science + technology news

2020 computing: Champing at the bits

March 27, 2006

Despite some remaining hurdles, the mind-bending and frankly weird world of quantum computers is surprisingly close.

Surface plasmons squeeze light

March 24, 2006

Physicists in Denmark and France have developed a new class of waveguide that could get round one of the biggest obstacles to photonic circuits. The devices allow light at telecommunications wavelengths to be “squeezed” to below the diffraction limit, allowing it to pass though small regions such as channels on a chip without being significantly lost.

These photonic circuits could manipulate light pulses directly and therefore increase data rates.

Nanotube circuit could boost chip speeds

March 24, 2006

IBM researchers have created field effect transistors along a carbon nanotube that had been deposited onto a silicon wafer. They could lead to near-terahertz processing, up from today’s low-gigahertz range.

Unlike shrunken conventional silicon circuits, the resulting logic circuit yielded virtually no electron flow impedance, meaning current flowed faster.

The nanotube circuit properties will allow the manufacture of smaller transistors with electrons flowing faster through their wires, making… read more

New Studies Warn of Effects of Melting Polar Ice

March 24, 2006

Within the next 100 years, the growing human influence on earth’s climate could lead to a long and irreversible rise in sea levels by eroding Earth’s vast polar ice sheets, according to new observations and analysis by several teams of scientists.

One team, using computer models of climate and ice, found that by about 2100, average temperatures could be 4 degrees warmer than today and that over the coming… read more

First molecular-machine combination revealed

March 23, 2006

University of Tokyo researchers have constructed the first molecular machine, comprising a pair of double-bonded nitrogen atoms strung between two plier “handles” that open or close by exposure to visible or ultraviolet light.

A twisting motion prompted by the light exposure causes attached pedals to flap. The result is the first example of one molecular machine controllably driving the action of another, say the researchers.

Invention: Remote-controlled implants

March 22, 2006

Ear and retinal implants could be precisely positioned using a device designed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The implant is attached to a silicone tube a few millimeters long. The tube has gold particles on its tip and a current is passed wirelessly through these to create a patterned magnetic field that would allow for the implant to be moved around the patient’s head, using an external electromagnet.… read more

Photon detector is precursor to broadband in space

March 22, 2006

MIT researchers have nearly trebled the efficiency of a miniscule detector capable of capturing single photons of light.

The technology could one day be used to receive information through a laser stream of data sent from Mars to Earth and could lead to speedier, reliable relays of huge amounts of data across interplanetary distances, setting up a form of broadband communication in space.

Laser chips could power petaflop computers

March 22, 2006

Laser communications chips capable of transfering information through optical fibers at a record 25 gigabits per second in supercomputers have been demonstrated by NEC in Japan.

NEC believes the chips could prove crucial to the development of the first petaflop-class supercomputer, in about 2010.

Delving into the meaning of artificial life

March 21, 2006

Biologists have identified three critical principles that must be present in any living system: They must be self-creating, self-organizing and self-sustaining. The self-sustaining capability includes the ability to replicate components, process information and steadily consume energy from the environment. While electronic systems are highly adept at information processing, they are not self-replicating except at the software level, and they consume only one type of strictly defined electrical energy.

Synthetic… read more

For Robots, Fuel Cells That Double as Muscles

March 21, 2006

Ray H. Baughman, a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas at Dallas, has built muscle fibers that power themselves.

One type is a nickel-titanium alloy coated with platinum, which causes the fuel, currently methanol, to react with oxygen, producing heat. The metal shrinks; the muscle flexes. The artificial muscle can apply 100 times as much force as real muscle.

The second artificial muscle, currently less powerful,… read more

V for Vendetta Movie Review

March 20, 2006

Get ready for the first real movie of the year that requires you to engage your brain in order to fully absorb the experience. V for Vendetta, written by the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame, is in a league of its own.

Sure to rile up those who don’t believe films should delve into politics, V for Vendetta is an explosive, timely political thriller that presents an ideology sure… read more

Sea coral tags proteins in cells

March 20, 2006

The glow emitted by Dendra, derived from the sea coral Dendronephthya, makes it possible to precisely label an object, such as a cell, organelle, or protein, with a flash of light and then to follow the object’s movement over time.

The light source of the laser-scanning confocal microscopes that researchers commonly use to peer into living cells can activate the tag, which should make the new tool useful to… read more

Bacteria could power tiny robots

March 20, 2006

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Southern California are using Shewanella oneidensis, a microorganism that consumes metals, to generate electricity.

The bacteria lives in soil, water and other environments and can extract its necessary nutrients from a variety of materials.

In a fuel cell, colonies of Shewanella would attach themselves to the anode of fuel cells and produce electrons.

Virus used to make nanoparticles

March 20, 2006

UK scientists have used a plant virus as a scaffold to create nanoparticles that function as capacitors.

The bound ferrocene compounds to amino acids on the virus surface and attached approximately 240 organometallic compounds, each containing an electronically active iron atom.

This could lead to the particles being used in biosensors, nanoelectronic devices, or for electrocatalytic processes.

Earth rocks could have taken life to Titan

March 20, 2006

Boulders blasted away from the Earth’s surface after a major impact could have travelled all the way to the outer solar system, new calculations reveal. The work suggests that terrestrial microbes on the rocks could in theory have landed on Saturn’s giant moon, Titan.

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