Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Charged Atmosphere
  2. Roman Holiday
  3. China Eases Up on Bloggers
  4. Legal Options
  5. Patient's Dilemma
  6. National Treasure
  7. Author

MIT researchers made a 60-watt light bulb glow by sending it energy wirelessly from a device seven feet away. Experts call it the first step in a future in which cell phones and other gadgets get juice as needed without being plugged in first. The breakthrough, reports the Boston Globe, is called WiTricity. While the concept of sending power wirelessly isn’t new, its wide-scale use is often dismissed as inefficient because electromagnetic energy generated by the charging device would radiate in all directions. The key, says the research team, is to get the recharging device and the gadget that needs power to resonate at the same frequency, allowing them to efficiently exchange energy. The MIT system, described in a recent issue of Science, is about 40% to 45% efficient; that is, most of the energy from the charging device doesn’t make it to the bulb. Though their innovation is far from practical today, the team is looking to double the system’s efficiency.

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Roman Holiday

An international team of researchers has created a 3D digital reproduction of ancient Rome as it appeared at the peak of its power in A.D. 320. The $2 million project, called the largest and most complete simulation of an historic city ever created, allows visitors to view a side of the city unseen by ancient Romans. Indeed, they can crawl through the bowels of the Colosseum, filled with lion cages and primitive elevators, and take to the skies for a detailed look at bas-reliefs atop triumphal arches. The Associated Press reports the project ( took 10 years and a global team of archaeologists, architects, and computer specialists from the University of Virginia and UCLA as well as research institutes in Italy, Germany, and Britain to create. The simulation will be used by scientists to run experiments and as a scholarly journal that will be updated with each new discovery.

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China Eases Up on Bloggers

The Chinese government, having spent a year bent on finding ways to crack down on bloggers, is now letting go of the reins somewhat. It’s a development, says the Wall Street Journal, illustrating the difficulty China faces as it tries to control the use of technology. Since last September, Beijing officials have been looking to enforce a real-name registration system that would require almost 20 million Chinese bloggers to register their real identities on the Web and relinquish their anonymity (even though a trace to an IP address could always give them away). The government felt, if nothing else, the registry would force the country’s online community to watch their words and actions more carefully. After sharp protests from the technology industry, the government began taking a softer approach, expecting to rally industry players to sign a pact and promote the use of real-name registration. The Internet Society of China is spearheading the effort to get blogging companies to implement the real-name system on their sites. The success of this strategy depends largely on whether the country’s leading tech companies sign on. So far, few have plans to do so as they do not want to risk frustrating their millions of registered users who may resist converting to a new system.

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Legal Options

Some of the leading law schools in the U.S. are introducing joint degree programs in science and law to address one the hottest niches in the legal profession: the lawyer-scientist who understands technology and can explain it to the jury. The Associated Press reports law schools throughout the U.S. are seeing more students with strong science backgrounds make the leap to law, where recruiters are snapping them up. Demand for these specialists is driven by an explosion in patent applications and a growing need for lawyers to protect old patents or challenge new ones. The payoff for some science-turned-law students is the promise of much bigger paydays. Other students who switch gears do so because they question future research opportunities in academia. "It almost scares me," said University of Pennsylvania law professor R. Polk Wagner. "Who’s left in the lab?"

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Patient’s Dilemma

An emerging legal issue is the use of RFID tags in Alzheimer’s patients. A Florida adult-care facility recently announced plans to implant them into its patients with the disease, despite protests that it is a form of branding. ABC News reports the facility will do the procedure only with the consent of patients’ families or the patients themselves should they be deemed competent. Each chip, placed under the skin of the right forearm, will contain a unique 16-digit number that, when scanned in an emergency room, links to the patient’s medical records. RFID tag maker VeriChip Corp. contends its chip provides the best means of giving medical personnel access to a patient’s history, since most people with the disease cannot relay the information themselves. Although RFID implants have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, VeriChip is testing their effectiveness in this real-world situation to see if Alzheimer’s patients with the tag receive quicker and better treatment than those without the tag. Bioethicists, however, argue that existing safeguards to protect Alzheimer’s patients, among others, are being exploited for the sake of research studies and commercial gain.

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National Treasure

The world-famous garage that spawned Silicon Valley has become a national landmark. Last May, the National Register of Historical Places officially declared the Palo Alto property where Hewlett-Packard was founded a historic treasure. The plot includes a two-story house, shed, and garage, where co-founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard set up shop ( hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/garage/). The San Jose Mercury News reports the pair developed their first product, an audio oscillator, in the garage in 1938. (Two years later, Walt Disney would use the oscillator to enhance the sound quality of his classic animated movie Fantasia.) While the garage was designated a California landmark 20 years ago, the property would need to be restored to closely resemble its original state before it could officially be considered a national landmark. HP bought the property in 2000 for $1.7 million and four years later embarked on a restoration campaign praised for its painstaking detail, down to old coffee cans on the garage workbench and vintage Fiesta dinnerware in the first-floor flat where Packard and his wife lived; Hewlett lived in the shed. The designation is an unusual one for a U.S. corporate building, but homeowners on this quiet residential street have been assured the house will be open only to tourists on special occasions.

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