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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Engineers Solve Longstanding Problem in Photonic Chip Technology: Findings Help Pave Way for Next Generation of Computer Chips

Stretching for thousands of miles beneath oceans, optical fibers now connect every continent except for Antarctica. With less data loss and higher bandwidth, optical-fiber technology allows information to zip around the world, bringing pictures, video, and other data from every corner of the globe to your computer in a split second. But although optical fibers are increasingly replacing copper wires, carrying information via photons instead of electrons, today's computer technology still relies on electronic chips.
Now, researchers led by engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are paving the way for the next generation of computer-chip technology: photonic chips. With integrated circuits that use light instead of electricity, photonic chips will allow for faster computers and less data loss when connected to the global fiber-optic network.
 "We want to take everything on an electronic chip and reproduce it on a photonic chip," says Liang Feng, a postdoctoral scholar in electrical engineering and the lead author on a paper to be published in the August 5 issue of the journal Science. Feng is part of Caltech's nanofabrication group, led by Axel Scherer, Bernard A. Neches Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics, and Physics, and co-director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute at Caltech.
In that paper, the researchers describe a new technique to isolate light signals on a silicon chip, solving a longstanding problem in engineering photonic chips.
An isolated light signal can only travel in one direction. If light weren't isolated, signals sent and received between different components on a photonic circuit could interfere with one another, causing the chip to become unstable. In an electrical circuit, a device called a diode isolates electrical signals by allowing current to travel in one direction but not the other. The goal, then, is to create the photonic analog of a diode, a device called an optical isolator. "This is something scientists have been pursuing for 20 years," Feng says.
Normally, a light beam has exactly the same properties when it moves forward as when it's reflected backward. "If you can see me, then I can see you," he says. In order to isolate light, its properties need to somehow change when going in the opposite direction. An optical isolator can then block light that has these changed properties, which allows light signals to travel only in one direction between devices on a chip.
"We want to build something where you can see me, but I can't see you," Feng explains. "That means there's no signal from your side to me. The device on my side is isolated; it won't be affected by my surroundings, so the functionality of my device will be stable."
To isolate light, Feng and his colleagues designed a new type of optical waveguide, a 0.8-micron-wide silicon device that channels light. The waveguide allows light to go in one direction but changes the mode of the light when it travels in the opposite direction.
A light wave's mode corresponds to the pattern of the electromagnetic field lines that make up the wave. In the researchers' new waveguide, the light travels in a symmetric mode in one direction, but changes to an asymmetric mode in the other. Because different light modes can't interact with one another, the two beams of light thus pass through each other.
Previously, there were two main ways to achieve this kind of optical isolation. The first way -- developed almost a century ago -- is to use a magnetic field. The magnetic field changes the polarization of light -- the orientation of the light's electric-field lines -- when it travels in the opposite direction, so that the light going one way can't interfere with the light going the other way. "The problem is, you can't put a large magnetic field next to a computer," Feng says. "It's not healthy."
The second conventional method requires so-called nonlinear optical materials, which change light's frequency rather than its polarization. This technique was developed about 50 years ago, but is problematic because silicon, the material that's the basis for the integrated circuit, is a linear material. If computers were to use optical isolators made out of nonlinear materials, silicon would have to be replaced, which would require revamping all of computer technology. But with their new silicon waveguides, the researchers have become the first to isolate light with a linear material.
Although this work is just a proof-of-principle experiment, the researchers are already building an optical isolator that can be integrated onto a silicon chip. An optical isolator is essential for building the integrated, nanoscale photonic devices and components that will enable future integrated information systems on a chip. Current, state-of-the-art photonic chips operate at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) -- hundreds of times the data-transfer rates of today's personal computers -- with the next generation expected to soon hit 40 Gbps. But without built-in optical isolators, those chips are much simpler than their electronic counterparts and are not yet ready for the market. Optical isolators like those based on the researchers' designs will therefore be crucial for commercially viable photonic chips.
Source : Daily science web

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Novel Artificial Material Could Facilitate Wireless Power

Electrical engineers at Duke University have determined that unique artificial materials should theoretically make it possible to improve the power transfer to small devices, such as laptops or cell phones, or ultimately to larger ones, such as cars or elevators, without wires.
This advance is made possible by the recent ability to fabricate exotic composite materials known as meta materials, which are not so much a single substance, but an entire human-made structure that can be engineered to exhibit properties not readily found in nature. In fact, the metamaterial used in earlier Duke studies, and which would likely be used in future wireless power transmission systems, resembles a miniature set of tan Venetian blinds.
Theoretically, this metamaterial can improve the efficiency of "recharging" devices without wires. As power passes from the transmitting device to the receiving device, most if not all of it scatters and dissipates unless the two devices are extremely close together. However, the metamaterial postulated by the Duke researchers, which would be situated between the energy source and the "recipient" device, greatly refocuses the energy transmitted and permits the energy to traverse the open space between with minimal loss of power.
"We currently have the ability to transmit small amounts of power over short distances, such as in radio frequency identification (RFID) devices," said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "However, larger amounts of energy, such as that seen in lasers or microwaves, would burn up anything in its path.
"Based on our calculations, it should be possible to use these novel metamaterials to increase the amount of power transmitted without the negative effects," Urzhumov said.
The results of the Duke research were published online in the journal Physical Review B. Urzhumov works in the laboratory of David R. Smith, William Bevan Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Pratt School of Engineering. Smith's team was the first demonstrate that similar metamaterials could act as a cloaking device in 2006.
Just as the metamaterial in the cloaking device appeared to make a volume of space "disappear," in the latest work, the metamaterial would make it seem as if there was no space between the transmitter and the recipient, Urzhumov said. Therefore, he said, the loss of power should be minimal.
Urzhumov's research is an offshoot of "superlens" research conducted in Smith's laboratory. Traditional lenses get their focusing power by controlling rays as they pass through the two outside surfaces of the lens. On the other hand, the superlens, which is in fact a metamaterial, directs waves within the bulk of the lens between the outside surfaces, giving researchers a much greater control over whatever passes through it.
The metamaterial used in wireless power transmission would likely be made of hundreds to thousands -- depending on the application -- of individual thin conducting loops arranged into an array. Each piece is made from the same copper-on-fiberglass substrate used in printed circuit boards, with excess copper etched away. These pieces can then be arranged in an almost infinite variety of configurations.
"The system would need to be tailored to the specific recipient device, in essence the source and target would need to be 'tuned' to each other," Urzhumov said. "This new understanding of how matematerials can be fabricated and arranged should help make the design of wireless power transmission systems more focused."
The analysis performed at Duke was inspired by recent studies at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs (MERL), an industrial partner of the Duke Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics. MERL is currently investigating metamaterials for wireless power transfer. The Duke researchers said that with these new insights into the effects of metamaterials, developing actual devices can be more targeted and efficient.
The Duke University research was supported by a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the U.S. Army Research Office.
Source: Daily science website

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fundamental Question on How Life Started Solved: Supercomputer Calculates Carbon Nucleus

For carbon, the basis of life, to be able to form in the stars, a certain state of the carbon nucleus plays an essential role. In cooperation with US colleagues, physicists from the University of Bonn and Ruhr-Universität Bochum have been able to calculate this legendary carbon nucleus, solving a problem that has kept science guessing for more than 50 years.
 The researchers published their results in the coming issue of the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"Attempts to calculate the Hoyle state have been unsuccessful since 1954," said Professor Dr. Ulf-G. Meißner (Helmholtz-Institut für Strahlen- und Kernphysik der Universität Bonn). "But now, we have done it!" The Hoyle state is an energy-rich form of the carbon nucleus. It is the mountain pass over which all roads from one valley to the next lead: From the three nuclei of helium gas to the much larger carbon nucleus. This fusion reaction takes place in the hot interior of heavy stars. If the Hoyle state did not exist, only very little carbon or other higher elements such as oxygen, nitrogen and iron could have formed. Without this type of carbon nucleus, life probably also would not have been possible.
The search for the "slave transmitter"
The Hoyle state had been verified by experiments as early as 1954, but calculating it always failed. For this form of carbon consists of only three, very loosely linked helium nuclei -- more of a cloudy diffuse carbon nucleus. And it does not occur individually, only together with other forms of carbon. "This is as if you wanted to analyze a radio signal whose main transmitter and several slave transmitters are interfering with each other," explained Prof. Dr. Evgeny Epelbaum (Institute of Theoretical Physics II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum). The main transmitter is the stable carbon nucleus from which humans -- among others -- are made. "But we are interested in one of the unstable, energy-rich carbon nuclei; so we have to separate the weaker radio transmitter somehow from the dominant signal by means of a noise filter."
What made this possible was a new, improved calculating approach the researchers used that allowed calculating the forces between several nuclear particles more precisely than ever. And in JUGENE, the supercomputer at Forschungszentrum Jülich, a suitable tool was found. It took JUGENE almost a week of calculating. The results matched the experimental data so well that the researchers can be certain that they have indeed calculated the Hoyle state.
More about how the Universe came into existence
"Now we can analyze this exciting and essential form of the carbon nucleus in every detail," explained Prof. Meißner. "We will determine how big it is, and what its structure is. And it also means that we can now take a very close look at the entire chain of how elements are formed."
In future, this may even allow answering philosophical questions using science. For decades, the Hoyle state was a prime example for the theory that natural constants must have precisely their experimentally determined values, and not any different ones, since otherwise we would not be here to observe the Universe (the anthropic principle). "For the Hoyle state this means that it must have exactly the amount of energy it has, or else, we would not exist," said Prof. Meißner. "Now we can calculate whether -- in a changed world with other parameters -- the Hoyle state would indeed have a different energy when comparing the mass of three helium nuclei." If this is so, this would confirm the anthropic principle.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The iTracking "Scandal"

Wondering why your iPhone and 3G-enabled iPad are storing your general location in an easily accessible database on your PC? It's simple. Apple uses this information to build a cell tower and Wi-Fi access point location database, and the company admitted as much last year. At least that's my theory. Let's take a look.
The iTracking "Scandal"
On Wednesday, two researchers released an open source application called iPhone Tracker that pulls data from a hidden location history database contained in your iOS device's backup files saved on your PC. The app then plots this location information on a map allowing you to see your phone's travels over the past year. Your iOS devices have been building this location database since iOS 4 was released in June of last year, the researchers say.
The data appears to be based on cell tower triangulation and not GPS. This means the location information is not pinpoint accurate, but only shows your general location. The researchers also discovered in the database a list of Wi-Fi access points that your device has been in range of during the past year.
The researchers don't believe this data is leaving your custody, but I disagree. My best guess is that it is leaving your device as anonymized and encrypted information that Apple then uses to build its cell tower and Wi-Fi access point database.

New iPhone 5 Mockup Is Ultra Sexy

Stay calm, it's only a mockup. But Apple's iPhone 5 will be either a thing of beauty or the ugliest phone in existence -- depending on your tastes -- should any element of a new but credible Photoshopped suggestion make it into the end product.
The image was created by former Engadget chief Joshua Topolsky based on a sketched design from one of his sources as well as credible rumors he's heard. Topolsky admits the sketch might be little more than one of many prototype designs, but what the hey--it's fun to speculate!
Rumors have already suggested a virtually bezel-free screen, for example, courtesy of glass bonding breakthroughs at Apple HQ. Topolsky claims this allows for a slightly larger screen area of 3.7 inches -- 0.2 inches larger than the iPhone 4, but still retaining the ultra high-resolution Retina Display of over 300 pixels per inch.
It's even suggested that, somehow, the microphone and speaker might be behind the glass, although this isn't shown in the mockup. Apple has made much of how it carves MacBooks out of solid aluminum using lasers, including making microscopic holes for microphones and for power lights to shine through. It's possible the same techniques might have evolved so they can be used on glass, allowing sound to pass through.
In profile, Topolsky's iPhone 5 has a teardrop shape, rather like the MacBook Air, tapering towards the bottom, although Topolsky says this might not be as extreme as his mockup suggests, due to his lack of Photoshop skills.
One big change is the home button, which is expanded to become a "gesture area." How this works isn't clear, and in Topolsky's mockup the home button area is wide but not tall, indicating only side-to-side swipe gestures are possible. It's possible this is a labor-saving trick so users can simply swipe to activate the phone, rather than hit the home button first, and then swipe across the screen.
Although not featured in the mockup, the sketch Topolsky saw also showed induction-based power, which is to say, wire-free battery charging. This is already possible using third-party products so it isn't a leap of imagination, and there's been long-term rumors of Apple being interested in such technologies
The sketch also showed what Topolsky calls a "swipe area," which he suggests could be a near field communication (NFC) area. It's been rumored that NFC will be coming to the iPhone 5, although it would be strange of Apple to draw attention to a small area of the phone for NFC purposes. NFC payments are designed around the idea of simply tapping any part of a device against a receiver.
Creating rumors and even mockups is a crime with no consequences. Nobody's going to chide Topolsky when the iPhone 5 arrives and his mockups turn out to be bunkum. In fact, many Apple-watchers suggest that the iPhone 5 won't look much different from the iPhone 4. However, there's little doubt that Topolsky's sexy imagery pours petrol onto the flames of the iPhone 5 hype machine.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Coca-Cola Camera

Coca-Cola Camera ($60) 

Although the Real Thing may rot your teeth and make you fat, this fructose-free fake can wreck your career. A video camera tucked inside a Coke can, it records your not-for-prime-time moments in 352-by-288-pixel resolution at 25 frames per second. And with 4GB of memory, a rechargeable battery, and up to 15 hours of continuous recording time, this aluminum-clad snoop is nothing to burp at.

Covert Cameras Designed to Spy on You

Sneaky Cams

What do calculators, cola cans, vacuum cleaners, houseplants, and neckties all have in common? Each might hide a miniature video camera that’s watching and recording your every move. These sneaky spy cameras are inexpensive and easy to buy online, too. We’ve compiled a gallery of covert cameras commercially available for spies, wannabe gumshoes, and (probably) creeps.

Covert Plant Camera 

Beware the potted fern--it may be a government plant. Nothing brightens up an office or a home more than a spot of greenery, but this undercover weed has darker intentions. Equipped with a wired or wireless, color or black-and-white spy cam, the Covert Plant Camera is well hidden and watches your every move. It doesn't capture audio, however, so feel free to speak openly in its presence.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Kinds of Superconductivity? Physicists Demonstrate Coveted 'Spin-Orbit Coupling' in Atomic Gases

 A new microscope invented by scientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus will let researchers use an exquisitely thin sheet of light -- similar to that used in supermarket bar-code scanners -- to peer inside single living cells, revealing the three-dimensional shapes of cellular landmarks in unprecedented detail. The microscopy technique images at high speed, so researchers can create dazzling movies that make biological processes, such as cell division, come alive.
The technique, called Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy, is described in a research article published online on March 4, 2011, in the journal Nature Methods.
A major goal of biologists is to understand the rules that control molecular processes inside a cell. If one is trying to learn the rules of a game, it is better to have a movie of people playing the game than it is to have still photos -- and the same is true for cells, says Janelia Farm group leader Eric Betzig. He has been inventing and improving microscopes for more than 30 years. Despite having seen huge advances in microscopy during that time, Betzig says the field is still hindered by the fact that many microscopy techniques require that cells be killed and fixed in position for imaging. There is only so much one can learn from studying dead cells -- the equivalent of still photos, he says.
Betzig wanted to create a microscope that would let researchers see the dynamic inner lives of living cells. The notion of studying live cells, stippled with fluorescently labeled proteins and other molecules, is not new. But live-cell techniques can be problematic because light produced by microscopes can damage the cell over time. Besides cell damage, light causes the fluorescent molecules --of which there are only so many -- to wink out over time. In other words, the longer you study the cell to uncover its properties, the more damage you do to the cell and the more likely you are to spend your "photon budget," Betzig says.
What's more, the light of a microscope exposes more of the sample than just the small portion that is in focus. Illuminating the out-of-focus regions produces blur, making small intracellular features appear as lengthened blobs rather than sharp dots. "The question was, is there a way of minimizing the amount of damage you're doing so that you can then study cells in a physiological manner while also studying them at high spatial and temporal resolution for a long time?" Betzig says.
Long before arriving at Janelia Farm in 2006, Betzig began thinking about ways to improve live-cell microscopy. He put those thoughts on hold while he focused on designing new microscopy techniques that would ultimately shatter the limits of spatial resolution (imposed by the laws of diffraction). Until recently, microscopes could see objects no smaller than 200 nanometers in size. Several years ago, Betzig and his Janelia Farm colleague Harald Hess invented photoactivated localization microscopy, PALM, which can produce images of objects only 10-20 nanometers in size.
PALM and most other microscopes -- even the ones college students use in their biology classes -- work by exposing the sample through one objective lens and then collecting the light that comes back through that same lens. That approach causes light to damage the sample and induces blur, making it difficult to observe live cells.
In 2008, Betzig began working on ways to overcome these challenges. One idea he had was to use plane illumination microscopy. First proposed about 100 years ago, plane illumination involves shining a sheet of light through the side of the sample rather than the top. To do that, microscopists use two different objective lenses that are perpendicular to one another. "Because you come from the side, plane illumination confines the excitation much closer to the part that's in focus," Betzig says.
Although other researchers, including Janelia Farm Fellow Philipp Keller, have used plane illumination to great effect to study multicellular organisms hundreds of microns in size, the light sheets were still too thick to work effectively for imaging within single cells only tens of microns in size. The main problem is that the wide swath of light used in plane illumination exposed more of the cell than Betzig's group wanted. This caused excessive blur and light toxicity. To circumvent this problem, his group used a Bessel beam, a special type of non-diffracting light beam studied by physicists in the late 1980s, and used today in applications including bar-code scanners in supermarkets. Sweeping the beam across the sample creates a thinner light sheet, his group found.
Bessel beams behave a bit strangely, though, and this is what has kept Betzig's postdoctoral researchers -- Thomas Planchon and Liang Gao -- busy over the past few years. Although they produce a very narrow light beam, Bessel beams also create somewhat weaker light that flanks the focal point, making the pattern of illumination look like a bull's eye. The extra light lobes are a hindrance because they excite too much of the sample. To compensate for this problem, Betzig's group used two tricks. The first is a concept called structured illumination, where instead of sweeping the beam continuously, they turned it on and off rapidly, like firing a machine gun. This creates a periodic grating of excitation that can be used to eliminate any out-of-focus blur. (Structured illumination, used by Janelia Farm Group Leader Mats Gustafsson, is also one way of achieving super-resolution.)
Another strategy Betzig's group used is two-photon microscopy, a method commonly used in neuroscience to visualize thick pieces of brain tissue. One of the advantages of two-photon microscopes is that very little fluorescence signal is generated from weakly exposed regions. Thus, when they applied two-photon methods, the background from the Bessel side lobes was eliminated, and all that remained was the light from the narrow central part of the Bessel beam.
They then set out to image as fast as possible. The Bessel beam sweeps quickly through the sample, allowing the group to take nearly 200 images/second and build three-dimensional stacks from hundreds of two-dimensional images in one to 10 seconds. As they had hoped, they found that they could take hundreds of such three-dimensional image sets without harming the cell, generating amazing movies of cellular processes such as mitosis, where chromosomes divide as one cell becomes two. "There's no other technique that comes close to imaging as long with such high spatial and temporal detail," Betzig says.
Last summer, as soon as they got their first live cell images, Betzig, Planchon and Gao packed up the new instrument in a rented sport utility vehicle and took it to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts for a physiology course, where they worked with co-authors Jim and Cathy Galbraith from the National Institutes of Health. "We learned a lot about what works and what doesn't and ways to treat the cells in a way that maintains their physiological state while we're doing the imaging," he says. "Like every microscope, the instrumentation is only part of the puzzle. A lot of it is finding the right samples, and right preparation methods to make it work."
The new microscope is also exciting because it may be used in the future to improve super-resolution microscopy. PALM and other super-resolution techniques are limited to looking at thin, dead samples, and can be very damaging when looking at live ones. "That's what's really great about the Bessel -- we can confine that excitation and really start to think about applying super-resolution microscopy to study structure or dynamics in thicker cells," says Betzig. Even without super-resolution, Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy will be a powerful tool for cell biologists, Betzig says, since it noninvasively images the rapidly evolving three-dimensional complexity of cells.
Source: Daily science web

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Android Apps to Grab and Pandora Radio for Android

One of the best things about Google's Android mobile OS is the vast collection of crafty developers constantly working away on new mobile applications for Android phones and tablets. In other words, Android is all about the software. And there's certainly no shortage of Android apps.
As such, navigating Google's Android Market can be intimidating for new or beginner users, to say the least. So we handpicked 15 free Android apps that every Google phone or tablet owner, whether you're a newbie or power-user, could benefit from installing.

Pandora Radio for Android 

A variety of cool, free Internet radio applications exist for the Android platform, but none offer the same quality music catalogue and customization options as the free Pandora for Android app. Pandora is easy to setup and use: Create and account, log in, simply pick an artist or band you like and the application creates a custom "station" based around that artist, with similar tunes, selected by other like-minded listeners.
Download it Here

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ufone New Package: Uth package stylish offer

Ufone New Package: Uth package stylish offer
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Lucky draw for 100 T Shirts will be done on daily basis for 30 days from the launch of the promotion.
Lucky draw for Grand Prize of iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry® Torch™ 9800 smartphone, Nokia N8 and Android mobile device will be done at the end of the promotion.
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19.5% FED on usage and 10% withholding tax at recharge or bill applies.

Ufone New Package: Ufone introduces Lady’s Package

Ufone New Package: Ufone introduces Lady’s Package

Mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends… they brighten every day of our lives. But all too often their roles in our lives and their efforts go unnoticed or under-appreciated. That’s why… we at Ufone want to thank our ladies and would like to give something that’s tailored especially for you… Ufone Lady’s Package.
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SMS (Ufone to other networks)(Re 1 )
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Calls made to free numbers and short codes are not included in hourly call rate
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One recipe or beauty tip will be shared, once a week, free of cost
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