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LAB NOTES Dispatches from the world of science

July 27, 2014

Liquid memory

In the future, data storage may take the form of microscopic particle clusters suspended in liquid. Work led by the University of Michigan is using clusters of spheres arranged around a central sphere to write, save and erase information. As only a limited amount of positions can be taken up by the surrounding spheres, only a limited amount of combinations are possible, which means that different combinations could be assigned different coding, much like the 0s and 1s used in binary coding. The team has successfully created a five-cluster sphere that can store one bit of information. Scaling it up, a tablespoon of liquid clusters could store up to a terabyte of information.

Low-fibre diet

First there was the humble copper wire, connecting every electronic device under the sun; then there was the fibre optical cable, boosting broadband speeds with low signal loss; now we have wireless laser optical fibres. Professor Howard Milchberg, of the University of Maryland, has mimicked fibre optics by creating a wall of

low-density air surrounded by a core of much denser air, using laser pulses. These "air fibres" are then used to send laser transmissions over long distances, with minimal losses and at speeds reaching that of light. Applications include detecting pollution in the atmosphere, long-range communication and laser weapons.

Mine's a snifter

Drinking alcohol moderately could increase your sense of smell, say researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The study follows reports of boosted odour detection abilities after drug use or brain damage, suggesting that, under normal conditions, the brain is somehow inhibited from using its full sense of smell potential. To bypass this inhibition, alcohol, known to lower inhibitors by reducing neural signals to the brain, was introduced. Volunteers consumed fixed quantities of vodka, then smelt different liquids and tried to identify them. The team found that while low levels of alcohol improved the sense of smell, higher levels of drink significantly reduced this ability. Nishad Karim

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Observer (UK)

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