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Catching Up (Science & Technology Edition)

I've been pretty busy lately, but the WC suggestions box still keeps pinging me and my RSS feeds keep pointing me towards new and interesting stuff. Rather than continue to let them pile up, I'm going to do a few QuickChange-style entries collected by category.

  • Cassini made it! The school bus-sized probe is now in orbit around Saturn, having successfully slipped through the F & G rings and fired its retrorockets to slow down to orbital speed. NASA, JPL, and the ESA have really embraced the web as a means of distributing space science data: rather than wait for one or two photos to show up in the newspapers, you can browse the raw image feed directly.

  • SciScoop points us to Stanford University press release detailing the development of an implantable chip which could serve as a prosthetic retina and as a drug-delivery system for neurological illnesses. One developer describes it as "almost like an ink-jet printer for the eye" -- able to do controlled releases of neurotransmitters using electro-osmosis. Researchers caution that (as you should expect) this is still a few years away from actual human testing.

  • The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology has been exploring thirty essential studies which should be undertaken before we actually manage to develop molecular manufacturing nanotechnology. The most recent entry -- "Nanotech Arms Races" -- is sobering. Molecular nanotechnology has the potential to be incredibly destabilizing militarily and politically; it's quite possible that, as the development of the technology becomes imminent, nations will race to be the first to get it -- or to stop their more advanced adversaries from getting there first.

  • Open Access News points us towards an article in Nature Medicine arguing for the expansion of "biobanks" -- networks of genetic and population data -- to give medical researchers better tools for studying and reacting to outbreaks of human diseases. Ironically (given the link is from Open Access News), the actual Nature Medicine article is restricted to NM subscribers. They do make an abstract (which says less than the OAN brief) available, as well as a table of links to existing biobank networks.
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