All posts by Stephen Years

Researchers develop new nanowire computer memory 1,000 times faster than Flash


While researchers at IBM’s Zurich Research Lab have devised a way to print particles as small as 60 nanometers in diameter using conventional lithography techniques, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have used self-assembly, a process by which chemical reactants crystallize at lower temperatures mediated by nanoscale metal catalysts, to spontaneously form nanowires that were 30-50 nanometers in diameter and 10 micrometers in length.

The University of Pennsylvania scientists used germanium antimony telluride, which is a phase-changing material that switches between amorphous and crystalline structures. These phase-changes can be used to store data. The scientists were able to demonstrate a memory device that showed extremely low power consumption for data encoding (0.7mW per bit) while writing, erasing and retrieving data 1,000 times faster than conventional Flash memory. Tests also indicated the device would not lose data even after approximately 100,000 years of use. This all has the potential to realize a terabit-level nonvolatile memory device.

UK government approves first large scale wave farm


Today the UK government gave planning approval for the world’s first large scale wave farm off the coast of Cornwall in South West England. The project, dubbed Wave Hub, is a world first and will include an onshore substation connected to electrical equipment on the seabed about 16 kilometres (10 miles) offshore via a sub-sea cable. Wave Hub could generate enough electricity for 7,500 homes, directly saving 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over 25 years. Because Wave Hub is also a research facility, it could create 1,800 jobs and put £560 million into UK economy over the same 25 year period.

[via Gizmodo]

Peruvian villagers become sick after meteor strike

Villagers in Southern Peru became sick with a mystery illness last Saturday after a meteor struck nearby. The villagers complained of headaches and vomiting caused by a strange odor. Several police officers also became sick while investigating the impact. Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) and 20-foot-deep (six-meter-deep) crater.

One can not help but think of Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain.


Via the BBC:

An engineer from the Peruvian Nuclear Energy Institute told the AFP news agency no radiation had been detected from the crater and ruled out the fallen object being a satellite.

Renan Ramirez said: “It is a conventional meteorite that, when it struck, produced gases by fusing with elements of the terrain.”

The gases are believed to have affected the health of about 600 people who visited the site.

Google Earth to Improve Resolution

Photo Credit: NASA (via Wikimedia Commons)

DigitalGlobe, provider of imagery for Google Earth, will be launching a new satellite dubbed WorldView I next Tuesday, that will boost the accuracy of its satellite images to half-meter resolution. With that type of accuracy the satellite will now be able to pinpoint objects on the Earth at three to 7.5 meters, or 10 to 25 feet. Using known reference points on the ground, the accuracy could rise to about two meters. Additionally the satellite will be able to collect over 600,000 square kilometers of imagery each day, up from the current collection of that amount each week.

It seems that we are getting much closer to the CIC Earth application as envisioned by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash, which was able to present real time satellite imagery.

[Via C|Net]

Future Surveillance Technology Can Tell How You Feel


While the governments of the United States and Britain continue to deploy surveillance cameras at a startling pace, researchers in top universities and private laboratories are developing the next generation of surveillance technology.

The BBC recently published an article title “Big Brother is Watching Us All,” in which they highlight some of these new technologies:

Gait DNA, for example, is creating an individual code for the way I walk. [The] goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait, your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able to identify instantly who you are.

And if being able to instantly identify an individual in a public crowd wasn’t enough, the same article reports on a tool under development that can look through walls and determine your emotional state:

Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on the other side … and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates … “it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harm you, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years from now, the technology will be much smarter. We’ll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they’re actually thinking.” 

With this level of surveillance available within a decade, I can imagine whole industries springing up that will protect an individual’s privacy while in public and private spaces.  This begs two questions.  One, will governments allow such privacy protection products and services? And two, if you try to protect your privacy, will this just engender more surveillance of you because the government will assume you have something to hide?