Silicon semiconductors have taken us a dazzling distance along the computing road. But even if they continue unabated to get faster and more powerful (and it's growing more difficult to make that happen) there's a limit to what classical computing can do.
The next real game-change in computing is quantum--tapping the quantum mechanical properties of materials to process information in ways that will make today's biggest and baddest super computers look like pocket calculators. And for the first time scientists, at places like IBM, are moving beyond just theorizing about them to actually envisioning how a finished quantum computer would work. In labs across the globe, the first building blocks of the first quantum computers are slowly becoming real.
That's huge considering a working quantum computer would be the kind of thing that truly moves the ground beneath our feet. With a relatively modest quantum computer, scientists could slice through sophisticated encryption schemes, model quantum systems with unprecedented accuracy, and filter through complex, unstructured databases with unparalleled efficiency.
But first they have to build one.
One possibility for future energy production involves harvesting the warmth of Earth’s tropical oceans, using the natural heat differentials in the water to drive turbines. It would be relatively simple if you didn’t need a ludicrously large piece of pipe, 33 feet in diameter and stretching a kilometer beneath the water. To put that in context, that’s a New York subway tunnel wide and two and a half Empire State Buildings high.
While the Large Hadron Collider prepares to fire up its proton beams and get back to particle smashing, another accelerator is dialing up the search for another elusive particle. The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia is turning up its electron beams in search of “dark” or “heavy” photons, and in doing so they hope to unlock the secrets of the so-called “dark sector” where things like dark matter are thought to live.
Teddy Roosevelt famously said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” The folks at the Denver Zoo must have thought he was talking crap. The zoo happens to have a lot of animal dung on hand where it is, and via its own patent-pending gasification tech it is doing what it can, introducing a poo-powered rickshaw that turns animal waste and human trash into mobility.
By Peter Andrey SmithPosted 03.19.2012 at 10:12 am 5 Comments
To demonstrate what the Advanced Structures and Composites Center's new lab will do to wind blades, Larry Parent, an engineer at the University of Maine, takes out his bifocals and begins bending them. The 230-foot-long fiberglass composite blades will suffer greater strain; most will be bent until they begin to break. The Offshore Wind Laboratory is busting blades to design the toughest ones possible, capable of handling the extreme weather conditions 20 miles off the coast, in the Gulf of Maine.
Researchers at Stanford and the DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Lab have created a new kind of graphene that promises the first-ever "designer electrons" that can be custom tuned to exhibit exotic properties. This "molecular graphene" could lead to whole new types of materials with new electrical properties, which in turn could spawn whole new kinds of devices.
The way electrons conduct their business is central to just about everything we consider modern electronic technology.
The trick to any good 3-D tech is creating a system in which the viewer's eyes receive two slightly different images, creating the kind of dual perspective that gives imagery depth--and hence the illusion of three-dimensions even within a flat space like a television display. With most light emitters, which look the same when viewed from any angle, this can prove difficult. But a new kind of fiber developed at MIT that can emit light variably in different directions along its entire length can present light at different intensities to two different viewers, and it could lead to woven 3-D displays that project different visual information to a viewer's left and right eyes.
The high data loads of the future--and even the present--require that optical communications platforms continue to get faster, leaner, and cheaper. At the Optical Fiber Communication Conference in Los Angeles today, IBM will report on a prototype optical chip it has developed that has hit a significant milestone in optical data transfer: one terabit--that’s one trillion bits--per second.
Ohio State University researchers have captured the first-ever images of atoms moving within a molecule using a novel technique that turns one of the molecules own electrons into a kind of flash bulb. The technique has yielded a new way of imaging molecules, but could one day help scientists to intimately control chemical reactions at the atomic scale.