2009年6月25日 星期四

Chad Mirkin, creator of a range of sensitive diagnostic tests for diseases

TECHNOLOGYJUNE 25, 2009 Inventor to Receive MIT Prize

The Lemelson-MIT program based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology expects to name Chad Mirkin, creator of a range of sensitive diagnostic tests for diseases, as the winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize, a premier award recognizing invention.

In choosing Mr. Mirkin, a chemistry professor and nanotechnology research director at Northwestern University, the program recognized his invention of a disease-detection method that is sensitive to low levels of proteins and can help catch Alzheimer's disease and several forms of cancer and heart disease at early stages. The school also recognized him for creating a miniature printing tool that allows researchers to study cancer cells and viruses in new ways.

Mr. Mirkin, who has more than 70 patents and many more pending, owns Nanosphere and NanoInk, two Illinois companies that sell his inventions. He also has started one other nanotechnology firm.

The program is scheduled to announce the award on Wednesday. It called Mr. Mirkin a "prolific inventor and entrepreneur" whose innovations have the potential "to transform the future of medical diagnostics and patient point-of-care."

Mr. Mirkin's products use nanotechnology, which is based on the science of very small particles, to help researchers study diseases. His disease-detecting method, branded as Verigene, is thousands of times more sensitive than conventional methods to low levels of proteins or nucleic acids that show a person could develop a certain disease. The method can return results in an hour as compared with several days, in some cases.

"Nanotechnology is not like any other field," Mr. Mirkin said. "It's a different way of thinking about doing all science."

The scanning technique -- called dip-pen nanolithography -- creates patterns on several materials on an extremely small scale. Scientists can then use the patterns to learn more about the nature of certain cells and distinguish between normal and cancerous cells.

Write to Simmi Aujla at simmi.aujla@wsj.com

2009年6月20日 星期六

Internet proxies

Internet | 18.06.2009

Internet proxies let Iranians and others connect to blocked Web sites

New media tools like Twitter have helped organize protests from Georgia to Guatemala and, now, Iran. Experts say regimes can block access to such sites, but proxy technology helps keep lines of communication open.

With independent media blocked from reporting on recent demonstrations in Iran after Friday's election, many people around the world turned to the micro-blog service Twitter for a detailed account of events in Tehran and other Iranian cities.

But if the Iranian government so chose, it could attempt to cut off Iranians' direct access to Twitter and other social media services to prevent the spread of information, according to Yaman Akdeniz, director of the UK-based Cyber-Rights.org.

"Undemocratic countries like Iran rely on crude blocking and filtering mechanisms to limit their citizen's usage of the Internet temporarily, or indefinitely," he said. "The true extent of the Internet censorship attempts in Iran remains to be seen."

Tehran blocked the popular networking site Facebook for two days before the elections and only restored access after a massive public outcry. Since the elections, authorities have attempted to deny access to several pro-opposition Web sites and news portals likely to challenge current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's announced victory, according to the media rights group Reporters Without Borders.

Anonymous Web surfing

A woman using a laptop at an Internet cafeBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Accessing the Internet via a public connnection doesn't make you anonymous

There are, however, technical ways for Iranians - and others living under repressive regimes that filter the Internet - to access all the material on the World Wide Web, according to Akdeniz.

"However hard the governments try, total censorship and control will not be achieved on the Internet," he added. "Going back to the topic, the Iranians will find ways and means of accessing the Internet, regardless of their government's crude attempt to control the free flow of information."

Computers outside the country filtering the Web can be set up as so-called proxy servers, which pass along information from one Internet connection to another like an anonymous virtual messenger whose presence doesn't tip off security authorities.

Reporters Without Borders has for years encouraged cyber-dissidents to make use of such proxy services, including the popular program Tor, which passes data through a random series of three computers before it arrives at its destination.

Mirroring Internet traffic

Lots of cables going into a serverBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Anonymity is improved when it's difficult to sort though a huge amount of online traffic

The program, which builds a network of currently about 2,000 volunteers who act as online go-betweens, allows, for example, an Iranian to see otherwise blocked sites by encrypting and routing his request through a series of three random computers with access to the entire Web, then sending the data they acquire back through the same anonymous network, explains Andrew Lewman, the executive director of the Tor Project.

"Someone watching the Internet would not be able to track who you are and where you are going," he said, adding that the number of Tor connections from Iran has doubled since last week's election, moving the nation up the Tor user list from near the bottom 50 to within the top 15 of the some 500,000 people using Tor each day,

More people using the network, regardless of their location or what they're doing on the Web, makes Tor more effective at making the Internet anonymous, Lewman said, adding that the service is simple to install and wouldn't work if only activists and dissidents used the program.

"The more normal people who turn on a connection on their home computer the better, because then it looks more and more like the general Internet," he said. "If Tor becomes an activists' network and anyone watching would say, 'That's an activist network connection; we should watch that.'"

Proxy critics remain

Sculptures of people listening to a wallBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: It's not always easy to tell who's listening to online conversations

Despite the protection proxy services offer those living under oppressive governments, the system does have some detractors. Critics say the network can be taken advantage of by terrorists and other criminals. That's an argument Lewman said isn't as persuasive as it may seem.

"Criminals have far better anonymity and privacy than most likely anyone in the world," he said. "If you're already willing to break the law, then you can do far more private things. If you steal a person's identity on the Internet you'll have more anonymity than any tool can provide."

While Tor and other tools can help Web users get around the blocks and filters governments put on the Internet, they should not be seen as the final answer in the fight to stop online censorship, according to Akdeniz.

"Circumvention technologies provide only a partial solution to the problem of Internet censorship," he said. "Unless there is a process towards democratization and openness, censorship will be the norm."

Author: Sean Sinico

Editor: Susan Houlton

學術研究與社會責任 ?


  • 2009-06-19
  • 中國時報
  • 【翁啟惠】






 在知識經濟的衝擊與鄰近新興經濟體崛起的雙重挑戰下,台灣地區逐漸出現經濟成長趨緩的問題。毫無疑問,「創新」是台灣經濟持續成長的關鍵。考慮台灣產業的現況,我認為應強化價值鏈(value chain)中的轉譯研究,向前銜接優質基礎研究、向後攻佔商業化的機會。目前我國生技產業已建構優質的臨床研究及醫療體系、健全的研發暨生產環境,並具有尊重及保護智財權等諸多優勢。因此,台灣具有極佳的機會和條件,加速推動生技產業的發展。除了生技外,行政院正在推動的包含綠能、醫療、農業、觀光及文創等五大新興產業,學研界都在扮演奠基的角色,期待經過這一番的創新轉型,我國的經濟及生活水平會有大幅度的提升。


 走入社會、貼近民眾的作為,都是出於學者一股「經世致用」的熱誠。學術研究作為一種志業,不應該、也無法自閉於象牙塔中,而需走入人群、 與社會脈動相結合。身為研究者,由社會中汲取資源而成長,我們絕不能忘記學術研究承載著知識傳承與創造,及文化提升的社會責任。



St Elmo's frier

High-tech dentistry

St Elmo's frier

Jun 17th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Using a plasma torch to clean your teeth

Science Photo Library  Getting to the root of it

INFECTIONS in the roots of teeth are hell to treat. The tooth needs to be drilled into, right down to the bottom of the nerve-carrying canal that runs through the root. The infected material must then be cleaned out completely and the drilled section filled in. Although the procedure is routine, it is common for some of the bacteria to survive it and therefore for infections to re-emerge shortly after treatment.

The surviving bacteria are often gathered in the form of what is known as a biofilm. Bacteria in such a film are embedded in a polymer matrix, which makes them harder to kill than isolated individuals. High temperatures can destroy biofilms, as can some chemicals, but neither approach is safe to use inside the delicate interior of a human tooth. However Chunqi Jiang, a physicist at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues have come up with a possible alternative: a dental plasma torch.

Plasmas are gases in which the molecules have been stripped of some or all of their electrons, to create positive ions. One way to do this is to heat the gas up. Conventional plasma torches employ such hot plasma to cut metal. But cold plasmas can be made using high electrical voltages. St Elmo’s fire—violet and blue “flames” that appear around ships’ masts during thunderstorms—is a good example. Dr Jiang reckoned that a cold plasma, particularly one rich in oxygen ions (which are notoriously destructive of organic materials), would be enough to do the job of breaking up a biofilm without harming the patient.

To test this idea, she and her colleagues designed a device that uses short pulses of electricity to ionise the surrounding air, creating a purple plume of plasma rich in oxygen ions. And it worked. The team report in Plasma Processes and Polymers that when the plume was directed into the infected interiors of teeth, it succeeded in clearing up well-established infections completely.

That may just be the beginning. Bacteria in biofilms are also more resistant to antibiotics than their isolated confreres, so the new device could have other medical applications. Wound infections, for example, often form biofilms. If they cannot be treated successfully, the result may be gangrene. And if Dr Jiang’s version of St Elmo’s fire can deal with that problem, the saint may become patron of a lot more people than just sailors.


St. Elmo's fire (also St. Elmo's light[1]) is an electrical weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge originating from a grounded object in an atmospheric electric field (such as those generated by thunderstorms or thunderstorms created by a volcanic explosion).

St. Elmo's fire is named after St. Erasmus of Formiae (also called St. Elmo), the patron saint of sailors. The phenomenon sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms, and was regarded by sailors with religious awe, accounting for the name.

Ball lightning is often erroneously identified as St. Elmo's fire. They are separate and distinct meteorological phenomena.[2]

2009年6月16日 星期二

網絡廣告銷售混亂 電腦病毒乘虛而入

Google 的 Blogspot的寫作者上傳之後開始給作者廣告

網絡廣告銷售混亂 電腦病毒乘虛而入

年5月底的一個週六晚上﹐訪問者只要打開英國娛樂和媒體新聞網站Digital Spy的論壇部分﹐就會激活一個會自動下載惡意軟件的廣告。原因是網站的廣告系統此前被黑客攻擊了。



哈佛商學院研究網絡安全問題的助理教授艾德爾曼(Ben Edelman)說﹐廣告系統非常不安全﹐一些成員容易遭受攻擊的程度令人吃驚。

Rob Shepperson
Ziff Davis Enterprise旗下的科技新聞網站EWeek.com今年2月份在主頁上顯示了一則廣告﹐似乎是為服裝品牌LaCoste做廣告。但Ziff Davis的社區和內容主管威爾曼(Ziff Davis)說﹐這則廣告實際上並不是該網站發佈的﹐而是一名黑客所為﹔這則廣告會將用戶引導到一個惡意網站﹐向用戶的電腦下載有害軟件。

新聞集團(News Corp.)旗下的一系列網站2月份頻頻遭受類似的攻擊﹐包括了AmericanIdol.com、福克斯新聞網(FoxNews.com)以及IGN.com。今年1月份﹐美國職棒大聯盟網站MLB.com上面出現了一則廣告﹐訪問者點擊之後就會被帶到一個惡意軟件網站。

Digital Spy、Ziff Davis、福克斯以及MLB均表示﹐他們發現問題之後就立即隔離了廣告﹐並從網站上將它們刪除了。

Digital Spy通過諸多被稱為廣告網絡的其他公司在論壇上銷售廣告空間﹐論壇每個月有300萬訪問者。如果一個廣告網絡沒有將空間直接賣給一家推廣商﹐那麼通常就會賣給另外一個網絡。廣告空間還可以外包給另外一系列公司﹐對網絡廣告進行電子拍賣。

Digital Spy創始人之一威爾斯(James Welsh)說﹐隨著這個鏈條變得更長﹐檢測廣告是否有病毒也變得越來越難。Digital Spy 是 Hachette Filipacchi 旗下的一家公司。威爾斯說﹐這個過程中缺乏謹慎檢測﹐黑客抓住了這一點﹐並以此為路徑將一些非常討厭的惡意軟件嵌入到了我們網站。

負責為新聞集團旗下MySpace等網站監控安全和隱私問題的尼甘(Hemanshu Nigam)表示﹐黑客們就象犯罪分子。他們在人群最為密集的地方尋找作案機會﹐因為這樣就可以獲取最大的回報。新聞集團是《華爾街日報》發行商道瓊斯公司(Dow Jones)的母公司。


廣告技術公司和網絡公司表示﹐他們也在努力提高自己系統的安全性。微軟(Microsoft)、谷歌(Google)和時代華納(Time Warner)旗下美國在線(AOL)表示﹐他們使用了一系列技術和人工程序﹐在自己的系統里搜索惡意代碼。


微軟負責廣告和商業研究與開發的企業副總裁古納里斯(Alex Gounares)說﹐我們非常重視這個問題。我不知道這個麻煩問題是否會得到解決﹐這個世界總有作奸范科的人。微軟運營著一些全球最大的網絡和技術系統。

Emily Steel

2009年6月15日 星期一

Four years later: Why did Apple drop PowerPC?

June 14, 2009 9:15 AM PDT

Four years later: Why did Apple drop PowerPC?

Updated at 5:25 p.m. PDT: adding Windows discussion.

It's been four years this month since Apple announced it would drop the PowerPC architecture and switch to Intel's x86 design. One person involved in the back-and-forth between Apple and IBM at the time provides some insight into why it happened.

Apple laptop using the PowerPC G3 processor

Apple laptop using the PowerPC G3 processor

(Credit: CNET Networks)

When Apple made the watershed announcement in June 2005 ending its longstanding relationship with IBM and Motorola, Apple CEO Steve Jobs attributed the switch to a superior Intel roadmap.

"Looking ahead Intel has the strongest processor roadmap by far," Jobs said in a statement at the time. "It's been ten years since our transition to the PowerPC, and we think Intel's technology will help us create the best personal computers for the next ten years."

One oft-cited reason was that Apple didn't believe it could get the requisite performance per watt from processors being supplied by IBM and Freescale--formerly Motorola's chipmaking arm. Translation: Apple was worried about IBM's and Motorola's ability to deliver competitive processors for laptops. (Update: Another reason often put forward is that Apple simply wanted to be able to run Windows.)

A former IBM executive, who worked at IBM at the time and was involved in discussions with Apple, offered his perspective in a conversation we had during dinner at a recent technology conference. Let me emphasize that this is one person's opinion, not necessarily the gospel truth. I will not publish his name or title.

While he acknowledged the public reasons put forward by Apple, there was more to it--not surprisingly--than that. The upshot: Apple wanted better pricing, according to this person.

Apple was paying a premium for IBM silicon, he said, creating a Catch-22. IBM had to charge more because it didn't have the economies of scale of Intel, but Apple didn't want to pay more, even though it supposedly derived more from an inherently superior RISC design as manifested in the PowerPC architecture.

Here's what Jobs said in 2003: "The PowerPC G5 changes all the rules. This 64-bit race car is the heart of our new Power Mac G5, now the world's fastest desktop computer," Jobs said in a statement. "IBM offers the most advanced processor design and manufacturing expertise on earth, and this is just the beginning of a long and productive relationship." (Sounds suspiciously similar to what Jobs said about Intel after Apple made the switch.)

Despite the praise heaped on IBM's technology in 2003, Apple believed, by 2005, that it couldn't compete on cost, according to this person.

For IBM, the business with Apple was a financial sinkhole because the company had to invest a lot of money in chipsets, compilers, and other supporting technologies but could only take about 5 percent of the overall PC processor market, he said. So, in the end, it was impossible to make money.

Why 5 percent? Apple insisted on double sourcing (IBM and Motorola). So, from the start, this left IBM with about half the market it could have had. This, he said, was an enormous financial burden. Paraphrasing the ex-IBMer: Intel was a single company with the lion's share of the market. While two companies--IBM and Motorola--had to divvy up a much smaller share of the market, while still investing, individually, tremendous amounts of money. And Apple played one against the other, according to this person.

Specifications for the Apple Power Mac G5 tower design (now discontinued in August 2006)

Specifications for the Apple Power Mac G5 tower design (discontinued in August 2006)

(Credit: Apple)

IBM had been concentrating on delivering high-performance, single-core PowerPC processors, this person said. (Presumably by ratcheting up the gigahertz rating on single processors. The goal was to exceed 3GHz.) But when Intel, as part of the discussions with Apple, showed a dual-core (multi-core) processor roadmap, Apple reconsidered this strategy, according to this person. (Though IBM did deliver multi-core PowerPC designs for the Mac as shown in the graphic.)

Interestingly, IBM had hoped to amortize the cost of PowerPC on Cell, the PowerPC-based chip design now used in the Sony PlayStation, some IBM severs, and IBM Roadrunner supercomputers. Big Blue was hoping to move Apple to Cell and then get the economies of scale there, according to this person.

Can parallels be drawn with Advanced Micro Devices and its struggles to compete with Intel over the last few years? Possibly. Very few chipmakers have the multibillion dollar coffers to fund the R&D and manufacturing necessary to be a leader in a major chip market, let alone stay competitive. Witness AMD last year going to the brink and then saving itself by spinning off its manufacturing operations.

And Apple chose Intel in 2005, not AMD, and has stayed with this single source for its Mac line since.

Brooke Crothers is a former editor at large at CNET News.com, and has been an editor for the Asian weekly version of the Wall Street Journal. He writes for the CNET Blog Network, and is not a current employee of CNET. Contact him at mbcrothers@gmail.com. Disclosure.

2009年6月14日 星期日



2009/06/15 00:00
日本新能源產業技術綜合開發機構(NEDO)宣佈,選定京都大學等多家機構作為從09年度開始的“革新型蓄電池尖端科學基礎研究”的研發單位。該項目以 2030年以前在電動汽車上實用化為目標,開發能量密度為目前技術水準3倍以上的蓄電池。項目時間為7年,計劃總投資額為210億日元。除京都大學外,合 作對象還包括6所大學、3個研究機構和12家企業。參與企業不但有豐田、日產和本田等知名汽車廠商,還有三洋電機、GS湯淺和KODAMA等電池廠商。計 劃在京都大學設立研究基地,各企業將總共派遣50多名研究人員開展共同研究。

NEDO燃料電池氫技術開發部蓄電技術開發室室長弓取修二表示,“美國公佈了2015年以前導入100萬輛混合動力車的目標、法國和德國已經開始正式研究 蓄電池、中國的比亞迪公司發佈了自主開發的電動汽車,電池的環境正在發生巨大變化。目前,日本掌握了高水準的蓄電池技術,但為了擴大日本的優勢,強化競爭 力,開發人員必須團結一致開發更好的蓄電池”。另外,“此次項目的最終目標是開發能量密度為現行水準3倍的蓄電池,這一目標是開發能量密度為現行水準5倍 以上的蓄電池的里程碑”。

開發將致力於提高鋰離子充電電池的性能和超過鋰離子充電電池的新型蓄電池。將利用“SPring-8”和“J-PARC”的裝置,開發電池的高度分析及解 析技術,通過弄清電池的基本反應原理和機理,開發電池材料和新型蓄電池。7年後項目結束時,“希望至少可以開發出硬幣大小的蓄電池,達到能夠通過實際充放 電,確認電池工作狀況的階段”(弓取)。

京都大學特任教授小久見善八擔任該項目的負責人。參與企業和研究機構將分為“高度解析技術”、“電池反應解析”、“材料革新”和“革新電池”4個小組開展 研究。在4個小組之上,還會設立一個由NEDO成員組成的管理團隊。這個管理團隊將常駐研發基地,主要負責研究的進展管理、相關技術開發的動向調查和參與 企業的利害協調等。管理團隊與研究人員整體協作的機制是NEDO內從未有過的,通過從所未有的細緻的管理體制,強有力地研發。(記者:迦納 徵子)



新エネルギー・産業技術総合開発機構(NEDO)は,2009年度から開始する同機構のプロジェクト「革新型蓄電池先端科学基礎研究事業」の共同研究先として,京都大学を中心とするコンソーシアムを選定したと発表した(発表資料)。 同事業では,電気自動車などに向けて2030年以前の早期実用化を念頭に,現行の技術水準の3倍以上のエネルギー密度を備える蓄電池の開発を目指す。プロ ジェクト期間は7年間で,総額210億円の予算を投じる計画。今回選定されたコンソーシアムには,京都大学のほか6大学,3つの研究機関,12企業が参加 する。参加企業には,トヨタ自動車や日産自動車,本田技術研究所などの自動車大手のほか,三洋電機やジーエス・ユアサ コーポレーションなどの電池メー カーを含む。京都大学内に研究拠点を設置し,各企業などから50人以上の研究者を派遣して共同研究を実施する。

 NEDO 燃料電池・水素技術開発部 蓄電技術開発室 室長の弓取修二氏は,「米国が2015年までにハイブリッド車を100万台導入する目標を掲げたり,フランスやドイツで蓄電池の本格的な研究が始まった り,中国BYD Auto社が独自の電気自動車を発表したりと,電池を取り巻く環境は激変している。現在,日本には非常に高い水準で蓄電池技術が集積しているが,日本の優 位性を圧倒的に広げ,競争力を強化するためにも,開発者が一致団結して優れた蓄電池を開発する必要がある」と述べた。また,「今回のプロジェクトの最終目 標は,現行水準の3倍のエネルギー密度の蓄電池の開発だが,この目標は現行水準の5倍以上の蓄電池の開発に向けたマイルストーンと考えている」とした。

 具体的には,Liイオン2次電池の性能向上と,Liイオン2次電池をしのぐ性能を備える新たな蓄電池の開発に取り組む。「SPring-8」や 「J-PARC」などの装置を利用し,電池の高度分析・解析技術を開発して,電池の基礎的な反応原理やメカニズムを解明することで,電池材料や新たな系の 蓄電池の開発につなげるという。プロジェクトが終了する7年後には,「少なくともコインセル程度の大きさの電池を開発し,実際に充放電させて動作確認する 段階まで持っていきたい」(弓取氏)とした。

 プロジェクト・リーダーには,京都大学 特任教授である小久見善八氏が就く。参加企業や研究機関は,「高度解析技術」「電池反応解析」「材料革新」「革新電池」の4グループに分かれて研究する。 4グループの上には,NEDOの職員で構成するマネジメント・チームを設置する。このマネジメント・チームは,研究開発の現場に常駐し,研究の進捗管理や 関連技術開発の動向調査,参加企業の利害調整などを行う。マネジメント・チームがここまで研究者と一体的に動く仕組みはNEDO内でも例がなく,従来にな いきめ細かな管理体制で,研究を強力に推進するという。

・ジーエス・ユアサ コーポレーション

2009年6月9日 星期二

the long-beaked echidna


Brainy Echidna Proves Looks Aren’t Everything

Auscape International

A MIXED BAG The long-beaked echidna is hard to find but easy to appreciate.

Published: June 8, 2009

If you wanted to push yourself to the outermost chalk line of human endurance, you might consider an ultramarathon, or a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean, or being nominated to the United States Supreme Court.

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Auscape International

Muse Opiang was working as a field research officer when he became seized by a passion for the long-beaked echidna.

Or you could try studying the long-beaked echidna, one of the oldest, rarest, shyest, silliest-looking yet potentially most illuminating mammals on earth.

Muse Opiang was working as a field research officer when he became seized by a passion for the long-beaked echidna, or Zaglossus bartoni, which are found only in the tropical rain forests of New Guinea and a scattering of adjacent islands. He had seen them once or twice in captivity and in photographs — plump, terrier-size creatures abristle with so many competing notes of crane, mole, pig, turtle, tribble, Babar and boot scrubber that if they didn’t exist, nobody would think to Photoshop them. He knew that the mosaic effect was no mere sight gag: as one of just three surviving types of the group of primitive egg-laying mammals called monotremes, the long-beaked echidna is a genuine living link between reptiles and birds on one branch, and more familiar placental mammals like ourselves on the next.

Mr. Opiang also knew that, whereas members of the two other monotreme genuses, the duck-billed platypus and short-beaked echidna, had been studied for years — last May, the entire genetic code of the platypus was published to great fanfare — the life of the long-beaked echidna remained obscure and unsung.

“We knew nothing about it,” he said in a phone interview. “Scientists had written that it was impossible to study,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I took that as a challenge.”

In a recent issue of The Journal of Mammalogy, Mr. Opiang offers the first glimpse of the natural history and ecology of an immaculately private nocturnalist with a surprisingly well-endowed brain. And while Mr. Opiang’s report shows that the doubters were technically wrong, the grueling details of his field methods suggest that as a workaday rule, “impossible to study” still suits Zaglossus quite well.

“Muse has amazing perseverance,” said Debra Wright, who was Mr. Opiang’s honors thesis adviser. “I don’t think that anyone else on earth could have done what he did.”

The research and Mr. Opiang’s training were initially supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx Zoo, but Mr. Opiang, who pronounces his first name Moo-say and is now working on his doctorate through the University of Tasmania, has since cofounded his own organization, the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research.

Reproductively, monotremes are like a VCR-DVD unit, an embodiment of a technology in transition. They lay leathery eggs, as reptiles do, but then feed the so-called puggles that hatch with milk — though drizzled out of glands in the chest rather than expressed through nippled teats, and sometimes so enriched with iron that it looks pink.

Monotreme sex determination also holds its allure. In most mammals, a single set of XX chromosomes signifies a girl, a set of XY specifies a boy. For reasons that remain mysterious, monotremes have multiple sets of sex chromosomes, four or more parading pairs of XXs and XYs, or something else altogether: a few of those extra sex chromosomes look suspiciously birdlike. Another avianlike feature is the cloaca, the single orifice through which an echidna or platypus voids waste, has sex and lays eggs, and by which the group gets its name. Yet through that uni-perforation, a male echnida can extrude a four-headed penis.

However they conduct their affairs, monotremes do it remarkably well. Not only are they the oldest surviving mammalian group, but individual monotremes can live 50 years or longer. Peggy Rismiller of the University of Adelaide has studied the short-beaked echidna, or spiny anteater, since 1988. “One of the females we’ve been radiotracking since 1988 is at least 45, and she’s still reproducing,” Dr. Rismiller said.

Dr. Rismiller also pointed out that short-beaked echidnas are Australia’s most widely distributed mammals, adapting to life in the desert, along on the coast, in the rain forest, up above the snowline, all the while feeding on any invertebrates they can disinter. Even in summer they maintain their internal body temperature at a temperate 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and on a winter night they may lapse into a torpor, their core body thermostat dropping down as low as 40 degrees — a cryogenic skill of interest to surgeons and space enthusiasts alike.

Echidnas keep their cool, all right. “They’re one of the most pacifistic mammals,” Dr. Rismiller said. “Nobody bothers them; they don’t bother anybody. There’s a lot we could learn from them.” And in that level head sits a mighty brain. Among humans, the neocortex that allows us to reason and remember accounts for 30 percent of the brain; in echidnas, that figure is 50 percent.

If only they could stand to teach us. Short-beaked echidnas put up with people, however grudgingly, but as Mr. Opiang learned, the long-beaks of New Guinea shun all signs of human habitation, perhaps because, being twice the size of short-beaked echidnas, they are prized as bushmeat by local hunters and their dogs. “They’re not attracted to baits,” he said. “You can’t catch them with traps for tagging.”

To reach them, you must hike for miles into the highlands, on treacherously steep and slippery terrain where it rains 275 inches a year. “It’s one of the wettest places on earth,” Dr. Wright said.

That rain also wipes away signs of echidna foraging and denning. It took Mr. Opiang months of searching before he found his first echidna. Then he discovered that if he followed trails of freshly dug nose pokes at night — the holes that echidnas made with their beaks as they foraged for earthworms — he could find a den where a sated echidna would be hiding. He learned to grab them under the stomach, where there were no spines. “If you hold them against yourself, they’re friendly and they won’t struggle,” he said. Over five years he managed to capture, measure and, in most cases, attach radio transmitters to 22 individuals. Among his intriguing early findings: unlike most mammals, the females are bigger than the males, and the toothless, hairless tubular beaks through which they aim their ribbony tongues are longer, too.

Once again, the long-beaked echidna pokes fun at all the rules.