March 19/26, 2007


Quantum crypto aims for space

An optical communications link spanning 89 miles between two Canary Islands set the free-space distance record for quantum cryptography and sets the stage for quantum cryptographic links between the Earth and satellites or other spacecraft. Quantum cryptography provides theoretically perfectly secure communications. (Entanglement-Based Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Communication, American Physical Society annual meeting, March 7, 2007)

Biochip Tricorder

A prototype biochip scans microscopic particles that combine unique ID codes with various DNA strands to identify multiple biological molecules in single samples. The inexpensive device could be used to diagnose diseases, discover drugs and generate genetic profiles. (Multifunctional Encoded Particles for High-Throughput Biomolecule Analysis, Science, March 9, 2007)

Silica to silicon

A chemical process that converts silica to silicon preserves the nanoscale features of the original silica objects, including diatom shells. The technique could be used to convert silica objects into gas sensors, battery and fuel cell electrodes and other electronic and optical devices. (Chemical Reduction of Three-dimensional Silica Micro-Assemblies into Microporous Silicon Replicas, Nature, March 8, 2007)

Protein-fortified memory

Nanocrystals patterned by protein molecules form the data storage element of a prototype memory device that could lead to higher capacity flash chips. The patterned nanocrystals allow the chip's transistors to be oriented vertically, opening the way for more transistors to be packed in the same space. (Vertical Flash Memory with Protein-Mediated Assembly of Nanocrystal Floating Gate, Applied Physics Letters, March 5, 2007)

Flashier flash chips

A type of material that can be altered both electrically and magnetically could lead to a new generation of fast, high-capacity flash memory chips for digital cameras and media players. Memory chips made from the material would record data electrically and read it out magnetically. (Tunnel Junctions with Multiferroic Barriers, Nature Materials, published online March 11, 2007)

Hybrid biofuel

A proposed hybrid hydrogen-carbon transportation fuel made from biomass would require less than half the plant matter of today's biofuels and has the potential to supply all of the United States' transportation needs. The fuel is theoretically emissions-neutral because the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles burning it would be offset by the carbon dioxide absorbed by the next crop of plants. (Sustainable Fuel for the Transportation Sector, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 20, 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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March 1, 2007
Time does tell
The interactions among plants and insects in a field turns out to be a good measure of the impact of global warming, and the outlook is not promising...

January 23, 2007
Collectively simpleminded

December 18, 2006
Subliminally impaired

December 13, 2006
Cross-species cooperation


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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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