March 6, 2002   

   Interactive robot has character
Combine some of the most advanced human-computer interaction technology with one of the oldest forms of entertainment -- puppetry -- and you get a literal embodiment of a computer interface. Meet Horatio Doc Beardsley, forerunner of a future generation of personal assistants, electronic pets, robotic waiters and salespeople and animated historical museum figures.
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Atomic cascade broadens laser
Picture a flash of light every time a marble hits a step as it bounces down a set of stairs. Make each flash a slightly different color and you have a rough idea of how a new kind of laser works.

Biology harbors hidden complexity
Artificial systems do simple things and are made of simple components. They are also held together by complicated networks that remain behind the scenes until things go horribly wrong. The same is true for living beings.

Heat engines gain quantum afterburner
Thanks to some nifty quantum physics, the hot gases produced by internal combustion engines could be used to drive lasers.

Nanotubes branch out
Carbon nanotubes, those versatile, microscopic, rolled-up sheets of graphite, have already been made in Y and T shapes. A new process grows them in an intricate web of branches and junctions, opening new possibilities for making electronics, sensors and filters.

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