of dissipating the heat they create. Because silicon, the main component of semiconductors, breaks down at about 95 degrees Celsius, some experts believe a new material will be need-ed in a decade or so. Diamonds might fit the bill. They can withstand 500 degrees, and electrons move through them so easily that they would tend not to heat up in the ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ first place. Engineers could cram a lot more circuits onto a diamond-based microchip ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ if they could perfect a way of making pure crystals cheaply.


The race is on. After working in secrecy for years refining their technique, the Linareses' company, Apollo Diamond, now spits out 20 carats a week, both for jewelry and for diamond wafers that could be fashioned into microchips. Rivals have also been busy. Gemesis, a Sarasota, Florida, firm, has developed a "diamond growth chamber" ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ a press that squeezes out high-quality diamonds in much the same way that the early presses made rough ones. Gemesis is making blue diamonds ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ rare and sought-after gemstones.


Chipmakers are also getting into the act. The Japanese firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone has already made prototype diamond semiconductors, and the Japanese government is actively promoting the technology. Most U.S. research is going on in universities and military labs, but Intel has recently taken an interest. Before the technology is ready for prime time, chipmakers will have to come up with a way to keep out impurities during manufacturing. And the attribute that makes diamonds so attractive ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ their hardness ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€Â ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚¬Ãƒâ€¦Ã‚¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬Ãƒâ€Â¦ÃƒÆ’‚¡ÃƒÆ’â€Å¡Ãƒƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…¡Ãƒâہ¡ÃƒÆ’‚¬ÃƒÆ’â€Â¦ÃƒƒÂ¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚¬ÃƒÆ’…âہ“ also makes them difficult to manipulate.


The new diamonds are likely to show up first as tiny light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, in flat-screen displays and high-definition televisions. And then, of course, there's jewelry. Although synthetics still carry a stigma, even experts can't tell the difference. Natural-diamond merchants claim they aren't worried, but De Beers has made a device that can distinguish between the natural stones and the synthetics, and is distributing it to jewelers. Will consumers care? We might find out next year when Gemesis is ready to market its blue diamonds in the United States.




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