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Tech-news archive: November-December 2009

221B screenshot
AI aims to solve in-game chatter
(Dec 26, 2009)

"Chatbot" technology is being used in an attempt to solve one of "the last uncracked problems" in games design. 221b, released in the run-up to the new Sherlock Holmes movie, harnesses the software to allow conversations between players and in-game characters. Gamers, who assume the character of either Sherlock Holmes or Dr Watson, must interrogate virtual witnesses and suspects to progress in the game.

Read more. Source: BBC

The rainbow trap is a gilded 4.5mm-wide lens perched atop a gold-coated glass slide Image: Vera Smolyaninova/Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland
Rainbow trapped for the first time
(Nov 27, 2009)

A rainbow has been caught for the first time ever – and with just a simple lens and a plate of glass at that. The technique could be used to store information using light, a boon for optical computing and telecommunications.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

HAL's eye
HAL's bells: IBM makes 'thinking computer' breakthrough
(Nov 19, 2009)

Scientists say they've made a breakthrough in their pursuit of computers that "think" like a living thing's brain – an effort that tests the limits of technology. This week researchers from IBM are reporting that they've simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer.

Read more. Source: The Independent

nematode worm
Lab worms are stunned by 'phaser'
(Nov 19, 2009)

Scientists have shown off an effect not unlike that of the "phasers" in the show Star Trek – but it only works on tiny worms called nematodes. They used a special molecule that, when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, changes its shape. When the worms were fed this molecule and then exposed to UV light, they exhibited paralysis.

Read more. Source: BBC

Jaguar supercomputer
China joins supercomputer elite
(Nov 16, 2009)

China has become one of a handful of nations to own one of the top five supercomputers in the world. Its Tianhe-1 computer, housed at the National Super Computer Center in Tianjin was ranked fifth on the biannual Top 500 supercomputer list. The machine packs more than 70,000 chips and can compute 563 trillion calculations per second (teraflops).

Read more. Source: BBC

quantum computing graphic
First universal programmable quantum computer unveiled
(Nov 16, 2009)

The world's first universal programmable quantum computer has been put through its paces. But the test program revealed significant hurdles that must be overcome before the device is ready for real work. Earlier in the year, a team at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, built a quantum computer capable of processing two quantum bits, or qubits.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

contact lens
Contact lenses to get built-in virtual graphics
(Nov 12, 2009)

A contact lens that harvests radio waves to power an LED is paving the way for a new kind of display. The lens is a prototype of a device that could display information beamed from a mobile device.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

optical fiber and nanomaterial
Light down a wire for solar power
(Nov 5, 2009)

Solar power could be produced cheaply in specially designed optical fibres, say researchers. The work, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, makes use of nanometre-scale wires built around optical fibres like bristles. Those wires give the light much more surface area to interact with, leading to higher overall efficiencies.

Read more. Source: BBC


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