November 19/26, 2003   

   Segway robot opens doors
Plenty of robots are mobile, and robotic arms have been commonplace in factories for decades, but there have been very few mobile robots that have arms. A robot that can move around and manipulate objects would go a long way toward the ideal of robots that interact with people in the everyday world. A robot that's based on the Segway two-wheel scooter is a major step, er roll, in the right direction.
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Jolts turn liquid to solid
Apply electricity to certain fluids that contain tiny particles and the liquid turns solid. This caused a lot of excitement in the late '80s, but until now the stuff couldn't be made harder than firm tofu. A dose of nanotechnology has changed the picture.

Switch promises optical chips
Computers have historically been electronic rather than photonic because lightwaves, while great for sending signals over long distances, are controlled by equipment that has proven difficult to shrink to computer chip scale. The rise of photonic crystals promises to narrow the gap between electronic and photonic control, however. A design for photonic crystal transistors shows that they could be made in much the same way as their electronic predecessors.

Physics tackles processor problem
The difference between problems that parallel processing computers are good at solving and those they are not is a bit like the difference between water and ice. They are distinct phases marked by a transition point. Pinpointing the boundary between easy and hard parallel processing problems is a physics puzzle that could lead to better parallel processing software.

Molecular memory is electric... Liquid crystal tunes fiber... Nanotubes fortify plastic film... Plastic display circuit shines... Model leverages nano tethers... Stamp forms organic laser.

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