Tag: star trek

Japanese boffins create Star Trek hologram Christmas lights

Aubrey Beardsley's Ali BabaA Japanese team has emerged from their smoke filled labs with a Star Trek style 3D volumetric display that you can actually touch by zapping the air until it glows using a laser.

The hologram has a million and one uses but one which is appropriate this week is to create a set of Christmas lights which cannot be destroyed by the cat. So far 3D holograms have used a high-power laser which heats a spot in the air until it ionises and glows with a bright blue light. This would be cat proof but would probably ionise the cat, or any small child which touches them.

The Japanese boffins worked out that if you used a really fast laser, a femtosecond laser, that heats a small spot to a high temperature but only for a very short time. This is much safer because the total energy involved is smaller. You can touch sparks without getting burned.

So far the “holograms” are small very small – Christmas tree light sized.

The system could be scaled up and be used in entertainment or in augmented reality systems. If you are thinking of the sort of “hard light” projector that created holograms in Star Trek.

Brits invent Star Trek tractor beam

1413849918201_wps_10_Star_Trek_Tractor_BeamBritish researchers have built a sonic tractor beams that can lift and move objects using sound.

Boffins from the University of Bristol and Sussex,teamed up with Ultrahaptics, a spin-off set up by Sussex Professor of Informatics, Sriram Subramanian. The technology, used high-amplitude soundwaves to generate an acoustic hologram that can pick up and move small objects.

According to the popular science magazine  Nature Communications the device allows the manipulation of small spherical objects in mid-air by individually controlling 64 miniature loudspeakers to generate the acoustic hologram without physical contact.

The speakers are controlled at a frequency of 40 kilohertz  creating high-pitched and high-intensity sound waves to levitate spherical, expanded polystyrene beads of up to 4 millimeters in diameter.

The tractor beam surrounds the balls with high-intensity sound to create a force field that can keep the beads in place, move them or rotate them.  It has been dubbed an acoustic hologram, which sounds like a good name for a 1970’s jazz band.

Previous examples of tractor beam technology have involved using light. It was a very powerful focalized laser and it was able to trap the particles and move it towards the laser, towards the source. The downside of this was the particles had to be very small.

An acoustic tractor beam, acoustic manipulation, needs much less power and it’s more powerful in terms of the materials that it can trap.

The next plan is to lift a beach ball  ten meters away and we think this could be useful for zero gravity environments, like under water or in the International Space Station. I

A sonic production line could transport delicate objects and assemble them, without physical contact. But the Bristol researcher’s main goal is the revolution of surgery, with a miniature tractor beam transporting drug capsules or micro-surgical instruments through living tissue.


Bristol engineers develop Star Trek style tractor beam

1413849918201_wps_10_Star_Trek_Tractor_BeamA team of engineers from Bristol has invented a Star Trek style tractor beam that  grabs, holds and moves small objects without touching them, using “holograms” made of sound waves.

The team has been thinking small, and so far has tested the design on small pea-sized objects, which they can manipulate from 30 to 40cm away.

According to the popular science magazine Nature Communications, they think the work could help develop remote surgical instruments.

Bruce Drinkwater from the University of Bristol, one of the study’s authors said that the team programmed a grid of small speakers to emit ultrasound in intricate, shifting patterns, crafting shapes from the interacting waves that resembled tweezers, bottles, and tiny tornado-like twisters.

These “holograms” were able to control small beads up to 5mm across. Crucially, the design works from just one side – including above or below the beads – instead of requiring the object to be surrounded by loudspeakers.

Drinkwater said the holy grail in this field is to use this sort of manipulation in, for example, targeted drug delivery.

“Our method, we hope, will now be applied, both at a smaller scale – maybe for medical purposes – and at a larger scale, potentially for handling dangerous materials in some sort of non-contact production line.”

The work builds on research from the University of Dundee, published last year, had already demonstrated that sound waves could tug an object towards a sound source.

The Bristol engineers say their tech could eventually help deliver drugs in a targeted way

They used a clinically approved device, which was designed for doing focused ultrasound surgery which was programmed that to create the same sort of beams that the Scots did.

Next up, should be a sonic screwdriver.

Scotland Yard feared Trekkie Millennium bug cult

face palmDaft coppers at Scotland Yard were convinced that Trekkies were about to form a millennium cult and kill themselves as their computers died on the eve of 2000.

In 1998, as fears grew about the millennium bug, Scotland Yard kept a secret dossier on Star Trek, The X-Files, and other US sci fi shows amid fears that British fans would go mad and kill themselves.

Dr Who was not around then to save the day so American TV shows Roswell and Dark Skies and the film The Lawnmower Man were also monitored to protect the country from rioting and cyber attacks.

Special Branch was concerned that people hooked on such material could go into a frenzy triggered by the millennium leading to anarchy.

An confidential report to the Metropolitan Police, thought to have been filed around 1998-99, listed concerns about conspiracy theorists who believed the end of the world was nigh.

“Fuel is added to the fire by television dramas and feature films mostly produced in America,” the report said.

“These draw together the various strands of religion, UFOs, conspiracies, and mystic events and put them in an entertaining storyline.”

It added: “Obviously this is not sinister in itself, what is of concern is the devotion certain groups and individuals ascribe to the contents of these programmes.”

The dossier – called UFO New Religious Movements and the Millennium – was drawn up in response to the 1997 mass suicide by Heaven’s Gate cultists. Group members were “ardent followers of The X-Files and Star Trek” according to Special Branch.

The daft report was found under the Freedom of Information Act by Sheffield-based British X-Files expert Dr Dave Clarke while researching a new book, How UFOs Conquered the World.

It would be interesting to see if Special Branch monitors Apple fanboys, if so they might have been concerned about mass suicides when Steve Jobs died.

Intel expands Quark

Intel has expanded its Quark family of embedded ultra-low power microprocessors with a new X1020 SKU.

Quark processors use a single Pentium core with 512KB of on-chip SRAM for faster memory access, an SIMD unit, a single-channel DDR3 memory controller, and several standard interfaces, such as PCI-e 2.0, Ethernet and USB 2.0. All Quark chips run at 400MHz, and have 16KB of unified L1 cache. With just 2 Watt – 2.2 Watt TDP, the processors are a good fit for low power applications, such as embedded devices.

The only difference between members of the Quark family are the optional features which Intel provides. CPU World  said that the Quark X1020 supports ECC memory and Secure Boot technology.

This will mean that only authorised software is executed on the platform which will make this Quark more useful for products which need more security and the product marker does not want them changed.

The processor also supports another feature, which is encoded as “S1” in its part number which no one is sure what it does yet.

Previous Quarks used an extended operating temperature range. New X1001, X1011 and X1021D are qualified to operate from -40°C to +85°C, while offering the same performance and feature-set as Quark X1000, X1010 and X1020D models. This new one operates in the boring standard 0-70 degree range. The X1020 is priced at $11.45. 

Sorry, Star Trek teleportation is impractical

Star Trek fans will be disappointed to hear that researchers at the University of Leicester have calculated the time and energy required to beam a complete person from the Earth’s surface to a location in space.

The method of teleportation depicted in sci-fi is called called “destructive copying”.  This means that a source person is scanned and copied down to the molecular level and then reconstituted at a secondary location.

While they don’t tell you that this would be a suicide machine as the source person would be destroyed during the copying procedure, it would also take huge amounts of energy and bandwidth.

The new study, published by fourth year students at Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, makes painfully clear it would take a hideously long amount of time to transmit all this information to a source location.

Using a theoretical jaunt from the  surface of the Earth to a location in orbit directly above it, the researchers worked out how much data a person is made up of.

The students decided that transferable data could be represented by the DNA pairs that make up genomes in each cell. This means that there are 10 billion bits of information in each cell.

After calculating the amount of information encapsulated in a typical human brain, the total data content was shown to be 2.6×1042 bits.

If you managed to have a bandwidth rate of about 29 to 30 GHz  it would take 4.85×1015 years to transmit that amount of data, which is 350,000 times longer than the current age of the Universe.


Researcher gets to warp speed on 1,966,080 cores

A team of boffins has managed to create a protocol which can carry out 7.8 million MPI tasks on 1,966,080 cores of the Sequoia Blue Gene/Q supercomputer system.

According to the research spec this means that the protocol can manage to process 33 trillion events in 65 seconds which is hugely faster than the 504 billion events/second carried out in the past.

Researchers Peter Barnes, Christopher Carothers, David R. Jefferson and Justin M. Lapre have dubbed their protocol Time Warp and it is a parallel discrete-event simulation synchronization that automatically uncovers the available parallelism through its error detection and rollback recovery mechanism.

They noticed a 97 times performance improvement when scaling from 32,768 to 1,966,080 cores thanks to cache performance improvements when running at peak scale.

The system uses a new, long range performance metric, called Warp Speed, which grows linearly with an exponential increase in the PHOLD event-rate.

In true Star Trek style, the machine has warp speeds. Currently it is at Warp Speed 2.7 and it will be nearly 150 years before we expect to reach Warp Speed 10.0.

The paper on Warp Speed can be found by a jump to the left and then a step to the right here. 

3D printed gun could be out by year's end

Instead of putting technological know-how towards bringing about a post-scarcity society where need is eliminated through Star-Trek esque replicators, gun nuts at Defense Distributed are fighting for America’s right to keep and bear arms – claiming a prototype for the 3D-printed plastic weapons may be ready before the end of this year.

Spokesperson Cody Wilson told the Guardian that his company is just sitting on logistics, time, resources, and money – and is just now waiting to get the nod for a federal firearms licence, a permit required for building weapons in the US. 

Although the company that was planning to lease its printer, Stratasys, repossessed the device, two Texan – where else? – companies offered their space for ballistics testing, while there is another firm that is now renting a 3D printer to Defense Distributed, although the spokesperson refused to name it.

Defense Distributed itself is applying to beome a nonprofit, describing itself as charitable public interest publishing – basically distributing weapons blueprints online for free, while a research company called Liberty Laboratories plans to build and trial the guns. Another will manage the finances.

The Guardian reports that as soon as Defense Distributed gets its federal firearms licence, the group is going to build prototype weapons as soon as possible, on the back of up to five blueprints independent designers submitted to the company. 

Along with the libertarian, gun-touting vision of Defense Distributed, scientists at the University of Glasgow boasted earlier this year that it may also be possible to print your own drugs not too far in the future.

AMD's Rick Bergman ends up at Synaptics

Rick Bergman, who is not the same bloke who was behind stuffing up Star Trek and the god awful “family values” dinosaur series “Terra Nova”, has found a new home as the new president and CEO of Synaptics.

As we reported, Bergman left AMD  after joining the outfit when it bought out ATI. He is the latest high profile executive to leave AMD this year.

Synaptics makes interfaces for computers in the mobile computing and communications fields. It was announced that Bergman is replacing Russ Knittle, who had spent almost a year as interim president and CEO.

His work at AMD makes Bergman a good fit at Synaptics, according to Francis Lee, chairman of Synaptics’ board of directors.

In a statement Lee said that Bergman was a visionary leader with a proven track record of driving performance to a higher level.

He hopes that Bergman can sort out Synaptics as it starts to make a lot of dosh out of capacitive touch technology.

Bergman added that he had always been impressed by Synaptics’ track record of financial performance and drawn to the tremendous talent and engineering depth across the organisation.


Ultra wideband used to create Star Trek 'Tricoder'

Scientists are looking towards the properties of ultra wideband transmitting technology to take another step towards making Star Trek a reality – creating a working Tricoder.

Technology featured on the show has often been sought to be replicated in real life, and now there is a $10 million fund for creating a medical instrument which is capable of giving people across the world better health care.

The Holy Grail is a ‘body area network’ that functioning at full level will help to reduce the cost of the world’s massive health bill.

While scientists and the medical community have been looking towards devices that will be able to wirelessly transmit huge amounts of data drawn from the wearer’s body for some time, there is still a long way to go to achieve these aims.

Of course there are notable advances with technology, but it is though that the X Prize Foundation, working with Qualcomm, will be looking to take a step closer to a usable health monitor.

And hoping to create such a device are a group of researchers from Oregon State University looking to implement the properties of a fascinating technology.

Ultra wideband is not exactly new, for example Intel have looked into developing the technology in the past and it has been okayed for commercial use by the Federal Communications Commission way back in 2002.

However the team believe the technology could be used extremely effectively in real time health diagnosis, transmitting huge amounts of data from the actual hardware, which can then be powered by something as small as body heat.

The ultra-low power consumption of ultra wideband means that it would certainly suit this purpose in terms of amount of energy used to keep the device working.

And with the potential to send huge amounts of data across large spectrums – apparently million of bits per second have already been achieved by IBM, with the expectation that this could reach billions.

Of course this is still at the hypothetical stage, and while it does sound mighty impressive, it could be a while away from actual implementation on a large scale.

But with ongoing advances, particularly with low powered nano devices, there does appear to be hope that the technology could be attainable, giving a way to treat a variety of disease and to even anticipate heart attacks.

In fact, according to researchers, it may be possible to start commercialising the tech within the next five years.