January 8/15, 2007


Biochip spots bad bugs

A biochip identifies pathogens in less than 30 minutes by analyzing the DNA in blood samples. The device detected anthrax in infected mouse blood and Bordetella pertussis in a patient with whooping cough. (A Fully Integrated Microfluidic Genetic Analysis System with Sample-in–Answer-out Capability, Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences, December 19, 2006)

Pack takes some load off

An experimental backpack that coordinates its up-and-down motion with the wearer's stride reduces the effort of carrying the weight by 25 percent. The backpack is a variation on a scheme that used the up-and-down motion of the pack to generate electricity (Biomechanics: Rubber Bands Reduce the Cost of Carrying Loads, Nature, December 21, 2006)

Positively cheap nanowires

It's possible to grow zinc oxide nanowires that carry a positive electrical charge. Most zinc oxide nanowires carry a negative charge. The addition of positive wires opens a route to inexpensive light-emitting diodes and other electronic devices. (Rational Synthesis of p-Type Zinc Oxide Nanowire Arrays Using Simple Chemical Vapor Deposition, Nano Letters, published online December 29, 2006)

Peptide gel nurtures cells

Modified peptides assemble themselves into a gel-like, three-dimensional scaffold designed to grow cells. Mouse neural stem cells cultured in the peptide scaffold grew and differentiated into brain cells. The peptide scaffolding could be used to culture replacement tissue and study how cells work. (Designer Self-Assembling Peptide Nanofiber Scaffolds for Adult Mouse Neural Stem Cell 3-Dimensional Cultures, PLoS One, December 27, 2006)

Superlenses coming into view

Visible light bends backwards when it travels through a composite material containing nanoscale silver mesh. Such negative-index materials could lead to superlenses, which are flat lenses with greater magnifying power than traditional curved lenses. (Negative-Index Metamaterial at 780 Nm Wavelength, Optics Letters, January 1, 2007)

Microdisk shoots blue beams

A laser made from a microscopic gallium nitride disk requires much less power than previous microdisk lasers and produces a continuous beam at room temperature. The device is a step toward inexpensive blue lasers for use in optical storage devices like ultrahigh capacity DVDs. (Room-Temperature Continuous-Wave Lasing in GaN/InGaN Microdisks, Nature Photonics, January 2007)


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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Subliminally impaired
It turns out that subliminal distractions throw off your game more than the consciously annoying kind. A study found that subliminal visual distractions impaired task performance...

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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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