November 1999 Archives

The companies displayed a prototype that uses a head-mounted monocle to project a 10 inch display. The PC is controlled by a joystick-like device, no keyboard. They will decide next year when to launch it.

Thought-controlled computing

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Dr. Phillip Kennedy has developed a device which, once wired into the brain, lets a patient control a computer using thought alone.

Half the world's rivers at risk

A report from the United Nation's World Commission on Water for the 21st Century says half the world's freshwater rivers are threatened. Last year the number of environmental refugees (25 million) outnumbered those displaced by war for the first time.

Financial planning ahead

So-so roundup of personal finance in the UK into the next century.

Common market and currency for East Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Japan and South Korea have said these are "distinct possibilities". Import duties on most goods will be eliminated by 2010.

Assembling molecules

Two physicists at Cornell University have used a modified scanning tunnelling microscope to pick up single carbon monoxide molecules and graft them onto iron atoms.

Plants which need less water

Biotech could produce plants which lose less water, so they need much less to survive.

Canada to restrict water exports

"The Canadian government yesterday introduced legislation to ban the export of water from the Great Lakes and other boundary waters ... The move is a response to growing domestic fears that Canadian fresh water may be turned into commercial goods subject to international trade agreements." (From FT.com, article no longer available.)

Global warming could make Europe cold

An increase in freshwater flows due to global warming could disrupt the ocean conveyor built which brings warm southern water to North Western Europe, keeping its temperatures above average for such latitudes.

Japanese to drill for methane

The Japanese are beginning a project to drill for methane beneath the ocean floor. Estimates of when commercial use will occur vary from 18 months to 10 years. Mistakes when drilling can be catastrophic with the methane expanding to 160 times its size on release.

More than 16 million have died from Aids-related illnesses, with 2.6 million (a record) in the past year. "Life expectancy in southern Africa is expected to fall from 59 in the early 1990s to 45 between 2005 and 2010." "The number of infected people [in Russia] rose by more than a third in 1999 to reach an estimated 360,000." 25 million people died of the Black Death in the 14th century, admittedly out of a far smaller total.

Tiny transistor

A team at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a transistor ten times shorter than those currently in use. 400 times more of them can be fit on a chip. (via Slashdot)

China launches its first spacecraft

Its first unmanned rocket, Shenzhou, was launched successfully, a test for future manned space travel.

Bay Area 2020

A collection of articles, scenarios and data on what different aspects of the San Francisco Bay Area will be like in 2020.

Call centres boom

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In the UK "call centres employ over 400,000 people, a figure predicted to rise to over a million by 2004."

2 Gbps network

Microsoft, the National Computational Science Alliance, the University of Washington and Sony demonstrated more than 2 Gbps throughput on a wide area network.

The middle classes delaying childbearing until later in life will be able to provide very well for their kids, while children born to younger, poorer mothers will be far worse off. The increasing amount of elderly will drain resources from paediatric care.

Net appliances at Comdex

Report on the variety of thin Net clients being displayed at the Comdex show in Las Vegas.

Molecular switch

Teams at Rice and Yale Universities have developed a molecular computer switch using chemical processes rather than photolithography. "'It really looks like we're going to have hybrid molecular- and silicon-based computers within five to 10 years,' Tour said."

Homeless going online

The homeless are taking advantage of Net connections in libraries and special cybercafes set up for them. Free email, classifieds, resum

Smallest transistor

A group at Bell Labs have developed a 50-nanometer transistor. It should overcome limits faced by conventional transistors.

Computer schools for Rio's poor

In 1995 Rodrigo Baggio started a computer school in a Rio de Janeiro favela with computers donated from C&A. Now his Committee to Democratise Information Technology has set up 107 schools in 13 states. A school was set up in Rio's maximum security prison where "demand was so great that the 25% illiteracy rate disappeared over the year as inmates prepared to do the course."

Longer life through a missing gene

A team at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan have found that mice live up to a third longer if they're missing a certain gene. "It's really the first time that anybody has intervened to extend the lifespan of a mammal without extracting some cost." Results are only confirmed on one strain of mouse.

Legoland in space

The creators of the UK's Legoland are working on a project to build a hotel in space and expect to have it running by 2017. It will be built mostly of scavenged orbiting rubbish, will offer spacewalking excursions to the moon and will cost a lot.

Complete genome by next year?

If the Human Genome Project and Celera join forces the genome could be complete as early as next year.

DNA velcro

A group at the Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany have used the two halves of DNA spirals like velcro to stick together tiny objects.

400 GB per square inch

Stephen Chou at Princeton University has a concept for high density storage using electrons to cut the tiny pits on his penny-sized CDs rather than light (whose wavelength is too long). These CDs can store about 180 GB.

Service industry robots

A look at how robots will become more common outside factories over the next 10+ years, in industries like meat packing (second highest accident rate after construction), shops, households.

Interplanetary Internet

Summary of the Interplanetary Internet and the problems surrounding it.

17 million people depressed in US

Depression is the country's most common mental health problem.

US astronomers have the first visual confirmation after watching a planet pass in front of a distant star. It confirms that calculations about such planets are correct.

China to join WTO

A deal has been signed which sets China on course to join the World Trade Organisation subject to member agreement. Easier access to China for foreign companies and to foreign markets for China whose state industries will face increased competition.

Consumable computers

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More from Nicholas Negroponte (and others). Electronic paper, consumable computers for health checks, computers with common sense, and other more down to earth stuff. Apparently the world's biggest producer of tyres is now Lego.

More than one billion online in one year

So says Nicholas Negroponte, who's described as an "internet guru" so it must be true. "Even more products than people will be connected to the web ... 'Think of Barbie dolls. There are likely to be more Barbie dolls connected to the internet in ten years than Americans,' he said."

Vat-grown meat

Three Dutch scientists are developing a method of mass producing meat without animal suffering. Samples of animal cells are cultivated on a matrix of collagen.

One pound satellites

In December the US Air Force will launch a fleet of small experimental satellites. Clusters of tiny satellites weighing as little as one pound are envisioned over the next twenty years.

Methane could destroy the world

Deposits of methane gas beneath the ocean floor are the planet's largest untapped energy reserves. However, global warming or poor drilling methods it could let the methane loose, and with one cubic metre of this methane hydrate converts into 164 cubic metres of the greenhouse gas.

Molecular memory

A team from Yale and Rice Universities have demonstrated computer memory with elements the size of single molecules.

Replaying arm movements

Kevin Warwick at the University of Reading, UK, will have a chip implanted in his arm in 2001. It will radio nerve impulses to a computer which will then be able to play them back, causing his arm to replay the movements.

Fly-sized robot in development

University of California at Berkeley researchers are building a fly-sized robot for surveillance. Made of stainless steel with Mylar wings its $2.5 million cost is being funded by the Office of Naval Research.

According to the GartnerGroup. Also that over 95 percent of mobile phones shipped in 2004 will be WAP-enabled and 75 per cent will have Bluetooth.

Telecoms holding European Internet back

Of European households with computers only 9 per cent are online (I think it's 25 per cent in the US?). In 1998 the average American user spent 32 hours per week online compared to 22 in Europe.

Slug Terminator

The Intelligent Autonomous Systems group at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK, have developed a robot which kills slugs. It can identify the slugs and captures them at the rate of ten a minute. When it's full, or batteries run low, the robot returns to base, transferring the slugs to a chamber where they're converted to a gas used to produce electricity for the fuel cell.

General Motors' OnStar system will let you check stocks, weather, email by speaking to it. And hoot the horn when you say "horn".

Swedish Home Servers

Sweden's largest electric utility, Vattenfall AB, is going to install servers in over 400,000 homes over the next two years. The servers will be able to connect kitchen appliances, security systems, heating control systems and utility meters over phone lines or other networks.

Iowa, USA, to test Internet voting

Iowa is
testing voting over the Internet alongside its conventional election. Voters receive a unique ID number to enter, and their vote is encrypted and "read anonymously" at a computer clearinghouse. Washington and Virginia have already conducted successful and secure tests and California has commissioned a large study. The article mentions plenty of concerns about the possibilities of lack of technological access disenfranchising people.

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