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Date:30 November 2007 Tags:,

Protein storage
Holographic memory drives, which use lasers to store data in 3D patterns, allowing for massive storage and access speeds, have a drawback: they can be written only once. Researchers at the University of Connecticut may have a solution: patterns etched into certain light-sensitive microbial proteins can be erased with blue light, paving the way for rewritable holograms.

Shrinking bugs
By taking X-rays of the breathing tubes of beetles, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, USA, found evidence that the maximum size of insects is limited by oxygen levels. That could explain why 90 cm-long millipedes roamed the Earth, 300 million years ago, when oxygen levels were about 50 per cent higher.

Bionic fin
Engineers at MIT are building a remote-control submarine that swims like a fish – but not just any fish. The bluegill sunfish has a distinctive swimming motion that produces constant forward thrust and no backward drag. A polymer version of the fin flexes in response to electric current, so the sub hovers and turns more effectively than subs with traditional propellers.

Car pool camera
A new system can monitor HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes and count how many people are in a car. By shining infrared light into cars and looking for the reflective qualities of human skin, the camera is rarely fooled by dummies or cutouts (such as the one riding shotgun). The system, which was tested in Scotland, could be used to charge tolls based on how many people are in a vehicle.

Cuisine of the crime
A new method of lifting fingerprints could reveal a suspect’s gender and even dietary preferences. Using a gel-based tape and an infrared array detector, British scientists may soon be able to analyse chemical clues, such as specific amino acids associated with a vegetarian diet.

New spin on quantum computing
A novel device developed by a team led by engineers at the University of Buffalo simply and conveniently traps, detects and manipulates the single spin of an electron, overcoming some major obstacles that have prevented progress toward spintronics and spin-based quantum computing.

Published online in Physical Review Letters, the research paper brings closer to reality electronic devices based on the use of single spins and their promise of low-power/ high-performance computing. “The task of manipulating the spin of single electrons is a hugely daunting technological challenge that has the potential, if overcome, to open up new paradigms of nanoelectronics,” says Dr Jonathan Bird, professor of electrical engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and principal investigator on the project.

Written on the wind
When scientists at the University of Washington unveiled a new algorithm that produces real-time simulations of airflow, showing how leaves interact with a moving car (left) or how smoke curls through a house, they thought

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