January 29/
February 5, 2003   

   Data stored in live cells
If DNA is the blueprint of life, adding notes in the margins could be a good way to store data, especially given how much data microscopic DNA molecules contain. And if the DNA in question belongs to a radiation-resistant bacteria, the data could survive for countless generations -- the ultimate in archival storage. You could even pass on your life's history to your progeny along with your genes.
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Faster quantum crypto demoed
Most quantum cryptography research grapples with the difficult task of generating one photon at a time. The result is that, despite an impressive array of schemes and prototypes, none of today's systems work anywhere near the speeds of the telecommunications networks they're designed to work over. A demo of a system that uses ordinary lasers is a big step toward better performance, at least over short distances.

Bumpy surface stores data
Stroking a thin skin of molecules with microscopic promises to be a fast way to store lots of data. Gently drawing a microscope tip across a particular type of thin film causes regularly-sized, perfectly spaced bumps to appear. Count each bump as a bit, and the process could lead to a new type of data storage device.

Quantum computers go digital
Quantum computers use the traits of individual atoms and subatomic particles to perform fantastically fast calculations. But quantum particles are notoriously hard to pin down, and it's tricky business using them for hard-and-fast digital calculations. A scheme that calls for pairs of electrons to slide past each other puts a little binary black and white in the otherwise colorful quantum world.

Tiny hole guides atoms against tide
Cells manage to coax ions to flow through their membranes against the natural force driving the charged atoms. Researchers have duplicated this feat using a nanoscale hole in a plastic film. The results promise a better understanding of cells, and could lead to new ways to power biochemical nanomachines.

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