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The Lead

New gadget helps the vision impaired to read graphs

July 29, 2014 10:47 am | News | Comments

An affordable digital reading system invented by researchers in Australia now allows people who are blind to read more than just words. The device works by using pattern recognition technology and other methods on any document to identify images, graphs, maths or text. From here it is then converted to audio format with navigation markup.

DARPA collaboration launches breakthrough elastic cloud-to-cloud networking

July 29, 2014 9:06 am | News | Comments

In 2006, DARPA launched a long-term project called...

New tools help neuroscientists analyze big data

July 28, 2014 4:45 pm | News | Comments

Big data can mean big headaches for scientists. A...

Gadget Watch: PadFone novel as phone-tablet hybrid

July 28, 2014 1:26 pm | by Anick Jesdanun - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Companies often blend old products to give you something new. This summer, AsusTek Computer Inc...

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A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists have achieved a 20-fold amplification of single-photon signals, a step that could aid all-optical data processing efforts. The breakthrough was made with the invention of a new type of optical transistor build from a cloud of rubidium atoms, held just above absolute zero, that is transparent to certain wavelengths of light.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

July 28, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. recently published work that describes how graphene can be wrapped around a silicon wire, or waveguide, and modify the transmission of light through it.  These waveguide loops, called “racetrack resonators” because of their shape, could help form a device architecture that would make graphene biochemical sensors a reality.

Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

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UConn makes 3-D copies of antique instrument parts

July 28, 2014 10:57 am | by Pat Eaton-Robb, Associated Press | News | Comments

The medical practice of Dr. Robert Howe, a reproductive endocrinologist in Massachusetts, introduced him to how computerized tomography could make precise 3-D images of body parts. As a student of music history, he realized the same technology could help him study delicate musical instruments from the past. With the help of engineers, these rare instruments are now being both imaged and printed printed in 3-D.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Collecting just the right data

July 25, 2014 7:56 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Much artificial intelligence research addresses the problem of making predictions based on large data sets. An obvious example is the recommendation engines at retail sites like Amazon and Netflix. But some types of data are harder to collect than online click histories. And in other applications there may just not be enough time to crunch all the available data.

The birth of topological spintronics

July 24, 2014 10:31 am | News | Comments

Research led by Penn State Univ. and Cornell Univ. physicists is studying "spintorque" in devices that combine a standard magnetic material with a new material known as a topological insulator. The new insulator, which is made of bismuth selenide and operates at room temperature, overcomes one of the key challenges to developing a spintronics technology based on spin-orbit coupling.

Highest-precision measurement made of water on an exoplanet

July 24, 2014 10:02 am | News | Comments

The discovery of water vapor in the atmospheres of three exoplanets includes the most precise measurement of any chemical in a planet outside the solar system, and has major implications for planet formation and the search for water on Earth-like habitable exoplanets in future. These results show just how challenging it could be to detect water on Earth-like exoplanets in our search for potential life elsewhere.

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Researchers pioneer a Google street view of galaxies

July 23, 2014 9:55 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibers is giving Australian astronomers the first “Google street view” of the cosmos—incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the Univ. of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fiber bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time.

First direct-diode laser bright enough to cut, weld metal

July 23, 2014 9:43 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

MIT Lincoln Laboratory spinout TeraDiode is commercializing a multi-kilowatt diode laser system that’s bright enough to cut and weld through a half-inch of steel, and at greater efficiencies than today’s industrial lasers. The new system is based on a wavelength beam-combining laser diode design that won an R&D 100 Award in 2012. It combines multiple beams into a single output ray, allowing for a power boost without efficiency loss.

NASA’s Fermi space telescope finds a “transformer” pulsar

July 23, 2014 9:19 am | Videos | Comments

In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It was as if someone flipped a switch on the pulsar.

The geography of the global electronic waste burden

July 23, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

As local and national governments struggle to deal with ever-growing piles of electronic waste (e-waste), scientists are now refining the picture of just how much there is and where it really ends up. Published in Environmental Science & Technology, their study found that nearly a quarter of e-waste that developed countries discard floods into just seven developing countries.

RFID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics

July 23, 2014 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

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Joint Singapore-U.S. program to increase IC circuit designers globally

July 22, 2014 1:37 pm | News | Comments

North Carolina-based Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) and Singapore’s Silicon Cloud International (SCI) are launching a new program aimed at globally advancing integrated circuit (IC) design education and research. The program will focus on increasing the quantity of IC designers in university systems worldwide, and enhancing expertise in secure cloud computing architecture.

Microsoft makes design central to its future

July 21, 2014 3:24 pm | by Ryan Nakashima - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Before Ralf Groene helped devise the look and feel of Microsoft's Surface tablet, he designed food — or "food concepts," he says, for people on the go. Among them: dried noodles that come wrapped around a pair of chopsticks; a tubular meal that can be pulled with two fingers from a car cup holder base; and a fork that squeezes out sauce.

Reconstructing an animal’s development cell by cell

July 21, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Janelia Research Campus experts have built a new computational method that can essentially automate much of the time-consuming process of reconstructing an animal's developmental building plan cell by cell. Using image data obtaining using a sophisticated form of light sheet microscopy, the tool can track the movement of cells in an animal’s body in 3-D.

DNA used as a lightswitch

July 21, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Using two thin, tiny gold nanorods 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, researchers from the U.S. and Germany have succeeded in creating an adjustable filter for so-called circularly polarized light. This switch for nano-optics is made from two tiny gold rods that reversibly change their optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added.

Research shows oceans vital for alien life

July 21, 2014 9:01 am | News | Comments

Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. Mathematicians and earth sciences experts in the U.K. have recently taken the next step, creating a computer-simulated pattern of ocean circulation on a hypothetical ocean-covered Earth-like planet. They hope to learn how different planetary rotation rates would impact heat transport with the presence of oceans taken into account.

Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

Future electronics may depend on lasers, not quartz

July 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Nearly all electronics require devices called oscillators that create precise frequencies. For nearly 100 years, these oscillators have relied upon quartz crystals to provide a frequency reference, much like a tuning fork is used as a reference to tune a piano. However, future high-end navigation systems, radar systems and even possibly tomorrow's consumer electronics will require references beyond the performance of quartz.

Nanocamera takes pictures at distances smaller than light’s wavelength

July 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that an array of novel gold, pillar-bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can be used like traditional photographic film to record light for distances that are much smaller than the wavelength of light (for example, distances less than ~600 nm for red light). A standard optical microscope acts as a “nanocamera” whereas the pBNAs are the analogous film.

Getting a grip on robotic grasp

July 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, fingers. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand.

Why airlines didn't avoid risky Ukraine airspace

July 18, 2014 3:22 am | by David Koenig - AP Airlines Writers - Associated Press | News | Comments

The possibility that the civilian jetliner downed over war-torn eastern Ukraine with nearly 300 people onboard was hit by a missile could have profound consequences for the world's airlines. Airlines might have to be more vigilant about avoiding trouble spots, making flights longer and causing them to burn more costly fuel. They may even be forced to reconsider many international routes.

Microsoft cutting 18,000 jobs, signals new path

July 17, 2014 12:23 pm | by Ryan Nakashima - AP Business Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Microsoft announced the biggest layoffs in its history Thursday, saying it will cut 18,000 jobs or 14 percent of its workforce as it streamlines its Nokia mobile device business to focus on using the Windows Phone operating system. Although the job cuts had been expected, the extent of them was a surprise.

Cell membrane proteins give up their secrets

July 17, 2014 8:03 am | Videos | Comments

Biological physicists at Rice Univ. have succeeded in analyzing transmembrane protein folding in the same way they study the proteins’ free-floating, globular cousins. They have applied energy landscape theory to proteins that are hard to view because they are inside cell membranes. The method should increase the technique’s value to researchers who study proteins implicated in diseases and possibly in the creation of drugs to treat them.

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