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Tech-news archive: January-February 2010

An infrared image released by the US department of defence shows the Missile Defence Agency's airborne laser destroying its target
US 'Star Wars' lasers bring down ballistic missile
(Feb 13, 2010)

The US this week achieved a goal that has eluded it since Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program by knocking out a ballistic missile using a high-powered laser beam mounted on a plane. The successful test was carried out yesterday in California, the US Missile Defence Agency (MDA) said, making real what had previously been confined to the realms of science fiction.

Read more. Source: The Guardian

Quantum trick for pressure-sensitive mobile devices
(Feb 9, 2010)

Handheld devices could soon have pressure-sensitive touch-screens and keys, thanks to a UK firm's material that exploits a quantum physics trick. The technology allows, for example, scrolling down a long list or webpage faster as more pressure is applied. A division of Samsung that distributes mobile phone components to several handset manufacturers has now licensed the "Quantum Tunnelling Composite".

Read more. Source: BBC

ice cubes
A charge for freezing water at different temperatures
(Feb 6, 2010)

A watched pot never boils, but an electrically charged pot sometimes freezes. A study in the Feb. 5 Science reports that water can freeze at different temperatures depending on whether the surface it rests on is positively or negatively charged. Under certain conditions, water can even freeze as it heats up.

Read more. Source: Science News

Apple unveils its iPad computer
(Jan 27, 2010)

Apple has put an end to weeks of fevered speculation by unveiling its long-awaited tablet PC, which it has called the iPad. Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive unveiled the touchscreen device at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. Mr Jobs described the tablet as a "third category" between smartphones and laptops.

Read more. Source: BBC

calcite crystal
Quantum computer simulates hydrogen molecule just right
(Jan 26, 2010)

In 1982, the physicist Richard Feynman outlined the specs for building a computer capable of precisely simulating nature. The computer would be a quantum computer, he said, and a key component would be the mineral calcite. A team recently built a basic quantum computer that accurately calculated the energies of electrons in a hydrogen molecule. Calcite is one of the new computerís key parts.

Read more. Source: Science News

scene from the video game Mass Effect
Video came expands the concept of dark energy
(Jan 26, 2010)

Could a person harness the power of dark energy – the mysterious and pervasive force suspected of speeding the universe's expansion – to block bullets, hurl adversaries around like rag dolls, and create small gravitational vortices out of thin air using nothing more than thoughts? The short answer: no. That is, unless that person exists in the intricate cyber universe created by the makers of the video games Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, the latter of which drops on January 26.

Read more. Source: Scientific American

The nanotubes stay put and function even when the fabric is stretched
Carbon nanotubes used to make batteries from fabrics
(Jan 22, 2010)

Ordinary cotton and polyester fabrics have been turned into batteries that retain their flexibility. The demonstration is a boost to the nascent field of "wearable electronics" in which devices are integrated into clothing and textiles. The approach is based on dipping fabrics in an "ink" of tiny tubes of carbon, and was first demonstrated last year on plain copier paper.

Read more. Source: BBC

Electronic Popable book. Image: Leah Buechley
Embedded electronics bring pop-up books to life
(Jan 21, 2010)

Move over Kindle, there's a new type of electronic book on the scene – and this one's got pop-ups. The Electronic Popable book, developed by the High-Low Tech group at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, has electronic circuitry embedded in its pages that transforms the tabs, flaps and wheels of a traditional pop-up into switches and a variety of sensors.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

self-assembled solar cell
Solar cells made through oil-and-water 'self-assembly'
(Jan 13, 2010)

Researchers have demonstrated a simple, cheap way to create self-assembling electronic devices using a property crucial to salad dressings. It uses the fact that oil- and water-based liquids do not mix, forming devices from components that align along the boundary between the two. The idea joins a raft of approaches toward self-assembly, but lends itself particularly well to small components.

Read more. Source: BBC

Artist's impression of wet computing cells. Image credit: Gareth Jones
Chemical computer that mimics neurons to be created
(Jan 11, 2010)

A promising push toward a novel, biologically-inspired "chemical computer" has begun as part of an international collaboration. The "wet computer" incorporates several recently discovered properties of chemical systems that can be hijacked to engineer computing power. The team's approach mimics some of the actions of neurons in the brain.

Read more. Source: BBC

Nexus One
Google's new phone to protect mobile advertising base
(Jan 6, 2010)

Google has said it is defending its online advertising empire with the launch of its own brand mobile phone. It is the first time Google has designed and sold its own consumer hardware device. Google said the Nexus One represented the next frontier in the company's $20bn (£12.4bn) core business – selling advertising through search.

Read more. Source: BBC


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