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    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    A little food for thought this week

    Here are some of what I think are the top science stories this week. Notice that in most of these the news is current or in the very near future. We're not talking about speculation for the next thirty years, but within the next three years.

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen will join scientists from SETI
    The first mission for the Allen Telescope Array will be to scan several billion stars across a vast swath of our own Milky Way galaxy, said astronomer Seth Shostak, of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. That broad-brush survey will be followed in the coming years by detailed examinations of a million stars — a quantum leap in coverage of celestial real estate. In the 45 years since scientists first started looking for signals from alien worlds, only about 750 stars have gotten such close scrutiny.
    "This is an exponential increase in speed," Shostak said.

    Craig Venter is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.
    The announcement, which is expected within weeks . . .
    The Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

    University of Michigan researchers created a composite plastic that's as strong as steel but lighter and transparent.

    The researchers created this new composite plastic with a machine they developed that builds materials one nanoscale layer after another.

    Darpa hatches plan for insect cyborgs to fly reconnaissance
    Cyborg insects with embedded microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) will run remotely controlled reconnaissance missions for the military, if its '"HI-MEMS" program succeeds.
    Insect swarms with various sorts of different embedded MEMS sensors--video cameras, audio microphones, chemical sniffers and more--could then penetrate enemy territory in swarms to perform reconnaissance missions impossible or too dangerous for soldiers.

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