In case there was any doubt, researchers in — where else? — Los Angeles have determined that living near a freeway exposes you to a lot more pollution than if you lived further away. Specifically, a UCLA team found people who live, work or travel within 165 feet downwind of a major freeway or busy intersection are exposed to potentially hazardous particle concentrations up to 30 times greater than normal background levels.
Researchers say they’ve successfully tracked a star racing around a dark mass at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, offering strong support for the theory that a black hole is at the center of our little corner of space. Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics tracked the orbit of the closest known star to the black hole candidate Sagittarius A*, a dark mass 3,000,000 times the mass of the sun. Following the star for 10 years, they found that it does indeed orbit Sagittarius A*. Approaching the black hole’s maw, the star reaches its highest velocity, whizzing past it at 5,000 kilometers per second.
The identifying of a massive, 745-mile-diameter object at the far reaches of our solar system has reopened a debate regarding the planetary status of that ninth pile from the sun, Pluto.
National Geographic reports that the newly-noticed space item is named Quaoar (pronounced “KWAH-o-ar”) and is located in the Kuiper belt, a celestial district 4 billion miles from Earth and relatively close to Pluto. Like the Disney dog-named sphere, Quaoar is composed of rock and ice. Also, its orbit is similar to Pluto’s but differs from the eight other planets. “Pluto is the largest known Kuiper belt object,” a University of Hawaii astronomer says. “Some people think of it as a planet as well. That’s fine, of course, but the reasons for doing so are historical, or sociological at best.”
So there you are, zipping around the Qwik-E-Mart, picking up a dozen eggs, some beer, a carton of Abba Zabba and some smokes. You pull up to the checkout stand and your bill is already waiting for you. While you’ve been shopping, tags on your goods have been chatting with the store’s cash register, tallying your total. That’s the scenario in play with a new RF (radio frequency) technology being developed at the University of Arizona Optical Sciences Centre, which uses organic semiconductors that live on thin plastic films. As reported by Beyond2000, the centre recently acquired a deposition machine that can make such films, depositing layers of organic molecules 10 to 100 nanometers thick onto a plastic substrate. Look for real world uses in the next couple years. And leave the cigarettes behind; they’re bad for you.
On the plus side (Eds: see the minus side below), Hewlett-Packard today is set to announce what it describes as a breakthrough in building nano-sized computer memory. The company has developed a technique for building a matrix of super-thin platinum wires atop a piece of silicon. So small is the resulting 64-bit memory unit that 1,000 of them could fit on the end of a single strand of hair. Even in the world of PCs, that’s small.
Intel is set to disclose some of its plans in nanotechnology, sure to be key to the company’s chips for decades to come. As reported by CNET’s News.com, Sunlin Chou, senior VP of technology and manufacturing, will discuss some of the plans next week at the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose. Topping the topics likely to be covered: Carbon nanotubes and multigate transistors. Nanotubes are strings of carbon atoms tightly bonded together that show promise in manufacturing everything from tennis rackets to electronics. In computer chips, they can theoretically be used to replace the wispy metal wires that now define a chip’s circuitry. That could make processors smaller and cheaper. Multigate transistors, meanwhile, are a way of addressing the conundrum faced by all chipmakers: The more powerful processors become, the more electricity must flow through them. But as chips shrink in size, the extremely small transistors that control this flow are growing overloaded, something like hooking up a fire hose to a Waterpik nozzle, as CNET puts it. One way around that is to give each transistor more than one gate, an approach that IBM is using in some of its products already. Although analysts say they doubt Intel will copy this entirely, the company likely has a similar approach up its sleeve.
Boeing has joined a small group of technology bigwigs trying to test a theory that would let engineers negate some of the effects of gravity. The American aerospace giant is using the work of controversial Russian scientist Yevgeny Podkletnov, who claims to have developed a device that can shield objects from the Earth’s pull. Other researchers claim Podkletnov’s work is hokum, but considering the cost savings such a device would represent for air travel, Boeing seems intent on getting to the bottom of it all. The Russian says he found that objects above a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets lost weight, the BBC reports. “The reduction in gravity was small, about 2 percent, but the implications — for example, in terms of cutting the energy needed for a plane to fly — were immense.”