Congress Must Decide When Embryo is a `Person’

The translucent dot of cells floating in the petri dish of a cloning lab has not yet taken the shape of a person, but someday it could. Does it deserve protection?

That’s the ethical question now being debated in Washington, D.C., where lawmakers are in the midst of a new struggle to regulate cloning.

This abstract debate suddenly turned real last fall with the startling news that the Massachusetts biotech company Advanced Cell Technology had created the world’s first cloned human pre-embryos. Although all the embryos died within six days, it was a wake-up call to the promise, and peril, of the new technology.

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In Search of Other Habitable Planets

So far all the planets found outside our solar system have been gas giants. So they are not habitable, and couldn’t really hold life as we know it. But “planet hunter” David Charbonneau is looking for another planet just like Earth, and claims that astronomers are “very close”.

Last year, Charbonneau led a team that made the first direct detection of the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system.
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Japanese Robots To The Rescue

By the end of the decade, the people who disarm bombs and search for survivors after a disaster may no longer need to put their lives on the line — a machine, possibly made in Japan, will do the dangerous stuff.

That is one goal of the Japanese government’s $37.7 million Humanoid Robotics Project (HRP), which aims to market within a few years robots that can operate power shovels, assist construction workers and care for the elderly.

In the process, a new multi-billion-dollar Japanese industry could be born.

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Legalize Bribes and Tax Them

There is only one solution to the endemic corruption strangling Romania’s economy and hurting its chances of joining NATO — legalize bribes and tax them, a leading financial newspaper quipped Monday.

An April Fools spoof in a front-page article in the Ziarul Financiar proposed a sliding scale of taxes on “commissions and supplementary insurance payments for health and a better life,” starting with a five percent levy on bribes of up to one million euros.

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Underground Movement in Wireless Technology

Many recent wireless projects rely on an increasingly popular technology known as 802.11b, or Wi-Fi (short for wireless fidelity), an inexpensive and popular networking standard that uses an unlicensed portion of the radio spectrum. It’s cheap, fast and spreading like a virus, especially in high-tech centers like New York, Seattle and Silicon Valley in particular, where the abundance of early adopters and evangelists has produced the greatest concentration of “hot spots.”
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Growing Fish Flesh in Space

Bioengineer Morris Benjaminson is figuring out how to create fish on demand, to develop a device that would grow fresh flesh aboard a space ship to feed astronauts.

The researchers cut chunks of muscle from oversized goldfish into pan-sized pieces. They worked quickly to keep the flesh alive. “The fish is dead, but the tissue isn’t,” Benjaminson explains. The chunks were washed in alcohol and stuck in a vat of fetal bovine serum, a nutrient extracted from the blood of unborn calves. After a week, the fish chunks had grown by 14 percent.
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9 Innovations in Search of Inventors

David Pogue writes: Here are some ideas for new products that should exist, but don’t. These days, though, there seems to be a measurable deceleration in high-tech innovation. Sure, PC’s are getting slightly faster, palmtops slightly brighter, and DVD players slightly cheaper, but where are the big, bold new ideas for consumer products?

“If you’re an inventor, take these ideas with my blessings. I ask nothing in return but a smile, a firm handshake and 10 percent of the net.”

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Painted-On Cheap Plastic Solar Energy Cells

Cheap, plastic solar cells that can be painted onto just about any surface could provide power for a range of portable and even wearable electronic devices, scientists said on Thursday.

A team at the University of California Berkeley said they had come up with a first generation of plastic solar cells, which could someday replace the bulky and expensive silicon-based cells used widely now.

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The Space Elevator Comes Closer to Reality reports: Make way for the ultimate high-rise project: the space elevator. Long viewed as science fiction “imagineering”, researchers are gathering momentum in their pursuit to propel this uplifting concept into actuality.

Forget the roar of rocketry and those bone jarring liftoffs, the elevator would be a smooth 62,000-mile ride up a long cable. Payloads can shimmy up the Earth-to-space cable, experiencing no large launch forces, slowly climbing from one atmosphere to a vacuum.

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Ford’s New ‘No Hands’ Mobile Set-up

If you’re driving a new Ford Mondeo or Focus, you could be in luck. One of the options offered by ‘fordtelematics‘ system, is the “in-car personal assistant” button that puts you through to an operator who will instantly pin-point the location of your car and guide you to a petrol station or wherever you need to go. At 75p a minute this is the deluxe feature of system that has four main options. The telematics system, through a built-in microphone and the car’s stereo system, acts as a hands-free mobile for this function.

Other features include real-time traffic information at 45p per minute and voice-activated dialing. An SOS button connects the car to an emergency services operator–if the airbags are set off then the system makes this call automatically.

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