October 29/
November 5, 2007


Seeing in context

Experimental software gives computer vision systems a sense of context so the systems can more accurately label objects in images. The software uses the Google Sets lists of related items to give computers a rudimentary common sense about things in the world. (Objects in Context, ICCV 2007 the 11th IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 18, 2007)

Nanowire solar cells

Coaxial silicon nanowires work as infinitesimal solar cells, converting sunlight to electricity as efficiently as 3.4 percent. Individual solar cell nanowires could power nanoscale circuits and machines. (Coaxial Silicon Nanowires as Solar Cells and Nanoelectronic Power Sources, Nature, October 18, 2007)

Nanotube radio

Carbon nanotubes work as tiny AM radio receivers; in one experiment the microscopic tubes received and decoded high-fidelity audio signals. Carbon nanotubes could be used to further miniaturize wireless communications devices. (Carbon Nanotube Radio, Nano Letters, published online October 17, 2007)

Cell rolling

A surface coated with the protein P-selectin causes cells in fluids flowing across them to contact the surface and slowly roll across. The technique, which mimics processes in blood vessels that allow cells to communicate with surrounding tissue, could lead to medical devices that treat specific types of cells, including cancer cells. (Covalent Immobilization of P-Selectin Enhances Cell Rolling, Langmuir, published online October 20, 2007)

Colorful gel

A gel made from two types of polymers, one hydrophobic and the other hydrophilic, changes color in response to changes in pressure, humidity and temperature and substances like salt. The gel could be used to make fast, inexpensive chemical sensors. (Broad-Wavelength-Range Chemically Tunable Block-Copolymer Photonic Gels, Nature Materials, published online October 21, 2007)

Nanoparticle fuel-cell parts

Nanoparticles made of platinum shells and copper-cobalt-platinum alloy cores readily take up electrons from oxygen. They are four to five times more efficient than bulk platinum as cathodes in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. Cathodes process the oxygen half of the oxygen-hydrogen reaction that generates electricity in fuel cells. (Efficient Oxygen Reduction Fuel Cell Electrocatalysis on Voltammetrically De-alloyed Pt-Cu-Co Nanoparticles, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, published online September 24, 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 10, 2007
Bipedal locusts
Looks like we're taking more than our share of the vegetables: human activities eat up nearly a quarter of the planet's plant growth...

July 2, 2007
Genome transplant

June 26, 2007
Springing ahead

June 18, 2007
Plants go with the climate flow


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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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