February 11/18, 2004   

   Light-storing chip charted
Storing light, even briefly, was considered impossible until recently. Since scientists have proved it could be done, they've been finding different ways of accomplishing the feat. A proposal for slowing and stopping light in photonic crystal promises to bring these experiments to the chip level. The result could boost efforts to make all-optical computer chips and quantum computers.
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Coincidences set up mental error
What you think is happening in a given situation isn't necessarily the case, even when everything seems to add up. Your mental model of a situation is necessarily distorted, which can lead you to see a cause and effect that isn't there. This has major consequences for the design of critical human-machine interfaces, like aircraft cockpits.

Noise boosts nanotube antennas
Sometimes adding a little noise can help a signal come through loud and clear. This is true for the neural network between your ears, and it turns out to also be true for carbon nanotubes. The result could be better cell phones, chemical detectors and video screens. It could also boost efforts to build brain-computer interfaces.

Web users re-visit in steps
There are all kinds of tools to help you find information on the Web, but if you don't bookmark the page when you get there, you're on your own when you need to find your way back. A study that teases out how people re-find pages could lead to better annotation tools. Following a marked trail, after all, is easier than relying on memory.

All-plastic display demoed... DNA sorts nanotubes... Electricity teleportation devised... Mechanical storage goes low power... Scientists brew tree-shaped DNA... Magnets tune photonic crystal.

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