April 2/9, 2007


Neural light switch

Neurons engineered to include a bacteria gene are temporarily turned off when hit with yellow light. Combined with previous work that makes it possible to stimulate neurons with blue light, the research enables control of neural activity without drugs. The work could lead to treatments for epilepsy and other neurological disorders. (Multiple-Color Optical Activation, Silencing, and Desynchronization of Neural Activity, with Single-Spike Temporal Resolution, PLoS ONE, March 21, 2007)

Superlenses in focus

A pair of superlenses give ordinary optical microscopes the power to image nanoscale objects previously beyond reach. The superlenses, made from negative index of refraction materials, could be used to observe individual biological molecules in action. In other work, a negative index of refraction material bends blue-green light backwards, bringing full-spectrum visible light superlenses and invisibility cloaks a step closer. (Magnifying Superlens in the Visible Frequency Range, Science, March 23, 2007; Far-Field Optical Hyperlens Magnifying Sub-Diffraction-Limited Objects, Science, March 23, 2007; Negative Refraction at Visible Frequencies, Science, published online March 22, 2007)

Terahertz twofer

A pair of developments pushes terahertz radiation, or far-infrared light, closer to practical use for medical imaging, weapons detection and ultrahigh speed short range communications. Metal films with semiregular, or quasicrystal, arrays of holes allow for precise selection of terahertz frequencies and switching terahertz signals on and off. And a special type of semiconductor laser emits terahertz light at close to room temperature. (Transmission Resonances through Aperiodic Arrays of Subwavelength Apertures, Nature, March 29, 2007; Bloch Gain in Quantum Cascade Lasers, Nature Physics, April 1, 2007)

Woven logic

Transistors made from crossed textile fibers coated with electrically-conducting polymers could provide a route to durable, inexpensive electronic devices woven into clothing and other cloth. Prototype fabric logic devices made with the transistors include inverters and multiplexers, which are basic components of computer chips. (Towards Woven Logic from Organic Electronic Fibres, Nature Materials, published online April 1, 2007)

Nanowire logic in 3D

Prototype electronic devices made from layers of nanowire transistors show the potential for building three-dimensional circuitry from nanowires. Layers of stacked electronics enable many devices per surface area, but these have been difficult to achieve using today's chipmaking technologies. (Layer-by-Layer Assembly of Nanowires for Three-Dimensional, Multifunctional Electronics, Nano Letters, March 14, 2007)

Forceful chemistry

A chemical reaction triggered by ultrasound opens a route to producing materials via mechanical force. The ability to change a polymer's chemical structure in response to mechanical stress could be used to signal dangerous structural loads or even to repair damage. (Biasing Reaction Pathways with Mechanical Force, Nature, March 22, 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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