May 16, 2001   

   Rough tools smooth design
Computers are precise to a fault, which makes them hard to use if you just want to sketch out an idea. A set of interface design tools combines the freedom of the sketch pad with the organization and interactivity of the computer. The goal is to help people keep their eyes on the big picture.
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Tightening photonic bonds strengthens security
Quantum cryptography promises perfectly secure communications. But sending extraordinarily fragile quantum information through the noisy environment of real-world communications devices is a tremendous challenge. A scheme for strengthening the bonds between pairs of photons is a step in the right direction.

Tunable superconductor makes better circuits
Superconductors, those cold, ultra-fast conduits for electricity, can be fashioned into rudimentary circuits. But until now, the current could only be turned on or off. Researchers at Bell Labs have added the equivalent of a volume knob.

Flexible film turns heat to power
Tiny machines need sources of power. Many of the environments they're intended to work in, like vehicles and the human body, generate heat. A flexible film aims to let these machines fuel up on this thermal energy.

Natural force drives molecular ratchet
Charged particles either attract or repel each other. Make a track out of alternating charges and you have the beginnings of a molecular-scale railroad.

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