April 3, 2006


Liquid crystal bifocals
Prototype eyeglasses made with a transparent liquid crystal material change focal length on the fly. The glasses could lead to smart bifocals that let wearers look into the distance or read using the entire lens. (Switchable electro-optic diffractive lens with high efficiency for ophthalmic applications, Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online April 5, 2006)

Nanodots boost superconductor
Nonsuperconducting nanoparticles added to a superconducting material pin down the microscopic magnetic vortices that hinder the performance of today's not-so-cold superconductor wires. The advance could lead to more practical superconductor cables for power transmission trunk lines and for magnetic levitation trains. (High-Performance High-Tc Superconducting Wires, Science, March 31, 2006)

Flat lens laser tweezers
Flat negative refraction lenses turn out to be useful for making laser tweezers that have highly focused beams that can move trapped particles without requiring the lens to move. Laser tweezers are used to temporarily trap cells and biological molecules for biological research and medical testing. (Perfect lens makes a perfect trap, Optics Express, March 2006)

Adjustable passive robot walking
Robot control software for bipedal bots that walk with minimal help from motors adjusts the robot's legs to change direction and handle changes in terrain. Passive-walker robots use much less power than robots that have motors at every joint but to date they have had limited mobility. (Exploiting Natural Dynamics to Reduce Energy Consumption by Controlling the Compliance of Soft Actuators, International Journal of Robotics Research, April 2006)

Sponge-based chipmaking
An artificial version of an enzyme from a marine sponge chemically produces semiconductor films that could be used in chipmaking. The technique could lead to cheaper ways of making computer chips. (Self-assembled bifunctional surface mimics an enzymatic and templating protein for low-temperature synthesis of a metal oxide semiconductor, Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online April 5, 2006)

Nanotube film printing
A printing technique produces films of highly conductive carbon nanotubes on glass, plastic and silicon surfaces. The technique could be used to make optical and electronic devices on flexible surfaces, including electronic paper. (A method of printing carbon nanotube thin films, Applied Physics Letters, March 20, 2006)


View from the High Ground: Cornell's Jon Kleinberg
Six degrees of separation, buying gasoline by the molecule, the science of popularity, all just getting along online, intellectual prosthetics, Big Science, making up questions, and telling stories.

How It Works: Quantum computing: qubits
Photons, electrons and atoms, oh my! These particles are the raw materials for qubits, the basic building blocks of quantum computers.

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March 16, 2006
DNA nanotech made easy
Scientists have produced two-dimensional patterns from DNA for several years, but the process is complicated and the yields are often low. A researcher from the California Institute of Technology has found a simple way to arrange DNA into just about any pattern that can be formed from 200 dots

March 12, 2006
Loneliness trumps exercise

February 24, 2006
In hot water

February 16, 2006
Don't think about it

"In most areas of science and technology, the origins of new breakthroughs can still be found in the work of a small number of people -- or even a single person -- working at their own pace on their own questions, pursuing things that interest them. "
- Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University

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