June 12/19 , 2006


Artificial fingertip

A thin-film pressure sensor made of semiconducting nanoparticles detects textures as fine as those felt by the human fingertip, which is many times more sensitive than current touch sensors. The device could be used to improve humanoid robots' sense of touch and to increase the sensitivity of surgical robots. (High-Resolution Thin-Film Device to Sense Texture by Touch, Science, June 9, 2006)

These shoes were made for walking -- in place

Prototype motorized roller skates make it possible to walk in any direction while remaining physically in place. The shoes could be used to enhance the realism of navigating virtual environments. (Powered Shoes, Siggraph 2006, Boston, July 30-August 3, 2006)

Liquid crystal clothing

Textiles made of conductive yarns and fibers dyed with liquid crystal ink change colors from red to green to blue as electricity heats the dye. The textiles could be used to make clothing and furnishings capable of changing colors and patterns, and, if small enough pixels can be made, changing images. (Fabcell, Siggraph 2006, Boston, July 30-August 3, 2006)

Pushpin input devices

Pushpins sporting knobs, buttons and sliders are the basis of a reconfigurable computer interface. Users push the input devices into a surface that links them to the computer. (VoodooIO, Siggraph 2006, Boston, July 30-August 3, 2006)

Interactive water

A method of turning water into an electrical and optical sensor makes possible a liquid touch screen and a harp that uses streams of water as strings. The technique could be used to give surface coatings sensing capabilities. (Submerging Technologies, Siggraph 2006, Boston, July 30-August 3, 2006)

Molecular refrigerator

A theoretical study shows that a molecular motor driven by random particle movements can be made to transfer heat against a thermal gradient. Such a motor could be used to cool nanoscale devices. (Brownian Refrigerator, Physical Review Letters, June 2, 2006)


View from the High Ground: ICL's John Pendry
Physics as machine tool, negative refractive index, metamaterials, shattered wine glasses, higher capacity DVDs, scientific backwaters, risk perception and practice, practice, practice.

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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June 20, 2006
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The way isolated populations of a species change over time can become synchronized when they are under pressure from some external force like predators or climate, and threatened species whose populations are synchronized quickly become extinct. A mathematical analysis...

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"Physics is to the rest of science what machine tools are to engineering. A corollary is that science places power in our hands which can be used for good or ill. Technology has been abused in this way throughout the ages from gunpowder to atomic bombs."
- John Pendry, Imperial College London

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