Stories of modern science ... from UPI

By ELLEN BECK, United Press International  |  Sept. 5, 2002 at 6:54 AM
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In 1959, physics icon Richard Feynman predicted all the words written in the history of the world could be contained in a cube of material one two-hundredths of an inch wide if the words were written with atoms. Now, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created an atomic-scale memory using atoms of silicon in place of the 1s and 0s computers use to store data. Reported in the journal Nanotechnology, this represents a first crude step toward a practical atomic-scale memory, where atoms would represent the bits of information that make up the words, pictures and codes read by computers. Although the memory is in two dimensions rather than the 3-D cube envisioned by Feynman, it provides a storage density a million times greater than a CD-ROM, today's conventional means of storing data.


A free computer program developed by a Johns Hopkins University civil engineering researcher allows designers of thin-walled structures, including buildings and bridges, to test their stability and safety before a single beam is put into place. The modeling software created by Benjamin Schafer has designers enter the materials, geometry of the structure and the load it is expected to withstand. The program then quickly reports how and under what conditions the structural components will buckle. The software can be downloaded from Schafer's Web site at He says to keep costs down, many companies are looking for maximum strength with a minimum of materials. "So very often, you end up with what we call thin-walled structures. But instability or buckling can cause these structures to collapse or fail," he says.


Some 4,000 of the smartest dressed elephant seals, tuna fish, albatrosses, leatherback sea turtles and great white sharks in the Pacific this fall all be wearing the latest in microprocessor-based electronic tags. Some will be no bigger than oversized cufflinks. It's part of the 10-year-long Tagging of the Pacific Pelagics or TOPP program, through the Census of Marine Life. The goal is to investigate the habits of marine animals: what exactly lives where and why, what their migration routes and diving behaviors might be, and what might be going on in the ocean all around them. Funding comes the Office of Naval Research along with the Sloan and Packard foundations. Up to 20 species of pelagic organisms will be monitored and the results will provide a framework for future management and conservation of these economically and ecologically valuable resources.


Duke University researchers have come up with a way to make drugs safer by allowing the effect to be turned off and one. Using blood thinners as a model, the researchers say they can develop drugs with matching antidotes to neutralize or counteract the effects when needed. An antidote would be used in cases where patients experience complications from a drug or when physicians think a change in treatment is needed and they cannot wait for the effects of the drug to wear off naturally. The study is found in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature. Researchers used as a model heparin, a potent anti-clotting drug. Although usually it is a life saver, during and after surgery blood thinners can put a patient at risk of hemorrhaging and sometimes death. If physicians can control the medication with an antidote they could prevent such problems.


(EDITORS: For more information on MEMORY, contact Franz J. Himpsel at UW-Madison at 608-263-5590 or e-mail For SOFTWARE, contact Phil Sneiderman at 410-516-7907 or e-mail at For PELAGICTAGS, Gail Cleere at the Office of Naval Research at 703-696-4987 or e-mail, and for SAFERDRUGS, Amy Reyes at 919-668-7837 or e-mail

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