science + technology news

Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%

May 13, 2004

Instruments around the world recorded a drop in sunshine reaching the surface of Earth, as much as 10 percent from the late 1950′s to the early 90′s, or 2 percent to 3 percent a decade.

In some regions like Asia, the United States and Europe, the drop was even steeper. In Hong Kong, sunlight decreased 37 percent.

Pollution dims sunlight in two ways, scientists theorize. Some light bounces… read more

Wearable Wireless Displays Are In Sight

May 13, 2004
A "heads up" display from MicroOptical

Tiny wearable screens–with diagonals of less than half an inch–are now available that project what looks like a lifesize screen floating in space just a couple of feet from your eyes.

These devices permit the wearer to remain totally engaged with their environment, able to see everything around them.

Future screens won’t stick out, but rather will be embedded into the frames and will be wirelessly connected to… read more

The Language of Pattern Recognition

May 13, 2004

Scientists and businesspeople may inhabit different cultures, but they’re looking for the same thing: patterns.

The trick is in reading the data points better or faster — or gathering more data — than anyone else. The winner is the one who needs the fewest clues to make out the big picture. They can extract more insight from a set of facts or generate data that reveal more about how… read more

Quantum trick may multiply CD capacity

May 13, 2004

A new method for “entangling” photons could one day allow information to be more densely stored on CDs and other memory devices.

By entangling the photons, they share a single quantum state, which makes them behave like a single photon with a shorter wavelength and higher energy.

This overcomes the diffraction limit (light cannot be used to see or inscribe features that are smaller than half its wavelength),… read more

U.S. government moves to build world’s fastest civilian computer

May 13, 2004

The Energy Department plans to build the world’s fastest civilian computer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Capable of 50 trillion calculations per second (50 teraflops), it will surpass the power of Japan’s Earth Simulator, now considered the world’s fastest, at 36 teraflops.

“This computer will propel the United States into global lead in high speed computers aimed at scientific discovery,” said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

Cray, IBM,… read more

On-chip antenna allows for ultrasmall radio chip

May 12, 2004

A radio antenna less than one-tenth of an inch long on a computer chip is another step in building an “ultrasmall radio chip” — a transceiver, processor and battery all placed on a chip not much larger than a pinhead, say University of Florida researchers.

Applications of tiny, cheap and disposable radios include pairing them with tiny, inexpensive sensors as a way of saturating large areas with sensing and… read more

Big Blue says breakthrough means Millipede may crawl out of lab

May 12, 2004

IBM says its MEMS/nanotech combo storage effort, Millipede, is creeping toward reality — this time with its first working quantum storage prototype.

A Millipede device will hold 4,096 miniature read-write heads and is expected to debut in 2006 or 2007 at 5 to 10 gigabytes and go up from there. It will use the same size packaging as SD flash cards, making it compatible with digital cameras, mobile phones… read more

Computer chip noise may betray code

May 12, 2004

The noise emitted by computer chips could help code breakers decipher encrypted messages.

The high-frequency audio produced by CPUs allows for distinguishing between different cryptographic keys being processed by the chip, based on the frequency of the sound emitted, and the length of a string of characters by measuring the duration of certain sounds.

Other code-breaking techniques include power-supply fluctuations exhibited by chips, electromagnetic emanations from a monitor,… read more

Code that kills, for real

May 12, 2004

Future military combat systems will require ever more complicated code, but writing software that is bug free and ready for a firefight is a challenge that gets tougher every day.

The military faces a “software divergence dilemma” today. In the past 50 years, the amount of code in a typical military system has increased a hundredfold. Meanwhile, in that same span of time, the average productivity of programmers has… read more

MIT Aims for the Bottom Line

May 12, 2004

The MIT Media Lab’s new initiative, CELab, or consumer electronics lab, will capitalize on the convergence of new technologies and consumer demand for easy-to-use devices.

CELab will include research of the Media Lab’s Smart Cities group, which is designing a smartcar that warns drivers of upcoming obstacles in the road.

Robot doctor gets thumbs-up from patients

May 12, 2004

Fifteen mobile video robo-docs, manufactured by InTouch Health, have been placed in hospitals and nursing homes nationwide, allowing a doctor to check on patients from another building or another country, via the Internet and wireless links.

Eighty percent of the patients taking part in a Johns Hopkins study thought the robo-doc would increase accessibility to their physician, while 76 percent believed having the robot available would permit physicians to… read more

Robots: Today, Roomba. Tomorrow…

May 11, 2004

Roomba is a first step, but there are many tasks within the home that are ripe for robotic automation, says iRobot CEO Colin Angle.

Genomics: ‘We’re Steadily Marching’

May 11, 2004

Pinpointing key genetic variations in an individual, understanding the biological — and disease — consequences of those variations, and devising personalized treatments will go “from genome to bedside in three years,” says Richard Gibbs, director and founder of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Nanotech: Beyond the Hype — and Fear

May 11, 2004

Biomedical applications such as cancer therapy, nanotube superconductors, and nanostructured water-filtration are likely to be some of the earliest successful nanotech applications, says Rice University’s Kristen Kulinowski.

Conversations from Tech’s Cutting Edge

May 11, 2004

Robotics, nanotech, genomics, and search and information retrieval are featured in a Technology Special Report from BusinessWeek.

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