Science News

Faster Computer Chips Thanks to New Design

Sun, 3rd Sep 2000

Part of the show Glaciology and Research in the Antarctic

Making even smaller and faster computer chips will become a ‘PC of cake’ thanks to a new discovery by chip designers at computer giant IBM. The research team can now make chips in which the silicon channels that carry electricity around the chip are only 1/100,000’th of a millimeter wide. To put that in perpective, that’s 20 times narrower than the channels found the Pentium processors in use at the moment, meaning that far more transistors can be fitted to each chip, boosting the processing power.
A FORTUNE LURKS IN THE BACK OF YOUR SOFA
According to a recent Building Society study, we may be harbouring a fortune in lost change down the back of our sofas ! In a survey of 50 households an average of £ 4.41 was discovered under the settee, amounting to a possible £ 105 million in lost change across the UK.
MODERN-DAY NOAH'S ARK UNDER CONSTRUCTION
A week hardly goes by without us hearing about another animal becoming extinct, so scientists have set up a Noah’s Ark Frozen Zoo. The idea is to store cells and DNA from endangered species so that should they become extinct, future technology will enable us to rescue them. Kurt Benirschke and his colleagues at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) at the San Diego Zoo have established a cell and DNA bank for rare and endangered animals - the Arlene Kumamoto Frozen Zoo. This frozen zoo currently contains cell samples from over 4,300 individual animals from 353 species and subspecies of mammals - representing half of the known mammalian orders - as well as 13 avian and 4 reptilian species. The curators of this and similar DNA banks around the world are quick to point out that having DNA or cells from an animal is a poor substitute for having live animals and, therefore, shouldn't be considered as a replacement for more traditional conservation efforts. "Obviously the best thing is to save habitats," observes Eric Harley, who is establishing a cell bank at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. "If you save habitats, you save all of the creatures within it, including the ones you don't know about."
ELECTRONIC INK MAY MAKE PRINTERS REDUNDANT
You might only need to buy one newspaper and a single book in your entire life thanks to a new invention from the E-ink company in Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The pages are printed in a special ink that can be re-written electrically. The ‘pages’ of the book are covered by millions of microcapsules containing white paint chips suspended in a blue dye. When an electric current is applied to the ‘page’ each individual capsule is told whether to show white or blue. Many of the capsules make up each letter of the print on the page. The pages can be re-written as often as required, just by plugging the book into a computer. E-ink spokesman David Resnic said “it will save a lot of trees”…
AN ANSWER TO THE UNWIELDY BROADSHEET
Trying to read an unwieldy newspaper on a crowded train is tricky - and may annoy your fellow passengers! But researchers in California could have the answer for those news-addicts amongst us. A newspaper could be beamed by radio to a 40cm plastic rod called a ‘newsreader’. Inside the rod is a coiled transparent rubber sheet coated with plastic. The sheet contains millions of microscopic metal balls in oil-filled cavities, each ball coloured half-black and half-white. Electric fields flip selected balls over so they look either white or black and display the words in response to a radio signal!
HOW OLD IS THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE ?
Scientists think that they now know how long ago the earth’s atmosphere became breathable. Researchers from the University of California analysed rock samples up to 3.8 billion years old and found that 2.2 billion years ago the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere suddenly increased, forming the protective ozone layer shielding the planet from harmful Ultraviolet rays from the sun, and allowing life to move from the water and invade the land.
Water from ancient rocks provides clues to life's origins

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