Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teleportation breakthrough

The breakthrough was achieved when the team managed to teleport wave packets of light by destroying them in one place and re-creating them in another.

It's an incredible process that means transmitting large volumes of complex quantum information could be quicker than is currently possible.

The quantum physics term behind this experiment is 'entanglement'. It means that two particles can be bonded in such a way that even when separated by large distances, they are still linked. So what happens to one affects the other.

The team linked packets of light to half a pair of entangled particles. They destroyed one of the particles and the light itself, leaving just one remaining particle. This particle still contained detailed information about the light which they could then use to rebuild the original particle.

'Schrodinger's cat'

The process involves 'Schrodinger's cat'. Unfortunately it's not a real feline, but a hypothetical experiment first carried out in the 1935.

Schrödinger envisioned in a cat in a sealed box with a small amount of radioactive material and a Geiger counter measuring radiation. If the atom decayed the counter would release cyanide into the box and kill the cat.

According to quantum mechanics, the cat is neither dead nor alive. Until someone opens the box both possibilities exist. It's supposed to illustrate how in quantum mechanics particles can exist in suspended states of multiple possibilities.

The team at the University of Tokyo were able to put the light wave in a 'Schrödinger's cat' state with the help of a machine simply called 'The Teleporter', and make it have two opposite phases at the same time.

Professor Elanor Huntington, who was part of the research team, told ABC News: "What we've done is take a macroscopic beam of light and put it into a quantum superposition, which is extremely fragile, and teleported that from one place to another."

Doing this demonstrates that - for the first time - blocks of complex quantum information can now be carried by light.

"If we can do this, we can do just about any form of communication needed for any quantum technology," she said.

Unfortunately the breakthrough doesn't mean we'll ever be able to transport human beings, Star Trek style. At present even bacteria is far too complex to be transported.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dynamic Architecture :: Rotating skyscrapers

The world's first skyscrapers that will constantly change shape due to dozens of rotating floors.
The skyscrapers will be powered by the sun and wind and continuously change shape as each floor rotates around a central axis.
Occupants of an entire floor will be able to control the rotation by voice command, with speeds varying from an hour to three hours for each full rotation.
The buildings will also be fitted with car lifts so that residents can park right outside their homes.
The 80-storey "Dynamic Tower," will be a shifting skyscraper of luxury apartments on spinning floors, which will be attached to a central column
The 420-meter (1,378-foot) building features 80 apartments that spin a full 360 degrees around a central column by means of 79 power-generating wind turbines located between each floor.
The rotating floors will be made of prefabricated units that spin around a concrete core. Most of the floors will be controlled from the architect's laptop, so that they are synchronised to make undulating architectural forms. Owners who buy an entire floor will be able to use voice activation controls to command it to rotate at will, so that they can pick their view.
The buildings have to overcome several technical challenges such as connecting the plumbing with the same kind of shut-off valves used when refuelling aircraft in flight. To take the lift, residents have tostep from the rotating floor into the stationary central core.
By prefabricating the rotating units, Mr Fisher said, he can save at least 10 per cent of normal construction costs. He estimates it will take only six days to assemble each floor around the concrete core.
Plans require the buildings to be self-powered by horizontal wind turbines that spin between each floor to generate electricity. Solar power will be provided by photovoltaic cells on the roof of each rotating floor, 15 per cent of which will be exposed to sunlight at any one time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Creationism special: A sceptic's guide to intelligent design

CHARLES DARWIN's theory of evolution has been the source of much controversy since its publication in 1859, most recently involving the intelligent design (ID) lobby in the US. Now the theory is fuelling another debate, although for once the battle lines have nothing to do with religion.
Instead of pitting God against science, the emerging spat centres on evolutionary algorithms (EAs), which mimic the processes of natural selection and random mutation by "breeding", selecting and re-breeding possible designs to produce the fittest ones.
EAs take two parent designs - for a boat hull, say - and blend components of each, perhaps taking the surface area of one and the curvature of another, to produce multiple hull offspring that combine the features of the parents in different ways. Then the algorithm selects those offspring it considers are worth re-breeding - in this case those with the right combination of parameters to make a better hull. The EA then repeats the process. Although many offspring will be discarded, after thousands of generations or more, useful features accumulate in the same design, and get combined in ways that likely would not have occurred to a human designer. This is because a human does not have the time to combine all the possibilities for each feature and evaluate them, but an EA does. "Human engineers usually design stuff by tweaking a few parameters," says Steve Manos of University College London, who has created optical fibres using EAs.
Proponents of EAs say they could replace traditional methods in many fields from designing exotic new types of optical fibre and USB memory sticks to more aesthetic computer-generated art. Critics argue that the technique may lead to designs that can't be properly evaluated since no human understands which trade-offs were made and therefore where failure is likely.
Another stumbling block is a problem of perception. "To mainstream engineers there is a disbelief that a self-organising process like an EA can produce designs that outperform those designed using conventional top-down, systematic, intelligent design," says Hod Lipson, a computer scientist specialising in evolutionary design at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "That tension mirrors the tension between evolutionary biology and ID. That's the challenge we need to rise to in winning people over."
Lipson and other members of the US Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation (SIGEVO) worry that if they can't persuade their fellow engineers to use EAs, then evolved machines, systems and software that work fantastically well risk being lost.
EAs are nothing new. The automobile and aerospace industries have been using them since the late 1980s to evolve optimal wing, fin and flap profiles for aircraft, and streamlined shapes for cars. Pharmaceutical companies have also bred molecules to find drugs that bind to target proteins, and stock traders have used EAs to second-guess the stock markets (New Scientist, 30 May, p 42).
However, most of these applications require ultra-fast computers, both to breed the thousands, or even billions, of generations and to simulate the results to select those offspring that are fit for re-breeding. This has limited their use to a few niche applications.
That is now changing with the availability of ever more powerful computers, the advent of distributed computing "grids", which pool the resources of thousands of PCs, and the emergence of multicore chips (New Scientist, 10 March, p 26), which suit EAs because it's easy to divide up the tasks between cores. As a result, designs can now be evolved in days rather than months or years and EAs are going mainstream.
"Ever more powerful computers mean designs can be evolved in days instead of months"Exotic technologies"We can now undertake evolutionary problems that were previously too complicated or time-consuming," says John Koza, a computer scientist and EA pioneer from Stanford University in California. "Things we couldn't have done in the past, because it would have taken two months to run the genetic program, are now possible in days or less."
Some of these EAs are being used to come up with more exotic versions of existing technologies. Joe Sullivan at the University of Limerick in Ireland used an EA to make a USB flash memory stick that lasts far longer than those on the market today. Typically, memory sticks can be erased and rewritten about 10,000 times. Every time data is erased, residual charge is left on the storage transistors. Eventually, this builds up and prevents the memory being rewritten. Using large voltages to read, write and erase memory, and applying them for longer causes more residual charge. However, applying too little voltage for too little time could make the memory unreliable. To see if he could extend the lifetime without making the device less reliable, Sullivan created a genetic algorithm that varied the voltages and their timings. The result was a combination that meant the memory stick lasted 30 times longer.
To encourage more of this kind of work, SIGEVO runs the annual Human Competitiveness Awards, dubbed the "Humies". The idea is to reward designs produced by EAs that are "competitive with the work of creative and inventive humans". The winners were announced at the Genetic and Evolutionary Computing Conference (GECCO 2007) in London this month.
Manos walked off with the $5000 gold prize for combining EAs with the emerging field of "holey" optical fibres (New Scientist, 12 June 1999, p 36). These are shot through with tens of micrometre-wide holes whose exact pattern controls the wavelength of light that can be beamed down them. Previously the holes were arranged in a hexagonal pattern, which has limited the range of bandwidths. That changed when Manos's team at the University of Sydney, Australia, allowed an EA to breed exotic new hole patterns. One looked like a flower, with larger ovoids as "petals", and doubled the fibre's bandwidth. They have patented that fibre and founded a company to market it.
Other prizewinners used EAs to do what humans already do, but faster. Pierre Legrand and colleagues at the University of Bordeaux 2, France, developed an evolutionary system to configure the electrodes for cochlear implants. Up to 22 electrodes on the auditory nerve let cochlear implants restore lost hearing, but the voltages and timings of the signals applied to them are highly individual, requiring much adjustment for speech to be audible. Legrand's team took just one-and-a-half days to configure an optimal pattern for one patient whose doctors had not succeeded in 10 years.
Not content with aiming for top results however, another group of researchers is using EAs to produce designs that dodge patents on rival inventions. Koza took a 1-metre-tall, Wi-Fi antenna made by Cisco and attempted to create another that did a better job without infringing Cisco's patent. He used an EA that bred antennas by comparing offspring with how the Cisco patent works and weeding out ones that worked similarly. "Our genetic program engineered around the existing patent and created a novel design that didn't infringe it," says Koza. Not only would this allow a company to save money on licensing fees, the new design was also itself patentable.
Patents aren't the only aspect of human creativity that EAs are closing in on. David Oranchak, a computer scientist based in Roanoke, Virginia, is using EAs to create art. Over six months, he selected the photos voted most interesting by users of the photo sharing site Flickr. His algorithm then used the colours and textures in those photos to automatically select and breed images that humans might like.
Nonetheless, EAs face challenges. A common objection is that some electronic circuits and antennas work fine, but the mathematics behind them is intractable. And if you don't know how an evolved design works, how can you know when it might fail? But Koza calls that objection "self-serving and bogus". "Like any design you can test the hell of the one solution you settle on," he says.
Celebrated UK innovator James Dyson, inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, has a more emotional objection. "Evolutionary algorithms will mean the end of those exciting stories about how people made great inventions by accident," he says. "Human ingenuity and intuition should remain crucial in making a success of any product."
But that could change, says Manos. "Once you show them a design that's better than anything on the market that really starts to convince them," he says.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Listening to MP3s in a storm could blow your mind

Get off the phone if you're caught in a thunderstorm
A man in Vancouver, Canada, has discovered the hard way that listening to earphones in a thunderstorm can be a very bad idea. He was jogging while listening to an iPod, when he was struck by lightning. The earphones conducted the electricity through his head, bursting his eardrums and fracturing his jaw.

Most people who are struck by lightning are not hit directly, but get a "side flash" when the electric discharge jumps from the object that was hit.

In 2006, the 37-year-old Vancouver man was out jogging when he received just such a side flash from a tree that had been struck. He was thrown over 2 metres, as a result of the electricity making his muscles contract.

This is normally the main cause of any injuries sustained from such strikes, says Eric Heffernan of Vancouver General Hospital, who treated the man.

However, people are surprisingly resistant to the electricity itself, because the skin has a high resistance. Normally the current passes over our bodies in a "flashover" – unless a conductor, such as excess sweat or metal, directs the flow of electricity into our bodies.

Violent contraction
That is what happened when the man’s earphones "directed the current to and through his head", Heffernan and his colleagues found. The violent contraction of his jaw muscles dislocated and fractured his jaw.

Two long, thin burn marks extended up his chest and the sides of his face, and there were "“substantial" burns inside his ears. The sudden expansion of gases in his ears due to the hot earphones ruptured his eardrums, and he was deafened.

A cartilage graft from elsewhere in his body was used to patch up the ear-drums, but the patient still has 50% hearing loss and must use hearing aids, Heffernan told New Scientist. The fractures and burns have healed. However, the iPod was destroyed irreparably.

"We couldn’t find any reports of similar events [involving headphones] in the medical literature," he says, although there have been press reports of a Colorado man being similarly hit. A woman was also severely injured in 2006 after being struck while talking on a cellphone.

The patient was listening to music he had planned to play in church the following Sunday, but he can’t remember exactly what, or much else about the incident, says Heffernan. In a similar way, people given electric shocks to the brain as a therapy for some mental disorders also suffer some memory loss.

"This could have happened with any player, not specifically an iPod," Heffernan notes. Importantly, he says, the earphones simply directed the lightning – they did not attract it. "There is no increased risk of being struck by lightning when using an iPod – even if you’re listening to heavy metal."


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Site offers classic books, one e-mail at a time

A new Web site is offering to send classic books in bite-size installments to your handheld device or e-mail every morning before you go to work, or whenever you want, for free.

The e-mails from are designed to be read in under five minutes. Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days comes in 82 parts while Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina could take nearly two years of working days to read at 430 parts.

"Our audience includes people like us, who spend hours each day on e-mail but can't find the time to read a book," DailyLit co-founder Albert Wenger said.

The company was launched in May with a list of around 370 mostly classic titles, though the Web site has been operating on a trial basis for several months. Wenger told Reuters 50,000 people had signed up, registering for over 75,000 titles.

Since the books are out of copyright, the company can offer them for free, but it plans to expand and start charging a fee for newer titles licensed by major publishers within four or five weeks. The e-mails are free of advertising and the revenue model will depend on fees, sharing revenues with publishers.

Language course specialist Berlitz is one of five companies that have already struck deals with DailyLit, which will soon be offering five-minute daily language lessons.

Jim Milliot, director of business and news at Publishers Weekly, said DailyLit was among a handful of companies experimenting with new ways to "slice the pie" of book publishing to make money out of new technologies.

A top 10 list of popular authors on DailyLit includes Austen, Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and--appropriately for an service offering books in installments--Charles Dickens.

For impatient readers caught up in the plot of "Sherlock Holmes" DailyLit does allow more than five minutes reading a day. "If a reader is done with a particular installment, a reader can receive the next installment immediately," it says.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yahoo cranks up cell phone search

Yahoo launched a new Internet search system for cell phone users in Europe and Canada on Thursday, designed to provide locally relevant answers.
The service, which went live in the United States in March, now covers Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Canada.
The California-based company has been making strides in recent months to overtake rival Google in the fast-emerging mobile Web market.
"What consumers want from a mobile search is entirely different to what they want on the PC (personal computer)," said Geraldine Wilson, who heads Yahoo's Connected Life business unit in Europe.
With this service, if a user wants to look for pizza restaurants nearby, he or she can type "pizza" into the search box on a handset and obtain a list of local restaurants as well as phone numbers with a click-to-call feature, the distances to locations and ratings, Yahoo said.
The service, dubbed oneSearch, also provides news, images, local weather and financial updates.


Self-powered displays keep gadgets alive

Screens that not only display images but also generate their own power are on the horizon.
One of the new display technologies will be suitable for cellphones, making their batteries last far longer than they do now. The other could lead to self-powered electronic billboards.
Motorola has developed its solar-powered display to meet the rising power demands of mobile phones. As more and more features have been incorporated into cellphones - such as wireless internet access, video cameras, music players and GPS location-finding capabilities - their lithium-ion batteries have started to struggle to keep up. To give batteries a longer lifetime between charges without adding to their size and weight, manufacturers have tried fitting solar cells behind phones' LCD displays. Till now this has not been successful, because the LCD absorbs most of the incoming light before it can reach the solar cell.
It has been proposed to build the LCD with colour filters made from a polymer film that reflects only narrow bands of red, blue and green light. This is enough to provide an adequate colour picture, while allowing through enough energy at other wavelengths for the solar cell to generate power to charge the phone's battery.
Meanwhile, Nokia has already built a working 200-pixel-square prototype of its monochrome self-powering display. The key to this device is the use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles both to generate the image and to harvest power from light.
The cells that make up the display are packed with these particles, which can be switched from a colourless to a black form by applying a voltage to them. When the particles are in the colourless state, they generate a voltage when struck by light, and this can be used to drive a current to charge a battery. To turn the pixel black, the screen's control electronics reverse the current and apply a voltage from the battery to the nanoparticles.
Because each image cell is packed with a large number of nanoparticles, the resolution of the display can be anything from ultra-fine, for small, high-resolution displays, to very coarse for billboard-type displays. "We can scale pixels from sub-micrometre level to centimetres or more in size, so it will be most suitable for large still-image billboard displays whose images change slowly,". Electronic billboards like this will cost businesses nothing to run and because they will not draw any power from outside sources they will not contribute to carbon emissions.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tail lights grow in the dark

Brake lights warn that a car in front is slowing down but they give no indication of how sharply it is braking. Respond too slowly and you could slam straight into it. To try to prevent this, particularly at night and in poor weather, Zhonghai Li and Paul Milgram at the University of Toronto in Canada propose fitting cars with brake lights that grow larger the harder the driver brakes.

They began by experimenting with novel brake-light configurations in driving simulators, to see what changes would indicate most clearly how heavily a vehicle is braking. The arrangement they eventually decided on was a triangle, with an upper brake light placed slightly above two lights on either side. When the driver just touches the brakes, the lights form a small triangle close to the centre of the car. As braking gets heavier, all three lights get bigger, and those to the left and right also move outwards in proportion to the braking force. With the brakes fully applied, the lights get larger still and move right out to the edge of the car.

Rear-end collisions accounted for 30 per cent of all US road crashes in 2003, including 5 per cent of fatal collisions, according to government figures. Shape-shifting brake lights could be built into cars using low-power LED arrays, say the researchers, who hope to interest car makers in the idea.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Watch where you watch

If a new scheme from Philips is taken up, watching a movie in the wrong country could land you in jail for 10 years or paying a $1 million fine.

Regional coding tries to stop people in Europe watching DVD movies released in the US and vice versa. But the technology has been hacked to shreds so people routinely watch discs intended for other parts of the world.

However, the movie industry has been far more proactive in preventing people from copying DVDs. Many governments have introduced powerful laws to prevent unauthorised copying, such as the US's Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and similar laws are coming to Europe. Breaking these laws can lead to stiff fines and considerable jail sentences.

For the moment, regional coding is separate from the system designed to prevent copying. But Philips has come up with a cunning way to tie them together – by encrypting the regional coding in the same way that the movie itself is encoded.

That means the regional coding could only be broken down by tampering with the copy protection system, thereby unleashing the full power of the new laws.

Although it is probably too late to modify existing DVD discs and players, the copy-protection in the new Blu-ray and HD-DVD players has been specially designed so that it can be modified at any time in the future – without the owner even knowing it. The modification instructions are to be hidden in movie discs, so Hollywood could yet opt to adopt Philips’ new system.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Razor light technology to zap hair growth

A device that uses light to send hair follicles to sleep, making skin smooth for weeks at a time, without shaving or waxing, is being patented by Philips.

Laser light can be used to kill hair follicles by making them so hot that they literally explode. But such destructive "photoepilation" is painful and can also cause skin irritation.

Researchers at Philips’ Lab in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, have found that short, weak pulses of near infrared light causes follicles to change from their natural growing state to a dormant state, known as the "telogen phase".

The Philips device uses light from a halogen lamp. Pulses lasting 15 milliseconds each are filtered so that only 600-950 nanometre wavelengths reach the follicles below. Moving the device slowly over the skin spreads about 15 joules of light energy onto each square centimetre.

A sensor can also be used to automatically adjust treatment intensity to suit different skin and hair types. Three treatment sessions, over the course of two weeks, reduces hair growth by 90%, Philips claims.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Invisibility Cloak

An invisibility cloak that works in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum has been unveiled by researchers in the US. The device is the first practical version of a theoretical set-up first suggested in a paper published earlier in 2006.

The cloak works by steering microwave light around an object, making it appear to an observer as if it were not there at all. Materials that bend light in this way do not exist naturally, so have to be engineered with the necessary optical properties.

In recent years, materials scientists have made rapid progress in making so-called "metamaterials", which can have exotic electromagnetic properties unseen in nature. These are made up of repeating structures of simple electronic components such as capacitors and inductors.

To study the effect of his cloak,images of microwaves flowing through the rings, like water waves moving across a pond were taken. Without the cloak in place, the microwaves were reflected and diffracted by the copper ring. But with the cloak in place, the distortion was dramatically reduced.

Slight distortion
If you could see in the microwave region of the spectrum, the copper ring would not quite disappear. You'd see perhaps a shadow and some slight distortion where the copper ring ought to be.

The device has another important limitation – it works only at a single specific frequency of microwave. Hopes to build a 3D structure that could hide an object completely from view are a possibility to look into.

So far, the technology works only in the microwave region of the spectrum. The problem with visible light is that it has a much smaller wavelength, meaning an optical metamaterial would have to be built on the nanoscale, which is beyond the limits of current nanotechnology. It, too, would only work at a specific frequency.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Teleportation involves dematerializing an object at one point, and sending the details of that object's precise atomic configuration to another location, where it will be reconstructed. What this means is that time and space could be eliminated from travel -- we could be transported to any location instantly, without actually crossing a physical distance.

In 1993, the idea of teleportation moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the world of theoretical possibility. It was then that physicist Charles Bennett and a team of researchers at IBM confirmed that quantum teleportation was possible, but only if the original object being teleported was destroyed. This revelation, first announced by Bennett at an annual meeting of the American Physical Society in March 1993, was followed by a report on his findings in the March 29, 1993 issue of Physical Review Letters. Since that time, experiments using photons have proven that quantum teleportation is in fact possible.

For a person to be transported, a machine would have to be built that can pinpoint and analyze all of the 1028 atoms that make up the human body. That's more than a trillion trillion atoms. This machine would then have to send this information to another location, where the person's body would be reconstructed with exact precision. Molecules couldn't be even a millimeter out of place, lest the person arrive with some severe neurological or physiological defect.

In the Star Trek episodes, and the spin-off series that followed it, teleportation was performed by a machine called a transporter. This was basically a platform that the characters stood on, while Scotty adjusted switches on the transporter room control boards. The transporter machine then locked onto each atom of each person on the platform, and used a transporter carrier wave to transmit those molecules to wherever the crew wanted to go. Viewers watching at home witnessed Captain Kirk and his crew dissolving into a shiny glitter before disappearing, rematerializing instantly on some distant planet.

If such a machine were possible, it's unlikely that the person being transported would actually be "transported." It would work more like a fax machine -- a duplicate of the person would be made at the receiving end, but with much greater precision than a fax machine. But what would happen to the original? One theory suggests that teleportation would combine genetic cloning with digitization.

In this biodigital cloning, tele-travelers would have to die, in a sense. Their original mind and body would no longer exist. Instead, their atomic structure would be recreated in another location, and digitization would recreate the travelers' memories, emotions, hopes and dreams. So the travelers would still exist, but they would do so in a new body, of the same atomic structure as the original body, programmed with the same information.

But like all technologies, scientists are sure to continue to improve upon the ideas of teleportation, to the point that we may one day be able to avoid such harsh methods. One day, one of your descendents could finish up a work day at a space office above some far away planet in a galaxy many light years from Earth, tell his or her wristwatch that it's time to beam home for dinner on planet X below and sit down at the dinner table as soon as the words leave his mouth.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Triple-standard disc

The electronics industry is in a fine mess, with two blue-laser disc standards (Blu-ray and HD-DVD) competing to succeed ordinary red-laser DVDs.

On 26 September, Warner will be the first studio to release a movie, Lake House, on all three disc standards simultaneously.

Meanwhile, however, two top Warner engineers, Alan Bell and Lewis Ostrover, have been working on a cheaper and more elegant solution.

Blu-ray uses a 405-nanometre wavelength laser to read data from tracks 0.1-millimetres-deep on the top surface of a disc. HD-DVD, on the other hand, uses the same wavelength to read recordings at a depth of 0.6 mm.

Warner’s plan is to create a disc with a Blu-ray top layer that works like a two-way mirror. This should reflect just enough blue light for a Blu-ray player to read it okay. But it should also let enough light through for HD-DVD players to ignore the Blu-ray recording and find a second HD-DVD layer beneath.

An ordinary DVD recording could be put on the other side, so that conventional DVD players can read the disc as well.

Although the triple-standard disc will cost more to make, it should still be cheaper than pressing three, and shops should be pleased not to have their shelves overloaded with so many different discs.

Enzyme sensor

Intel has plans to move into medicine. A patent application from the world's biggest microchip-maker reveals a method for using tried-and-tested silicon fabrication techniques to mass produce low cost biosensors for home or hospital use. Putting many sensors on a single chip should reduce the power needed to drive such a device.

To make the biosensors, identical pairs of piezoelectric electrodes are deposited on a silicon wafer and some of the silicon beneath each electrode is etched away to create an identical pair of resonant cavities. When a current is passed through the electrodes, they vibrate with identical resonance.

An enzyme such as glucose oxidase is then attached to one of the two electrodes. When the chip is exposed to blood sugar, this binds with the enzyme making the electrode underneath heavier. The two electrodes then vibrate differently, which an on-chip sensor can easily detect. And comparing its resonance to a stored database provides a quick blood-sugar reading.

If the electrodes are coated with antibodies or DNA instead of enzymes, the chip could also provide early warning of an infection

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Itronix lightens the load of rugged laptop

The XR-1 isn't cheap, with a starting price of $4,330. But it is designed to withstand falls, spills and other hazards that would render an ordinary notebook useless. The XR-1 comes with loads of features that you won't find at Best Buy. The screen can be dimmed to a level that looks completely dark, but that can be read with night-vision goggles. The notebook can be fully submerged and is designed to survive a fire. If it's cold outside, the system warms up the hard drive before it fully boots. And it can find a wireless network almost anywhere in the world with built-in radios for multiple bands of both UMTS/GSM (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service/Global System for Mobile Communication) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) cellular networks, plus Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS (Global Positioning System).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Designer Chemical Signatures to replace RFID

Israeli company CrossID has devised a way to put a chemical signature into fabrics, labels, inks, boxes and other materials. When a scanner is pointed at an item, the chemical signature--which includes several hundred designer molecules--serves as an ID for the item.
The diagram shows how it works. Electromagnetic energy is directed at the top of the letter "C" embossed on a hypothetical product that has been sprayed with CrossID chemicals. Signals bouncing back tell what chemicals from CrossID's cookbook are missing and which are present. The signals then get translated to 1s and 0s and fed into a computer as an ID.
"The pattern (of the chemicals) is not important. What is important is their presence or absence," said CrossID CEO Moshe Glickstein. "We even talked to a professor who said it would be difficult and time-consuming to come up with forgeries."
As more retailers adopt the approach to combat counterfeiting, the technology could eventually be used as a cheap substitute for radio frequency identification tags, Glickstein said. Putting a chemical signature in an item will cost a fraction of a cent. RFID tags are still priced way above the idealized 5 cent mark, he noted.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Three new planets to join our solar system

If gravity can make it round, it's a planet, planets also have to orbit a star, and not be either stars themselves or satellites of other planets – but the new part of the definition is roundness.Whereas very small heavenly bodies tend to be irregular rocks, larger ones are crushed by their own gravity into a spherical shape. The threshold size depends a bit on the material, but for ordinary ice or rock it turns out to be well below 1000 kilometres. So the new definition includes Ceres, previously classed as the largest asteroid, which is 950 kilometres across. Ceres would become the fifth planet from the Sun and the outermost of the five rocky planets, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.Perhaps an even more surprising planet is Pluto's companion Charon. At more than 1000 kilometres across, it is certainly large enough to have settled into a sphere; and according to the new definition, Charon is not a satellite of Pluto.
Charon is so heavy that the centre of gravity of the two bodies is in space, between the two objects (whereas the Earth and Moon orbit each other about a point deep inside the Earth, making the Moon a true satellite). Pluto and Charon would become the first double planet in the solar system. In 2005 came the killer: the object designated 2003 UB313, popularly known as Xena, is 2400 kilometres across, making it slightly bigger than Pluto.A new term has been invented for Pluto, Charon, Xena and any other distant planet with an orbit that takes more than 200 years: They will be called "plutons" (though geologists might be a little peeved that their word for an igneous intrusion has been appropriated). Most new planets would be plutons; there are already several candidates, and perhaps a few dozen will be found altogether.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

SPACE : Relic neutrinos join the hunt for dark energy

MASSIVE optical telescopes on mountain tops have been the main tools for exploring dark energy - the mysterious stuff that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Soon the quest could move underground. Neutrinos born in stellar cataclysms and detected in gigantic water tanks buried in mines may become the new probes for dark energy.When the core of a massive star grows too large, it collapses under its own gravity, releasing a flood of neutrinos . The millions of core-collapse supernovae that have gone off throughout the history of the universe must have created a background of supernova relic neutrinos. But the diffuse nature of these neutrinos makes them very difficult to detect. However, the next generation of neutrino detectors, such as the planned Underground Nucleon decay and Neutrino Observatory will have tanks that can hold a million tonnes of water and so should be up to the job. Relic neutrinos might merely confirm the acceleration, leaving the exact nature of dark energy a mystery - or they could reveal new physics. Neutrinos might bounce off dark energy, in which case their spectrum will be distorted in such a way as to tell us something more about this mysterious force.Or it may be that light from distant supernovae is being distorted in some strange way - perhaps by being gradually converted into particles called axions. Finally, the spectrum of supernova relic neutrinos could reveal whether anything is awry.

Metadata in JPEG files

Digital cameras and image manipulation programs add hidden data to JPEG files. These data should be removed before publishing them on the Internet.The JPEG file format allows it to embed additional information called "metadata" in the file header. (Other image file formats can contain metadata, too.) The purpose of these metadata is to provide additional and useful information along with the picture. Image manipulation programs and especially digital cameras take advantage of this feature.
Metadata can be embedded in different ways. A common way is to store them according to the Exif specification, which has been created by the Japan Electronic Industry Development Association (JEIDA). Other popular specifications are the IPTC headers defined by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) and XMP developed by Adobe Systems. More detailed information about these metadata formats as well as descriptions of other metadata formats can be found on ExifTool's Tag Names page.
Among other things, the metadata section of a file can contain information about:
make and model of the digital camera
time and date the picture was taken
distance the camera was focused at
location information (GPS) where the picture was taken
small preview image (thumbnail) of the picture
firmware version, serial numbers, name and version of image manipulation program, etc. ...
Several software tools support the removal of metadata. A recommendable one is jhead or a more popular one IrfanView.
Many users may also not know that digital cameras leave an individual fingerprint in each picture. This allows to reliably link pictures to the camera with which they were taken--in much the same way that forensic examiners can link bullets to the gun that fired them.
Something that should be distinguished from digital fingerprints is digital watermarking. Among other things, digital watermarking is used to prevent--or at least expose--picture altering. Digital cameras equipped with digital watermarking technology append an extra stream of identifying data to each picture, which is usually invisible. If the picture is changed, these data and therefore the digital watermark are corrupted.
Cameras with watermarking technology are mainly purchased by professionals who need to prove that the pictures they have taken are unaltered. Just like digital fingerprints, digital watermarks could make it possible to determine if a picture was taken by a certain camera.
Although software tools that can remove digital watermarks do not seem to exist, digital watermarks are not really a problem. Simple countermeasures are to use only digital cameras without watermarking technology or with the option to disable watermarking.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Transatlantic Tunnel

A magnetically levitated train could theoretically take you from New York to London in 54 minutes. But you'd have to go 5,000mph through a 3,100 mile long tunnel that was itself floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The Transatlantic Tunnel is a structure proposed by one of the engineers involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel beneath the English Channel. It would be a tunnel that spans the Atlantic Ocean between New York City and England; the design calls for this tunnel to be raised above the ocean floor (making it a tube—not a tunnel); this is unlike most tunnels (which are dug out from beneath the floor of a water body), but like the Bay Area Rapid Transit system's Transbay Tube in San Francisco. The tunnel would be a 3,100 mile (5,000 km) long vacuum tube with mag-lev trains that could travel at speeds up to 5,000 mph (8,000 km/h); at this speed, the travel time between New York and London would be less than one hour. At top speed, the train would travel faster than a bullet fired from a gun. The train would be able to reach such a high speed as a result of the lack of friction and air resistance in this vacuum-sealed environment.
An alternative route that was proposed involved the train going (as a tunnel) from Newfoundland and heading north over the ice sheet of Greenland and across Iceland until it reached Scotland. This route is the cheapest but it is considered to be one of the most difficult due to the adverse weather conditions and ice sheet problems in Greenland, and such a tunnel would lose the vast speed of the mag-lev tube. It is estimated that once started, the project would take about 100+ years to complete.
In a future time, such a tunnel could be considered to be more realistic than today. Imagine going for a desert to New york after dinner in london, isnt the idea quite fascinating ?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Antimatter - as an energy source

Antimatter is the ultimate energy source. It releases energy with 100% efficiency (nuclear fission is 1.5% efficient.) Antimatter is 100,000 times more powerful than rocket fuel. A single gram contains the energy of a 20 kiloton atomic bomb--the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In addition to being highly explosive, antimatter is extremely unstable and ignites when it comes in contact with anything...even air. It can only be stored by suspending it in an electromagnetic field inside a vacuum canister. If the field fails and the antimatter falls, the result is a "perfect" matter/antimatter conversion, which physicists aptly call "annihilation." CERN is now regularly producing small quantities of antimatter in their research for future energy sources. Antimatter holds tremendous promise; it creates no pollution or radiation, and a single droplet could power New York City for a full day. With fossils fuels dwindling, the promise of harnessing antimatter could be an enormous leap for the future of this planet. Of course, mastering antimatter technology brings with it a chilling dilemma.Some antimatter reactions produce blasts of high energy gamma rays. Gamma rays are like X-rays on steroids. They penetrate matter and break apart molecules in cells, so they are not healthy to be around. High-energy gamma rays can also make the engines radioactive by fragmenting atoms of the engine material.
Antimatter is sometimes called the mirror image of normal matter because while it looks just like ordinary matter, some properties are reversed. For example, normal electrons, the familiar particles that carry electric current in everything from cell phones to plasma TVs, have a negative electric charge. Anti-electrons have a positive charge, so scientists dubbed them "positrons". When antimatter meets matter, both annihilate in a flash of energy. This complete conversion to energy is what makes antimatter so powerful. Even the nuclear reactions that power atomic bombs come in a distant second, with only about three percent of their mass converted to energy.
Previous antimatter-powered spaceship designs employed antiprotons, which produce high-energy gamma rays when they annihilate. The new design will use positrons, which make gamma rays with about 400 times less energy. If a rocket carrying a nuclear reactor explodes, it could release radioactive particles into the atmosphere. The positron spacecraft would release a flash of gamma-rays if it exploded, but the gamma rays would be gone in an instant. There would be no radioactive particles to drift on the wind. The flash would also be confined to a relatively small area. The danger zone would be about a kilometer (about a half-mile) around the spacecraft. An ordinary large chemically-powered rocket has a danger zone of about the same size, due to the big fireball that would result from its explosion. Another significant advantage is speed. The Reference Mission spacecraft would take astronauts to Mars in about 180 days. The advanced designs, like the gas core and the ablative engine concepts, could take astronauts to Mars in half that time, and perhaps even in as little as 45 days.On Earth, it has to be created in particle accelerators, immense machines that smash atoms together. The machines are normally used to discover how the universe works on a deep, fundamental level, but they can be harnessed as antimatter factories.
Image left: A diagram of a rocket powered by a positron reactor. Positrons are directed from the storage unit to the attenuating matrix, where they interact with the material and release heat. Liquid hydrogen (H2) circulates through the attenuating matrix and picks up the heat. The hydrogen then flows to the nozzle exit (bell-shaped area in yellow and blue), where it expands into space, producing thrust.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Building with light materials

A building under construction in Japan will use natural light to illuminate its rooms, even during the night.Japanese construction company Shimizu and electronics giant Sharp have jointly developed a transparent building material that absorbs light during the day and uses it to light up rooms when the Sun goes down. The material is being used to construct a new office complex in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, on the south eastern edge of Japan.Sections of the office's walls look transparent, but actually contain incredibly thin solar panels and as many as 320 light-emitting diodes that release whitish-blue light at night. According to NikkeiNet Interactive (paid subscription required), the walls can convert 7% of solar energy into electricity and illuminate the building for an average of 4.6 hours every night.The image here shows another of Shimizu's office buildings, named Izumi Garden, in Tokyo.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

War of the titans

Google to launched a Web-based spreadsheet program that will allow people to view and simultaneously edit data while conducting "in-document" chat. The launch of Google Spreadsheets puts the search engine in even more heated competition with Microsoft, whose desktop-based Excel spreadsheet program is a standard office tool.
Google, which acquired the Writely Web-based word processor in March, is unleashing Web-based services of programs that propelled Microsoft to dominance on the desktop. Microsoft is responding by revamping its business to focus on Web services under the Windows Live and Office Live monikers.
Google Spreadsheets, which will go live on Tuesday as part of Google Labs, supports the import and export of documents in the .xls format used in Excel and the .csv (comma-separated values) format, said Jonathan Rochelle, product manager for Google Spreadsheet.
Consumers must have a Google account to use the service.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

World's first brain prosthesis revealed

Scientists in California are testing the world's first brain prosthesis - an artificial hippocampus, a silicon chip implant will perform the same processes as the damaged part of the brain it is replacing( damage due to stroke, epilepsy or Alzheimer's disease).The brain not only affects memory, but your mood, awareness and consciousness - parts of your fundamental identity.The hippocampus is the most ordered and structured part of the brain, and one of the most studied. Importantly, it is also relatively easy to test its function.The job of the hippocampus appears to be to "encode" experiences so they can be stored as long-term memories elsewhere in the brain. If you lose your hippocampus you only lose the ability to store new memories. That offers a relatively simple and safe way to test the device: if someone with the prosthesis regains the ability to store new memories, then it's safe to assume it works. They had to devise a mathematical model of how the hippocampus performs under all possible conditions, build that model into a silicon chip, and then interface the chip with the brain. It communicates with the brain through two arrays of electrodes, placed on either side of the damaged area. One records the electrical activity coming in from the rest of the brain, while the other sends appropriate electrical instructions back out to the brain.The hippocampus can be thought of as a series of similar neural circuits that work in parallel, so it should be possible to bypass the damaged region entirely.One drawback is that it will inevitably bypass some healthy brain tissue. But this should not affect the patient's memories and would be no different from removing brain tumours.

Refocusing Lens

A liquid-crystal lens with adjustable focal length developed by researchers from the University of Central Florida, US.Unlike previous liquid crystal lenses, this one actually contains a mixture of liquid-crystal molecules and smaller N-vinylpyrrollidone monomers, which is poured into a gap between two sheets of glass coated with a conducting metal.The molecules in most liquid crystal lens respond to an electric current by swivelling around to point one way. But in this lens the liquid crystal molecules and the monomers become separated. This alters the refractive properties of the lens. The researchers were about to gradually alter focus by adjusting the electrical current.This could mean compact camera phone lenses that zoom at the flick of a switch. But it could also be good news for glasses-wearers. Especially since researchers at Arizona State University recently developed a pair of glasses (shown above) incorporating liquid crystal lens, although this could only switch between two focal lengths. So now I'm looking forward to one day receiving my first fully self-focusing pair of spectacles. Hopefully they'll be slightly more streamlined that the Arizona State ones.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Microsoft folds new features into mapping service

Microsoft unveiled on Tuesday night enhancements to its Windows Live Local online mapping service, incorporating real-time traffic data, integration with Outlook's calendaring function and expanded scratch pad features.
Microsoft partnered with for traffic information, such as flow, incidents and construction, for 35 metro markets in the U.S. The mapping is now integrated with Outlook XP and Outlook 2003, allowing users to embed maps and driving directions in calendar events. It also adjusts starting times to reflect the expected travel time.
Microsoft has turned the limited scratch pad feature into a more extensive Personal Collections function by way of which users with a Microsoft Passport account can save their favorite local searches and other information. Users can insert links to outside content, such as photos or video, in the Personal Collections listings and then share the link to the collection with others via e-mail, instant messaging or via their MSN Spaces blog.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Molecular Memories

A company called "Nanochip Inc. from Monterey, California claim to have made a major breakthrough in the development of very small solid state memories. They say they can store as much as 900M bytes of data on a single IC package. Their memory circuits will first be used to replace hard disk drives in computer systems. They indicate that their circuits are ten times faster than typical disk drives and consume much less power. When volume production levels are reached, they also claim that the system will cost much less than hard disk drives. Their goal is a cram enough memory circuits inside a standard 3 ½ inch disk drive form factor to store as much as 1,400GBs of data. Such a memory capacity is at least one hundred times more than possible with standard hard disk drives. Smaller versions will also find their way into digital cameras, video recorders and audio playback systems. If their goals are reached, it will spell the end to clunky mechanical magnetic and optical disk drives.

Splashpower Battery Charger

Splashpower's wireless recharging technology lets you charge any compatible portable device by just laying it on a special pad. About the size of a place mat, the SplashPad generates an electromagnetic field, which is picked up by a SplashModule built into each device. The SplashModule converts the field into usable power and pumps it to the depleted battery at whatever voltage is required. The transfer can occur up to 1 centimeter from the pad, and each pad can accommodate as many devices as will fit on its surface, no matter what their different power needs are.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Goggle out the content using email

To all those folks who cannot access internet from the office..... read on.
Search and receive Google search results thru email.
Just send an email to and put the text of your query in the "Subject" line.
You will receive the search results as email to your mail id.
Once you get the result for the searches... u can get the contents of a URL using the below feature!!
To receive the web content of a url, send email to and subject should contain
the url whose content has to be fetched.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stolen Mobile Finder - A new invention

A resident of Visakhapatnam has lost not one not two but thirty mobiles.The experience of losing so many cell phones got him thinking and he started experimenting with making devices that could track mobile thiefs.N V Satyanaraian, an M Tech and a scientist, finally managed to do something about it.Hours of experimentation resulted in software called Stolen Mobile Finder, a unique device to track down mobile thiefs of which he now holds the patent.This Visakhapatnam resident claims that once the software is installed, it is difficult to change the sim card of the phone.If the thief tries to change the software, the handset asks for a password and accepts whatever password the thief puts in.However, then the software starts its trick."Rs 900 will be reduced everyy hour from the sim card and this will happen without the thief's knowledge. It requires no operator help. The mobile will take care of this on its own and inform the real owner of the status of the phone," says he.And there's more. As soon as the theft is identified, the software transfers the entire address book to the actual owner of the phone within seconds and regularly communicates with the owner about incoming and outgoing calls.It also uses some old fashioned psychological pressure. The software makes the mobile emit a loud alarm at odd hours even when the cell is switched off."The incoming calls, outgoing calls and vibrator mode of the mobile is suspended and gets into the dormant mode. The thief's voice can be picked up and his intentions can be monitored," says Satyanaraian.Besides this mobile thief catcher, Satyanarain has another wonder up his sleeve.He is developing a micro-windmill mobile charger, which harnesses wind energy.The Research and Development Division of the Department of Science and Technology at the National Innovation Foundation and some venture capitalists fund his innovations.Satyanaraian has already won a national award for his innovative inventions and is now negotiating with mobile phone makers to use his software, which he recently got patented.