June 12/19, 2002   

   Software guides museum-goers
A virtual museum guide generates descriptions of objects, on-the-fly, in your choice of languages. The software also keeps track of what you've seen in order to give you a more edifying experience. The system works over the Web, and could eventually be tapped for online catalogs and tutoring.
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Scientists spin thread from nanotubes
The electrical properties of microscopic rolls of carbon have made them all the rage among researchers building next-generation computer circuits. Carbon nanotubes are also fantastically strong. Nanotube strands that are larger than a human hair bring these sturdy pieces of soot out from under the microscope.

Brain cells control 3D cursor
Getting a monkey's brain and a software algorithm to learn from each other boosts the chances that disabled people will be able to use thought to control prosthetic devices, and eventually even regain control of paralyzed limbs.

Faster growth heightens Web class divide
The faster a segment of the Web -- like bookselling -- grows, the more the big fish crowd out the little ones. A mathematical model could point out which ponds have room for another shop.

One-way heat valve possible
Heat generally flows from what's hot to what's colder. But this doesn't always have to be the case. A simulation shows it's possible to control the flow of heat by using a combination of special materials. The discovery could help chips keep their cool when computers heat up.

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