Sunday, February 27, 2011

world's smallest computer system

Scientists have created the world's smallest computer system that is just one square millimetre in size and can fit into ones eyeball.Developed by a team of scientists, the unnamed tiny device is just one square millimetre in size but packs a hefty punch, containing an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory and a thin film battery.Developed by a team at the University of Michigan, the unnamed tiny device is a pressure monitor that can be implanted in a person's eye to treat glaucoma. It may be just one square millimetre in size but packs a hefty punch, containing an ultra low-power microprocessor, a pressure sensor, memory and a thin film battery, the Daily Mail reported.It also has a solar cell and a wireless radio with an antenna that can transmit data to an external reader device, the researchers said. The device is already being touted as the future of the computing industry, although it needs several more years to be commercially available.Its creators, Professors Dennis Sylvester, David Blaauw and David Wentzloff, claim that as the radio of the device needs no tuning to find the right frequency it could link to a wireless network of computers. A network of such units could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable, the scientists said.Prof Sylvester said: "When you get smaller than hand-held devices, you turn to these monitoring devices. The next big challenge is to achieve millimetre-scale systems, which have a host of new applications for monitoring our bodies, our environment and our buildings. Because they're so small, you could manufacture hundreds of thousands on one wafer. There could be tens to hundreds of them per person and its this per capita increase that fuels the semi-conductor industry's growth. Currently, the system is a pressure monitor designed to be implanted in the eye to continuously track the progress of glaucoma, a potentially blinding disease."The processor in the eye pressure monitor is the third generation of the researchers Phoenix chip, which uses a unique design and an extreme sleep mode to achieve ultra-low power consumption. The newest system wakes every 15 minutes to take measurements and consumes an average of 5.3 nanowatts. To keep the battery charged, it requires exposure to 10 hours of indoor light each day or 1.5 hours of sunlight.It can store up to a week's worth of information. While this system is miniscule and complete, its radio doesn't equip it to talk to other similar devices, which is an important feature for any system targeted towards wireless sensor networks. Forget search engines, try the new 'answer engines'The "answer engine" breaks new ground by giving direct answers to questions.Forget search engines, try the new 'answer engines'. Computer wizards have claimed that by using a 'cutting-edge' technology they have created a clever website that gives direct answers to direct questions. According to creators, "" site is an Internet "answer engine" which breaks new ground by giving direct answers to questions. Co-founder William Tunstall-Pedoe, who is based in Cambridge, said the website is a "phone-a-friend" on the Internet which can answer "trillions" of questions."What's new is that it is a website which answers the question," the Daily Mail quoted Tunstall-Pedoe as saying."It doesn't give you references to articles mentioning the words in the question. It gives you the answer. Ask it when Bob Dylan's birthday is and it will simply tell you. And it if doesn't know the answer it will say it doesn't know. "It doesn't know everything but as we input more information it will know more and more."
"It's cutting-edge use of computers. It uses unique semantic technology, which has been many years in development."It understands user questions, represents knowledge in a way that the system can understand and process and can combine existing knowledge to infer new facts and answer questions it has never seen before."Powering the platform is also a database of facts: a unified representation of the world's knowledge containing factual, common sense and lexical knowledge."We can already answer trillions of questions and as this knowledge base grows, we understand and answer more and more," he added. Moscow: After 257 days in a locked steel capsule, researchers on a mock trip to Mars ventured from their cramped quarters recently in heavy space suits, trudging into a sand-covered room to plant flags on a simulated Red Planet.The crew of three Russians, a Frenchman, an Italian-Colombian and a Chinese entered a network of modules at a Moscow research centre last June to imitate the 520-day flight and see how they handle the constricted, isolating conditions of space travel minus the weightlessness.Several participants donned 30-kilogram suits to perform the mock landing on Monday in an adjacent capsule. They planted the flags of Russia, China and the European Space Agency, took samples from the ground and conducted faux scientific experiments.All systems have been working normally. The crew are feeling fine, said Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of the Russian space agency.Psychologists said long confinement would put the team members under stress as they grow increasingly tired of each others' company. Psychological conditions can even be more challenging on a mock mission than a real flight because the crew won't experience any of the euphoria or dangers of actual space travel. Davydov described the experiment as an important part of preparation for flight to Mars and predicted that the real mission could take place in about 20 years, but only with international cooperation. Scientists have estimated the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy and the numbers are astronomical: at least 50 billion planets in the Milky Way. At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist, scientists announced. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope. Scientists have estimated the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy and the numbers are astronomical: at least 50 billion planets in the Milky Way.At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope. Kepler science chief William Borucki says scientists took the number of planets they found in the first year of searching a small part of the night sky and then made an estimate on how likely stars are to have planets. Kepler spots planets as they pass between Earth and the star it orbits.
So far Kepler has found 1,235 candidate planets, with 54 in the Goldilocks zone, where life could possibly exist. Kepler's main mission is not to examine individual worlds, but give astronomers a sense of how many planets, especially potentially habitable ones, there are likely to be in our galaxy. They would use the one-four-hundredth of the night sky that Kepler is looking at and extrapolate from there. Borucki and colleagues figured one of two stars has planets and one of 200 stars has planets in the habitable zone, announcing these ratios Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington. And that's a minimum because these stars can have more than one planet and Kepler has yet to get a long enough glimpse to see planets that are further out from the star, like Earth, Borucki said.

Census of stars: This file picture shows part of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Australia. Scientists have estimated the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy and the numbers are astronomical: at least 50 billion planets in the Milky Way. At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope. For example, if Kepler were 1,000 light years from Earth and looking at our sun and noticed Venus passing by, there's only a one-in-eight chance that Earth would also be seen, astronomers said.To get the estimate for the total number of planets, scientists then took the frequency observed already and applied it to the number of stars in the Milky Way.For many years scientists figured there were 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, but last year a Yale scientist figured the number was closer to 300 billion stars.Either way it shows that Carl Sagan was right when he talked of billions and billions of worlds, said retired NASA astronomer Steve Maran, who praised the research but wasn't part of it.And that's just our galaxy. Scientists figure there are 100 billion galaxies.Borucki said the new calculations lead to worlds of questions about life elsewhere in the cosmos. "The next question is why haven't they visited us?" The Hubble Space Telescope revealed this majestic disk of stars and dust lanes in this view of the spiral galaxy NGC 2841.Seen above is a bright cusp of starlight marks the galaxy's centre. Spiralling outward are dust lanes that are silhouetted against the population of whitish middle-aged stars. Much younger blue stars trace the spiral arms.Notably missing are pinkish emission nebulae indicative of new star birth. It is likely that the radiation and supersonic winds from fiery, super-hot, young blue stars cleared out the remaining gas (which glows pink), and hence shut down further star formation in the regions in which they were born. NGC 2841 currently has a relatively low star formation rate compared to other spirals that are ablaze with emission nebulae.NGC 2841 lies 46 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear). This image was taken in 2010 through four different filters on Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Wavelengths range from ultraviolet light through visible light to near-infrared light.
This image shows a bright arc of scattered light (white) from the protoplanetary disk around the young star LkCa 15 (centre, masked out with a dark circle). The arc’s sharp inner edge traces the outline of a wide gap in the disk. The gap is decidedly lopsided – it is markedly wider on the left side – and has most likely been carved out of the disk by one or more newborn planets that orbit the star.Planets form in disks of dust and gas that surround young stars. A look at the birth places means a journey into the past of the earth and its siblings. Now, astronomers have been able to obtain detailed images of the proto-planetary disks of two stars using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii.This is the first time that disk structures comparable in size to our own solar system have been resolved this clearly, revealing features such as rings and gaps that are associated with the formation of giant planets. The observations are part of a systematic survey to search for planets and disks around young stars using a state-of-the-art high-contrast camera designed specifically for this purpose.Planetary systems like our own share a humble origin as mere by-products of star formation. A newborn star's gravity gathers leftover gas and dust in a dense, flattened disk of matter orbiting the star. Clumps in the disk sweep up more and more material, until their own gravity becomes sufficiently strong to compress them into the dense bodies we know as planets. Recent years have seen substantial advances both in observations (mostly indirect) and in theoretical modelling of such "protoplanetary" disks. The two new observations have added intriguing new details, revealing some structures that had never before been seen directly.

One of the two studies targeted the star LkCa 15, which is located around 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. At an age of a few million years, LkCa 15 is a young star - the Sun is a thousand times older. From previous observations of its infrared spectrum and its millimetre emissions, scientists had deduced the presence of a large gap in the centre of its protoplanetary disk. The new images show starlight gleaming off the disk surface, clearly outlining the sharp edge of the gap for the first time. Most interestingly, the elliptical shape of the gap is not centred on the star, but appears lopsided.
A sketch of the three-dimensional shape of the protoplanetary disk around the star LkCa 15. Only the light reflected from the outer disk (shown in yellow) is seen on the HiCIAO images. The other structural features have been inferred from previous indirect observations of the system. The large gap between the inner and the outer disk has most likely been carved out by one or more newborn planets that orbit the star. The planets themselves have not been detected – yet."The most likely explanation for LkCa 15's disk gap, and in particular its asymmetry, is that one or more planets, freshly born from the disk material, have swept up the gas and dust along their orbits," says Christian Thalmann, who led the study while on staff at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA). Intriguingly, the disk gap is sufficiently large to accommodate the orbits of all the planets in our own Solar System. It is therefore tempting to speculate that LkCa 15 might be in the process of forming an entire planetary system much like our own. "We haven't detected the planets themselves yet", adds Thalmann. "But that may change soon."
The second observation, led by Jun Hashimoto (National Observatory of Japan), targeted the star AB Aur in the constellation Auriga, at a distance of 470 light-years from Earth. This star is even younger, with an age of a mere one million years. The observations were the first to show details down to length scales comparable to the size of our own solar system - for comparison: At a distance of 470 light-years, the solar system has the same apparent size as a 1 Euro coin viewed at a distance of more than 10 km. They show nested rings of material that are tilted with respect to the disk's equatorial plane, and whose material, intriguingly, is not distributed symmetrically around the star - irregular features that indicate the presence of at least one very massive planet.Both observations where made with the HiCIAO instrument at the 8.2 metre Subaru Telescope. Imaging a disk or planet close to a star is an enormous challenge, as it is very difficult to discern the light emitted by those objects in the star's intense glare. HiCIAO meets this challenge by correcting for the distorting influence of the Earth's atmosphere and by physically blocking out most of the star's light.
The observations are part of the SEEDS project, short for Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru. MPIA's managing director, Thomas Henning, one of the project's co-investigators, explains: "SEEDS is a five-year systematic search for exoplanets and protoplanetary disks. We are thrilled about the images the Subaru telescope has produced as part of this project. Detailed observations like these are the key to understanding how planetary systems, including our own solar system, came into being." SEEDS involves more than 100 researchers from 25 astronomical institutions in Asia (NAOJ and others), Europe (MPIA and others), and the US (Princeton University and others).

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