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Tech-news archive: September-October 2005

Blue Gene
Supercomputer doubles own record
(Oct 29, 2005)

The Blue Gene/L supercomputer has broken its own record to achieve more than double the number of calculations it can do a second. It reached 280.6 teraflops – that is 280.6 trillion calculations a second. The IBM machine, at the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, officially became the most powerful computer on the planet in June. The fastest supercomputers in the world are ranked by experts every six months in the Top 500 list. Blue Gene's performance, while it has been under construction, has quadrupled in just 12 months.

Read more. Source: BBC

on-line gamer and alter-ego
Picturing online gaming's value
(Oct 27, 2005)

For some time, online gamers have been treating their virtual lives as just another part of their offline lives. Millions around the world play, meet up, battle, buy and sell in online games and virtual worlds, such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. But to many, these virtual goings-on can be a total mystery. Armed with his lens, photo journalist Robbie Cooper has been facing up to gamers, revealing their intricate lives and identities to the rest of the world.

Read more. Source: BBC

Nanocar takes a test drive
(Oct 24, 2005)

The world's smallest toy cars have been set rolling. They measure just 3 by 4 nanometres: a million of them parked bumper to tail would cover the length of a flea. And they are stripped down to the absolute basics: just a chassis and two axles with wheels at either end. But they move. Using a powerful microscope, James Tour and his coworkers at Rice University in Houston, Texas, have watched their 'nanocars' trundle over a layer of gold.

Read more. Source: Nature

robot handshake
Study lists top five tech trends
(Oct 20, 2005)

Specialised robots, devices for DIY content creation and new TV displays are among the trends to watch in 2006. That is according to the American-based Consumer Electronic Association which has published its view of technologies set to influence in next 12 months. Devices and trends around video gaming and high-definition TV (HD) also make it into the top five.

Read more. Source: BBC

robotic car racing
Robotic racers achieve milestone
(Oct 10, 2005)

A team from Stanford University's School of Engineering has made motoring history, winning a $2m (£1.14m) prize in the process. Its car, a Volkswagen Touareg nicknamed "Stanley", has become the first self-navigating vehicle to successfully complete the gruelling 131.6 mile (211km) cross-country Darpa Grand Challenge, a race for autonomous robot vehicles held in Nevada's Mojave desert.

Read more. Source: BBC

New breed of 'fish-bot' unveiled
(Oct 8, 2005)

The world's first autonomous robotic fish are the latest attraction at the London Aquarium. Biologically inspired by the common carp, the new designs can avoid objects and swim around a specially designed tank entirely of their own accord. This new kind of cyber-fish took three years to develop, by a team of scientists from Essex University. Future generations may be used for seabed explorations, detection of leaks in oil pipelines, or even as spies.

Read more. Source: BBC

Nanotubes refine computer memory
(Oct 5, 2005)

Will computers that require no time to boot up become a reality? One company thinks the answer is yes, thanks to its carbon nanotube memory chips. Nantero presented its achievement at the Emerging Technologies Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It uses rolled-up tubes of carbon to make transistors, the on-off switches that carry digital information inside computing chips: strings of the nanotubes move up and down to represent the ones and zeroes of binary code. Unlike the electrons in normal electrical transistors, these nanotubes stay in place even when a computer is turned off.

Read more. Source: Nature

lunar base
Google and NASA in space venture
(Sep 29, 2005)

Web search firm Google has formed a partnership with US space agency NASA in an effort to harness new technology which could boost the space programme. Google is to build a new office complex on the site of NASA's research facility in California, close to its own headquarters in Silicon Valley. The two companies will co-operate in a range of areas including IT solutions, data management and nanotechnology. It would look to "bring entrepreneurs into the space programme", NASA added.

Read more. Source: BBC

Warcraft world
Deadly plague hits Warcraft world
(Sep 23, 2005)

A deadly virtual plague has broken out in the online game World of Warcraft. Although limited to only a few of the game's servers the numbers of characters that have fallen victim is thought to be in the thousands. Originally it was thought that the deadly digital disease was the result of a programming bug in a location only recently added to the Warcraft game. However, it now appears that players kicked off the plague and then kept it spreading after the first outbreak.

Read more. Source: BBC

Computer networks more vulnerable than ever
(Sep 20, 2005)

Software vulnerabilities that open computers up to malicious attacks are reaching record levels, while the methods hackers use to exploit them become more sophisticated, a new report warns. A total of 1862 new vulnerabilities were announced between January 1 and June 30 2005, according to computer-security firm Symantec, based in Los Angeles, California, US, in its biannual Internet Security Threat Report on Monday. This is a 31% increase from the second half of 2004 and a 46% increase over the same time period last year. Ninety seven per cent of the vulnerabilities were “severe” and 73% were classified as “easily exploitable”.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Dartmouth College miniature robot
Dartmouth researchers build world's smallest mobile robot
(Sep 19, 2005)

In a world where "supersize" has entered the lexicon, there are some things getting smaller, like cell phones and laptops. Dartmouth researchers have contributed to the miniaturizing trend by creating the world's smallest untethered, controllable robot. Their extremely tiny machine is about as wide as a strand of human hair, and half the length of the period at the end of this sentence. About 200 of these could march in a line across the top of a plain M&M.

Read more. Source: Dartmouth College

flock of birds
Will web users ‘Flock’ to social surfing?
(Sep 16, 2005)

A “social” web browser has been created to meet the needs of a new generation of web users who want to edit, comment on and share web content, rather than just peruse it. With the underlying capabilities of a basic web browser like Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox, the new browser, called Flock — after the buzz it hopes to create – adds features specifically designed to make writing, editing, sharing and displaying web content faster and easier. “The problem is that the web browser has remained fairly stable over the last 10 years, but the web has changed quite a bit,” says its creator, Silicon Valley-based Bart Decrem, who left the Mozilla Foundation to build Flock.

Read more. Source: New Scientist


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