Gina Miller (
Tue, 22 Jun 1999 21:11:41 -0700

_THE Nanogirl News______________________________________

Ant-size robot developed for plant repair, inspection TOKYO (AP) - Japanese electronics companies have developed a tiny robot the size of an ant that can crawl around thin pipes, inspect and even fix problems at power plants, officials said Monday. The machine has a pair of round connectors on both sides that can be linked up with other robots for more extensive assignments. With a weight of only about one-hundredth of an ounce, the robot can move at a speed of 6 inches per minute, said Koji Hirose, spokesman for the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. and Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo, Inc. developed the machine under the government's $206 million "micro machine" project that began in 1989, Hirose said. The robots, which can crawl into the tiniest gaps around bundles of pipes, are expected to speed up inspection and repairs at electric and nuclear power plants because they can be sent in while the plant keeps running. Scientists are working to add new functions to them so the robots can climb up and down a pipe while connected to other machines. They also plan to develop robots with motors and problem-detecting sensors.

Rats control robot arm through brain activity NEW YORK (AP) - Scientists have gotten rats to control a simple robot arm through the activity of their brain cells. That might be a step toward letting paralyzed people control prosthetic limbs. Six rats learned at first to press a lever to make the arm move back and forth like a windshield wiper. Then scientists implanted electrodes in the animals' brains, to detect the pattern of brain cell activity that made the animals' legs press the lever.
Finally, the scientists switched control of the arm to a device that monitored the rats' brains and moved the arm when the appropriate brain activity appeared. Four animals were able to continue controlling the arm in this way.
The work is reported in the July issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience by scientists at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and elsewhere.
Recently, scientists have reported that paralyzed people can learn to use their brain waves to control the movement of a cursor on a computer screen. The brain activity was picked up by electrodes that had been implanted or placed on the scalp.
By moving the cursor, the paralyzed people were able to communicate.


Two private efforts under way to clone human embryos The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

A team of American researchers has quietly begun trying to create the world's first batches of cloned human embryos, and another team has resumed its controversial cloning of embryos that are part human and part cow, according to scientists involved in the work. The privately funded work is part of a surge of human embryo research aimed at developing novel treatments for diseases - but which some scientists believe could be inadvertently paving the way to the first births of cloned babies.
The work is a vivid reminder that while Congress, the National Institutes of Health and a presidentially appointed bioethics commission debate the finer points of whether federal dollars should be spent on certain types of human embryo research, the private sector is rapidly moving forward to capitalize on the potentially lucrative field.
The two companies that have started the programs to grow their own embryos, [ Geron Corp. ] of Menlo Park, Calif., and Advanced Cell Therapeutics of Worcester, Mass., are not trying to make full-grown human clones or human-cow hybrids. Rather, the goal is to use the newly cloned embryos as sources of embryonic stem cells, a recently discovered kind of cell that is thought to have the potential to treat a host of chronic ailments, including diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
Nonetheless, the two programs are the first openly concerted efforts to create human embryos by cloning. They also appear to be the first instances of scientists creating human embryos explicitly for the purpose of harvesting medically useful cells, a practice President Clinton banned among federally funded researchers 4 1/2 years ago but that remains legal in the private sector.
Adding to the contentious nature of the work is the widely held suspicion that the experiments will inevitably, and perhaps very quickly, help others overcome the remaining technical hurdles to cloning human beings. That uncomfortable link between stem cell research and human cloning is raising difficult questions about how to draw legal and ethical distinctions between cloning human embryos - essentially balls of a few hundred cells - for medical research, and cloning human beings as a reproductive alternative.


China Working on Cloning Panda
Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) -- Scientists have taken a step toward cloning a giant panda by growing an embryo that contains a dead animal's genes -- a development China hailed as a possible breakthrough in efforts to save the endangered species. Scientists from the government-funded Chinese Academy of Sciences grew the embryo by introducing cells from a dead female panda into the egg cells of a Japanese white rabbit, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said. The embryo was nurtured over 10 months and scientists are now trying to implant it in a host animal's uterus.
"If it works, they will possibly have created the world's first cloned panda," Xinhua said.
Although scientists have cloned other large animals, notably the sheep Dolly, the cloning has required repeated efforts -- with many failed pregnancies.
Earlier, China announced plans to try to clone a giant panda within three to five years.
But Chen Dayuan, who leads the government-backed panda cloning project, said scientists now believe they will need less time, Xinhua reported. It hailed the development as a potentially "critical and exciting breakthrough" for saving the species, which is unique to China. Only about 1,000 pandas live in the wild, with another 100 in zoos. Experts have warned that the animal could become extinct in a couple of dozen years. (this may help save them from extinction)


In an effort to defend against frequent cyber attacks, the Pentagon is considering building a new computer network to handle e-commerce and public web pages, cutting off existing connections to the Internet. This follows an increase in the rate of successful attacks on the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET). While a separate network sounds like a good idea in theory the practicalities of completely separating NIPRNET from the Internet will not be easy. (Good luck, there's a hack behind every new program!)

Federal Computer week article


JAPANESE WIVES are turning to off-the-shelf forensic science to catch their cheating husbands. Private detectives are selling them special chemical sprays that highlight telltale traces of semen in their spouse's underwear. (silly ain't it!)

New Scientist Planet article tml


Scientific Team Identifies Gene Critical In Embryonic Development

Science Daily Magazine article


Peering through a Hole in the Sky
NASA/Marshall scientists will probe an unlikely 50-year old mystery during the August 11, 1999 total solar eclipse (does it effect gravity?)

NASA's article


Gina "Nanogirl" Miller
Nanotechnology Industries
Alternate E-mail
"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."