March 20/27, 2002   

   Monkey think, cursor do
Until now, computers have fallen far short of being able to read our minds. Researchers have intercepted a monkey's brain signals to let the monkey directly control a computer cursor. The feat provides hope that paralyzed people will eventually be able to use computers.
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DNA solves big problem
DNA computers have been built before, but they have been simple proofs-of-concept. A new DNA computer has solved a problem that has twenty variables and more than a million possible answers, which is large enough to take a human using pencil and paper several years to calculate. DNA computing could eventually solve certain types of problems faster than electronic computers.

Carving beams shrink circuits
Chip electronics made from nanotubes, nanowires or molecules would make for blazingly fast computers. But connecting these vanishingly small components to the larger world of electronics is a challenge. An etching technique is helping to narrow the gap.

Lasers snatch free-floating DNA
Under the influence of a laser beam, clusters of microscopic plastic beads can get a grip on DNA, giving researchers a handy method for dragging, pinning and stretching individual DNA molecules.

Etching could boost disk capacity
Cramming more data onto disk drives usually requires crafting magnetic materials that have smaller bits, which is an increasingly challenging proposition. Borrowing chipmaking techniques could make for a simpler approach.

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