June 25/July 2, 2007


Sugar, sugar

A pair of developments advance efforts to use plant matter in place of petroleum to produce fuel and plastics. A liquid fuel derived from fructose has a 40% higher energy density and is more stable than ethanol. And chromium chloride turns out to be an effective catalyst for converting glucose to the chemical precursor to plastics. (Production of Dimethylfuran for Liquid Fuels from Biomass-derived Carbohydrates, Nature, June 21, 2007; Metal Chlorides in Ionic Liquid Solvents Convert Sugars to 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural, Science, June 15, 2007)

Super gecko tape

Microscopic patterns of carbon nanotubes that mimic gecko's feet yield an adhesive tape that's four times stronger in sticking to surfaces than the lizard's feet. The adhesive is dry, conducts electricity and can be peeled off and reused. (Carbon Nanotube-based Synthetic Gecko Tapes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online June 19, 2007)

Bone-shaking network

A data network that uses vibrations traveling through bones offers a low-power, secure, though slow, alternative to wireless networks like Bluetooth. The networking technology, OsteoConduct, could be used for communication among devices implanted in or worn on the body. One possible use is answering a phone call through a Bluetooth headset by clacking your teeth. (OsteoConduct: Wireless Body-Area Communication based on Bone Conduction, Second International Conference on Body Area Networks (BodyNets), Florence, Italy, June 11-13, 2007)

Steerable Net access

Aiming directional antennas the right way gives moving vehicles faster, longer-lasting wireless Internet access. In addition to better Net surfing in moving cars, the technique is a means for vehicles to communicate with each other and with roadside devices to improve traffic safety. (MobiSteer: Using Steerable Beam Directional Antenna for Vehicular Network Access, 5th International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys 2007), San Juan, Peurto Rico, June 11-14, 2007)

Internet's shape

A research team has analyzed a map of about 20,000 Internet subnetworks, or autonomous systems, noting how far away each is from the Internet's core. They found that the Internet can be divided into three parts: a nucleus of about 100 subnetworks including Google, a middle layer of about 15,000 peer-connected subnetworks, and a periphery of about 5,000 subnetworks that connect only through the nucleus. (A Model of Internet Topology Using K-Shell Decomposition, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online June 22, 2007)

Quantum bus

A chip-based quantum computer design borrows from ordinary computers the idea of a bus or central element that ties the computer's components together. The spin bus could make it easier to build solid-state quantum computers, which promise to crack secret codes and speed database searches. (Efficient Multiqubit Entanglement via a Spin Bus, Physical Review Letters, June 8, 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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July 2, 2007
Genome transplant
J. Craig Venter of human genome mapping fame has pulled off a major feat: the first genome transplant operation...

June 26, 2007
Springing ahead

June 18, 2007
Plants go with the climate flow

May 4, 2007
Fast melt


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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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