August 7/14, 2006


Sensitive liquid lens

A liquid lens changes focus when a hydrogel surrounding it reacts to external stimulation -- changes in pH or temperature, or the presence of light, an electric field or biological molecules. The lens could be used in biochips for sensing, medical diagnostics and biological analysis. (Adaptive Liquid Microlenses Activated by Stimuli-Responsive Hydrogels, Nature, August 3, 2006)

Vertical passages for biochips

A way of making plastic biochips vertically connects multiple layers of microfluidic channels, making it easier to make biochips that carry out multiple tasks including preparing and analyzing samples. The technique could lead to inexpensive, mass producible medical diagnostic and other labs-on-a-chip. (Microfluidic Vias Enable Nested Bioarrays and Autoregulatory Devices in Newtonian Fluids, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online August 3, 2006)

Neural net simplifies data

A type of artificial neural network efficiently encodes data that contains many variables into a simpler form and restores the encoded data to its multidimensional form. The technique could make it easier for scientists to store, analyze and visualize large, complicated data sets in biology, neuroscience and the study of networks. (Reducing the Dimensionality of Data with Neural Networks, Science, July 28, 2006)

Infrared detector IDs people

A detector made from an array of infrared sensors and pattern recognition software can identify individuals by their movements if the system has seen the people before. The biometric technique could be used to confirm a person's identity or spot people wanted by law-enforcement officials. (Real-Time Human Identification Using a Pyroelectric Infrared Detector Array and Hidden Markov Models, Optics Express, July 24, 2006)

Guiding aerosols with light

A method of shaping light beams makes it possible to guide airborne liquid droplets as far as 2.75 millimeters. The technique could be used in labs-on-a-chip to control aerosol samples. (Optical Guiding of Aerosol Droplets, Optics Express, July 10, 2006)

Materials chill in laser light

A crystal and a glass infused with erbium cool down when hit with laser light. The materials could be used with tiny semiconductor lasers to cool computer chips and infrared cameras and other optical sensors. (Anti-Stokes Laser Cooling in Bulk Erbium-Doped Materials, Physical Review Letters, July 21, 2006)


View from the High Ground: ICL's John Pendry
Physics as machine tool, negative refractive index, metamaterials, shattered wine glasses, higher capacity DVDs, scientific backwaters, risk perception and practice, practice, practice.

How It Works: Quantum computing: qubits
Photons, electrons and atoms, oh my! These particles are the raw materials for qubits, the basic building blocks of quantum computers.

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August 8th, 2006
Highlights from Siggraph
The red-eye removal feature in Photoshop, which uses object recognition technology to identify eyes, was Adobe’s first foray into working with the content of images. Automatic content analysis is a major focus of computer vision and image processing research......

July 25, 2006
Cooked wine

July 7, 2006
Music space

June 30, 2006
Crops take global warming hit


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"Physics is to the rest of science what machine tools are to engineering. A corollary is that science places power in our hands which can be used for good or ill. Technology has been abused in this way throughout the ages from gunpowder to atomic bombs."
- John Pendry, Imperial College London

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