September 17/24, 2007


Quantum connection

A pair of entangled atoms spaced a meter apart demonstrate a potentially practical way to build large-scale quantum computers and quantum networks. Quantum computers have the potential to crack today's encryption codes and quantum networks could be used to transmit secure communications. (Entanglement of Single-Atom Quantum Bits at a Distance, Nature, September 6, 2007)

Chilling radio

Radio waves cool a millimeter-and-a-half-long sliver of silicon in the same manner that lasers cool smaller objects. The technique could make it easier to build ultrasensitive scientific equipment and test the boundary between quantum and classical physics. (Passive Cooling of a Micromechanical Oscillator with a Resonant Electric Circuit, Physical Review Letters, accepted for publication)

Tinier bits

A way to record data in magnetic bits as small as 100 atoms promises to boost to today's data storage technologies. A data storage device that uses such tiny bits could hold thousands of times more data than today's devices. (Current-Induced Magnetization Switching with a Spin-Polarized Scanning Tunneling Microscope, Science, September 14, 2007)

Changeable nanowires

Nanowires that rapidly switch between crystalline and amorphous promise to serve as the basis for a future generation of data storage devices. Such devices could store large amounts of data, run on little power and retain data when the power is turned off. (Highly Scalable Non-volatile and Ultra-Low-Power Phase-Change Nanowire Memory, Nature Nanotechnology, published online September 16, 2007)

Microbe memory

Bacteria engineered with a feedback-loop gene that constantly turns itself on proves that researchers can design memory devices into bacteria and have the microorganisms pass the self-activating gene on to successive generations. The development is a key advance for the field of synthetic biology, which aims to produce drugs, fuels and materials using artificial or altered microorganisms. (Rational Design of Memory in Eukaryotic Cells, Genes & Development, September 15, 2007)

Muscle machines

Thin plastic films covered with rat heart cells and formed into specific shapes are capable of gripping, pumping, walking and swimming. The muscle sheets could power small devices. (Muscular Thin Films for Building Actuators and Powering Devices, Science, September 7, 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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