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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Information Sharing at the Quantum Limit
Max Planck Gessellschaft (05/01/11) Olivia Meyer-Streng
Researchers led by Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics director Gerhard Rempe have successfully transferred quantum information encoded in a single photon onto a single rubidium atom for storage and later retrieval. "This provides us with a universal node for a quantum network," Rempe says. To boost its weak coupling to the proton, the atom is caged within an optical resonator comprised of two reflecting mirrors, and it is held in place with laser light while the incoming photon is reflected back and forth between the two mirrors about 20,000 times. The information is then encoded using a coherent superposition of two polarization states of the photon. The researchers say the experiment demonstrates new possibilities for developing scalable quantum networks in which photons communicate quantum information between several nodes over long distances. They say the next step is demonstrating a basic quantum network consisting of two communicating nodes. The research also provides the cornerstone for developing optical quantum gates and repeaters, which are necessary for processing quantum information in a quantum computer and for long distance quantum communications.
Computer Algorithm May Speed Drug Discovery
ScienceNOW (04/29/11) Carrie Arnold
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers have developed a computer algorithm that has the potential to accelerate drug discovery. The researchers compiled a database containing all known shapes of the proteins that comprise the human body and then generated an algorithm based on the three-dimensional structure of the anti-HIV drug nelfinavir to find proteins that bind with the substance. Through this process, they learned that the drug could shrink the size of tumors in various cancers. The researchers say the process can be used to recognize many drug targets more cheaply, quickly, and easily than traditional experimental approaches. UCSD's Philip Bourne says computational approaches to drug discoveries could potentially save millions of dollars and years of research. "This is part of a paradigm shift in how people are thinking about drug design," says Stanford University's Vijay Pande. "[It] will open our eyes to compounds that we might not have found before."
The Big Picture on Complexity
The growing complexity of research facilities' environments make interaction between different units increasingly difficult, and ITEA2 3D TESTBENCH project leader Andy De Mets proposes combining all the tools used by different groups into one instrument that is universally compatible. The project's outcome resembles a giant three-dimensional wall in which all the phases of the engineering and product conception process are displayed. An adjustment of one project aspect will carry over into all of the stages, flagging potential problems. De Mets says the system is not comprised of a single program, but rather "the wall and its workflow management tool ... are at the heart of the system." Because the project represents the solution to a problem that any kind of organization may confront, the system's applications are very expansive. De Mets anticipates that the need for a collaborative engineering environment will only become more pressing in the future as a result of the international fragmentation of research teams and the trend for open innovation.
New Software to Support Interest in Extreme Science
UChicago News (04/29/11) Steve Koppes
FLASH 4-alpha, a new version of supercomputer code recently released by the University of Chicago's Flash Center for Computational Science, is the first version of the FLASH code to offer expansive capabilities for modeling high-energy density physics experiments. "Having a workhorse open toolset for scientists at universities is absolutely essential, and until now has not existed," says Flash Center director Don Lamb. The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration Advanced Simulation and Computing Program has funded the addition of the new capabilities to the software, which will help university researchers better comprehend fundamental characteristics of matter at high densities and high temperatures. Although most scientific users of the FLASH code have employed it for astrophysical studies, others have tweaked it for modeling atmospheric physics and biological processes. "Simulations play a vital role in demonstrating the viability of proposed experiments and analyzing experimental results," says Flash Center researcher Milad Fatenejad. "The enhanced FLASH code will be able to fill both of these roles."
Ultrafast Fiber Optics Set New Speed Record
New Scientist (04/29/11) Jeff Hecht
Two separate research groups have achieved sending more than 100 terabits of information per second through a single optical fiber, representing a new milestone in fiber capacity. NEC Laboratories researchers reported a total data-sending rate of 101.7 terabits per second through 165 kilometers of fiber by squeezing light pulses from 370 separate lasers into the pulse received by the receiver. Meanwhile, researchers at Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology developed a fiber with seven cores, each of which carried 15.6 terabits per second for a total capacity of 109 terabits per second. "We introduced a new dimension, spatial multiplication, to increasing transmission capacity," says institute researcher Jun Sakaguchi. Both techniques were presented at the recent Optical Fiber Communications Conference in Los Angeles.
In Therapy With Avatars
Delft University of Technology (04/29/11) Ilona van den Brink
TU Delft researcher Willem-Paul Brinkman is leading the development of virtual reality exposure therapy systems, which are designed to help people that suffer from various phobias, such as the fear of flying, and social disorders. For example, the researchers have developed a system that enables people with a fear of flying to experience the sounds and feel of flying with a virtual reality helmet and a vibrating seat that simulates an airplane. The researchers also are developing the virtual pub, which reconstructs a stressful social environment in a virtual world and will allow psychiatrists to study psychotic symptoms to help patients with social disorders. The program measures people's physical reactions to specific stimuli, such as being stared at for an extended period of time, and software then analyzes the data. The goal is to develop a method for cognitive behavioral therapy.
Identifying Innuendo No Joke for Comp Sci Researchers
Techworld Australia (04/29/11) Pascal Hakim
University of Washington researchers have developed Double Entendre via Noun Transfer (DEviaNT), a system for identifying noun euphemisms. DEviaNT can identify sentences that could be suitable for that's-what-she-said jokes. The approach consists of creating three functions that score words based on sample sentences taken from an erotic corpus or the Brown corpus, which is the standard used in natural language processing. The three functions were used to score sentences for noun euphemisms, as well as the presence of adjective and verb combinations more likely to be used in erotic literature. The scores were used to train the WEKA open source machine learning program to have a high level of identification of sentences that could be used in that's-what-she-said jokes while maintaining a low level of false positives.
Robots Are Ready to Jam With Old-Fashioned Humans
Montreal Gazette (Canada) (04/28/11) Deborah Vankin
This May will mark the debut performance of a robot orchestra designed to play with human beings, which is the brainchild of Ajay Kapur and Michael Darling at the California Institute of the Arts. The KarmetiK Machine Orchestra boasts student-built machines that play electronica and world fusion, and that can be accompanied by human musicians through customized computerized interfaces. Kapur and Darling use applications such as the robot orchestra to draw artistically inclined students to science, technology, engineering, and math, because they believe such skills are vital to musicians in the modern digital entertainment environment. Kapur and Darling maintain that their robots are raising the potential for human expression by transcending corporeal limits, with Darling noting that the machines play "harder, faster, in a sequence that humans can't play because they only have two arms." The robot orchestra's upcoming May concert will feature audience interaction, as spectators fidgeting in certain seats will trigger robots under the seats. Additional machines will be seated with, and perform from inside, the audience.
New Device Puts Vision Impaired in the Picture
Monash University (04/28/11)
Monash University researchers have developed GraVVITAS, a device designed to make it easier for the visually impaired to access graphical information. GraVVITAS is a standard tablet PC with touchscreen technology that uses vibration and sounds to guide the user around a diagram. The device provides greater access to graphical information and enables visually impaired users to build a picture of the entire diagram in their mind. GraVVITAS has small external vibrating motors that attach to the user's finger, and they buzz when an object displayed on the screen is touched. The voice prompts and sounds also help guide the user to read the diagram, says Monash Ph.D. student Cagatay Goncu, who is working with professor Kim Marriott and Vision Australia on the device. "The basic idea is to guide the user to find the object by using sound," Goncu says. "Touching the object causes the sound to stop and a voice explains what that object is and any other information associated with it."
Video Content Search Gets a Boost
Technology Review (04/28/11) Duncan Graham-Rowe
Fuji Xerox Palo Alto Laboratory (FXPAL) researchers have developed TalkMiner, an online video search tool designed to make it easier to search the content of video lectures by automatically transcribing words used in the lecturer's visual aids. "It gives you a good shot at finding something that wasn't mentioned in the title or abstract but is buried deep inside the video," says FXPAL's Larry Rowe. TalkMiner skims the videos to find the speakers' presentation slides. TalkMiner analyzes the footage once per second for distinguishable signs of a presentation slide and then captures the slide image and accounts for skewed angles, using optical character recognition to detect the words on the slides. TalkMiner's search engine currently holds about 15,000 videos from institutions such as Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and TED.
HTML5 Code Could Replace Windows Applications
V3.co.uk (04/27/11) Daniel Robinson
Browser-based applications built with HTML5 should match the functionality of native Windows applications in the future, even for graphics-intensive software, says Microsoft's Paul Cotton. He notes that HTML5-based applications, built using Web standards, could run on any platform or system, enabling developers to target a wider audience. "Not only are the specs moving in that direction, but I think that some of the things browsers are putting into their environment are moving in that direction as well," Cotton says. However, he notes that more developer tools to build HTML5 apps are needed for Web apps to reach their full potential. "Until the marketplace gives us a rich set of HTML5 development tools, [developers] will continue to march to the place that gives them the best tooling," he says.
The Science of Science
Researchers at Princeton and Carnegie Mellon universities are working to harness the explosion of Web data by developing a model that enables computers to group information on the Internet by topic. The model, developed by Princeton's David Blei and Carnegie Mellon's John Lafferty, allows users to decide how narrow the topic will be. The computer creates a virtual bin for each topic and then analyzes the chosen documents. The model determines which words are associated more often than they would be randomly, and separates those connected words into specific bins. The researchers say the model is a way to handle information overload and improves searching techniques by making tagging documents easier. Blei also adapted the model to track how the topics evolve by examining how the patterns in each topic bin change from year to year, which he says could lead to insights in the scientific method.
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