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Clever Wiring Harnesses Tiny Switches

July 17, 2001

Hewlett-Packard researchers are starting to tackle how to wire the tiny molecular switches together into useful devices.

Two years ago, scientists at Hewlett-Packard and U.C.L.A. announced that they had created a custom-designed, carbon-based molecule called rotaxane that could act as a switch. A ring-shape structure slides up or down along the rest of the molecule, changing its electrical resistance. The switch mechanism consisted of rotaxane molecules between two crossed… read more

The Next Small Thing

July 15, 2001

Scientists are re-creating our world in the realm of the intensely tiny. The potential payoff: denser hard drives, smaller chips, better medicine.
Top research organizations within large companies and renowned universities are inventing the future: electronics as cheap and plentiful as bar codes on packaging; lightweight vests enmeshed with sensors could measure a person’s vital signs; analysis of a patient’s DNA could be done so quickly and precisely that designer… read more

Smarter bomb bot

July 14, 2001
Police robot carries a mock suitcase<br />
bomb down a hallway

A wheeled police robot that makes many tactical decisions on its own during potentially dangerous bomb-disablement or other law enforcement missions has been unveiled by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories.

The Wolverine robot hardware was developed at Northrop Grumman’s REMOTEC unit; Sandia Labs added software.

The Wolverine now incorporates some of the most challenging and commonly needed robotic tools and behaviors in police work, such… read more

World’s highest-res display matches human eye’s acuity

July 14, 2001
A complicated data set displayed with a clarity unmatched by the HDTV images on either side (higher-res image here)

A 20-million-pixels screen with the visual acuity of the human eye at 10 feet has been developed at Sandia National Laboratories. It is also the fastest in the world in rendering complex scientific data sets, says program leader Philip Heermann.

The Sandia images are created through massively parallel imaging, using outputs of 64 computers and splitting data into 16 screens arranged as a 4 by 4… read more

Biocompatible silicon developed

July 14, 2001

Silicon can be developed into a biocompatible and biodegradable material that could lead to smaller, smarter and more-interactive implants in the human body. The secret: “porous” silicon ­– bulk silicon that has been deliberately riddled with nanometer-sized holes.
Rather than having to shield a silicon-based device from body tissues and the bloodstream, it is now theoretically possible to construct silicon-based devices that are genuinely “bioactive.”

The surface of a… read more

The physics of the Web

July 14, 2001

Statistical mechanics is offering new insights into the structure and dynamics of the Internet, the World Wide Web and other complex interacting systems.

The challenge for physicists is to unearth the signatures of order from the apparent chaos of millions of nodes and links.

Findings include:

* The Web is a scale-free network whose links follow a power-law distribution, which implies that there is an abundance… read more

Nanotubes turned into superconductors

July 13, 2001

Scientists have turned the world’s smallest nanotubes into superconductors.

Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology demonstrated that the world’s smallest nanotubes appear to reach superconductivity at temperatures below 20 degrees Kelvin.

Superconducting nanotubes could one day be used in nanoscale sensors and nanoelectronic devices. Their lack of electrical resistance could mitigate one of nanoelectronics’ anticipated problems: the buildup of heat from tightly… read more

Scientists Make Embryos for Cells

July 11, 2001

Human embryos have been created in the lab for the sole purpose of harvesting their stem cells for the first time.

Until now, scientists had derived stem cells only from excess embryos donated from infertility treatments. In this case, the scientists approached donors and informed them that their eggs and sperm would be used to develop embryos for stem-cell research.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Jones… read more

The making of Final Fantasy

July 11, 2001

Final Fantasy’s hyperreal animation was achieved by Honolulu-based Square USA, using Maya for animation authoring and RenderMan for rendering.

Square animators used four Silicon Graphics M 2000 series servers, four Silicon Graphics Onyx2 visualization systems, and 167 Octane workstations.

Special challenges — realistic flowing hair and follicles, the physics of how cloth wrinkles and drapes as the body wearing the fabric moves, the fluidity… read more

New Markets for Biotech

July 10, 2001

The next big producers of biotech crops could very well be nations in the developing world. Countries such as China and India are now gearing up to commercialize dozens of genetically modified plants in the next few years.

But some developing nations, concerned that agricultural exports could be negatively affected by existing or future bans on plant biotech in Europe and elsewhere, are putting the brakes on research.

Dispute over number of human genes

July 10, 2001

Two rival teams that cracked the human genome may have underestimated the number of human genes, according to a new computer analysis.

“There are probably between 65,000 and 75,000 transcriptional units,” said Ohio State University’s Dr Yuan.

A transcriptional unit is a length of DNA that shows strong evidence of being a gene but which requires future verification.

Flowing liquid revealed as quantum wave

July 9, 2001

Researchers have shown that a liquid, ultra-cold helium-3, demonstrates quantum interference, just as the classic “two-slits” experiment shows that a beam of light is a quantum wave.

This quantum interference is identical to the interference between light waves, electrons, atomic beams and electrical currents in solid superconductors. It had never before been observed in a liquid.

The findings by UC Berkeley researchers was published in Nature… read more

Nanotube single-electron transistor is ideal for molecular computers

July 6, 2001

The first single-electron transistor (SET) to operate at room temperature have been developed. Its minute size and low-energy requirements should make it an ideal device for molecular computers, as reported in the 29 June issue of Science.

SETs only require one electron to toggle between on and off states. In contrast, transistors in conventional microelectronics use millions and are limited in packing density because of… read more

NSF seeks reliable quantum-chip-making process

July 6, 2001

The National Science Foundation is seeking a quantum-chip-making process that will work with any one of the quantum-computing architectures being proposed today.

Today, researchers experimenting with quantum computer chips must craft their own process technology. The problem: quantum dots store information in domains that are only a few square nanometers, containing 50 to 10,000 atoms per stored quantum bit (qubit).

Individual devices can be hand-assembled using a scanning… read more

Smart Walker Strolls Ahead

July 5, 2001

A smart walker that will guide users, providing assistance with steering and braking, has been developed by a research team at the University of Virginia’s Medical Automation Research Center.

The prototype uses a laser scanner to sense the environment, detecting a user’s intentions primarily via pressure monitors in the handles. If a person loses footing, the walker will detect the high force and burst of speed, then hit the… read more

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