science + technology news

Holographic-memory discs may put DVDs to shame

November 28, 2005

A disc that can hold 300 gigabytes of data — 60 times more than a DVD — and can be used to read and write data 10 times faster is set to go on sale with compatible drives in late 2006 by InPhase Technologies and Hitachi.

The disc stores information in holographic memory.

InPhase says the technique could theoretically be used to store up to 1.6 terabytes of… read more

Breakthrough for quantum measurement

November 23, 2005

Two teams of physicists have measured the capacitance of a Josephson junction for the first time. The methods could be used to measure the state of quantum bits in a quantum computer without disturbing the state.

Butterflies master photonics

November 23, 2005

Exeter University researchers have found that the nanoscale structure of the wings of the African Princeps nireus butterflies closely matches the most advanced photonic materials under development in laboratories around the world.

Its fluorescent blue patches are formed from two-dimensional photonic crystal positioned above distributed Bragg reflectors. Fluorescent pigment in the photonic crystal structure of the butterfly wing absorbs light from blue skies and emits darker blue light.… read more

Growing Biofuels

November 23, 2005

A new biofuel production method converts biomass (organic leftovers) into a fuel called “syngas” that outperforms both petroleum and plant oil-based biodiesel.

It also produces 85 to 90 percent less climate-changing carbon dioxide than motoring on fossil diesel, and generates less soot and smog because the fuel contains none of the sulfur found in conventional diesel and few aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzene.

Neat package takes gamers to the next level

November 23, 2005

The Xbox 360 takes graphics another step toward cinematic realism and improves artificial intelligence, which can make taking out a bad guy hiding behind a barrier more difficult.

Computer R&D rocks on

November 22, 2005

Experts see important computer breakthroughs and whole new fields of investigation just opening up. Advances will come in natural-language searches, machine learning, computer vision and speech-to-text, as well as new computing architectures to handle those hefty tasks.

Beyond the decade mark, Edward D. Lazowska, a professor of computer science at the University of Washington, expects computers based on quantum physics.

Scientists Discover How to Flip a Molecular Switch

November 22, 2005

A means for controlling single-molecule switches by engineering their design and surrounding environment has been developed by a research team led by scientists at Penn State, Rice University, and the University of Oregon. The research demonstrates that single-molecule switches can be tailored to respond in predictable and stable ways, depending on the direction of the electric field applied to them.

The discovery, which is an essential step in the… read more

Say Sayonara to Blurry Pics

November 22, 2005

A computer science Ph.D. student at Stanford University has outfitted a 16-megapixel camera with a bevy of micro lenses that allows users to take photos and later refocus them on a computer using software he wrote.

Ren Ng’s camera pits about 90,000 micro lenses between the main lens and sensor. The mini lenses measure all the rays of incoming light and their directions of origin. The software later adds… read more

Library of Congress Plans World Digital Library

November 22, 2005

The U.S. Library of Congress is kicking off a campaign on Tuesday to work with other nation’s libraries to build a World Digital Library, starting with a $3 million donation from Google Inc.

Over the past decade, the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress has digitized more than ten million items to create a documentary record of Americana.

These include manuscripts, maps, audiovisual recordings,… read more

Virtual professors draw student attention

November 21, 2005

There’s a simple reason why computers have not taken over teachers’ jobs: They’re boring, unpersuasive, unattractive and soulless.

That may soon change if Amy Baylor can perfect the virtual professors she’s working on. Baylor, a professor of instructional systems at Florida State University, is focusing on friendly facial expressions, soothing hand gestures, and a “coolly intelligent voice” to create characters that are “both disarmingly lifelike and surprisingly persuasive.”… read more

The Problem With an Almost-Perfect Genetic World

November 21, 2005

Advocates for people with disabilities are troubled by how much faster the science of prenatal testing is advancing than the public discussion of how it ought to be used.

Some bioethicists envision a dystopia where parents who choose to forgo genetic testing are shunned, or their children are denied insurance. Parents and people with disabilities fear they may simply be more lonely. And less money may be devoted to… read more

Kill or cure: the smallest help must wait till we’ve conquered our fear of grey goo

November 21, 2005

The European Commission’s latest advisory group on ethics in science has made its first task to examine the ethical issues of nanomedicine research, as fears continue to grow about the risks to human health and the environment.

For the commercial world, this debate is more likely to be viewed from the perspective of public opinion rather than ethical absolutes. With memories of the backlash against GM foods still fresh… read more

Turner Entertainment turns to holographic storage

November 21, 2005

Turner Entertainment Networks plans to use holographic storage for storing and retrieving its movies, cartoons and commercial spots.

According to Turner, the first version of the holographic disc will store 300GB per disc, with 160MB/sec. data throughput rate. It promises to retail for $100, and by 2010, each disc will have a capacity of 1.6TB.

Geneticists claim ageing breakthrough but immortality will have to wait

November 21, 2005

A genetic experiment to unlock the secrets of the aging process has created organisms that live six times their usual lifespan, raising hopes that it might be possible to slow aging in humans.

In the experiment, Valter Longo, a biomedical gerontologist at the University of Southern California and his team knocked out two key genes, named Sir2 and SCH9, in yeast cells.

SCH9 governs the cells’ ability to… read more

Nanotubes beam out bright light

November 19, 2005

Physicists have generated extra-bright beams of infrared light from single-walled carbon nanotubes. The new technique is more efficient than many existing methods for producing light and could have applications in optoelectronics.

The IBM-Duke team found that when certain voltages were applied, the nanotubes emitted infrared light localized in a nano-sized area. This resulted in a very bright source of light: a 3 milliamp current was able to produce about… read more

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