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Ground-breaking science: very old papers from the Royal Society
Did this Einstein guy get his math right?

A trove of history-making papers published by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society have been released in their entirety to celebrate the 350th birthday of the world’s oldest scientific body.  From Isaac Newton's theory of light and color to plate tectonics, the papers reveal the progress of human knowledge.  FULL STORY_Wired Science 12/2/09

Gamma Ray 'race' proves Einstein right ... again

Timing is everything, especially to physicists seeking to unite the mechanics of gravity with the quantum world of particles.  So when the opportunity came to measure if gamma rays of different energies traveled at the same speed, a team of physicists stepped up to the challenge.  At stake was nothing less than a foundation of modern physics -- Einstein's theory of relativity, which posits that all electromagnetic radiation travels at the same speed, whether low-energy radio waves, high-energy X-rays or gamma rays, or any wavelength in between.  A violent explosion 7.8 billion light-years ago gave scientists the unique opportunity to punch a hole in Einstein's theory. NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope detected many gamma ray photons from the 2.1-second long burst, including one that was a million times more energetic than another.  Scientists wondered if the higher-energy photon might have arrived in the telescope's detector slightly later than its partner due to quantum-level entanglements in space that a less energetic photon wouldn't even notice. After a journey of more than 7 billion light-years, however, the gamma ray photons arrived nine-tenths of a second apart on May 9, 2009 -- not enough of a lag to account for the theorized quantum effects.  FULL STORY_Discovery News_11/4/09

Video to appear in paper magazines
The first-ever video advertisement will be published in a U.S. traditional paper magazine in September.  The video-in-print ads  feature slim-line screens - around the size of a mobile phone display and use chip technology activated when the page is turned. FULL STORY_ BBC NEWS_ 8/20/09.

Apollo 11 moon landing delivered 40 years of spin-off tech
Who says government can't ever do anything right? The Apollo 11 moon landing has paid dividends far beyond the planting of the American flag on Luna. The host of NASA's technology "spin-offs" is legion.  From memory foam to freeze-dried food, the list of technologies and products that came directly out of our space exploits and found markets in the private sector is impressive.  Click here for a full list included in NASA Spinoff . 

FULL STORY_Channel Web_7/24/09

Round-the-world solar plane debut

Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard has unveiled a prototype of the solar-powered plane he hopes eventually to fly around the world.  The initial version, spanning 61m but weighing just 1,500kg, will undergo trials to prove it can fly at night.  Dr Piccard, who made history in 1999 by circling the globe non-stop in a balloon, says he wants to demonstrate the potential of renewable energies.  He expects initially to make a crossing of the Atlantic in 2012.  The aeroplane incorporates composite materials to keep it extremely light and uses super-efficient solar cells, batteries, motors and propellers to get it through the dark hours.

FULL STORY_BBC News_6/26/09

U.S. firm Solid Oak says China stole software for web-filter

A California company alleged that an Internet-filtering program being pushed by the Chinese government contains stolen portions of the company's software. Solid Oak said Friday that it found pieces of its CyberSitter filtering software in the Chinese program, including a list of terms to be blocked, instructions for updating the software, and an old news bulletin promoting CyberSitter. Researchers at the University of Michigan who have been studying the Chinese program also said they found components of CyberSitter, including the blacklist of terms. Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., the Chinese company that made the filtering software, denied stealing anything. The allegations come as PC makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are sorting through a mandate by the Chinese government requiring that all PCs sold in China as of July come with the filtering software.  

Full Story   Wall Street Journal_ 6/13/09


At California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, big laser project aims light at the future

The $3.5 billion site is known as the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. For more than half a century, physicists have dreamed of creating tiny stars that would inaugurate an era of bold science and cheap energy, and NIF is meant to kindle that blaze. The project's director, Ed Moses, while offering no guarantees, argued that any great endeavor involved risks and that the gamble was worth it because of the potential rewards. He said that NIF, if successful, would help keep the nation's nuclear arms reliable without underground testing, would reveal the hidden life of stars and would prepare the way for radically new kinds of power plants. "If fusion energy works," he said, "you'll have, for all intents and purposes, a limitless supply of carbon-free energy that's not geopolitically sensitive. What more would you want? It's a game changer."  Full Story    New York Times/San Francisco Chronicle_ 5/31/09

Tech Gadgets Suck Up Too Much Juice – Report
The energy consumption from communications technologies and consumer electronics devices, including computers, mobile phones, and televisions, could be reduced by more than 50 percent through the use of energy-efficient technologies that exist today.  The claim comes from “Gadgets and Gigawatts,” a publication from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that was released Wednesday in Paris. The IEA is an international group that advises its 28 member countries, including the United States, on energy policy.  While electronic devices account for only 15 percent of today’s household electricity use, their share is growing rapidly, the report states. The IEA is urging governments to implement policies that would make TVs, laptops, cell phones, and other tech equipment more energy-efficient. FULL STORY_PC World 5/13/09

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is hospitalized with chest infection

Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time and the man many experts consider to be the top theoretical physicist in history, was admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, which is part of the University of Cambridge, England, where he is a mathematics professor. The British professor, who was born in Oxford, England in 1942, is known for his study of cosmology, which focuses on the universe in its totality, along with his work on quantum gravity, which is theoretical physics. He focused a good deal of his work on black holes, predicting that they emit radiation, which is generally known as Hawking radiation. Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's Disease. The neuro-degenerative disease is a progressive disorder that causes muscle weakness and atrophy.   Full Story   Computerworld_ 4/20/09

Lights out in 84 countries for Earth Hour 2009
The lights are going down from the Great Pyramids to the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower to Sears Tower, as more than 2,800 municipalities in 84 countries plan Saturday, March 28, to mark the second worldwide Earth Hour.  McDonald's will even soften the yellow glow from some Golden Arches as part of the time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to highlight global climate change.  "Earth Hour makes a powerful statement that the world is going to solve this problem," said Carter Roberts, chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund, which sponsors Earth Hour. "Everyone is realizing the enormous effect that climate change will have on them."  Seven times more municipalities have signed on since last year's Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney, Search engine Yahoo! says there's been a 344 percent increase in "Earth Hour" searches this February and March compared with last year.  FULL STORY_AP 3/27/09

'Flying Car' makes test flight

Aircraft maker Terrafugia has successfully flown its "flying car," taking the vehicle a step closer to becoming commercially available. The four-wheel aircraft resembles a Volkswagen Beetle with wings and a propeller in the back. The Transition is capable of flying 450 miles at more than 115 mph. On the road, the front-wheel drive vehicle runs on unleaded gasoline, has a top speed of 65 mph and gets 30 miles to the gallon.  FULL STORY   Information Week_3/20/09

Internet censorship

The “Enemies of the Internet” – according to a Reporters Without Borders report are Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. These countries have all “transformed their Internet into an Intranet in order to prevent their population from accessing ‘undesirable’ online information,” the group said. FULL STORY_ZDNet_3/13/09

Scientists mull future after carbon satellite crash
Nine years of work disappeared in five minutes yesterday when a NASA satellite crashed into the icy waters near Antarctica. Now climate scientists who worked on the ambitious effort to map the world's carbon dioxide are trying to figure out what comes next.  Many scientists who worked with NASA are now hoping to use data from a carbon-monitoring satellite, GOSAT, that Japan's space agency launched last month.  FULL STORY_2/25/09

Belgium opens scientific base in Antarctica

Belgium opened a new scientific research centre in Antarctica Sunday -- 40 years after its last polar base there. The "Princess Elisabeth" is the brain child of Belgian explorer Alain Hubert and private investors contributed almost 22 million euros (28 million dollars) to build the centre, 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the King Baudouin base abandoned in 1967. "To build a polar base which uses only wind and solar energy was an almost impossible task," said Alain Hubert.   Full Story   AFP_ 2/15/09

U.S. Military seeks better use of finger, eye scans
On the front lines in Iraq, U.S. troops can scan someone's eye or finger to try to determine if he is a potential enemy or has been connected to a terror attack.  At military bases on U.S. soil, it's not that easy.  The use of biometrics — ranging from simple fingerprints to more advanced retinal and facial scans — has thrived in Iraq, where soldiers carry handheld devices that enable them to link to databases filled with hundreds of thousands of identities.  But in the U.S., military bases just 20 miles or so apart have different identification requirements and access procedures for personnel or contractors trying to get onto the property. The gaps raise security concerns. FULL STORY_ MSNBC_1/29/09

Worm infects millions of computers worldwide
A new digital plague has hit the Internet, infecting millions of personal and business computers in what seems to be the first step of a multistage attack. The world’s leading computer security experts do not yet know who programmed the infection, or what the next stage will be.  In recent weeks a worm, a malicious software program, has swept through corporate, educational and public computer networks around the world. Known as Conficker or Downadup, it is spread by a recently discovered Microsoft Windows vulnerability, by guessing network passwords and by hand-carried consumer gadgets like USB keys.  Experts say it is the worst infection since the Slammer worm exploded through the Internet in January 2003, and it may have infected as many as nine million personal computers around the world. FULL STORY_ New York Times_1/22/09

Drillers in Hawaii strike molten rock

Find may hold key to how continents are formed

A geothermal power company drilling a mile and a half deep on one of the Hawaiian Islands has for the first time encountered an undisturbed chamber of magma, or molten rock, scientists reported this week.  Before the discovery, which was made in 2005, the only access to magma had been on Earth's surface -- in the form of lava from volcanoes. The 2,000-degree Fahrenheit material in the chamber is undergoing a complicated transformation that may give geologists the first real-time look at how the silicate-rich rock of continents is formed.  FULL STORY_Washington Post 12/17/08

Coral growth point to another Sumatra quake

With coral reefs as their tea leaves, scientists are forecasting that in the next several decades there will be another major earthquake along the Sunda fault off Sumatra like the one that spawned the catastrophic tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004.  Researchers writing in the journal Science, say that a 2007 quake along a more southerly stretch of the fault represented only a first, partial rupture of that 400-mile section, which had been quiet for nearly two centuries. The researchers say this part of the fault, called the Mentawai section, is likely to be the site of at least one more major rupture.  Coral growth patterns indicate that the quake is part of a cycle of activity.  Each cycle consists of several major events over three or more decades.  The 2007 quake may be the first of a new cycle.  FULL STORY_New York Times 12/12/08

MI Technologies introduces new MI-788 Networked Acquisition Controller

MI Technologies is introducing a new Networked Acquisition Controller (NAC) designed to optimize and reduce the ?overhead? time that instruments and network components require for handshaking, coordinating, triggering and managing data flow in test systems. The new product streamlines the cycle of triggering and data flow among instruments for higher throughput and faster data collection. The MI-788 NAC is specifically designed to work with vector network analyzers and the MI Technologies family of microwave receivers. For more than 50 years, MI Technologies has been a leading supplier of products, systems and services for RF and Microwave antenna, radome, and radar cross section (RCS) testing.   Full Story   News Release_ 12/9/08

Man-made noise in world's seas threatens wildlife
Man-made noise in the world's seas and oceans is becoming an increasing threat to whales, dolphins and turtles who use sound to communicate, forage for food and find mates, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.  Rumbling ship engines, seismic surveys by oil and gas companies, and intrusive military sonars are triggering an "acoustic fog and cacophony of sounds" underwater, scaring marine animals and affecting their behavior.  "There is now evidence linking loud underwater noises with some major strandings of marine mammals, especially deep diving beaked whales," Mark Simmonds, Science Director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, told a news conference in Rome.  Full Story_Reuters_12/4/08

Collider to be stalled for 2 months

The giant Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most expensive scientific experiment, will be shut down for at least two months, scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva said today. The shutdown casts into doubt the hopes of CERN physicists to achieve high-energy collisions of protons in the machine before the end of the year. Physicists say that such setbacks are an inevitable part of starting up such a large and complicated machine, which has cost $8 billion and taken 14 years.   Full Story   New York Times_ 9/20/08 (logon required)

Protons and champagne mix as new particle collider is revved up

Science rode a beam of subatomic particles and a river of Champagne into the future on Wednesday. After 14 years of labor, scientists at the CERN laboratory outside Geneva successfully activated the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest, most powerful particle collider and, at $8 billion, the most expensive scientific experiment to date. At 4:28 a.m., Eastern time, the scientists announced that a beam of protons had completed its first circuit around the collider’s 17-mile-long racetrack, 300 feet underneath the Swiss-French border. They then sent the beam around several more times. Eventually, the collider is expected to accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts and then smash them together, recreating conditions in the primordial fireball only a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Scientists hope the machine will be a sort of Hubble Space Telescope of inner space, allowing them to detect new subatomic particles and forces of nature.   Full Story   New York Times_ 9/10/08

Chinese scientists demonstrate how to see through 'invisibility cloak'

Invisibility achieved through transformation media is a two-way street. With no light penetrating a perfect invisibility cloak, there would be no way for an invisible person to see outside. In other words, invisible people would also be blind -- not exactly what Harry Potter had in mind. But now, Huanyang Chen of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China and his colleagues have developed way to partially cancel the invisibility cloak's cloaking effect. Their "anti-cloak" would be a material with optical properties perfectly matched to those of an invisibility cloak. This would allow an invisible observer to see the outside by pressing a layer of anti-cloak material in contact with an invisibility cloak. This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Minister of Education Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University, and the Hong Kong Central Allocation Fund.   Full Story   Scientific Frontline/ Reuters_ 9/3/08


Light bent the wrong way--can an invisibility cloak be far behind?

Researchers have taken the next step on the road to constructing a cloak of invisibility or a powerful "superlens" capable of capturing fine details undetectable to current lenses. A group from the University of California, Berkeley, this week is publishing the first demonstrations of materials capable of bending visible or near-visible light the "wrong" way in three dimensions. Both are examples of metamaterials—specially designed structures that cause light to do things it normally wouldn't—in this case, bending backward, an effect called negative refraction. In a study to be published in Nature, the Berkeley group led by Xiang Zhang, bent red light using a fishnet-shaped stack of 21 layers of silver and magnesium fluoride, each a few tens of nanometers thick. (One nanometer is a billionth of a meter.) The group will also report in Science that it bent near-infrared light using a thinner sheet of aluminum oxide containing silver nanowires. The researchers believe the second material ought to work on red light as well.  Full Story   Scientific American_ 8/12/08

Cheap catalyst could turn sunlight, water into fuel

A new catalyst makes it feasible to split water with solar power. MIT chemists say the catalyst, used in conjunction with cheap photovoltaic solar panels, could lead to inexpensive, simple systems that use water to store the energy from sunlight. In the process, the scientists may have cleared the major roadblock on the long road to fossil fuel independence: Reducing the on-again, off-again nature of many renewable power sources. Solar energy currently makes less than one percent of the world's electricity. The main drawback is that solar systems only make power while the sun is shining. At night or on cloudy days, those in need of power must look elsewhere. The MIT discovery, according to an article in the current edition of Science, could help transform electricity generated through solar energy into a fuel, making it more competitive with fossil fuels. That could prove to be a major milestone in clean technology. Though MIT chemistry professor Daniel Nocera doesn't expect retail systems to be available for the better part of a decade, the questions about the viability of his idea should begin to be answered soon, as prototype designs attempt to deliver on his big promises.   Full Story   Wired_ 7/31/08

Cern lab goes 'colder than space'

A vast physics experiment built in a tunnel below the French-Swiss border is fast becoming one of the coolest places in the Universe. The Large Hadron Collider is entering the final stages of being lowered to a temperature of 1.9 Kelvin (-271C; -456F) - colder than deep space. Once the LHC is operational, two particle beams will cross paths, smashing into one another with cataclysmic force. Scientists hope to see new particles in the debris of these collisions, revealing fundamental new insights into the nature of the cosmos and how it came into being. The most powerful physics experiment ever built, the LHC will re-create the conditions just after the Big Bang.   Full Story   BBC News_ 7/22/08

Study:  Global leaders in science and tech
A study released Thursday by the nonprofit think tank Rand says the U.S. remains the worldwide leader in science and technology, based on R&D spending, the number of Nobel Prize winners who call the U.S. home, and the number of top universities sitting on U.S. turf.  But, the study says, the U.S. educational system, kindergarten through high school, continues to underperform in developing bright minds in math and science. Europe and China are both graduating more university-educated engineers and scientists on a yearly basis than the U.S. As a result the U.S. may face an increasing reliance on foreign-born workers and foreign students in science and engineering to aid the nation in maintaining its lead, according to the report.  FULL STORY CNET News 6/13/08

Giant artificial trees to 'scrub' CO2 from the air

The scientist who coined the term "global warming" in the 1970s has proposed a radical solution to the problem of climate change. Wallace Broecker advocated millions of "carbon scrubbers" - giant artificial trees to pull CO2 from the air. After addressing the Hay literary festival in southeast Wales, Dr Broecker told the BBC News website that 60 million of the devices would be needed worldwide at an estimated cost of $600billion (£303billion) a year. The towers would be about 50ft high and 8ft in diameter, and use a special type of plastic to absorb the CO2. The gas would then be either liquefied under pressure and pumped underground or turned into a mineral. He said the challenge was to get rapidly developing countries such China, India and Brazil behind the idea.  Full Story   BBC News_ 5/31/08

Heading skyward to beat gridlock

The solution to gridlock on our overcrowded roads is to take to the air in a plane-car hybrid that will revolutionise the way society works.  This vision of the future twenty years hence was revealed at the 2008 Electric Aircraft Symposium held a stone's throw from San Francisco airport in California.  Plotting the next frontier in green technology was Richard Jones, a technical fellow at Boeing Phantom Works.  He said "Today I am talking about making aviation available to everyone as a daily means of transportation. Transportation changes society."  When your 100mpg (miles per gallon) car is stuck in traffic and a 100mpg airplane whizzes overhead, you're going to be jealous.  Boeing's research group is designing a hybrid aimed at travelling up to 300 miles at a time. It will use precision navigation systems that would allow the average 'driver cum pilot' to fly without special training thanks to a computerised 'flight instructor' built into the cockpit. This Mr Jones believes could make the compact plane easier to drive than a car.  He said that they will be powered using electricity and /or batteries making them the "cleanest transportation of the future."  FULL STORY_BBC 5/7/08

HP makes memory from a once-theoretical circuit
Introducing the Memristor

Thirty-seven years ago, Leon Chua, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, mathematically theorized that scientific symmetry demands that there should be a fourth fundamental circuit element. Engineers were already familiar with resistors (which resist the flow of electricity), capacitors (which store electricity), and inductors (which resist changes to the flow of electrical current), which can be combined to build more complex devices. The fourth circuit, which Chua called a "memristor" for memory resistor, would register how much current had passed.  "He looked at fundamental circuit equations and noticed there was a hole," said Stan Williams, who heads up the Information and Quantum Systems lab at HP Labs, "There should be a device that remembers how much current flowed through a device."  Williams and other scientists at Hewlett-Packard are publishing a paper in Nature on Wednesday demonstrating that that these things actually exist. HP has a few discrete memristors as well as a silicon chip embedded with memristors. It's a first, according to HP.  If memristors can be commercialized, it could lead to very dense, energy-efficient memory chips. Memristor chips would function like flash memory and retain data even after a computer is turned off, but require less silicon, consume less energy, and require fewer transistors.  FULL STORY_CNET News 4/30/08

Sonic device that repels teens causing outcry

'Kids Be Gone' dangerous?
A wall-mounted gadget designed to drive away loiterers with a shrill, piercing noise audible only to teens and young adults is infuriating civil liberties groups and tormenting young people after being introduced into the United States. The Mosquito, which targets loiterers, projects a shrill noise audible only to teens and young adults. Almost 1,000 units of the device, called the Mosquito, have been sold in the United States and Canada after the product debuted last year, according to Daniel Santell, the North America importer of the device sold under the company name Kids Be Gone.  The high-frequency sound has been likened to fingernails dragged across a chalkboard or a pesky mosquito buzzing in your ear. It can be heard by most people in their teens and early 20s who still have sensitive hair cells in their inner ears. Whether you can hear the noise depends on how much your hearing has deteriorated: How loud you blast your iPod, for example, could affect your ability to detect it. FULL STORY   CNN_4/23/08

Samsung secretive about water-powered cell phone

Samsung's plans for a water powered cell phone were recently leaked; no, not that kind of water power -- the modified cell phone design does not use hydroelectricity, but rather breaks apart water and uses the hydrogen obtained for power. Samsung's new plans for water-powered cell phones utilize a metal catalyst that becomes a metal hydroxide in a reversible process, yielding hydrogen. While keeping tight lipped on the details, Samsung is making the bold prediction that our cell phones will be running on water by 2010. Their engineers claim that a working prototype currently provides 10 hours of use. This, according to Samsung, equates to about 5 days of life in a normal use scenario. The engineers say that they are modifying the phone to make it easy to be able to top up on the go (drinking fountain anyone?). Full Story Daily Tech_ 4/21/08

Edward N. Lorenz, 90; scientist developed influential chaos theory
Edward N. Lorenz, the MIT meteorologist whose efforts to use computers to increase the precision of weather forecasts inadvertently led to the discovery of chaos theory and demonstrated that precise long-range forecasts are impossible, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 90.  Lorenz was perhaps best known for the title of a 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" The memorable title pithily summarized the essence of chaos theory -- that very small changes in a system can have very large and unexpected consequences. Although the chaos theory was initially applied to weather forecasting, it subsequently found its way into a wide variety of scientific and nonscientific applications, including the geometry of snowflakes and the predictability of which movies will become blockbusters.  FULL STORY_New York Times 4/18/08

John A. Wheeler, physicist who coined the term ‘Black Hole,’ is dead at 96
John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist and teacher who helped invent the theory of nuclear fission, gave black holes their name and argued about the nature of reality with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, died Sunday morning at his home in Hightstown, N.J. He was 96. The cause was pneumonia, said his daughter Alison Wheeler Lahnston.  As a professor at Princeton and then at the University of Texas in Austin, Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature. Under his leadership, Princeton became the leading American center of research into Einsteinian gravity, known as the general theory of relativity — a field that had been moribund because of its remoteness from laboratory experiment. FULL STORY_New York Times 4/14/08

$1.6 M Templeton Prize to Michael Heller

The $1.6 million Templeton Prize, the richest award made to an individual by a philanthropic organization, was given Wednesday to Michael Heller, 72, a Roman Catholic priest, cosmologist and philosopher who has spent his life asking, and perhaps more impressively answering, questions like “Does the universe need to have a cause?”  The John Templeton Foundation, which awards grants to encourage scientific discovery on the “big questions” in science and philosophy, commended Professor Heller, who is from Poland, for his extensive writings that have “evoked new and important consideration of some of humankind’s most profound concepts.”  Much of Professor Heller’s career has been dedicated to reconciling the known scientific world with the unknowable dimensions of God.  In a telephone interview, Professor Heller explained his affinity for the two fields: “I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence.”  FULL STORY_ The New York Times 3/13/08


Memory trick breaks PC encryption
Encrypted information held on a laptop is more vulnerable than previously thought, US research has shown.  Scientists have shown that it is possible to recover the key that unscrambles data from a PC's memory.  It was previously thought that data held in so-called "volatile memory" was only retained for a few seconds after the machine was switched off.  But the team found that data including encryption keys could be held and retrieved for up to several minutes.  "It was widely believed that when you cut the power to the computer that the information in the volatile memory would disappear, and what we found was that was not the case," Professor Edward Felten of the University of Princeton   "What we have found was that the encryption keys needed to access these encrypted files were available in the memory of laptops," he said.  "When it comes out of sleep mode the operating system is there and it is trying to protect this data," explained Professor Felten.  But a full power-down followed by a swift re-start removes this protection. "By cutting the power and then bringing it back, the adversary can get rid of the operating system and get access directly to the memory." Professor Felten and his team found that cooling the laptop enhanced the retention of data in memory chips.  "The information stays in the memory for much longer - 10 minutes or more," he said.  FULL STORY_BBC 3/5/08

Computer memory vunerable to hacking

Want to break into a computer's encrypted hard drive? Just blast the machine's memory chip with a burst of cold air. That's the conclusion of new research out of Princeton University demonstrating a novel, low-tech way hackers can access even the most well-protected computers, provided they have physical access to the machines. The researchers say the ease of their attack raises fears about the security of laptop computers increasingly used to store sensitive information, from personal banking data, to company trade secrets, to national security documents. The researchers said a moderately skilled attacker can bypass many widely used encryption products — including BitLocker, included with some versions of Windows Vista; Apple's FileVault; open-source TrueCrypt; and dm-crypt — if a laptop is stolen while it is powered on or suspended.  Full Story  AP_ 2/22/08

Navy missile hits dying spy satellite, says Pentagon
The U.S. Navy succeeded in its effort to shoot down an inoperable spy satellite before it could crash to Earth and potentially release a cloud of toxic gas, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.  A Delta II rocket lifts off, carrying a reconnaissance satellite that failed hours later.  The first opportunity for the Navy to shoot down the satellite came about 10:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. The plan included firing a missile from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii to destroy the satellite.  "A network of land-, air-, sea- and space-based sensors confirms that the U.S. military intercepted a non-functioning National Reconnaissance Office satellite which was in its final orbits before entering the Earth's atmosphere," a Department of Defense statement said.  "At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie, fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3, hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph." FULL STORY_CNN 2/21/08

Taps for HD DVD as Wal-Mart backs Blu-ray format

HD DVD, the beloved format of Toshiba and three Hollywood studios, died Friday after a brief illness. The cause of death was determined to be the decision by Wal-Mart to stock only high-definition DVDs and players using the Blu-ray format. There are no funeral plans, but retailers and industry analysts are already writing the obituary for HD DVD. The announcement by Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer of DVDs, that it would stop selling the discs and machines in June when supplies are depleted comes after decisions this week by Best Buy, the largest electronics retailer, to promote Blu-ray as its preferred format and Netflix, the DVD-rental service, to stock only Blu-ray movies, phasing out HD DVD by the end of this year. Last year, Target, one of the top sellers of electronics, discontinued selling HD DVD players in its stores, but continued to sell them online. “The fat lady has sung,” said Rob Enderle, a technology industry analyst in Silicon Valley.  Full Story  New York Times_ 2/16/08 (logon required)

Many obstacles to digital TV reception in US, study says

Nearly six million people with digital receivers may still lose TV signals when digital-only broadcasts begin next February, a new study says. The study by Centris, a market research firm in Los Angeles, found gaps in broadcast signals that may leave an estimated 5.9 million TV sets unable to receive as many channels as they did before the changeover. It may affect even those who bought the government-approved converter boxes or a new digital TV. To keep broadcast reception, many viewers may have to buy new outdoor antennas, the study found. The Centris study predicts greater disruption of service than government agencies like the Federal Communications Commission have acknowledged.  Full Story  New York Times_ 2/11/08 (logon required)

Scientists make unique knee-brace power generator
Scientists in the United States and Canada said on Thursday they have developed a unique device that can be strapped on the knee that exploits the mechanics of human walking to generate a usable supply of electricity.  It generates enough power to charge up 10 cell phones at once, the researchers report in the journal Science.  Researchers have been working on ways to harness the motion of the human body to create power.  Arthur Kuo, a University of Michigan mechanical engineer who worked on the device, said it works similarly to the way that regenerative braking charges a battery in hybrid cars.  These regenerative brakes collect kinetic energy that normally dissipate as heat when the car slows down. The knee device collects energy lost when a person brakes the knee after swinging the leg forward to take a step, the researchers said. FULL STORY_Reuters 2/7/08

Google's new Team Edition tools help workers bypass the IT department

Google today announced an update to its Apps suite that is targeted to workers – and not their business’s tech departments.  Google Apps is made up of the search company’s online word processing, spreadsheets and other software. There’s a free version for individuals and a more heavyweight edition for businesses. The new version, Team Edition, falls somewhere in the middle, although it’s being released by the Google division that targets business: It’s aimed explicitly at workers who want to use it without getting the information-technology department involved. It works by creating groups based on people’s email addresses: Workers with addresses from the same companies are added to the same group and can share documents with one another.  Google and Microsoft are taking different approaches to getting their software into businesses. Microsoft is trying to capitalize on the relationships it has with IT departments to introduce new products through a top-down approach. Google is bottoms up, appealing directly to individuals, encouraging them to bring the tools they use in their personal lives into the workplace.  FULL STORY_ The Wall Street Journal 2/7/08

Consumers confused over transition to digital TV

Government's public education campaign isn't working.
More than seven in 10 Americans are aware of the transition to digital television next year, but they also have major misconceptions as to its impact, a survey released Wednesday found.  The poll, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, also found that more than a third of Americans living in households with TVs are unaware of the transition, which Congress has ordered to happen in February 2009. The findings indicate that the confusion could lead to people spending a lot of money for equipment they may not want or need.  Among those Americans who know of the transition, more than half believed erroneously that all TVs would need a digital converter box to function. In addition, 48% had the misconception that only digital TVs would work after 2009, and nearly a quarter believed incorrectly they would have to throw away all of their analog televisions.  Of the respondents who will have at least one TV affected by the transition, almost two-thirds don't know they are affected or are unaware of the transition, the survey found. Close to a third of Americans in households that won't have a functioning TV after the transition were unaware it was happening.  FULL STORY_Information Week 1/30/08

GridWise trial finds 'smart grids' cut electricity bills
Results from a year-long study on high-tech electricity meters found smart grid technology performed as intended, saving consumers about 10 percent on their bills while easing strain on the power grid.  The Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest Laboratory on Wednesday released the findings from its GridWise project, which tested the use of Internet-connected thermostats and other controls in 112 homes in the Seattle area.  Consumers also tried out appliances, like water heaters and dryers, that were able to automatically change their settings according to signals sent by the utility over the power grid.  The trial showed that consumers are willing to have utilities remotely dial down the appliances to lessen the load on the power grid and reduce their consumption, said Rob Pratt, program manager at Pacific Northwest National Lab.  These changes could be as small as turning off the heat on the dryer while it continues to tumble for a few minutes. But those minute-to-minute adjustments, driven by the fluctuating demand on the power grid, can have significant benefits to utilities.  "We could save $70 billion in investments in the next 20 years by offsetting construction of new infrastructure that would otherwise be needed to meet load growth," Pratt said during a teleconference with the media.  Smart grid technology would also provide more reliability to the power grid, allowing utilities to isolate problems more easily. Clean power sources such as wind and solar, which pose technical challenges because they don't supply a steady stream of electricity, can be better incorporated with upgraded equipment, the study found.   FULL STORY_ CNet News_1/9/08

Ultra-mobile future beckons for PCs

Desktops in decline?
The desktop PC's days of dominance could be numbered as laptops and ultra-mobile PCs begin to reap the benefit of ever greater, and more efficient, computing power.  "We want to be mobile and not tethered to our desks anymore - we can take our computing power with us," said Mooly Eden, general manager of the mobile platform group at Intel.  "Today's laptops have more processing power than all the computers that took the Apollo rocket to the moon," he added.  Laptop sales are expected to overtake desktop sales around the world by 2009 as the shift to an untethered computer experience accelerates. 

FULL STORY_ BBC News_1/9/08

Blu-Ray takes inside edge in war with HD-DVD

The sprawling consortium of technology and media companies assembled to promote the HD-DVD format of next-generation high definition discs faces a spate of defections to the rival Blu-Ray Disc consortium. As many as 20 companies currently part of the HD-DVD Promotion Group could be preparing to remove their names from the alliance’s 130-strong membership list, The Times has learned. Paramount yesterday emerged as the latest major Hollywood studio poised to switch allegiances. The threatened exodus from the HD-DVD format follows last week’s decision by Warner Bros to back the rival Blu-Ray Disc format, whose main technology backers include Sony, Apple and Dell. One Tokyo-based analyst said that the defections could represent the final nails in the coffin of Toshiba’s HD-DVD standard after a bitterly-fought “format war” that has run for a little over one year.   Full Story  Times Online_ 1/8/07

Horizon Semiconductors fuels the broadcast market with native 1080/60p high definition professional encoder IC

Horizon Semiconductors has announced the immediate availability of a multi-standard native 1080/60p professional encoder IC for the Cable, Satellite, Telco, Terrestrial & Mobile triple/quad-play broadcast markets. Horizon's Hz2010 supports wide range of features and capabilities designed to meet the emerging requirements of the broadcast & professional encoding equipment markets. The Hz2010 incorporates a multi-standard high definition video encoder natively supporting resolutions of 1080/60p and below, and implementing leading compression standards.  The IC also offers an advanced video pre-processor featuring motion compensated spatio-temporal noise reduction filtering, motion-adaptive de-interlacer, frame rate conversion and advanced scaling, a high performance audio encoder engine enabling encoding to various audio formats such as MPEG-1, AC-3, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS, AAC and WMA, a programmable high-bandwidth transport processor, as well as a multi-standard conditional access/digital rights management security processor. Horizon's Hz2010 is provided with a comprehensive software stack and a reference hardware platform designed to significantly accelerate OEM/ODM development cycle. FULL STORY_  Press Release 1/7/08

December, 2007

Hacks and smack-talking make hi-def format war even uglier

The format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD continues, but now the participants are really getting feisty. Both camps have been particularly aggressive this holiday season, offering a variety of discounts, free movies, and other incentives to convince consumers to back a particular format. The intense competition seems to have rubbed off on Internet fanboys, leading to Internet arguments that are even more ferocious than usual (which is saying something). As part of the animosity, the official Blu-ray site was hacked this weekend, and an online forum had to shut down its format discussion section.  The Blu-ray site modifications occured last Friday, when visitors to the Blu-ray site were redirected to "The Look and Sound of Perfect," the website for the HD DVD format operated by the North American HD DVD Promotional Group (including Universal Studios, HP, and Intel).  The redirection seems to have been fixed quickly, but it was no doubt a bit disconcerting to the Blu-ray camp while it lasted. There's no word yet on who was responsible for the mischief, although speculators have proposed various scenarios, including the HD DVD Group paying off a hacker to do the job. That last one seems particularly improbable, but we've heard stranger stories before. Either way, this hack wasn't a particularly malicious or damaging one, but it is representative of just how heated the format wars have become.

FULL STORY_Arstechnica.com_ 12/26/07


Future uncertain for transistor on 60th birthday

Sixty years after transistors were invented and nearly five decades since they were first integrated into silicon chips, the tiny on-off switches dubbed the "nerve cells" of the information age are starting to show their age. The devices -- whose miniaturization over time set in motion the race for faster, smaller and cheaper electronics -- have been shrunk so much that the day is approaching when it will be physically impossible to make them even tinier. Preparing for the day they can't add more transistors, chip companies are pouring billions of dollars into plotting new ways to use the existing transistors, instructing them to behave in different and more powerful ways.   Full Story   AP/CNN_ 12/17/07

Bamboo PC is eco-friendly and looks nice, too
Back in 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the Apple I, an early personal computer that consisted of a circuit board in a simple wooden box.  Apple and other computer makers went on to make advanced PCs in metal and plastic casings, but now Taiwan's Asustek Computer is finding potential beauty -- and sales -- in an eco-friendly notebook PC encased in another natural material: bamboo.  The Asus Eco Book, as it's dubbed, has a case made of laminated bamboo strips available in different shades.  Harvesting bamboo, an abundant, flexible, durable and fast-growing grass, is unlikely to harm the environment as processing wood from trees might, Asustek said, although glues and laminates for shaping and fortifying the material sometimes contain toxins.  The product is still in the prototype stage and engineers are checking to see if bamboo is suitable for laptops, which have to endure extreme conditions while allowing heat from microprocessors and monitors to escape.  FULL STORY_Reuters 12/14/07

End of innocence for Mac fans

Apple users will have to watch more carefully what they are doing. The first serious threat to Mac users has been observed "in the wild." It's a Trojan Horse, a piece of code that pretends to do one thing but actually compromises your computer. This one spreads through online video sites, taking advantage of the fact that there are many different ways to display video, each requiring slightly different software to encode and decode moving images. The Trojan sits behind an online video and when you try to play it you get a message from Quicktime telling you to get a new codec, and if you follow the link you'll be sent to a site that hosts the malicious software. Click "ok" and enter your systems adminstrator's password and it will be installed on your computer with full system access after which you are, to use the jargon, "pwned", or scuppered. And you don't even get to see the video you were after. At the moment the fake codec is being spread via porn sites, but it will quickly spread to more mainstream sites, and that's when it will get dangerous and could affect a lot of Mac users who believe that they don't need to worry about system security.   Full Story   BBC News_ 12/6/07

New way to ID stars in night sky photos

A new search engine will soon turn your night sky images into powerful research data and identify the twinkling objects in them with just the click of a button. The Astrometry.net database will hunt down and name celestial objects in any amateur photo, pinpoint the region of night sky that was photographed and use the image to expand a detailed database of the cosmos for use by scientists. David Hogg, an astronomer at New York University and leader of the project, showed off the still-in-development tool at the recent Astrophysics 2020 conference in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University's Space Telescope Science Institute. "Any individual can take a picture of the sky, plug it in and learn what stars, galaxies or other objects are in their image," Hogg told SPACE.com. "It's fun for people to do this, but more importantly it'll provide data we need to make that image searchable and useful to scientists."   Full Story Space.com 11/20/07

Nintendo's women gamers could transform market
Japanese women have overtaken their male counterparts to become the biggest users of Nintendo’s Wii and DS machines in a seismic shift that the company said would “transform the video games industry”.  The surprise upheaval of the games market comes within a year of the launch of Nintendo’s wildly popular Wii console and was unveiled in Tokyo today by Satoru Iwata, the company president.  If the change repeats itself around the globe, said analysts, it could force a complete change of business model for many of the world’s largest games makers.  Many could now be forced to make dramatic alterations to their entire software development plans and advertising strategies.  FULL STORY_Timesonline 10/11/07

Spam weapon helps preserve books
A weapon used to fight spammers is now helping university researchers preserve old books and manuscripts.  Many websites use an automated test to tell computers and humans apart when signing up to an account or logging in.The test, known as a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart), consists of typing in a few random letters in an image containing letters or numbers which have been heavily distorted, making it hard or impossible for a spam programbot to "read."  Carnegie Mellon is using this test to help decipher words in books that machines cannot read by letting sites use them to authenticate log-ins.  The Carnegie Mellon team is involved in digitising old books and manuscripts supplied by a non-profit organisation called the Internet Archive, and uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to examine scanned images of texts and turn them into digital text files which can be stored and searched by computers.  But the OCR software is unable to read about one in 10 words, due to the poor quality of the original documents.  The only reliable way to decode them is for a human to examine them individually - a mammoth task since CMU processes thousands of pages of text every month.  To solve this problem the team takes images of the words which the OCR software can't read, and uses them as CAPTCHAs.  These CAPTCHAs, known as reCAPTCHAS, are then distributed to websites around the world to be used in place of conventional CAPTCHAs.  When visitors decipher the reCAPTCHAs to gain access to the web site, the answers - the results of humans examining the images - are sent back to CMU.  Every time an Internet user deciphers a reCAPTCHA, another word from an old book or manuscript is digitised.  FULL STORY_BBC NEWS 10/2/07

Germany to build maglev railway
Germany has come up with the funds to launch its first magnetic levitation - or maglev - rail service.  The state of Bavaria is to build the high-speed railway line from Munich city centre to its airport, making it Europe's first commercial track.  Maglev trains use electric-powered magnets that enable them to float above their tracks, allowing for much faster speeds than traditional rail services.  The only regular maglev service at present is in China, where the floating train whisks travellers between Shanghai's airport and the city's financial district.  The maglev, which has a top speed of more than 500km/h (310mph), is regarded as a symbol of German technological prowess.  FULL STORY_BBC NEWS 9/25/07

Survey: A third of IT projects exceed budget

A third of IT projects carried out in the private sector runs between 10 and 20 percent over the original budget, according to a survey. And one in four projects costs 50 percent more than it was expected to, according to the survey of 100 chief information officers, which also found that the typical large company is running 29 projects at any one time. According to the research, sponsored by software management company CA, the main reasons for overspending include poor forecasting, increases in project scope, and issues of interdependencies and conflicts between multiple projects.  Full Story   C/Net_ 9/13/07

Mirror particles form new matter
Fragile particles rarely seen in our Universe have been merged with ordinary electrons to make a new form of matter. Di-positronium, as the new molecule is known, was predicted to exist in 1946 but has remained elusive to science. Now, a US team has created thousands of the molecules by merging electrons with their antimatter equivalent: positrons. The discovery, reported in the journal Nature, is a key step in the creation of ultrapowerful lasers known as gamma-ray annihilation lasers. "The difference in the power available from a gamma-ray laser compared to a normal laser is the same as the difference between a nuclear explosion and a chemical explosion," said Dr David Cassidy of the University of California, Riverside, and one of the authors of the paper. "It would have an incredibly high power density." As a result, there is a huge interest in the technology from the military as well as energy researchers who believe the lasers could be used to kick-start nuclear fusion in a reactor.   Full Story   BBC News_ 9/12/07

Spider-like vessel hits New York Waters; It can cross the Atlantic and more on one load of diesel fuel

Proteus is a so-called Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel designed for everything from military uses to biological studies, ocean exploration and sea rescue. The spindly catamaran is so efficient that it can travel 5,000 miles — farther than across the Atlantic — on one load of diesel fuel. Ugo Conti, an Italian-born engineer and oceanographer designed Proteus, and his wife, Isabella, are the co-founders of Marine Advanced Research, Inc., a Silicon Valley-based firm that built the Proteus for about $1.5 million, she said. The craft rides on metal and fabric pontoons that have hinges and shock absorbers to flex with the motion of the waves, which helps it to skim over the water at a maximum speed of 30 knots (34.5 mph).  Full Story   AP/MSNBC_ 9/6/07

'Spider-man' suit could let humans scale vertical walls, just like in the movies

Natural technology used by spiders and geckos could help a human climb the side of a building or hang upside down from a roof, an analysis suggests. The findings are published in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. Both spiders and geckos possess tiny "hairs" that allow them to stick to surfaces. Some studies suggest that geckos can hold hundreds of times their own body weight. Professor Nicola Pugno, from the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, has calculated how sufficient stickiness could be generated in the same way to support an adult human's body weight. The Turin-based researcher proposes that carbon nanotubes could be used as an artificial alternative to the gecko's hairs. He added that there were many interesting applications for adhesive suits, in areas ranging from space exploration to defence. The work could also aid the design of gloves and shoes for window cleaners working on tall skyscrapers. But human muscles are very different to those of geckos, so people would probably suffer from muscle fatigue if they tried to stick to a wall for many hours.  Full Story  BBC News_ 8/28/07

Compact Disc turns 25
It was August 17, 1982, when row upon row of palm-sized plates with a rainbow sheen began rolling off an assembly line near Hannover in Germany.  An engineering marvel at the time, today they are instantly recognisable as Compact Discs, a product that turns 25 years old on Friday - and whose future is increasingly in doubt in an age of iPods and digital downloads.  Those first CDs contained Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony and would sound equally sharp if played today, says Holland's Royal Philips Electronics, which jointly developed the CD with Sony.  The recording industry thrived in the 1990s as music fans replaced their aging cassettes and vinyl LPs with compact discs, eventually making CDs the most popular album format. FULL STORY_Australianit.news 8/16/07

The aquanaut's home under the sea
This past April, entrepreneur and science hobbyist Lloyd Godson awoke in the middle of the night with a pounding headache. He needed fresh air. Instead he drew in a deep breath and hoped that the algae blooms inside his 8-by-10-foot underwater home would give off enough oxygen to get him through the night. Batteries, a bicycle, a bathing suit, algae and sandwich delivery are all an aquanaut needs to live underwater.  Because of steadily rising blood pressure, Godson, 29, emerged later that evening dizzy but healthy, bringing to a close his 13-day mission to live solo at the bottom of a lake near Albury, Australia.  Funded by Australian Geographic magazine, Godson's effort was part science experiment, part educational outreach. As a marine biologist, he wanted to learn more about sustainable living in a closed ecological system.  FULL STORY_CNN 8/15/07

Warning: laser printers could be a health hazard

Some home and office laser printers pose serious health risks and may spew out as much particulate matter as a cigarette smoker inhales, an Australian air quality researcher said Tuesday.  The study, appeared today in the online edition of the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) journal, measured particulate output of 62 laser printers, including models from name brands such as Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Ricoh. Particle emissions, believed to be toner -- the finely-ground powder used to form images and characters on paper -- were measured in an open office floor plan, then ranked.

Lidia Morawska and colleagues at the Queensland University of Technology, classified 17 of the 62 printers, or 27 percent, as "high particle emitters"; one of the 17 pumped out particulates at a rate comparable with emissions from cigarette smoking, the study said.  Morawska called the emissions "a significant health threat" because of the particles' small size, which makes them easy to inhale and easily lodged in the deepest and smallest passageways of the lungs. The effects, she said, can range from simple irritation to much more serious illnesses, including cardiovascular problems or cancer. "Even very small concentrations can be related to health hazards," said Morawska. "Where the concentrations are significantly elevated means there is potentially a considerable hazard." FULL STORY_ PC World 8/1/07

Technology has NYC cabbies talking strike

A major New York City cab drivers' advocacy group is warning it will call on its 7,000 members to strike if city officials fail to address to their concerns about new technology to be introduced in all cabs.  The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which counts more than 8,400 members, will call for drivers to stike in September if city leaders do not put an end to plans for a GPS system that the group fears could be used to track drivers' movements, executive director Bhairavi Desai said Wednesday.  Drivers have for weeks complained that the new touch-screen and global positioning systems, which must be installed in all cabs starting in October, could allow for inappropriate tracking of drivers' movements and are too costly. The systems cost about $7,400 (€5,350).  Taxi officials have said the new system — which allows passengers to pay be credit card, review news stories, map their location and look up restaurant and entertainment information — could boost ridership and drivers' income.

FULL STORY_International Herald Tribune 7/25/07

Antique engines inspire nano chip

The blueprint for a tiny, ultra-robust mechanical computer has been outlined by US researchers. The energy-efficient nano computer is inspired by ideas about computing first put forward nearly 200 years ago. Writing in the New Journal of Physics, the scientists say the machine would be built from nanometre sized components, just billionths of a metre across. Chips based on the design could be used in places, such as car engines, where silicon can be too delicate, they said. In addition, Professor Robert Blick of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the authors of the paper envisaged nano mechanical chips being used in everything from toys to domestic appliances. Mechanical computers are nothing new. The remains of a 2,000 year old analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism were discovered in Greece in 1902.  Full Story  BBC News_ 7/24/07

Vibrating GPS rings guide city tourists
Two vibrating rings which can guide the wearer around a city via global positioning satellite (GPS) have been unveiled by a British designer at the Royal College of Art.  The rings are the invention of Gail Knight, who developed them as a way of helping women feel safe in areas they are unfamiliar with.  Not all of the necessary electronics could be put into the rings, so the device controller is worn either around the neck or clipped on to clothing.  The rings buzz for left and right, and have different vibrations for forwards and backwards. Both buzz when going in the wrong direction.  FULL STORY_BBC News 7/20/07

Scientists Transplant Genome of Bacteria

Synthetic fuels soon?

Scientists at the institute directed by J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, are reporting that they have successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another, an achievement they see as a major step toward creating synthetic forms of life.  Other scientists who did not participate in the research praised the achievement, published yesterday on the Web site of the journal Science. But some expressed skepticism that it was as significant as Dr. Venter said. His goal is to make cells that might take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce methane, used as a feedstock for other fuels. Such an achievement might reduce dependency on fossil fuels and strike a blow at global warming.  “We look forward to having the first fuels from synthetic biology certainly within the decade and possibly in half that time,” he said.

FULL STORY_ New York Times 6/29/07

CERN particle collider to fire up next May

The world's biggest particle collider will start up next May, six months behind schedule because of problems, including the failure of a key U.S. designed part, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said.  The Large Hadron Collider, eagerly awaited by scientists hoping it will reveal new secrets about the makeup of matter, will be inaugurated without the low-energy run that had been planned for November, said officials at the organization known by its French acronym CERN.  "We'll be starting up for physics in May 2008, as always foreseen, and will commission the machine to full energy in one go," said project leader Lyn Evans.  In the meantime scientists will lower the temperature section by section to near absolute zero — colder than outer space — in the circular accelerator in a 17-mile tunnel under the Swiss-French border.  The plan is to fire beams of subatomic particles in opposite directions around the tunnel until they nearly reach the speed of light, then steer them into each other to force collisions and examine the resulting showers of matter and energy with the aid of massive, highly sophisticated detectors.  FULL STORY_FOX News 6/25/07

Planemakers confront green issues
Carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft are a significant and growing contributor to harmful global warming. It is time for the industry to sort it out, says Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing's commercial planes division.  "The industry has to come together to commit resources and human energy, and to say that this is a priority," Mr Carson says. "I think we've gotten onto the same page in a hurry," he adds, insisting that the industry spends a lot on technology, on weight reduction and on improved efficiency - and thus, reduced emissions.  "Aircraft are 70% more efficient than they were when they were first brought into the industry half a century ago," he points out.  And yet, that just is not good enough, so more needs to be done.  However, any efforts to limit the damage caused to the environment by the aviation industry are really about making priorities, according to Bill Glover, managing director, environmental strategy, Boeing commercial planes division.  For instance, efforts to reduce noise pollution generally increase an aircraft's weight and drag. This in turn pushes up fuel consumption and thus emissions, Mr Glover explains.  "There are choices to be made here," he says. "We're trying to make the best choices."  FULL STORY_BBC News 6/21/07

Scientists make 'landmark' DNA discoveries

Researchers say an in-depth examination of the human DNA map has turned basic biology concepts upside down and may even rewrite the book on evolution and some causes of disease.  They say their findings help explain how such a complex creature as the human arose from just four letters of code repeated over and over.  The scientists have found there is far more to genetics than the genes themselves and there is no such thing as "junk DNA". They say some of the most useless-looking stretches of DNA may carry important information.  The researchers are from 35 teams from 80 different organisations in 11 countries who have teamed up to share notes on just 1 percent of the human genome.  Their findings, the start of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements or ENCODE Project, have been published in the journals Nature and Genome Research.  The new study confirms what many genetics experts had suspected - the genes are important but so is the other DNA, the biological code for every living thing.  FULL STORY_ABC.NET.AU 6/13/07

Scientists produce wireless electricity
Plugs and cables could become obsolete after scientists devised a way of recharging electrical devices ranging from laptop computers to lights from a distance.  A team from the Massacussetts Institute of Technology made a 60-watt lightbulb glow using electricity sent wirelessly between copper coils set seven feet apart.  Scientists have known for years that electricity can be transferred without wires, but had struggled to find a practical and efficient way of making it work.  Professor Marin Soljacic used the concept of resonance. Energy can be efficiently transferred between objects that resonate at the same frequency, so he used two copper coils, one transmitting and the other receiving power.  The breakthrough, which has been dubbed WiTricity, was announced by the researchers in the online version of the journal Science. They believe they are between three and five years away from developing a system which could recharge laptops, mobile phones and other devices wirelessly. It could also mean some gadgets would no longer need batteries, eliminating the potential for pollution caused by discarded cells.  FULL STORY_The Independent 6/7/07

If it's not tennis elbow, it may be 'Wiiitis'

When Dr. Julio Bonis awoke one Sunday morning with a sore shoulder, he could not figure out what he had done. It felt like a sports injury, but he had been a bit of a couch potato lately.  Then he remembered his new Wii. Bonis, 29, had spent hours playing Nintendo Co.'s new video game in which players simulate real movements. Bonis had been playing simulated tennis.  It was not quite tennis elbow, he decided.  "The variant in this patient can be labeled more specifically as 'Wiiitis,'" Bonis, a family practice physician, wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.  "The treatment consisted of ibuprofen for one week, as well as complete abstinence from playing Wii video games. The patient recovered fully." FULL STORY_CNN 6/7/07

When worlds collide: Gates and Jobs on the same stage

Nobody knew quite what to expect when, in a rare joint meeting on Wednesday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Apple CEO Steve Jobs sat down together for a joint interview at the fifth annual All Things Digital Conference. The two technology pioneers and fierce competitors, after all, hadn't exactly been sending each other mash notes lately.  Gates had complained to NEWSWEEK in January about Apple's television ad campaign that unfavorably compare PCs to Macs, asking rhetorically if being cool meant you didn't have to tell the truth. And just a few hours before their evening meeting at the Carlsbad, Calif., conference, Jobs was taking swipes at Microsoft. When Apple wrote its iTunes application for Windows, he told attendees earlier that day, "it was like offering glasses of ice water to people in hell."  But when the original PC and Mac guys finally appeared together to take questions from The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, what unfolded was more love fest than spitting match. Jobs and Gates have known each other for 30 years and worked both as collaborators (particularly when Microsoft was a key developer for the original Macintosh in the early 1980s) and rivals. Though there were a few barbs, what emerged was a mutual respect and, yes, affection.  Afterward, there was general agreement among spectators that the conversation was not only a historic moment -- but an emotional milestone in the technology industry's history. And, as you can see in this partial transcript, Gates and Jobs, at the urging of their questioners, each offered a unique analysis of the tech world, intriguing speculation about the future -- and a few laughs as well.  FULL STORY_Washington Post 5/31/07

Hands on – touching the future
They have become the most empowering tool we've created - tools of communication, tools of creativity which can be shaped by their user.  Bill Gates yesterday took his vision for personal computers to a higher plane, where the mouse and keyboard are replaced by more natural interaction using voice, pen and touch.  The co-founder of Microsoft unveiled a coffee-table-shaped "surface computer" which has a 30-inch display under a hard-plastic tabletop, allowing people to touch and move objects on screen for everything from digital finger painting and jigsaw puzzles to ordering off a virtual menu in a restaurant. The Surface computer also recognises and responds to special bar codes attached to everyday objects placed on its top, so cell-phone users can easily buy ringtones or change payment plans by placing their handsets on in-store displays, or a group of people gathered round the table can check out the photos on a digital camera placed on top.  So-called "multi-touch" interfaces, which allow the user to gesture with several fingers at once to manipulate data, rather than relying on a mouse and menus, have been making waves in technological circles for some considerable time.  FULL STORY_The Herald 5/30/07


Scientists compile 'book of life'

Long-snouted aardvarks will rub shoulders with skunk-like zorillas in an ambitious plan to provide a virtual snapshot of life on Earth.  The Encyclopedia of Life project aims to detail all 1.8 million known plant and animal species in a net archive.  Individual species pages will include photographs, video, sound and maps, collected and written by experts.  The archive, to be built over 10 years, could help conservation efforts as well as being a useful tool for education.   "The Encyclopedia of Life will provide valuable biodiversity and conservation information to anyone, anywhere, at any time," said Dr James Edwards, executive director of the $100m (£50m) project.  "[It] will ultimately make high-quality, well-organized information available on an unprecedented level."  FULL STORY_BBC NEWS 5/9/07

Technology row over 2012 Olympics security

The technologies that could help make the 2012 Olympic games more secure have not yet been announced but already a row has broken out about them. At a security conference in London, Derek Wyatt, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Olympic group, said that potential technology suppliers had been overlooked in favour of games sponsor Visa. In a statement, Visa said it had no part to play in security for the games. Its technology would play a "major role" in the area of payments, it said but security issues were the remit of the London Organising Committee and the Metropolitan Police. Establishing identity was a crucial way of filtering out terrorists intent on disrupting the games, Mr Wyatt said. "We will have to wait for Visa to come forward with a system to cover the ticketing and ID system," he said. Visa refused to say whether it plans for a "cashless Olympics" would include an authentication system. Andrea Simmons, a member of the British Computer Society's security group, said she was concerned that there had not been enough open discussions about what technology was needed for London 2012. Part of the problem seems to lie in who has overall responsibility for technology at the Olympics. As well as water-tight ID cards, there was also a need for a common database for the various law enforcement agencies to share data on those working on the Olympic infrastructure, said Mr Wyatt.  Full Story BBC News_ 5/3/07


Wind farms studied for danger to birds

Wind farms could generate as much as 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 15 years, but scientists want to spend more time studying the threat those spinning blades pose to birds and bats.  The towers appear most dangerous to night-migrating songbirds, bats and some hunting birds. The risk is not well enough known to draw conclusions, a panel of the National Research Council said  Thursday in a study requested by Congress.  Wind has powered sailing ships for thousands of years and has long been important to turn windmills that move water and grind grain. Only in recent years had the potential of the wind to generate electricity been tapped.  Wind farms generate electricity by using the wind to turn giant blades that rotate turbines to make power. The blades have diameters ranging from 230 to 295 feet and are mounted on towers between 197 and 295 feet tall. Some farms contain hundreds of towers. The one at Altamont Pass, Calif., has more than 5,000.  Growing from almost nothing in 1980, wind powered turbines generated 11,605 megawatts of electricity in the United States in 2006, though that was still less than 1 percent of the national power supply.  Wind farms now operate in 36 states. The report says estimates are that this source could generate from 2 percent to 7 percent of the nation's electricity within 15 years.  By reducing the need to generate electricity from by burning fossil fuels the turbines have been welcomed as a boon to the environment. Others worry about the danger to birds and bats, impacts on wildlife habitat and what some see as a blight on the scenery.  Overall, the report noted, the benefits of wind-energy development such as reductions in air pollutants benefit wide areas, while the environmental costs, such as effects on the ecology and increased mortality of birds and bats, occur locally.  FULL STORY_ Houstan Chronicle 5/3/07

Researchers 'seed' ocean with iron to soak up CO2
A research ship is about to begin a project around the Galapagos Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, that will highlight the importance of marine plankton in the fight against global warming and climate change.  Waterbird II, the research ship of an eco-restoration organisation called Planktos, is on a "voyage of recovery" to "seed" the oceans with the iron in the hope of stimulating blooms of phytoplankton, the microscopic marine plants that soak up the energy of the Sun to convert carbon dioxide into organic matter.  The organisers of the venture hope to shine a spotlight on the critical role that plankton plays in maintaining the carbon dioxide balance of the oceans and the atmosphere with the help of several tons of iron dust.  Scientists have long postulated that it may be possible to speed up the rate at which the oceans soak up atmospheric CO2 by stimulating the growth of plankton in the oceans with added iron - an essential nutrient for photosynthesis.  The research ship has a crew of 17, including eight scientists, and is scheduled to sail to the Galapagos, Tahiti, the coast of South America, and the South Pacific.  FULL STORY_ Independent 5/3/07

US programme to kick-start internet communications in space

The Department of Defense's Iris project will put an internet router in space by the start of 2009. It will allow voice, video and data communications for US troops using standards developed for the internet. Eventually Iris could extend the net into space, allowing data to flow directly between satellites, rather than sending it via ground stations. The Iris (Internet Router Protocol in Space) project has been given the go ahead after winning funding from the US Department of Defense, under its Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme. The specially designed equipment will be developed by network specialist Cisco while the geostationary satellite, IS-14, will be built by Intelsat. When launched in 2009 it will allow troops to communicate over the internet from the remotest regions from Europe Africa and the Americas. After initial testing the satellite will be opened up for commercial use. With IP becoming more prevalent for use in space, Nasa and internet pioneer Vint Cerf have also investigated the possibility of using internet technology across the solar system. Although some work has been carried out on the necessary standards and protocols, no definite schedule has been announced for this interplanetary internet.  Full Story   BBC News_ 4/13/07

Space storm disrupted GPS, experts say
A solar eruption in December disrupted the Global Positioning System, a satellite-based navigational system used widely by the military, scientists and civilians, researchers reported on Wednesday.  The solar flare created radio bursts that traveled to the Earth, covering a broad frequency range, the researchers said, affecting GPS and other navigational systems.  Solar flares have been known to knock out satellites and even electricity grids, but the researchers told the Space Weather Enterprise Forum this was an unexpectedly serious new effect.  "In December, we found the effect on GPS receivers were more profound and widespread than we expected," said Paul Kintner, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University in New York.  "Now we are concerned more severe consequences will occur during the next solar maximum," Kintner said in a statement.  Dale Gary of the New Jersey Institute of Technology said the burst created 10 times more radio noise than the previous record.  FULL STORY _ Reuters 4/4/07

Hong Kong dentist designs tools for space
Hong Kong dentist Ng Tze-chuen's work is literally out of this world.  The 54-year-old, who has been designing his own dental tools for 20 years, is part of a team developing an ultra-small rock grinder that Russia will use on an unmanned space mission in 2009 to explore one of the two moons of Mars.  "I want to use my skills and test them in the most extreme of environments, in outer space, in the deep sea," said Ng, whose creations have made it into space in 1995 and 2003.  The size of a cigarette box, the light weight device being developed at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University can grind rocks and pebbles as hard as volcanic rock into fine particles. "The purpose is to prepare soil samples for analysis," Ng said. 

FULL STORY_  Reuters 3/28/07

Primordial rocks show early Earth as dynamic place
Scientists have identified an expanse of rock in Greenland as a remnant of Earth's crust dating back 3.8 billion years, a finding that shows the dynamic geological process called plate tectonics was occurring early in our planet's history.  Writing in the journal Science on Thursday, a team led by Harald Furnes of the University of Bergen in Norway said these ancient layered rocks from southwestern Greenland originally were formed on the sea floor of primordial Earth.  They are made up of thin sheets of formerly molten rock, and look a bit like a multilayered cake. They contain a mix of volcanic rocks associated with the formation of new crust.  FULL STORY_Reuters 3/22/07

Stephen Hawking plans prelude to the ride of his life
Stephen Hawking, the British cosmologist, Cambridge professor and best-selling author who has spent his career pondering the nature of gravity from a wheelchair, says he intends to get away from it all for a little while. On April 26, Hawking, surrounded by a medical entourage, is to take a zero-gravity ride out of Cape Canaveral on a so-called vomit comet, a padded aircraft that flies a roller-coaster trajectory to produce periods of weightlessness. He is getting his lift gratis, from Zero Gravity, a company that has been flying thrill seekers on a special Boeing 727-200 since 2004 at $3,500 a trip. Peter H. Diamandis, chief executive of Zero G, said that "the idea of giving the world's expert on gravity the opportunity to experience zero gravity" was irresistible.  In some ways, this is only a prelude. Hawking announced on his 65th birthday, in January, that he hoped to take a longer, higher flight in 2009 on a space plane being developed by Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic, which seeks to take six passengers to an altitude of 70 miles.  Hawking says he wants to encourage public interest in spaceflight, which he believes is critical to the future of humanity.  "I also want to show," he said in an e-mail interview, "that people need not be limited by physical handicaps as long as they are not disabled in spirit."  FULL STORY_ CNET News.com 3/1/07

Father of remote control dies
Robert Adler, one of two men credited with inventing the remote control, has died aged 93, the New York Tines reported Wednesday.  Adler died in Boise, Idaho from heart failure, the report quoted his wife as saying.  Born in Vienna, Austria in December 1914, Adler received his doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna at the age of 24, but left the country after it was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. He arrived in the US in 1941 via Belgium and England and was immediately hired by Zenith, who set him up with his own private laboratory.  Adler went on to file more than 200 US patents, the most famous of which came in 1956, outlining the basic design for what would become the Space Command ultrasonic remote control, which used high- frequency sound to control a television. The sound wave was generated by hitting a spring-loaded button that produced a clicking sound when pushed.  The ultrasonic technology remained the standard of the television industry for 25 years until remote-control units using infrared signals were introduced in the early 1980s.  Adler received the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award of the Institute of Radio Engineers in 1958, and in 1997 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Adler and Eugene Polley, another Zenith engineer, an Emmy for their invention. FULL STORY_Playfuls 2/21/07

Tech center Bangalore, India shut down by strike over water rights

A general strike in Bangalore prompted by a long-running water dispute closed software firms and schools and prompted the postponement of an international women's tennis tournament. The 12-hour stoppage in the southern state of Karnataka, whose capital, Bangalore, is India's technology hub, came a week after a federal tribunal ruled the state would get less water from the Cauvery River than neighboring Tamil Nadu state. The Cauvery has been a bone of contention and a hugely emotive issue in the region for nearly a century. In 1991, an interim court order for Karnataka to release 7,000 billion liters, or 205 billion cubic feet, of water to Tamil Nadu sparked riots against minority Tamils in Bangalore, leaving 18 people dead. On Monday, most of the 6 million residents in Bangalore — home to more than 1,500 information technology and outsourcing firms — stayed indoors with many fearing a repeat of the 1991 riots. "The manufacturing loss for the industry will be about $225 million," said R.C. Purohit, president of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industries.   Full Story   Reuters/International Herald Tribune_ 2/12/07

EU money geared to smart future
Europe has begun rolling out its new research and development initiative - the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).  FP7 will see more than 7bn euros (£4.6bn) a year handed to investigators to advance scientific knowledge and, by extension, boost the EU's economy.  It runs until 2013 and amounts to a significant jump in investment over previous community programmes.  UK Science Minister Malcolm Wicks told a launch event in London that Europe had to get smarter to stay competitive.  Very few problems anymore exist in the silo of a single discipline or indeed a single university.   "Globalisation is the buzzword now; we are aware that we cannot compete on price alone in producing many of the goods that are made more cheaply in China, India and other emerging economies," he said.  "Europe's economies will prosper or not depending how good we are at coming up with new ideas, new science; and particularly how good we are at technology transfer and innovation." 

FULL STORY_BBC 2/7/07

UK's biggest science facility in 30 years - the Diamond Light Source synchrotron - opens for business

The vast machine, which covers the area of five football pitches, generates intense light beams to probe matter down to the molecular and atomic scale. The South Oxfordshire-based facility will be used by many fields, including medicine and environmental science. Researchers have now commenced their experiments at its "beamline" stations. The team running the facility says on average another four to five new beamlines will added every year until 2011. The project has cost about £300m, funded by the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and the Wellcome Trust. The Diamond synchrotron will be replacing the Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) in Daresbury, Cheshire. The SRS was the world's first dedicated source of synchrotron radiation but is due to close at the end of 2008. Many countries have their own synchrotrons, and new ones are being built in France, the US, Australia and China.   Full Story   BBC News_ 2/5/07

Briefcase 'that changed the world:' Why Britain gave away its most precious scientific secrets
In the summer of 1940, the war with Germany was at a critical stage. France had recently surrendered and the Luftwaffe was engaged in a concerted bombing campaign against British cities. On the morning of 29 August, a small team of the country's top scientists and engineers, under the direction of Sir Henry Tizard and in conditions of absolute secrecy, was about to board a converted ocean liner. With them they carried possibly the most precious cargo of the war - a black japanned metal deed box containing all of Britain's most valuable technological secrets. There were blueprints and circuit diagrams for rockets, explosives, superchargers, gyroscopic gunsights, submarine detection devices, self-sealing fuel tanks, and even the germs of ideas that would lead to the jet engine and the atomic bomb. But the greatest treasure of all was the prototype of a piece of hardware called a cavity magnetron, the key that would allow us to develop airborne radar. Two scientists in Birmingham, John Randall and Harry Boot had invented the cavity magnetron almost by accident. Because Britain had no money to develop the magnetron on a massive scale, Churchill had agreed that Sir Henry Tizard should offer the magnetron to the Americans in exchange for their financial and industrial help. By September, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had set up a secret laboratory; by November, the cavity magnetron was in mass production; and by early 1941, portable airborne radar had been developed and fitted to both American and British planes. The course of the Second World War was about to be changed. It was, says writer Robert Buderi, possibly the most important development of the 20th Century. In fact, it was so important a development that the official historian of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, James Phinney Baxter III, wrote: "When the members of the Tizard Mission brought the cavity magnetron to America in 1940, they carried the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores."   Full Story   BBC Radio 4_ 2/5/07

January, 2007

Scientists build nanomachine envisioned 150 yrs ago
Nearly 150 years ago it was no more than a concept by a visionary scientist, but researchers have now created a minuscule motor that could lead to the creation of microscopic nanomachines.  Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell first imagined an atom-size device dubbed Maxwell's Demon in 1867. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have made it a reality. A nanomachine is an incredibly tiny device whose parts consist of single molecules. Nature uses nanomachines for everything from photosynthesis to moving muscles in the body and transferring information through cells. Scientists are trying to unravel the secrets of nanomachines and nanotechnology, which works on a tiny scale. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or about 80,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.  The new mechanism traps molecular-sized particles as they move. As Maxwell had predicted long ago, it does not need energy because it is powered by light.  FULL STORY_ Reuters 1/31/07

Intel paves way for next generation of faster, more energy-efficient processors by overhauling chip architecture

The advance involves a shift in the materials that the world's largest chip maker will use in microprocessor chips, offering vast improvements in performance and power savings. The chips, which Intel plans to begin making in the second half of this year, are designed for computers but could also have applications in consumer devices. Intel's work overcomes a potentially crippling technical obstacle that has arisen as a transistor's tiny switches are made ever smaller: their tendency to leak current as the insulating material gets thinner. The Intel advance uses a new metallic alloy of hafnium in the insulation. Company researchers said the new switches represented the most significant change in the materials used to manufacture silicon chips since Intel pioneered the modern integrated-circuit transistor more than four decades ago. International Business Machines rushed to announce that it was on the verge of a similar advance.  Full  Story   International Herald Tribune_ 1/28/07

 

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