February 14, 2001   

   Quantum effect moves machine
Nothing is normal about the quantum world, not even nothing. An all-pervasive quantum energy that springs from nothing is becoming a factor for the smallest of machines. It could power moving parts, but it could also gum up the works. Bell Labs has built a tiny device to demonstrate the effects of zero point energy.
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Software speeds gene comparison
Biologists itching to compare the human genome to that of, say, the dung beetle, might have an easier time of it thanks to software that makes gene comparison both faster and cheaper.

Agents learn from traveling salesman
A computer scientist aims to give intelligent agents the ability to make quick decisions when faced with complicated problems. The key is an algorithm designed to help the proverbial traveling salesman plan his route.

Harder chips make more sensitive sensors
Silicon carbide is more durable and vibrates more quickly than your run-of-the-mill semiconductors, but it's difficult to work with. Researchers at Caltech take a tip from metalworkers to shape the tough material.

Silver atoms shine red and green
Tiny clusters of silver atoms become florescent when they're hit with the right kind of light. Someday this property could lead to phenomenally high capacity data storage devices.

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