Search This Blog

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Lenovo IdeaPad line of low-price consumer laptops is designed for gamers and home users

Lenovo Launches IdeaPad Consumer Laptops

Sensing an opportunity in the fast-growing consumer notebook market, Lenovo on Thursday is expected to launch a new line of consumer laptops with the IdeaPad moniker.
Targeted at gamers and home users, IdeaPad adds a low-price line of laptops to complement the company's existing ThinkPad notebook line, targeted primarily at business users. The company will first introduce three IdeaPad notebooks in different sizes, including an ultraportable laptop that the company will ship in the end of March.
The IdeaPad U110 ultraportable notebook comes with an 11-inch screen and weighs only 2.3 pounds (1.04 kilograms), according to Lenovo.
Based on Intel processors, the ultraportable will ship with either hard disk drives or flash-based solid state drives, said Craig Merrigan, Lenovo's vice president of global consumer marketing. To add ruggedness, the laptop has a shock sensor that detects falls and protects the hard drive data from any potential damage. The feature, called the Active Protection system, is already available on the company's ThinkPad laptops.
Lenovo didn't comment on pricing for the ultraportable laptop.
The company also announced the IdeaPad Y710 laptop, targeted at gamers, and IdeaPad Y510 laptop, targeted as a desktop replacement for home users. With colorful front bases in textured finishes, the laptops are equipped with expressive designs oriented to personalities and lifestyles, Merrigan said.
The IdeaPad Y710 comes with a set of controls, including macro buttons and a control to enhance PC performance to optimize gaming on laptops. A slider control allows gamers to overclock the CPU to maximize laptop performance, Merrigan said. Starting at US$1,199, the laptop includes a 17-inch screen and is equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, an ATI graphics card, wireless networking and an optional Blu-ray Disc drive. It can support hard drives up to 500G bytes.
The IdeaPad Y510 notebook, with a 15.4-inch screen, is targeted at home users. Starting at $799, it comes with Intel Core 2 Duo processors with integrated graphics, wireless networking an integrated camera and a DVD/DVR optical drive. Including a battery, the laptop weighs 6.4 pounds (2.9 kilograms). It can support hard drives up to 250G bytes.
The Y710 and Y510 have four speakers and a subwoofer apiece, and an inductive touch surface between the keyboard and screen that lights up multimedia controls based on context, Merrigan said. If movies are playing, it will light up movie controls, and if audio is playing, users can control equalizers using the touch surface.
Equipped with 1.3-megapixel cameras, the laptops have facial recognition technology that makes a face a user's password, Merrigan said. Once a user sits in front of a computer, the computer recognizes the face and logs in a user. While consumers are not concerned about that high level of security, it may be useful to keep track of what kids are doing, Merrigan said.
Both laptops will ship by the end of January and include Microsoft's Vista operating system. The laptops will initially launch in the U.S., France, Russia, South Africa, India, Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Philippines and Singapore, according to Lenovo. It will be available at online retailers and in stores.
The announcements come ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas between January 7 and 10, where the laptops will be on display.
Lenovo is trying to establish its own identity after acquiring IBM's PC business in 2004. Late last year it established its first "Think" line of workstations, and with the IdeaPad line, it is trying to get a bigger share of the consumer notebook market. The company is in fierce competition with Acer in the global PC market, according to surveys from Gartner and IDC.
The company is also planning an ultramobile device based on Intel's Menlow platform, though Merrigan wouldn't comment on it. The ultramobile device will be on display at Intel's booth in CES.

Lenovo Introduces Laptops to Challenge Hewlett-Packard, Dell
Lenovo Group Ltd., the world's third-biggest personal-computer maker, introduced a new line of laptops to take market share from Dell Inc. and Hewlett Packard Co. in 14 consumer markets.

The IdeaPad notebooks, which go on sale this week, retail for $799 to $1,199 each and are available in countries including the U.S., France, Russia and South Africa, Craig Merrigan, president of the company's consumer business, said in a phone interview.

Chief Executive Officer William Amelio has shifted focus to the consumer market, building on a strategy deployed in China and India after selling mainly to businesses. Global sales of PCs to consumers are growing three times as fast as to corporate clients, researcher IDC said.

``Lenovo is definitely going in the right direction as notebooks are the fastest-growing segment in the PC market, which is mainly driven by consumers,'' said Jack Tse, an analyst at Bear Stearns in Hong Kong who rates Lenovo ``outperform.''

The IdeaPad series is the company's first global line of consumer computers since Lenovo inherited the ThinkPad brand from its purchase of International Business Machines Corp.'s PC unit three years ago. The Chinese company moved its headquarters to Raleigh, North Carolina after the IBM purchase.

Lenovo this month will introduce three IdeaPad laptops and three desktops, Merrigan said. The IdeaCenter desktops will be sold in 14 countries, except the U.S., where the focus is on notebooks, he said. The company had previously only sold the ThinkPad laptops and Lenovo-branded notebooks to corporate clients outside China.

Worldwide laptop shipment growth may reach 14 percent in 2010, compared with 3.2 percent for desktops, Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC said in a statement on Dec. 11.

Lenovo shares more than doubled in 2007, compared with a 39 percent gain in Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Internet elite colleges

Internet opens elite colleges to all

Gilbert Strang is a quiet man with a rare talent: helping others understand linear algebra. He's written a half-dozen popular college textbooks, and for years a few hundred students at the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been privileged to take his course.

Recently, with the growth of computer science, demand to understand linear algebra has surged. But so has the number of students Strang can teach.

An MIT initiative called ''OpenCourseWare'' makes virtually all the school's courses available online for free -- lecture notes, readings, tests and often video lectures. Strang's Math 18.06 course is among the most popular, with visitors downloading his lectures more than 1.3 million times since June alone.

Strang's classroom is the world.

In his Istanbul dormitory, Kemal Burcak Kaplan, an undergraduate at Bogazici University, downloads Strang's lectures to try to boost his grade in a class there. Outside Calcutta, graduate student Sriram Chandrasekaran uses them to brush up on matrices for his engineering courses at the elite Indian Institute of Technology.

Many ''students'' are college teachers themselves, like Sheraz ali Khan at a small engineering institute in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Noorali Jiwaji, at the Open University of Tanzania. They use Strang and other MIT professors as guides in designing their own classes, and direct students to MIT's courses for help.

Others are closer to MIT's Cambridge, Mass., campus. Some are MIT students and alumni, while others have no connection at all -- like Gus Whelan, a retiree on nearby Cape Cod, and Dustin Darcy, a 27-year-old video game programmer in Los Angeles who uses linear algebra regularly in his work.

''Rather than going through my old, dusty books,'' Darcy said, ''I thought I might as well go through it from the top and see if I learn something new.''

There has never been a more exciting time for the intellectually curious.

The world's top universities have come late to the world of online education, but they're arriving at last, creating an all-you-can eat online buffet of information.

And mostly, they are giving it away.

MIT's initiative is the largest, but the trend is spreading. More than 100 universities worldwide, including Johns Hopkins, Tufts and Notre Dame, have joined MIT in a consortium of schools promoting their own open courseware. You no longer need a Princeton ID to hear the prominent guests who speak regularly on campus, just an Internet connection. This month, Yale announced it would make material from seven popular courses available online, with 30 more to follow.

As with many technology trends, new services and platforms are driving change. Last spring marked the debut of ''iTunes U,'' a section of Apple's popular music and video downloading service now publicly hosting free material from 28 colleges. Meanwhile, the University of California, Berkeley recently announced it would be the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. Berkeley was already posting lectures, but YouTube has dramatically expanded their reach.

If there isn't yet something for everyone, it's only a matter of time. On iTunes, popular recent downloads include a climate change panel at Stanford, lectures on existentialism by Cal-Berkeley professor Hubert Dreyfus, and a performance of Mozart's requiem by the Duke Chapel Choir. Berkeley's offerings include 48 classes, from ''Engineering Thermodynamics'' to ''Human Emotion.''

''It's almost as good as being there,'' said Whelan, the Massachusetts retiree, of the MIT classes he has sampled. ''The only thing that's lacking is the pressure.'' He says he usually doesn't do the homework assignments, but adds: ''Now that I'm not in school, I don't have to do that anymore.''

YouTube, iTunes, OpenCourseWare -- none are the full college experience. You can't raise your hand and ask a question. You can't get a letter of recommendation.

And most importantly, almost everywhere, you can't get credit or earn a degree.

That caveat, however, is what has made all this possible.

When the Internet emerged, experts predicted it would revolutionize higher education, cutting its tether to a college campus. Technology could help solve one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century: providing a mass population with higher education at a time when a college degree was increasingly essential for economic success.

Today, the Internet has indeed transformed higher education. A multibillion-dollar industry, both for-profit and nonprofit, has sprung up offering online training and degrees. Figures from the Sloan Consortium, an online learning group, report about 3.5 million students are signed up for at least one online course -- or about 20 percent of all students at degree-granting institutions.

But it hasn't been as clear what role -- if any -- elite universities would play in what experts call the ''massification'' of higher education. Their finances are based on prestige, which means turning students away, not enrolling more. How could they teach the masses without diminishing the value of their degree?

But MIT's 2001 debut of OpenCourseWare epitomized a key insight: Elite universities can separate their credential from their teaching -- and give at least parts of their teaching away as a public service. They aren't diminishing their reputations at all. In fact, they are expanding their reach and reputation.

It turns out there is extraordinary demand for bits and pieces of the education places like MIT provide, even without the diploma.

OpenCourseWare's site gets more than 1 million hits per month, with translated versions getting 500,000 more. About 60 percent of users are outside the United States. About 15 percent are educators, and 30 percent students at other universities. About half have no university affiliation.

''I think the fundamental realization is that distance learning will solve the problem of access to certification, but there's a larger problem, which is access to information,'' says Steve Carson, director of external relations for the MIT initiative.

''If you're going to work as a public health professional, you need the certification,'' Carson says. ''If you're working in a community'' -- say, in Africa -- ''you don't need the certification. You just need access to the information.''

About 7,200 miles from Cambridge, the Polytechnic of Namibia in is the kind of place eager to learn from MIT. Though barely a decade old, the school in the young African nation's capital Windhoek, is poised to play a key role in the country's development. It's one of 84 sites in Africa where MIT has shipped its course materials on hard drives for institutions to store locally on their own networks. With bandwidth costing about 1,000 times its price in the United States, patching into OpenCourseWare over the Internet would crash the school's fragile networks.

CIO Laurent Evrard says Polytechnic takes pride in standards on par with top global peers -- he notes how U.S. exchange students get credit for work there -- and says students like using OpenCourseWear to see how they stack up.

''Everybody here knows about MIT,'' he says, though it doesn't hurt that the school rector -- its top official -- is an alumnus.

On the opposite coast of southern Africa, Jiwaji says most of his Tanzanian students have never heard of MIT. Students use the courses ''because it gives them a tool. They feel lost and they don't have good books,'' Jiwaji says. ''They need a guide to help them.''

His distance university -- with 30,000 registered students -- has OpenCourseWare available at centers around the capital of Dar es Salaam. There, it gets an impressive 600 hits per day, mostly in management classes.

Though it's found a wider audience, OpenCourseWare was originally intended for teachers. The idea wasn't just to show off MIT's geniuses but to share its innovative teaching methods. After examining an MIT course called ''Machine Structures,'' Khan, the Pakistani professor, redesigned his lab assignments for a computer science class to get students more involved, asking them to design and build their own microprocessors.

''It really encourages the students to discover and try something new,'' he said. ''Normally the stress here is on how things work, not on creating things of your own.''

MIT's free offerings focus mostly on well-organized texts like syllabuses and readings, along with an expanding video lecture collection. Others, like Stanford and Bowdoin College in Maine, provide more polish, editing and features.

Berkeley, meanwhile, is focused less on bells and whistles than on ramping up its ability to roll out content with a system that automatically records and posts lectures. Berkeley's eight YouTube courses drew 1.5 million downloads in the first month, said Ben Hubbard, co-manager of the webcast.berkeley program, and the school is being inundated with requests to post more.

''That's why we're so focused on automation,'' he said. ''Our motto is 'Fiat Lux' -- 'let there be light.' We feel like this is a great way to let the light of Berkeley shine out on the world.''

A big obstacle is cost. Professors are reluctant to participate unless staff are provided to help with logistics. A major expense is video camera operators, unless schools can persuade lecturers to stand still at the lectern. MIT estimates OpenCourseWear costs a hefty $20,000 per course. Money from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation started the project, but from now on it will rely mostly on contributions from MIT's budget and endowment, and from visitor donations.

But there are direct benefits. Small schools like Bowdoin can use iTunes to show prospective students the richness of their offerings. MIT reports half its incoming students have already checked out OpenCourseWare.

Meanwhile, half of MIT alumni use OpenCourseWare, too. And alumni who stay connected with the intellectual life at their alma maters are more likely to donate.

MIT and other schools also emphasize the services benefit their paying customers -- the students. On-campus use at MIT and Berkeley spikes during exams, as students review lectures. Fears that technology would hurt class attendance have proved unfounded, at least at MIT, where 96 six percent of instructors reported no decline.

Will the free offerings of elite universities ever reduce demand for the full -- and full-price -- experience at places like MIT? Carson doubts it. Networking, late-night arguments over pizza, back-and-forth with professors -- that's where the real value lies, and even MIT's technology may never catch up with that.

For teachers like Strang, his expanded reach is no more than a minor inconvenience -- occasional e-mailed questions from ''students.'' And it's a major reward.

''My life is in teaching,'' he says. ''To have a chance do that with a world audience is just wonderful.''

America's 25 New Elite 'Ivies'

The nation's elite colleges these days include more than Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Why? It's the tough competition for all the top students. That means a range of schools are getting fresh bragging rights.

You could call it a classic case of supply meeting demand. A generation ago, elite schools were a clearly defined group: the eight schools in the Ivy League, along with such academic powerhouses as Stanford, the University of Chicago, MIT and Caltech. Smaller liberal-arts colleges—like Williams, Amherst, Middlebury, Swarthmore and Wesleyan—were the destinations of choice for top students who preferred a more intimate campus. But in the past few decades, the number of college-bound students has skyrocketed, and so has the number of world-class schools. The demand for an excellent education has created an ever-expanding supply of big and small campuses that provide great academics and first-rate faculties.

The bottom line: that one "perfect" school need not break a student's heart. The colleges on the following list—the "New Ivies"—are beneficiaries of the boom in top students. We selected them based on admissions statistics as wellas interviews with administrators, faculty, students and alumni. In some cases, admissions directors have also provided examples of "overlap" schools—rivals for applicants to the colleges on our list.

Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Founded by Jesuits to teach the sons of Irish immigrants, BC today serves 9,000 undergraduates and 4,500 graduate students. About 70 percent of the student body is Roman Catholic. The school's growing popularity among students from around the country has meant a 39 percent increase in applications in five years. "The greatest thing about BC is that you have the opportunity to pursue your individual passion or take electives," says sophomore Carly DeFilippo of Madison, Conn. Students appreciate the strong academics, but also seek out other opportunities. That means wide participation in student government, theater and intramural sports. High-profile alumni include actor Chris O'Donnell and "Saturday Night Live" star Amy Poehler, who were both onstage while at BC. Boston itself is also a major appeal; the campus is about five miles west of downtown.

Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine
Location's high on the list of reasons students flock to Bowdoin. The star attraction: the Atlantic. The school owns 200 acres of beautiful research property on Orr's Island, off the rocky coast of Maine. In winter, students have plenty of space to ski cross-country. Not surprisingly, Bowdoin draws many mountain climbers, kayakers and hikers. Bowdoin's students work hard, but the atmosphere is not as intensely competitive as at comparable schools. The most popular major is government and legal studies, followed by economics, English, history, biology, sociology and environmental science. Bowdoin phased out its fraternities a decade ago, and most students now live on campus. Dorms are small—about 30 to 50 students per building—and feel more like apartments. Students praise the food. The school even serves fresh lobster at the first-year banquet. Overlap schools: Williams, Amherst, Brown, Dartmouth and Middlebury.

Carnegie Mellon
Pittsburgh, Pa.
A major national research university, Carnegie Mellon serves 5,500 undergrads and 3,000 grad students in seven colleges reflecting CMU's academic diversity: Carnegie Institute of Technology (engineering), the College of Fine Arts, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Mellon College of Science, the Tepper School of Business, the School of Computer Science and the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management.

Students have to apply to specific schools. Last year, CMU received a record 18,864 applications and admitted 6,357. The drama program in the College of Fine Arts has the most competitive admissions; engineering is the most popular major overall, but business is catching up. Students laud Pittsburgh. "We have all the amenities of a nice-sized city, but not the hustle and bustle of a city like Chicago or New York," says Mike Hall, associate director of admission. CMU is known for fostering entrepreneurial spirit: staff, faculty, students and alumni have created or spun off more than 170 companies from the university since 1995. That reflects CMU's sterling academics; 15 faculty members and alumni are Nobel laureates. Overlap schools: Cornell and MIT. Business students sometimes overlap with the University of Pennsylvania, and music students with Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music.

Claremont Colleges: Harvey Mudd and Pomona
Claremont, Calif.
Located 35 miles east of downtown L.A., the five Claremont Colleges (and two grad schools) offer the range of a university with the intimacy of a small college. Harvey Mudd attracts students who might otherwise go to MIT, Caltech or Stanford. Pomona's are likely to apply to schools like Amherst and Williams. With just 700 undergrad-uates, Harvey Mudd is looking for serious math and science students who have interests outside the classroom. About a third of the class majors in engineering. About two thirds of the classes have fewer than 20 students. The schools stress an honor code; most exams are take-home. The first term is graded high-pass, pass and fail. Students who get several high-pass marks typically get a letter from the dean of students inviting them to find ways to contribute to the campus. "We call this the 'get a life' letter," says Peter Osgood, director of admission.

Pomona traditions abound—like "death by chocolate." During reading period in December, the school gives out thousands of pounds of chocolate and desserts—free. In February, the school celebrates Ski-Beach Day, when students board buses bound for skiing in the morning and swimming at the beach in the afternoon. Each is 45 minutes away.

Colby College
Waterville, Maine
Back in 1871, Colby became the first all-male college in New England to admit women. Since then, it's been attracting a diverse group of applicants, including, in the incoming class, from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Vietnam. That worldliness goes both ways. Seventy percent of students study abroad. Though Colby is small, with a freshman class of about 500, it offers 53 majors. The most popular are economics, biology, English and government. The school lures students who love the outdoors, and it boasts strong programs in the environmental sciences and plenty of opportunity to ski, rock-climb and fish. Overlap schools: Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Middlebury and Bates.

Colgate University
Hamilton, N.Y.
Can't decide between a university and a small liberal-arts college? Colgate has both, in an upstate New York setting that includes a lake and a golf course that Golf Digest rated as one of the top five collegiate courses in the United States. Naturally, the school has a Division I golf team. Colgate is "great for athletes, great for serious students and great for people who want to combine both," says Gary Ross, dean of admission. Despite a relatively small freshman class—about 750 students—Colgate offers an array of academic opportunities. The school runs 24 of its own study-abroad programs, with its own faculty; about 66 percent of the students at some point head for places like Australia, Japan, China and South America. Colgate is also the only college in the United States that offers students the chance to study for a semester for credit at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Students, mainly premeds or science majors, can spend fall or spring at the NIH. Overlap schools: Cornell, Dartmouth, Middlebury and Georgetown.

Davidson College
Davidson, N.C.
This private liberal-arts college of 1,600 has benefited from a recent surge in interest. Last year, 3,900 students applied for the class of 2010; only 30 percent were accepted. A decade earlier, admissions officers were sifting through about 2,800 applications. "We look, feel, sound like a New England liberal-arts college—but we're in North Carolina," says Christopher Gruber, dean of admission and financial aid. About a third of students are from the Southeast. The most popular majors are biology, economics, English, history and political science. Students can also concentrate in a particular area within a major—for example, biology with a concentration in medical humanities. Overlap schools: University of North Carolina, Duke, University of Virginia, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Rice, Boston College, Pomona, Stanford and the Ivies.

Emory University
Atlanta, Ga.
In 2005, applications to Emory climbed 18.5 percent from the previous year and came from all 50 states, proving that the school had surpassed its reputation as only an excellent regional school. Students often cite Emory's Atlanta location, which makes it easy to get internships and jobs, as well as to cross-register with the other colleges in the area. But as a major university, Emory has plenty to keep students busy on their own campus. Some students start at Oxford College, Emory's smaller two-year division, and then continue on to "big Emory" for their junior and senior years. Oxford has just 650 students and its own faculty. Overlap schools: Duke, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, University of Georgia, University of Virginia and University of North Carolina.

Kenyon College
Gambier, Ohio
Kenyon "has shifted from a backup school to a first choice," says Jennifer Delahunty Britz, dean of admission and financial aid. "We tend to get very intellectually diverse kids—students who want to major in biology and English." Although the school is intellectually rigorous, students say its atmosphere encourages collaboration rather than competitiveness. The student-faculty ratio is just 9 to 1, and the average class has only 14 students. Many faculty live within a bike ride of campus, which further encourages a sense of community. Kenyon is often called a writer's college, and graduates include "Seabiscuit" author Laura Hillenbrand and E. L. Doctorow. Students can stay fit in a $70 million athletic center that opened in January.

Macalester College
St. Paul, Minn.
Macalester students are passionate about academics, politics and extracurriculars, says Lorne Robinson, dean of admissions and financial aid. Being in St. Paul helps. Most small liberal-arts colleges tend to be in rural areas or small towns. Macalester's 1,840 students—all undergraduates—come from 80 countries and all 50 states. Despite its size, Macalester's catalog lists 750 courses. The most popular majors: political science, economics and biology.

University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Senior Nicole Stallings, president of the Student Assembly, chose the school because "I felt like no matter what I decided, there would be a good program." That range of excellence is a huge attraction of this world-class research university. From engineering to the humanities to medicine, Michigan is at the top of just about every list of academic leaders. Many out-of-state students come for the competitive honors program in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), which usually includes 1,700 to 1,800 students a year—or 10 to 11 percent of LSA undergrads. Honors students get smaller class sizes and can choose to live in a dedicated area of campus. That makes it a small grouping within the larger university, which serves 25,500 undergrads and 14,500 grad students. Overlap schools: New York University, University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern.

New York University
New York, N.Y.
NYU is not for the timid. In the heart of Greenwich Village, there is no traditional campus. The urban experience is apparently appealing: this past season, there were a record 34,944 applications. The previous record? The year before. They're attracted by strong programs in NYU's eight colleges.

Arts and Sciences is the largest (the most popular majors are politics, journalism and English). The Tisch School of Performing Arts, with about 700 freshmen, is one of the hottest arts schools in the country. Although living in Manhattan is obviously key, NYU also promotes study abroad. Two years ago the school opened a site in Ghana; the newest addition is Shanghai. NYU is setting up broad curriculum programs at each of its sites so that students from all majors can participate. And back in the big city, there's no chance to get bored: NYU offers more than 2,500 courses and 25 different majors.

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C.

If a moviemaker needs an idyllic setting for a film about college life, Chapel Hill might be just the place. Elegant buildings, many in Greek Revival style, dot the lush campus filled with dogwoods and azaleas. For a prestigious public university, the atmosphere is relaxed, many students say. "It's a combination of absolutely first-rate academics and a wonderful sort of collaborative, low-key culture," says Stephen Farmer, director of undergraduate admissions. Junior Heath Nettles, an education major, grew up aiming for UNC, his father's alma mater. "I sometimes tell people I had blue blood," he says, referring to the school colors. When he hears the James Taylor song "Carolina on My Mind," he says, "my heart skips a beat." The 3,838 incoming freshmen (out of 19,688 applicants) can expect to have a similar reaction. Most popular majors: business, English, psychology, biology and history.

University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Ind.
It can't be the weather. "This is not God's paradise," says Dan Saracino, assistant provost for enrollment, of Notre Dame's northern Indiana location, where the temperature can sink well below freezing in winter. So why do so many alumni and students love the place? Many cite the unique spirit of this Catholic university. More than half of entering freshmen say Notre Dame is their first choice—an unusually large number. "When we survey students and ask the three things they think about when they think of Notre Dame, they'll say tradition, faith and academics," Saracino says. And, of course, football: the legendary Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame students are not slackers; 95 percent graduate in four years. (Only Harvard and Princeton have equivalent records.) Appropriately for a religious school, more than 80 percent of students are involved in community service—and more than half study abroad. Each year more than 10 percent of graduates go into community-service positions, such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Although 83 percent of the students are Catholic, religion doesn't play a role in the admissions process, says Saracino.

Olin College of Engineering
Needham, Mass.
Over the past 60 years, the Olin Foundation has built 76 buildings on 68 campuses around the country. In a final testimonial to founder Franklin W. Olin (an engineer and entrepreneur), the foundation decided to build a college of engineering. The foundation endowment, about $450 million, was transferred to Olin, which enrolled its first class in 2001. The school has an independent spirit that's reflected in the admissions process. Faculty and staff evaluate applicants and make recommendations to the admissions committee, which then invites about 180 of them to campus for a two-day evaluation.

Admission to Olin, which doesn't charge tuition, is highly selective; the school lands students who might otherwise pick MIT or Caltech. With just 300 undergrads, Olin "feels like your second family," says senior Adam Joe College, of Clearwater, Fla. An electrical- and computer-engineering major, he wants to get a master's in technology entrepreneurship and start his own business—a goal of many Olin students.

Reed College
Portland, Ore.
Who is the ideal Reed student? "Reed is for independent-minded, intellectually passionate students, people who care about ideas, people who challenge conventions," says Paul Marthers, dean of admission. Reed ranks in the top three of U.S. schools for the percentage of graduates who earn Ph.D.s, and it has produced 31 Rhodes scholars. The required curriculum includes a Great Books core: Virgil, Homer, Aristotle, Plato, selections of the New Testament and Greek and Roman plays. About a third of students major in science and math, a third in social sciences and a third in arts and humanities. Students must produce a thesis, which is then bound and put in Reed's library.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, N.Y.
Applications to RPI were up 23 percent in 2005—a reflection of the school's reputation as an educator of scientists and engineers. The class of 2010 is 29 percent female. Students like the school's state-of-the-art facilities, including the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. RPI also operates a co-op program that lets students work at companies like IBM. Hockey is big on campus; RPI has a Division I team that's won two national championships. Skiing is also popular; the campus is just 45 minutes from the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

Rice University
Houston, Texas
Although Rice is located just three miles from downtown Houston, the 300-acre campus is pastoral. The private university's nine residential colleges were inspired by Oxford and give students an opportunity to belong to a more intimate group. Each college has a "faculty master" selected by students, other masters and the president. The emphasis on student-faculty interaction is echoed in the classroom, where the median class size is 15. Many students like the fact that Rice has Division I sports, including a top baseball team. About 40 percent of students double-major, often pairing economics with engineering or political science. Overlap schools: Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Duke.

University of Rochester
Rochester, N.Y.
Over the past decade, this small, private university has dramatically changed its curriculum. "We threw out general education," says Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions. Students now pick all their courses. As a research institution, Rochester is particularly strong in science and engineering, but liberal arts are also popular, along with music and nursing. About 70 percent of humanities students study overseas, and about 80 percent go to grad school. Most students live on campus, which is some distance from downtown Rochester. Overlap schools: Cornell, Brown, Tufts, NYU and Northwestern.

Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Consider the location: a picturesque small city (with good restaurants) that's three hours from New York, Boston and Montreal. That's great for students who don't want to study in an urban area, yet want access to big cities. Skidmore offers a broad curriculum, with traditional majors in the liberal arts and sciences, but also in subjects like management and business. The college is strong as well in individual and performing arts. Saratoga Springs has the oldest Thoroughbred racetrack in the United States. It's the permanent summer home of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The school runs its own programs in London, Spain, Paris, India and Beijing, and is affiliated with many other overseas programs. Overlap schools: Vassar, Connecticut College, Wesleyan and NYU.

Tufts University
Medford, Mass.
Applications to this medium-size university in a Boston suburb have increased 80 percent in the last decade. Lee Coffin, director of undergraduate admissions, says the school's mission is why. "We're using the intellect to make a difference in the world," he says. "Look at the liberal arts. Look at the engineering fields. How do you take these disciplines and interpret them broadly?" Students are expected to take what they learn and find real-world applications. That would mean, say, that a civil-engineering major would volunteer to help rebuild New Orleans. It's not surprising that international relations is the school's most popular major, followed by economics, political science, psychology and child development. More than 40 percent of students study abroad. Tufts stresses foreign languages, with full majors in Latin, Chinese, Japanese and Russian. Overlap schools: Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and Cornell.

University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.
UCLA this past year received a record 47,307 applications; 12,221 got in. Location, moderate cost for California residents and lots of course choices are big selling points, says Vu Tran, director of undergraduate admissions. The College of Letters and Sciences represents about 80 percent of undergrad programs, with the rest in the schools of engineering and applied science, arts and architecture, and theater, film and TV. The most popular major is biology or biology-related majors like biochemistry, followed by psychology and political science. Because UCLA is a public university, most students are from California, but 10 percent of this fall's freshmen are from out of state and 3 percent are from abroad. Major building projects include theaters, studios, the California Nanosystems Institute and enough dorm space so that students can live on campus all four years.

Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tenn.
Founded in 1873 by Cornelius Vanderbilt, the university appeals to students who want an urban school with a small-town feel. The campus is so full of shrub and tree varieties—300 in all—that it was designated a national arboretum in 1988. Vanderbilt requires all undergrads to live on campus—unusual for a city school but also "critical" to creating a cohesive student community, says John Gaines, the associate dean of undergraduate admissions. About two thirds of students study liberal arts. The rest are in the schools of engineering, education and music. The most popular major is human and organizational development, followed by economics. Overlap school: Duke.

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Va.
Developing leadership is a guiding principle at Virginia's flagship public university, says John Blackburn, dean of admission. "What students tell us they like about UVA is the quality of life, the student experience of basically running this place." UVA boasts more than 500 student organizations, including a Quaker worship group and the Queer Student Union. At most schools, the dean of students passes out the money to run such organizations. At UVA, says Blackburn, the elected student council (with no faculty adviser) decides who gets what. UVA also has the highest African-American graduation rate for a public university: 87 percent. African-Americans make up 9.4 percent of the student population; Asian-Americans constitute an additional 11 percent, and Latino students make up 4.5 percent. The most popular majors are politics, English and biology. A significant number of UVA grads join groups like the Peace Corps or Teach for America—a testament to the school's emphasis on community service. Most fun tradition: students streaking The Lawn (designed by founder Thomas Jefferson) at night. Overlap schools: Duke, William & Mary, University of North Carolina, Georgetown and Princeton.

Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo.

Not so long ago, Washington University was a highly regarded regional institution whose reputation didn't extend much beyond its Midwestern roots. But these days Wash U is luring top students away from the Ivy League and other leading schools. Wash U now admits only about one out of five from an increasing pool of applicants. Admissions director Nanette Tarbouni says the school's draw is "a strong academic environment, and our campus is a warm, friendly and welcoming kind of place." Founded in 1854, the university offers 90 undergraduate programs in five schools. Students apply to one school, but can transfer if their interests change. The most popular majors are liberal arts, psychology, biology, languages, engineering and architecture. Many students also choose double majors or minors, even picking them from different schools—say, history and architecture. Overlap schools: Stanford, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern and University of Pennsylvania.

End of this year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hopes to find about 90% of the largest asteroids

NASA to find most Earth-threatening asteroids by end of 2008
But Mars asteroid with 1-in-25 chance of hitting Red Planet illustrates broader threat .

By the end of this year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) hopes to find about 90% of the largest asteroids that, were one to strike Earth, would have global consequence ranging from its blast to dust thrown into the atmosphere, firestorms and acid rain. These are asteroids that can be as large as mountains but are at least one kilometer (3,280.8 feet) in diameter. NASA estimates that there are 900 of these objects in potentially hazardous range of Earth.

But the more immediate threat is from much smaller asteroids, such as that asteroid that has a 1-in-25 chance of hitting Mars Jan. 30. This asteroid, which has unglamorous name of 2007 WD5, is only 50 meters (164 feet) and is barely a chip off the massive, 10 kilometer- (6.2 miles) wide asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Small, yes, but such an asteroid has the explosive force of a 10-megaton nuclear weapon.

"There are thought to be about 75,000 potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 50 meters and the vast majority remains undiscovered," said Donald Yeomans, manager of the NASA Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, in an e-mail response to questions. "Hence, at the moment, we would not have much warning time prior to a collision. That's the bad news," he said.

But the "good news is that an object of this size would only cause local damage if it hit, or exploded above, a populated area, which seems unlikely," said Yeomans. That's because two thirds of the Earth is ocean and one third is not densely populated, he said.

A 50 meter-sized asteroid, similar to the one inbound on Mars, will hit Earth once every 500 to 1000 years, according to Yeomans. This is same size of the object that struck Tunguska, Siberia, exactly one hundred years ago. The Tunguska object disintegrated in the Earth's atmosphere but its blast flattened and scorched trees over an area of some 800 square miles. The Mars asteroid is traveling at 30,000 miles an hour and a strike may create a more than a half-a-mile wide crater.

But the U.S. isn't searching for the smaller potentially hazardous asteroids, even though in 2005 Congress directed NASA to find by 2020 potentially hazardous objects of 140 meters and larger.

A mid-size object of 140 meters (459.3 feet) and larger, with an impact energy of 100 megatons or more, can be expected to hit earth once every 5,000 years, or an 1% probability of impact every 50 years. By contrast, 1 kilometer or larger asteroids have a mean impact frequency of about once every 500,000 years, according to testimony by Yeomans in November on near earth objects before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology.

Congress didn't set aside money for this expanded asteroid hunt, and out of NASA's annual budget of about $17 billion, it spends just $4.1 million to find potentially hazardous near earth objects.

Russell "Rusty" Schweickart, the former astronaut, is now chairman of the B612 Foundation in Sonoma, Calif., which has been pushing NASA and Congress since 2001 to develop a comprehensive plans for dealing with asteroid "with our name on it" that includes a deflection plan.

"The reality is we have the knowledge to be able to protect life on Earth from this happening," said Schweickart. "If we were really responsible, if we really set about his process ... we could essentially preclude any substantial asteroid from ever hitting the Earth again."

Schweickart believes that the Mars asteroid "will cause thoughtful people to realize that this happens."

The nearest known risk to Earth the asteroid 99942 Apophis, a 400-meter (1300 feet) asteroid that has an impact probability of 1 in 45,000 in 2036.

Asteroid could collide with Mars in late January

Mars could be in for an asteroid hit.

A newly discovered hunk of space rock has a 1 in 75 chance of slamming into the Red Planet on Jan. 30, scientists said Thursday.

"These odds are extremely unusual. We frequently work with really long odds when we track ... threatening asteroids," said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The asteroid, known as 2007 WD5, was discovered in late November and is similar in size to an object that hit remote central Siberia in 1908, unleashing energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb and wiping out 60 million trees.

Scientists tracking the asteroid, currently halfway between Earth and Mars, initially put the odds of impact at 1 in 350 but increased the chances this week. Scientists expect the odds to diminish again early next month after getting new observations of the asteroid's orbit, Chesley said.

"We know that it's going to fly by Mars and most likely going to miss, but there's a possibility of an impact," he said.

If the asteroid does smash into Mars, it will probably hit near the equator close to where the rover Opportunity has been exploring the Martian plains since 2004. The robot is not in danger because it lies outside the impact zone. Speeding at 8 miles a second, a collision would carve a hole the size of the famed Meteor Crater in Arizona.

In 1994, fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 smacked into Jupiter, creating a series of overlapping fireballs in space. Astronomers have yet to witness an asteroid impact with another planet.

"Unlike an Earth impact, we're not afraid, but we're excited," Chesley said.

Global warming might be responsible for changes in brightness and reach

This image shows one of the first ground sightings of noctilucent clouds in the 2007 season.

New light shed on night clouds

A Hampton University professor is shedding new light on night-shining clouds that might be affected by climate change. Jim Russell is the lead scientist for the NASA-funded AIM satellite, the first to study the wispy "noctilucent" clouds, which only appear above Earth's poles.

Russell, an atmospheric science professor, has found that the clouds get brighter and stretch farther as the uppermost atmosphere gets colder. He thinks that the changes might be caused by human-generated global warming.

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite is providing the first global mapping of the cover and structure of these clouds, which coalesce as icy dust particles about 42 to 60 miles above the Earth's surface.

The mapping showed that the clouds are more sensitive to changes in the upper atmosphere than was previously thought, as they are changing in brightness and reach.

Scientists say that's why people as far south as Colorado and Utah have spotted the clouds in recent years.

Previously, they had only been visible to people in regions of northern Europe and Canada.

AIM is funded through NASA's Small Explorers program. It has a $140-million budget through May 2009, but Russell hopes to get funding to extend the research.

The satellite is now studying the clouds at the South Pole. Noctilucent clouds form only in the summer of the respective hemispheres, when, somewhat counter-intuitively, it is coldest at the highest reaches of the atmosphere.

"We want to look at long-term changes," said Russell, who presented his first batch of results at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "We have such great sensitivity that we really want to get a long-term database."

Russell said the connection to climate change may involve changes in temperature and water vapor.

As the Earth's surface-level climate warms up, the coldest region of the atmosphere, where these clouds exist, actually gets colder. The colder it gets, the farther the clouds reach.

Data shed new light on night clouds
HAMPTON, Va. - A Hampton University professor is shedding new light on night-shining clouds that might be affected by climate change. Jim Russell is the lead scientist for the NASA-funded AIM satellite, the first to study the wispy "noctilucent" clouds, which only appear above Earth's poles.

Russell, an atmospheric science professor, has found that the clouds get brighter and stretch farther as the uppermost atmosphere gets colder. He thinks that the changes might be caused by human-generated global warming.

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite is providing the first global mapping of the cover and structure of these clouds, which coalesce as icy dust particles about 42 to 60 miles above the Earth's surface.

The mapping showed that the clouds are more sensitive to changes in the upper atmosphere than was previously thought, as they are changing in brightness and reach.

Scientists say that's why people as far south as Colorado and Utah have spotted the clouds in recent years.

Previously, they had only been visible to people in regions of northern Europe and Canada.

AIM is funded through NASA's Small Explorers program. It has a $140-million budget through May 2009, but Russell hopes to get funding to extend the research.

The satellite is now studying the clouds at the South Pole. Noctilucent clouds form only in the summer of the respective hemispheres, when, somewhat counter-intuitively, it is coldest at the highest reaches of the atmosphere.

"We want to look at long-term changes," said Russell, who presented his first batch of results at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. "We have such great sensitivity that we really want to get a long-term database."

Russell said the connection to climate change may involve changes in temperature and water vapor.

As the Earth's surface-level climate warms up, the coldest region of the atmosphere, where these clouds exist, actually gets colder. The colder it gets, the farther the clouds reach.

Axiotron Modbook :The One and Only Tablet Mac

Designed in California by Axiotron’s team of German and American engineers, the Modbook™ is at its core an after-market hardware modification to standard off-the-shelf Apple® MacBook™ systems, converting them into high-end slate-style tablet computers. With its condensed form factor and integrated pen-based user experience the Axiotron Modbook is the ultimate companion for applications and situations where a keyboard only gets in the way.

Built for mobile users, artists, students and professionals, the Modbook enables its user to draw and write directly on the screen, while the handwriting recognition built into Mac OS® X Tiger not only turns hand scribbles into text in every application, but also provides extended control of the system through gesture recognition. The Modbook comes standard with a built-in iSight™ camera and an integrated CD/DVD combo drive that can be upgraded to a 8.5 GB DVD burner, and it is the only portable Mac solution that also features an optional built-in Global Positioning System (GPS).

When the Going Gets Tough
Both the Modbook’s top shell and the interior display frame are built from top grade, aircraft quality magnesium alloy, giving the Modbook superior structural strength for almost every situation.

Its satin textured top shell is plated with chrome over a set of copper and nickel layers. This provides for an extremely scratch resistant and aesthetically pleasing surface, while also offering optimum protection against oxidation.

Both the LCD panel and the builtin iSight™ camera are protected by replaceable screen covers made from chemically strengthened ForceGlass™. Compared to cheaper non-glass-based solutions found in most tablet computers, Axiotron ForceGlass provides superior optical and aging properties as well as far improved scratch resistance.

The display screen cover has been treated on both sides for optimized optical properties. The LCD facing (in)side features an anti-reflective coating to increase the light transmissivity for a brighter image. The user facing (out)side has been acid treated to achieve an etched surface, carefully calibrated to match the display resolution. This provides for a crisp, paper-like writing sensation, while keeping perceived haze and light refractions to a minimum.

State-of-the-Art Pen Input
The Axiotron Modbook is built using the unique digitizer technology from WACOM®, the industry leader in graphics tablets for professional artists and consumers. The Modbook pen digitizer is

Fast - 133 position updates per second
Accurate - 20x display resolution
Sensitive - 512 pressure levels *NEW*
Efficient - No batteries required

The included Modbook Digitizer Pen features 2 programmable side buttons plus an eraser, and ships with 3 different types of replaceable pen tips, which if used on the acid etched surface of the Axiotron ForceGlass™ offer a wider range of drawing styles and sensations. The Pencil Nib, the most durable nib, is most commonly used in pen tablets and TabletPCs today and provides a very hard and direct drawing feel. The Studio Nib is the default tip in the Modbook Digitizer Pen and essentially a spring-loaded variation of the Pencil Nib, offering a different feel in controlling the 512 pressure levels. The Felt Nib's marker-type material maximizes friction on the Modbook's acid etched ForceGlass™ surface, resulting in what is said to be the most paper-like drawing experience.

Requiring no batteries or magnets, the pen always feels light and nimble and due to the radio-based digitizer technology, users can even write with their hand resting on the screen. This technology also allows the cursor to be controlled while the pen is hovering over the screen, providing for an intuitive, mouse-like interface with a zero learning curve.

The ModBook is fully compatible with Apple’s Inkwell, a Mac OS® X Tiger feature that provides system level handwriting and gesture recognition instantly to all Mac applications.

Global Positioning System
The Modbook is the only portable Mac solution that features an optional built-in Global Positioning System (GPS). The optional Axiotron Modbook GPS Module is based on the industry leading SiRFstarTM III chipset for faster first location fix times and improved tracking capabilities in challenging urban and outdoor environments.

Because Looks Do Matter
The Modbook is equipped with a new and improved Axiotron AnyView™ LCD panel offering wider viewing angles (Horiz./Vert.: 100°/90° vs. 90°/55°) and a higher contrast ratio (500:1 vs. 400:1) for darker blacks and stronger, more saturated, lush colors, while maintaining the same resolution (1280x800 pixel) and aspect ratio (113 ppi) of the original MacBook™ display. The included Modbook ColorSync™ profile offers a solid base calibration which can be adjusted or replaced using the Mac OS X Tiger display calibration tools.

Built-in iSight Camera
While the Modbook utilizes the original iSight camera of the MacBook base system, it is mounted slightly tilted downwards to better frame the face of the user.

Wireless Connectivity
With built in 802.11 a/b/g/n capabilities, the Modbook connects to the fastest AirPort Extreme networks at home or in the office, as well as to any WiFi Hot Spots or networks on the road.

The also built-in Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity supports a wide range of external peripherals such as keyboards, mice, trackballs, cell phones and headseats.

Built-in CD/DVD or DVD Burner
The Modbook is the only slate-style tablet computer with an internal CD/DVD combo drive, which in addition can be upgraded to a 6x DVD burner with up to 8.5 GB capacity. In combination with its 13.3” wide screen LCD, this also earns the Modbook the title of “Largest Screen Portable DVD Entertainment System”.

Built-in Mounting Locks
Inconspicuous locking points, designed into the magnesium top shell, allow the Modbook to be securely placed in optional multi-functional mounts i.e. for use with VESA compatible desktop arms.

Warranty and Warranty Extensions
Converting an Apple MacBook into a tablet Mac® using the Axiotron Modbook conversion kit is best performed by a trained technician and will void the original Apple MacBook warranty. The Axiotron Modbook is therefore exclusively assembled and manufactured by Axiotron Authorized System Manufacturers (AASM) who not only perform the conversion, but also include a comprehensive 1 year warranty covering the complete solution. Every AASM also offers optional 2 year warranty extension plans, providing added ease of mind.

ModBook tablet Mac finally ships
Axiotron has announced that it is delivering the ModBook, its tablet Macintosh, almost a year after first unveiling the product at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, in January, 2007. The ModBook is priced at $2,279 or $2,479 depending on configuration.

Starting with a stock Apple MacBook laptop, Axiotron has designed a new case and a new input system, eschewing the keyboard and trackpad instead for a stylus input that enables users to write directly on the screen. It's the first pen tablet-based Mac.

The screen features 512 levels of pressure sensitivity -- twice what PC-compatible tablet computers offer and twice what Axiotron originally announced for the ModBook when it was introduced in January, 2007. The screen also features a scratch-resistant surface that has higher viewing angles and a higher contrast ratio than the original display. Axiotron calls the screen surface "ForceGlass," and says that the combination of the acid-etched surface and the special nibs included with the stylus provide a pen or pencil-on-paper tactile experience.

Axiotron worked with Wacom Technologies to develop the pen input system used on the ModBook. It also works with Inkwell, Apple's handwriting recognition software built in to the operating system.

Since the ModBook was first announced in 2007, the MacBook upon which it's based has undergone some changes, and so has the operating system. The MacBook is faster and Tiger has been replaced with Leopard. Axiotron has kept up with the times -- all ModBooks, including those that were ordered prior to the introduction of the new MacBooks, have been upgraded to the new hardware spec, and Leopard is installed too.

Under the hood is the MacBook's 2.0 or 2.2GHz microprocessor, Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics, 24x DVD/CD-R "Combo" drive or 8x "SuperDrive, and support for up to 4GB RAM. The ModBook retains 802.11n wireless networking capability, Bluetooth 2.0 support, the Apple Remote, and all of the MacBook's original ports. Axiotron has also migrated the MacBook's iSight webcam, repositioning it to make it more suitable to the pen tablet design. Global Positioning System (GPS) is also supported.

The ModBook case is made from magnesium alloy along with nickel over copper topped with chrome, and is scratch-resistant. It's available in either satin or mirror finishes. The case also integrates mounting locks, so you place the ModBook in VESA-compatible display mounts and desktop arms.

A tiny assembly line that powers the whip-like tail of sperm

Scientists look to sperm to power nanobots
Flagellum could potentially provide locomotion, early research suggests
A tiny assembly line that powers the whip-like tail of sperm could be harnessed to send future nanobots or other tiny medical devices zooming around the human body, according to a preliminary research report.

Borrowing a page from reproductive biology, the proof-of-principle study offers a peek at how nanotechnology might overcome the problem of supplying energy to the envisioned menagerie of nanobots, implants and “smart” probes aimed at releasing disease-fighting drugs, monitoring enzymes and performing other medical roles within a patient’s body.

To be biologically compatible, these hypothetical devices would need to be formed not from tiny springs and nuts and bolts but from biomedical components. “At that scale, biology provides the best functional motors,” said Alexander Travis, an assistant professor of reproductive biology at Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health. “But how do you power these kinds of structures?”
One potential answer has come from the tail, or flagellum, that propels human sperm at a rate of about 7 inches per hour. (In comparison, if a 6-foot man swam the equivalent number of body lengths in an hour, his tally of 3.7 miles would smash the American long-distance swimming record.)

To supply the energy for its locomotion, a sperm cell’s tail is essentially studded with tiny assembly lines that produce a high-energy compound called ATP. Officially known as adenosine triphosphate, ATP has been called the universal energy “currency” of living cells because of its ability to store, transfer and release energy. When a power source is needed to run processes within a cell — say, bending and flexing a sperm’s flagellum — ATP releases its reserves through a process that results in its decay to a simpler chemical form.

The most efficient producers of ATP are mitochondria, the cell’s miniature power plants. Sperm tails contain a spiraling helix of these mitochondria within the area closest to the sperm’s head. On the remaining three-quarters of its tail, however, the cell uses an approach based on a pathway called glycolysis, in which sugar is broken down into several components, including high-energy ATP molecules.

Proteins normally require the freedom to twist, bend or change shape to be functional. Research by Travis and Cornell colleague Chinatsu Mukai, together with other scientists, suggests that in sperm, the 10 proteins involved in glycolysis have been tweaked so they stick to a solid scaffold-like support running the length of the tail while still maintaining their activity. Travis and Mukai borrowed that approach to re-jigger the proteins so they stuck instead to the surface of a tiny gold chip covered with nickel ions. For their research, the scientists used mouse sperm proteins as templates for the synthesized versions. (Human and mouse sperm proteins are closely related.)

After tethering the first two proteins in the pathway to the chip, the researchers found that both did well in breaking down glucose and handing the end-product to the next protein. Compared to versions lacking a surface-targeting domain and “just randomly glommed” onto a structural support, the engineered proteins performed especially well. Most of the remaining assembly line has yet to be similarly tweaked, but Travis and Mukai’s work suggests it should be possible. “We believe it is one of the first, if not the first, example of building a biological pathway on a manmade surface,” Travis said. The collaborators have a provisional patent for the ATP-making strategy, though no commercial partners as of yet.

Like a vehicle running on gasoline, the sperm’s power production emits waste. Fortunately, its tail harbors a transport protein that acts like a tailpipe to kick out waste and keep the production cycle going. Future nanodevices, Travis said, could include this transporter to similarly maintain their energy production. Maximizing the pathway’s efficiency could prove important for future strategies, such as filling tiny delivery capsules known as liposomes with cancer-fighting drugs and studding their outsides with antibodies that would direct the medical packets to attack specific tumor cells. Under that scenario, a steady supply of ATP could power the pumps charged with dispensing the medication at a certain rate.

Other scientists are likewise mining the emerging field of nanotechnology and its largely unrealized potential for delivering high-impact devices in ultra-small dimensions. Recent studies, for example, have harnessed nanotubes, nanodiamonds and magnetic nanoparticles for drug delivery (but not yet within humans). One group has created a tiny nickel-based rod that spins almost like a tiny propeller as it uses ATP. Another team, led by Carlo Montemagno at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a technique that makes ATP from light photons.

As a veterinarian, Travis said his interest in wildlife conservation got him into reproductive biology and research aimed at fighting infertility and exploring birth control methods. Through efforts by his lab and others, he discovered that one of the most abundant proteins in mammalian sperm, hexokinase, is also the first enzyme in the glycolysis assembly line on its tail. That observation led to questions about the protein’s role, location and, eventually, about whether it and its assembly line partners might be useful for other applications.

Cornell University’s emphasis on nanotechnology “just kind of clicked” with his reproductive biology research, Travis said. He and Mukai presented the initial results from that scientific pairing in early December at the American Society for Cell Biology’s annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., and are now preparing the study for publication.

Dr. Erkki Ruoslahti, a nanotechnology researcher and distinguished professor with the La Jolla, Calif.-based Burnham Institute for Medical Research, said he was intrigued by the approach and considered it a valid first step. “It sounds good to me — that’s the kind of thing that the field needs,” he said. “Having some sort of way of being able to power nanodevices is the number one bottleneck in constructing really clever devices.”

The safety of nanotechnology devices has yet to be fully resolved. Ruoslahti cautioned that sperm-inspired ATP generators would need to overcome the likelihood that the altered proteins would be recognized as foreign by the body’s immune system, provoking a strong immune response. Even so, he pointed out that some nanoparticles potentially serving as the basis for savvy devices of the future are already in use, including magnetic iron oxide particles used for advanced body imaging. “These are not pie-in-the-sky technologies,” Ruoslahti said. “They’re already with us.”

Sperm-derived power system for nanobots patented

Cybernetics designers have long tended to copy successful anatomical features from living creatures. Now nano-robotics boffins are getting in on the act, seeking to make use of the process which drives sperm.

Apparently your regular sperm makes use of a process called "glycolysis" to generate energy with which to swim tremendously long distances (relative to its size). Brainboxes at Cornell University aim to replicate this process for use in powering "nanoscale robots".

"Our idea is not the final product but rather an energy-delivery system," said Alex Travis of the Cornell veterinary school. The research was presented on Monday at the American Society for Cell Biology's annual meeting.

It seems that sperm make use of ten different enzyme processes in the "fibrous sheath" that encases their tail to make glycolysis happen. Travis and his pals have cracked only three of these stages in a way that can be replicated on a chip, but they consider this to be "proof of principle".

Indeed, the Cornell researchers believe that miniscule spunk-drive robomachines could one day be widespread, and earn big money for their inventors. Potential uses would include the targeting of specific cells within a body - not unlike what sperm do normally, in fact.

Now the boffins just need someone to get in bed with them.

"We have a provisional patent, so if a company shows interest, we could work something out with them," said Travis.

Or, of course, the Cornell boffins could become owner-operators.

Nintendo set to offer full DS games for download via Wii

Download DS games on Wii

US Nintendo DS owners will soon be able to download DS games through their Wii, Nintendo US boss Reggie Fils-Amie has told the New York Times.

The service will offer both complete games and demos, which will be directly downloaded to Wii via broadband, then wirelessly transmitted to DS.

Additional content for newer titles will also be a possibility, with new puzzles already confirmed for the upcoming Professor Layton.

Nintendo looks to be widening the range of services it provides as its user base also grows. At a baseball game last year in Seattle, fans could watch the game, order food and view statistics, all using their handheld console.

Whether this is just whimsical experimenting on the part of Nintendo's research team is a matter for debate, but it sounds interesting to us.

Currently there is no confirmation that the service will arrive in the UK, but given there's little reason for it not to, we speculatively expect to hear more later this year.

Nintendo DS to Begin Full Game Downloads
We've long known the NIntendo DS to be a capable of downloading content like demos from kiosks, but "complete games" will soon be downloadable through the Wii, and then Wi-Fi transferable to the DS, according to Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime's interview with the NYT. But for the moment, only one game has been announced—Professor Layton. So we're left with more questions than answers. Will Nintendo open up their retro gaming Virtual Console to older Gamboy titles? But even more importantly, will Nintendo really let you download games without a catch?

For instance, how will the games be stored on the DS? Or will they be stored at all? In DS retail kiosks, demo content is only shared with the DS in a temporary buffer—nothing is actually written to the system's hard drive because the unit has no such storage. So once you turn off the DS, you lose your demo forever.

Nintendo could deal with such an issue in two ways. First, they could use a system like the DSVision or R4, essentially a writable DS cartridge, to store these downloadable titles. Or, as the company is facing incredible amounts of piracy already (before putting the emulation technology into the hands of all consumers), Nintendo could limit the system just as they do DS kiosks. It's feasible that consumers will only have access to the downloaded games between the time they're synced and the time that the DS is turned off.

Saving games could become problematic in this scenario, but one has to wonder why Nintendo would put the Wii in the equation at all, otherwise.

But at the moment, downloadable DS titles seem like a good idea. We'll be interested to see how this unfolds

Find here

Home II Large Hadron Cillider News