March & April 2000

Due to lack of time the March and April Newsletters have been combined.

Miniaturization of electronics may have reached its limit. Scientists may be able to build single molecule transistors in the near future. Molecular wires and diodes have already been built. The transistor could be used in "moleware" where they are built in to a microprocessor and then program themselves to compete tasks.

Scientists have finally trapped the neutron. It was thought to be impossible to grasp since it lies at the center of an atom has no electrical charge. The caught it by using a magnetic trap filled with helium atoms that are chilled to -460F, within a degree of absolute zero. Scientists will now be able to measure their life span. Knowing their life span will explain the weak force that causes radioactive decay.

A new DNA decoder may be able to read the entire human genome in one day. The machine works by pulling one strand of DNA through a small hole. On one side of the hole there is a positive charge and on the other there is a negative charge. The opposite charges pull the DNA apart. Reading the entire human genome would allow people to be checked for all genetic disorders quickly.

Purdue University has made a fuel cell that creates electricity from hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is better to use than water since it has an extra oxygen molecule. The potential for these is huge. They may be used in place of batteries.

A new flashlight design will save on batteries. The flashlight is quite different than a conventional one. Instead of batteries it has a capacitor and in place of the light there is a light emitting diode. To charge the flashlight all you have to do is shake it. A magnet moves through a coil producing a current, which is stored in the capacitor.

Russia has developed an inflatable heat shield. The heat shield was tested on two Soyuz rockets and allowed them to withstand a 2000F re-entry. The shields may turn throwaway rockets and satellites into reusable hardware.

A new record has been set for solar. A solar array on unoccupied roof space in Munich, Germany produced 1 million kilowatt hours or electricity. That's enough to power 300 homes. Germany uses the profits from selling the power to finance solar energy research.

Boston University has designed an on/off switch for genes. The switch responds to brief temperature or electrical stimulus. Until now genes could only be on or off. With some minor modifications the gene could be made into a sensor with adjustable thresholds. One application for this gene would be to treat diabetes. The gene could be turned on when more insulin needed to be produced.

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