April 30/May 7, 2007


Liquid scale

A tiny scale made from a cantilever with a built-in microfluidic channel measures the mass of individual cells and biological molecules in liquid. The device could be used in biochips to detect pathogens and diagnose diseases. (Weighing of Biomolecules, Single Cells and Single Nanoparticles in Fluid, Nature, April 26, 2007)

Power placemats

A flexible sheet of plastic electronic circuits powers electronic devices placed on or near the sheet. The sheets could be used to cover desks and walls to power lights and recharge cell phones. (A Large-Area Wireless Power-Transmission Sheet Using Printed Organic Transistors and Plastic MEMS Switches, Nature Materials, published online April 29, 2007)

Faster to the fastest

Working from the notion that you start a trip to a particular destination via one of only a few initial intersections, researchers have developed an algorithm for determining the quickest route through a network of roads that is about 100 times faster than previous algorithms. The technique could be extended to speed routing algorithms for the Internet and other networks as well as roads. (Fast Routing in Road Networks with Transit Nodes, Science, April 27, 2007)

Quantum crypto cracked

An experimental eavesdropping attack successfully compromised a quantum cryptography system. The attack, carried out in laboratory conditions, could help researchers determine the limits of a standard quantum cryptography protocol. (Complete Physical Simulation of the Entangling-Probe Attack on the Bennett-Brassard 1984 Protocol, Physical Review A, April 2007)

Quantum nano ratchet

A theoretical study shows that patterned metal surfaces placed nanometers apart can be made to slide past each other in a ratchet-fashion simply from the quantum fluctuations that occur naturally in a vacuum. The technique could be used to power nanoscale machines. (Casimir-Force-Driven Ratchets, Physical Review Letters, April 20, 2007)

Nano MRI closer

The latest prototype hybrid magnetic resonance-atomic force microscope imaging system has a spatial resolution of about 90 nanometers, an improvement of more than four orders of magnitude over the highest-resolution MRI system. The prototype brings MRI technology a step closer to imaging individual molecules within biological samples. (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging with 90-nm Resolution, Nature Nanotechnology, published online April 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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May 4, 2007
Fast melt
The Arctic could be ice-free in summer as soon as 2020. A study of Arctic ice measurements from 1953 to 2006 predicts ice-free summers...

April 24, 2007
Subliminal carrots

March 1, 2007
Time does tell

January 23, 2007
Collectively simpleminded


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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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