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Throughout the week, the Technology Review and editors and writers scour newpapers, blogs, and journals to give readers a quick synopsis of what happened in the previous week in the field of emerging technologies.

Super Bowl C268H320O52

After centuries of zippy theories such as “The Big Bang” and catchy names such as “buckyballs”, researchers have turned to commercialism for new ideas.

It started with the tangy folks over at NASA, who last month launched a comet probe dubbed Deep Impact. Now, researchers at the Australian National University have titled their new carbon concoction “the superbowl” molecule – because if you squint, well, it almost looks like a sports stadium.

The molecule consists of five smaller, concave bowl structures: four on the sides; one on the bottom; and an open top. They work a lot like buckyballs, which ferry a few atoms at a time. By tagging on other chemical complexes, the superbowls can be made to hold and release molecules of up to a hundred atoms. They are, in effect, buckyyballs on steroids, and could be the perfect quarterback for new drug delivery systems.

A Brand New Napster

Two weeks ago, the previewed the coming digital music battle. Last week, that story hit CNN and the rest of the mass media last week. Yesterday, the digital music wars went international with Napster’s Super Bowl commercial slot.

Napster is going to be using Microsoft’s Janus technology to allow users to rent music instead of buying individual songs, a fierce stab at Apple’s online music story, iTunes. The logic behind the new Napster is that to fill an iPod’s memory, you’d have to spend $10,000 on songs.

Napster’s service will allow unlimited download onto a compatible device for only $15 a month – all you have to do is check the device and your computer with Napster’s website to verify that your subscription is valid. Otherwise the device and your computer stops playing the rented music.


If the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants a face lift, maybe it would just be easier to just drop more money into plastic surgery.

Last year, the organization dolled out $19.3 billion in tax-payer money to researchers around the world, but there’s been a lot of talk in Congress that the cash isn’t being put to the best public use (partially spurred on by the Los Angeles Times report in December of 2003 that 94% of the more than 5,000 NIH staff scientists were engaged in activities that presented a conflict of interest).

So, last week the NIH made two big announcements.

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