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Roland Piquepaille Dies 288

overheardinpdx writes "I'm sad to report that longtime HPC technology pundit Roland Piquepaille (rpiquepa) died this past Tuesday. Many of you may know of him through his blog, his submissions to Slashdot, and his many years of software visualization work at SGI and Cray Research. I worked with Roland 20 years ago at Cray, where we both wrote tech stories for the company newsletter. With his focus on how new technologies modify our way of life, Roland was really doing Slashdot-type reporting before there was a World Wide Web. Rest in peace, Roland. You will be missed." The notice of Roland's passing was posted on the Cray Research alumni group on Linked-In by Matthias Fouquet-Lapar. There will be a ceremony on Monday Jan. 12, at 10:30 am Paris time, at Père Lachaise.

Nanoknives To Be Used to Cut Cells 78

Roland Piquepaille writes "American researchers have built a carbon nanotube knife. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), this nanoknife will be used to cut and study cells. With this new tool, scientists and biologists will be able to make 3D images of cells and tissues for electron tomography, which requires samples less than 300 nanometers thick. And as cells are usually stored in wax for dissection, the researchers plan to test their nanoknives on a block of wax later this year. But read more for additional references and a picture of this nanoknife."

Laser Turns All Metals Black 333

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the University of Rochester have found a way to change the properties of almost any metal by using a femtosecond laser pulse. This ultra-intense laser blast creates true 'black metal' from copper, gold or zinc by forming nanostructures at the surface of the metal. As these nanostructures capture radiation, the metals turn black. And as the process needs surprisingly low power, it could soon be used for a variety of applications, such as stealth planes, black jewels or car paintings. But read more for additional references and a picture of this femtosecond laser system."

Natural Language Processing for State Security 132

Roland Piquepaille writes "Obviously, computers can't have an opinion. What computers are very good at, though, is scanning through text to deduct human opinions from factual information. This branch of natural-language processing (NLP) is called 'information extraction' and is used for sorting facts and opinions for Homeland Security. Right now, a consortium of three universities is for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which doesn't have enough in-house expertise in NLP. Read more for additional references and a diagram showing how information extraction is used."

Microreactors Change Propane into Hydrogen 122

Roland Piquepaille writes "Microreactors have already been used for on-site reforming of fuels, such as methanol or propane, to produce hydrogen to be used in fuel cells. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have designed very efficient ceramic microreactors to do this task. The scientists say that their microreactors are much better than other fuel reformer systems. They are now trying to reform gasoline and diesel, which are more widely distributed than propane. Does this mean that one day we'll be able to go to a gas station to refill the fuel cells powering our laptops? Probably not before a while, but read more for additional details, references and a picture of a prototype."

Solar Boat To Cross the Atlantic 190

Roland Piquepaille writes, "A group from Switzerland will soon attempt the first Atlantic crossing in a solar-powered boat. This ship, named SUN21, is a 14-meter-long catamaran able to sleep 5 or 6 persons. The goal is to leave Seville, Spain, in December 2006 and to reach ports in Florida and New York in the spring of 2007. This boat will achieve its 7,000-mile trip at a speed of 5-6 knots, about the speed of a sailing yacht, by using photovoltaic cells and without burning a single gallon of fuel. The consortium behind this project wants to demonstrate that the time has come for solar boats." The boat will cost about $556,000 to build and it will be for sale at some point after its crossing.

Fly Eyes for Spying Cameras 47

Roland Piquepaille writes "Even with sophisticated cameras, we can sometimes get poor pictures. This usually happens because cameras use an average light setting to control brightness. When parts of a scene are much brighter than others, the result is that you don't catch accurately all the parts. According to National Geographic News, by mimicking how flies see, Australian researchers can now produce digital videos in which you can see every detail. This technique could be used to develop better video cameras, military target-detection systems and surveillance equipment. Read more for additional pictures and references about these future surveillance cameras."

Morphine Relief Without Addiction? 308

Roland Piquepaille writes "Morphine has been used as a painkiller for decades, if not centuries. Unfortunately for patients, morphine is also an addictive substance. Now, Brigham Young University (BYU) chemists are using a vine plant that grows in Australia to develop a new painkilling molecule, but with fewer side effects. The Deseret Morning News reports that the BYU chemists hope to ease pain with hasubanonine, the synthetic compound they created and which has a similar molecular structure as morphine. Still, more tests need to be done before this natural drug can replace morphine."

Howard Rheingold On Our Mobile World 49

Roland Piquepaille writes "Howard Rheingold is the well-known author of "Smart Mobs" and many other books describing the evolution of our societies. His last book predicted the transformation of our society into a mobile one. Four years later, his forecast is more than confirmed. As one of the futurologists who can detect the emerging technology trends behind our daily lives, I wanted to know what Howard was thinking in 2006. He was kind enough to agree for an interview which was conducted by e-mail in mid-June. We discuss the importance of mobile technology, blogs, the changing climate, and the future of surveillance" From the article: "The power of the technologies packed into mobile devices continues to multiply, the diffusion of devices to all parts of the world and socioeconomic strata broadens, the spread of knowledge about how to use technologies to organize political, economic, social, cultural collective action quickens. It is in the convergence of the technical, cognitive, and social forces generates that the real power of smart mobs -- for both constructive and destructive."

Bacteria Can Build Nanowires 94

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have discovered that under certain conditions, some very common bacteria can form nanowires. These bacteria were able to produce nanowires as small as 10 nanometers in diameter, but which can reach hundreds of microns in length. What is interesting here is that these nanowires are electrically conductive ones. This means that bacteria could be used to build microbial fuel cells or bacteria-powered batteries. As one researcher said, 'Earth appears to be hard-wired.'"

Swimsuit Design Uses Supercomputing 253

Roland Piquepaille writes "These days, most competitive swimmers wear some type of body suit to reduce high skin-friction drag from water. And makers of swimwear are already busy working on new models for the Olympics 2008. According to Textile & Apparel, Speedo is even using a supercomputer to refine its designs. Its engineers run Fluent Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) program on an SGI Altix system."

Microcups Made of Nanopaper 144

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at the University of Arkansas have created long nanowires with titanium dioxide and assembled them into pieces of 'nanopaper.' This flexible paper can fold into 3D nanostructures such as tubes, bowls or cups. This kind of nanopaper could soon be used for applications such as bacteria filters, decomposition of pollutants and chemical warfare agents. But first the University needs to find industrial partners. Read more for additional details and some pictures of these microcups."

Another Robotic Vehicle to Help Soldiers 154

Roland Piquepaille writes "There are many teams of U.S. scientists working on robots able to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq before they can kill American soldiers. Today, let's look at an effort going on at Florida State University (FSU) to build unmanned ground vehicles that could save soldiers' lives. The researchers are creating complex algorithms to control these robots who will have to integrate many different factors such as the type of ground surface or obstacles that might block the vehicle's path. Some of these robots, which also could be used for civilian missions, are currently being tested at FSU. Read more for additional references and pictures of these robots which will have to navigate among dense obstacles."

NASA to Start Helping Detectives 78

Roland Piquepaille writes "With a new photographic laser device developed to check damages on the Space Shuttle, NASA is going to help the FBI to investigate crime scenes. The Laser Scaling and Measurement Device for Photographic Images (LSMDPI) was designed to provide a non-intrusive means of adding a scale to a photograph, which is very useful when looking at an object in space when there is no size reference. But the LSMDPI, which weighs only a half-pound and can be attached directly to a camera's tripod, will also be used on Earth in crime and accident scene investigations. It also could be used for oil and chemical tank monitoring or aerial photography."

We're living in a golden age. All you need is gold. -- D.W. Robertson.