May 14/21, 2007


Coupled qubits

Link two superconducting quantum bits via an intermediate qubit and it's possible to controllably couple qubits to carry out quantum computations. The technique is a key step toward large-scale quantum computers capable of cracking secret codes and other useful work. (Quantum Coherent Tunable Coupling of Superconducting Qubits, Science, May 4, 2007)

Micro spectrometer

A pea-size laser spectrometer packs a laser, a chamber containing rubidium atoms, heaters and a photodetector. The tiny spectrometer made from microfabricated components could be used to fit more signals into telecommunications channels and to calibrate scientific equipment. (Microfabricated SaturaTed Absorption Laser Spectrometer, Optics Express, May 14, 2007)

Optical clocks break free

Transmit an ultraprecise optical clock's oscillations over an optical fiber, then convert the clock's signal to another frequency and you have a way to synchronize optical clocks. The technique could be used to make telecommunications networks faster and global positioning systems more precise. (Coherent Optical Link over Hundreds of Metres and Hundreds of Terahertz with Subfemtosecond Timing Jitter, Nature Photonics, May 1, 2007)

Bacterial bloodhounds

Genetically engineered E. coli bacteria track down the sources of specific chemicals. The RNA-engineering technique could lead to ways of harnessing bacteria for delivering drugs, cleaning up pollution and transporting chemicals. (Guiding Bacteria with Small Molecules and RNA, Journal of the American Chemical Society, published online May 5, 2007)

DNA photography

A combination of fluorescence molecules and DNA strands make it possible to detect small amounts of the DNA using common photographic paper. The technique could lead to inexpensive methods of detecting disease-causing microorganisms. (DNA Photography: An Ultrasensitive DNA-Detection Method Based on Photographic Techniques, Angewandte Chemie, published online April 13, 2007)

Silvery solar cells

Silver nanoparticles boost the amount of sunlight absorbed by thin-film silicon solar cells. The technique could make flexible and lower-cost photovoltaic devices more efficient. (Surface Plasmon Enhanced Silicon Solar Cells, Journal of Applied Physics, May 1, 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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"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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