October 16/23, 2002   

   Chemists brew tiny wires
Making an insulated electrical wire is ordinarily no big deal, but it's another matter when the wire is only 100 atoms thick. It's an even bigger deal when you can make trillions of them at a time in a test tube.
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Voiceprints make crypto keys
Using voiceprints to ID people isn't new, but Bell Labs researchers have extended the concept by combining voice prints with passwords to produce cryptographic keys. The aim is to give the venerable password a security upgrade without burdening users.

Stamp corrals tiny bits
As the areas of disk drives that store the individual 1s and 0s of computer information get smaller, they become less stable. Fencing bits in helps them hold on to the data, but many methods have proved quite costly. A flexible stamp that has the potential to bang out billions of fenced-in bits at once promises to make more capacious disks affordable.

Net devices arranged fractally
A lot has been made of the virtual structure of the Internet, from concentrations of links to the bow tie shape of the Web, but not as much attention has been paid to the physical structure of the Net. It turns out that the distribution of the routing devices that bind the Internet together forms a fractal pattern. This insight could help engineers keep the Internet growing smoothly.

Quantum scheme lightens load
If full-blown quantum computers, which promise to leave electronic computers in the dust, are successfully demonstrated, we may be able to say the feat was pulled off with mirrors. A new optical quantum computing scheme shows it is possible to make fantastically fast photon-based machines using a manageable number of mirrors.

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