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Robert Langridge: A computer-modeling pioneer

Last time Smithsonian magazine checked in with Robert Langridge, 20 years ago, he was enjoying a measure of fame for pioneering a way to visualize the invisible -- the structure and behavior of key biological molecules, such as DNA.
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HATFIELD, Pa. -- Never was stolen money in more need of laundering.
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Lab recreates space brew

Out in the far reaches of our galaxy, newborn stars are cooking up chemicals essential for life, and for the first time scientists have created some of the very same stuff in Earth-bound laboratories that mimic the deep, cold vacuum of outer space.
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Destroying asteroids harder than it looks

LOS ANGELES -- Nudging an Earth-bound asteroid off course or blasting it to bits with a nuclear-tipped missile could be more complicated than scientists -- or Hollywood -- ever imagined. In a study published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, scientists created computer simulations of what would happen if an asteroid were hit by an object with a force equivalent to a 17-kiloton bomb.
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Study: Genes' contribution to obesity

PHILADELPHIA -- Don't reach for the anti-fat-gene drug just yet. Scientists have discovered that mapping the biochemical pathways involved in putting on excess pounds is not just a matter of finding a culprit gene and fixing it.
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Pondering the meaning of computer compositions

In ninth grade, the tedium of biology class was offset only by the high jinks of my lab partner, a fellow of infinite wit who, among other things, taught me to read miniature scores of Beethoven symphonies, which we hid behind our textbooks while the teacher droned on about amoebas. One day my chum announced he was working on his own symphony. I was suitably impressed. But after weeks passed and I heard nothing further, I asked how it was going. "I don't know enough to write a symphony," he admitted rather sheepishly. "It's more complicated than I thought."
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Definition of intelligence difficult to grasp

Perhaps the true test of whether a computer is more intelligent than a human is not if it can win at chess, but whether it can define intelligence in the first place. People, it seems, aren't smart enough to do that on their own. As computers get faster and smarter - like Deep Blue, the IBM computer smart enough to beat the world's greatest chess champion, Garry Kasparov - they are slouching toward what was long considered humanity's sole province.
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Search for life on new worlds gains credence

SEATTLE - Just a few years ago, speculation by scientists about life on other worlds was considered a bit unscientific by astronomers well aware of the hostile surfaces of known planets and moons. Astronomers weren't even sure there were planets around other stars.
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System gives wireless link to Internet

PORTLAND, Ore. - Nancy Melone and Tim McGuire are the typical busy couple of the '90s - she's a University of Oregon business professor; he's the dean. But they've found a typically cutting-edge way to stay in touch. Thanks to laptop computers and a wireless Internet link on campus, they can chat by e-mail - anytime, anywhere. The wireless system, Ricochet, was created by Metricom Inc., starting with students and corporate parks and lately expanding to consumers.
Culture, commercialism intrigue doctoral student

DOVER, Del. - James Todd picked a good day to get his first tattoo.