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Tech-news archive: November-December 2005

NEC's gel battery
Gel battery boost for radio tags
(Dec 22, 2005)

The new battery technology is expected to be married to radio tags Japanese company NEC has developed a lightweight, flexible battery that is less than a millimetre thick and can be recharged in half a minute. It is called the Organic Radical Battery (ORB) and is based on a type of plastic that exists in a gel state. The gel allows the battery to be extremely pliant, with a thickness of 300 microns. ORBs could eventually be embedded into devices such as smart cards, wearable computers and intelligent paper.

Read more. Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo
New Mexico lands space business
(Dec 18, 2005)

US taxpayers will foot the bill for a planned $225m (£127m) spaceport that Virgin Galactic will use to launch its space tourism business, under a plan unveiled on Wednesday. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he will ask state legislators for $100m (£56.4m) over three years to build the commercial base in Upham. The rest of the money would come from local towns and the federal government. The towns can expect to be richly rewarded for their investments.

Read more. Source: BBC

dog chewing computer part
Data disasters dog computer users
(Dec 6, 2005)

Dozy dads and art accidents feature in an annual list of top 10 data disasters compiled by computer experts. One incident involved a dog that used a USB flash drive as a chew toy and almost ate all its owner's data. Also featured is a PC enthusiast who turned his hard drive into a box of spare parts when he tried to recover data himself. But top of the list is an old laptop containing key company data that was found filled with cockroach corpses.

Read more. Source: BBC

3G mobile phone
3G industry optimistic for 2006
(Nov 28, 2005)

3G stands for third generation, which, put simply, is broadband for your mobile. However, much of the hype around the services it offers — including video, picture messaging, and accessing the internet — has not been realised in past years. Despite all the fancy offerings, it turns out that most people use their phones to make telephone calls and send the occasional text. In Europe voice is the clear revenue winner, closely followed by text. But we only spend an average of 1 euro a month on all the other services put together.

Read more. Source: BBC

Microsoft Xbox 360
Console wars: Which is best?
(Nov 25, 2005)

As Microsoft unleashes its Xbox 360, gamers face a difficult decision — whether to buy the new machine or wait for the next gen consoles from Sony and Nintendo. Three game journalists present the case for their console of choice. Xbox 360 is the first console to take advantage of the new high definition standard. All games made for the console will run in this new widescreen graphical format which, if you have the correct screen, is the biggest leap forward for games graphics since the first home 3D games in 1995.

Read more. Source: BBC

Researchers used the living film to create an image of the ‘flying spaghetti monster', which features in an online satirical critique of the intention of the Kansas school board to teach intelligent design in schools (Image: Chris Voight)
Living camera uses bacteria to capture image
(Nov 24, 2005)

A dense bed of light-sensitive bacteria has been developed as a unique kind of photographic film. Although it takes 4 hours to take a picture and only works in red light, it also delivers extremely high resolution. The “living camera” uses light to switch on genes in a genetically modified bacterium that then cause an image-recording chemical to darken. The bacteria are tiny, allowing the sensor to deliver a resolution of 100 megapixels per square inch.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Ray Kurzweil
The ideas interview: Ray Kurzweil
(Nov 21, 2005)

Ray Kurzweil has enormous faith in science. He takes 250 dietary supplements every day. He is sure computers will make him much, much cleverer within decades. He won't rule out being able to live for ever. Even if medical technology cannot prevent the life passing from his body, he thinks there is a good chance he will be able to secure immortality by downloading the contents of his enhanced brain before he dies. What is more, he says, his predictions have tended to come true. "You can predict certain aspects of the future."

Read more. Source: Guardian

digital camera
Digital cameras: Choosing the right one for you
(Nov 18, 2005)

You're pushing a trolley through the supermarket when you spot a pyramid of digital cameras, piled up high and selling cheap. Or you might be browsing online when up flashes a special offer on the latest five-megapixel camera. Should you join the digital revolution and snap up a new snapper, or will your ageing film camera last another holiday? Before you take the plunge, look beyond the price with exclamation marks and consider just what going digital involves.

Read more. Source: Independent

Blue Gene
Supercomputers set processor pace
(Nov 14, 2005)

IBM's Blue Gene/L supercomputer has kept its position as the most powerful number cruncher in the world. Its hold on the top slot was revealed in the latest list of the Top 500 supercomputers on Earth. Blue Gene/L was top of the biannually produced list because in June 2005 it set a new world record performance of 280.6 trillion calculations per second. It could head supercomputer rankings for a while as it has still not reached its maximum possible performance.

Read more. Source: BBC

US military sets laser PHASRs to stun
(Nov 8, 2005)

The US government has unveiled a "non-lethal" laser rifle designed to dazzle enemy personnel without causing them permanent harm. But the device will require close scrutiny to ensure compliance with a United Nations protocol on blinding laser weapons. The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHASR) rifle was developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, US, and two prototypes have been delivered to military bases in Texas and Virginia for further testing. The US Department of Defense (DoD) believes the weapon could be used, for example, to temporarily blind suspects who drive through a roadblock.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

optoelectronics matrix, artist's concept
Silicon chip works on the speed of light
(Nov 3, 2005)

A silicon chip that can carry light and even slow it down has been unveiled by IBM researchers in the US. The chip demonstrates some of the essential techniques for creating high-speed photonic memory, which many researchers believe will one day make electronic memory obsolete in optical communications networks. Engineers have known for decades that it is more efficient to communicate with photons than electrons. Photons do not interact easily with stray electronic and magnetic fields nor with each other and so are better for long-distance communications. Today most of the world's communications networks rely on light and the optical fibres that carry it.

Read more. Source: New Scientist


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