Research advances quantum computing

ETH Zurich physicists have developed a semiconductor system that involved creating superimposed quantum dots that “trap” single electrons, which may be leveraged for supercomputing, Science Daily reports. Not only can these dots be studied with lasers, their energy can be influenced as well, a finding that brought the researchers one step closer to quantum computers, according to Science Daily. For the system, the Quantum Photonics Group researchers “grew” a gallium arsenide crystal and applied two layers of indium-gallium arsenide to it, which created tiny bubbles—the quantum dots. Writing in the journal Science, the lead author notes that “this kind of dot is like an artificial atom only bigger, and two superimposed dots constitute an artificial molecule.” Ultimately, the researchers successfully populated these quantum dots with single electrons and manipulated them with lasers. They also determined exactly how many electrons were present in one of their semiconductor system’s quantum dots. Moreover, they were able to imprison the charged particles in them individually (Science Daily, 5/23/08).

Microsoft officials outline tech research efforts

Microsoft officials on Thursday discussed an overview of multiple research efforts underway addressing privacy, security, programming and other areas, InfoWorld reports. For instance, its query-dependent ranking project involves evaluating algorithms to achieve improved relevance of Web search results. The Keyboard Generation and Query Classification project, meanwhile, focuses on developing technology to show keywords to advertisers. Another initiative called the Privacy Integrated Queries project aims to enable queries on data while protecting certain information, such as a person's health history. Specifically, it leverages Microsoft's Language Integrated Query and Differential Privacy technologies (Krill, InfoWorld/Yahoo! News, 5/23/08).

U.S. government group issues tool for assessing XML schema

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released a tool that helps users check whether Extensible Markup Language schemes meet guidelines for well-formed schemata, Government Computer News reports. Developed under NIST's Manufacturing Interoperability Program Schema, the Quality of Design Tool (QOD) can use guidelines set forth by users, as wekk as those already established by other parties such as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Navy or the Open Applications Group. According to officials, the tool will make schema easier to understand and reduce the number and severity of interoperability problems (Jackson, GCN, 5/23/08).

Telehealth program to link health specialists with physicians in Mid-East war areas

A new initiative will connect health professionals in the Middle East and other war-torn areas with volunteer specialty physicians who can provide online consultations, the Chicago Tribune reports. The "iCons in Medicine" alliance aims to recruit 300 volunteer physicians to perform 1,000 consultations during the first year of the program. Volunteers are expected to come from the Chicago Medical Society and the National Arab American Medical Association. The alliance plans initially to focus on Middle Eastern areas, such as Iraq, that are affected by violence and poverty, the Tribune reports. The president of the Center for International Rehabilitation, which will lead the alliance, notes that the group is "looking forward to unveiling what we believe is a highly innovative approach to humanitarian relief that brings the best of care together with the latest technology" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 5/22/08).

Interoperability issues hinder electronic data sharing

Despite substantial progress in standardizing electronic reports from labs, gaps in interoperability remain and labs have no way of ensuring that their messages are being received by the intended recipients, Government Health IT reports. Across the last few years, technical standards have varied from the Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) to the EHR-Lab Interoperability and Connectivity Standards (ELINCS). Now, the industry is tapping Healthcare IT Standards Panel's Interoperability Specifications. According to the president and CEO of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, "if every vendor used ELINCS, we would be close to being able to interoperate, but still these other things keep turning up." Asenior director at General Dynamics IT's HHS Group, meanwhile, said a national patient identifier or an agreement on a common coding scheme could aid interoperability. However, gaps also exist in the standards that define how information should be transmitted between labs and physicians, Government Health IT reports. Most labs rely on the Health Level 7 standards to send their messages, but other options include sending messages via the Web, File Transport Protocol or virtual private network. Though they note that the health care industry is years away from developing a national consensus on standards, experts suggest the largest barrier is a viable financial model to spur the adoption of standards and tools to enable interoperability (Robinson, Government Health IT, 5/19/08).

Researchers investigate use of 'living computers'

U.S. researchers have created 'living computers' by genetically altering bacteria, a finding that opens the door for improving various applications such as data storage and genetic engineering, Science Daily reports. Researchers from the biology and mathematics departments of Davidson College in North Carolina and Missouri Western State University in Missouri added genes to Escherichia coli bacteria, creating bacterial computers able to solve a classic mathematical puzzle, known as the burnt pancake problem. Science Daily explains the problem, which in brief involves stacking pancakes that are burnt on one side so the largest pancake is on the bottom and all pancakes are golden side up in the fewest number of flips. In this experiment, the researchers used fragments of DNA as the pancakes and added genes from a different type of bacterium to enable the E. coli to flip the DNA 'pancakes'. Lead researcher, Karmella Haynes notes that "a single flask can hold billions of bacteria, each of which could potentially contain several copies of the DNA used for computing. These 'bacterial computers' could act in parallel with each other, meaning that solutions could potentially be reached quicker than with conventional computers, using less space and at a lower cost." According to Science Daily, bacterial computing, in addition to parallelism, "also has the potential to utilize repair mechanisms and, of course, can evolve after repeated use" (Science Daily, 5/20/08).

Tech groups unveil new DNS server

A group of experts on Tuesday released an open source alternative to the BIND DNS server software that boasts higher performance and better security, Network World reports. Called Unbound 1.0, the new DNS server is a recursive DNS server, which is used by ISPs and enterprises to support DNS look-ups by users. According to Network World, "DNS is the feature of the Internet that matches domain names with IP addresses, and it is used for Web browsing, e-mail and Internet-based telephony." NLnet Labs, VeriSign, Nominet and Kirei. NLnet Labs, a nonprofit research firm based in The Netherlands, released Unbound and will provide ongoing support for the software (Marsan, Network World/CIO, 5/21/08). 

Nanotubes may cause cancer, researchers find

Scientists delivered a warning Tuesday about nanotechnology, releasing the first study to link carbon nanotubes to mesothelioma, the AFP reports. In experiments on mice, researchers led by Ken Donaldson of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, exposed the mesothelium lining, which covers the lungs, abdomen and heart, to nanotubes measuring billionths of a meter. The nanotubes—microscopic, needle-like fibers that are already in commercial use—led to the same kind of inflammation and scarring, called granulomas, that are caused by exposure to asbestos. Published online in the British journal Nature Nanotechnology, the research suggests only that so-called long carbon nanotubes caused the pre-cancerous symptoms, indicating that further experiments are necessary to determine if short nanotubes are entirely safe. According to researchers, The biggest potential danger is probably in the work place, but nanotubes might also escape into the environment once the products containing them wind up in landfills. Noting that "we don't have enough evidence to call for a moratorium, but there is very urgent need to for action to ensure safety, by government and by industry," Maynard adds that additional researchers is necessary to determine whether the particles can be breathed in from air, and if they can migrate to within the lungs to cause cancer (AFP, 5/20/08).

U.S. group releases final definitions for key health IT terms

The National Alliance for Health IT on Tuesday released a final report with consensus definitions for six key health IT terms, AHA News reports. Funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the project aims to clarify terminology used in health IT policy, regulation, contracts and other initiatives. Specifically, the report defines Electronic Health Record, Electronic Medical Record, Health Information Exchange, Health Information Organization, Personal Health Record, and Regional Health Information Organization. In addition, the report includes a summary of the deliberations and conclusions of the two work groups that established the definitions and explains how adopting the definitions could boost health IT interoperability (AHA News, 5/20/08; Health Data Management, 5/20/08). 

Group launches collective effort to address programming best practices

The Multicore Association recently launched an effort to define best programming practices for embedded multicore processors, the EE Times reports. With the goal of releasing a report within a year that addresses problems in the growing arena of parallel software, the group will start by holding an open meeting at the Design Automation Conference in Anaheim on June 10 to garner broad input on the issues. The group will focus at least initially on issues using C and C++, though officials note they will likely address issues such as how to tackle code dependencies, inter-process communications and race conditions. Participating companies include Freescale, Imperas, Intel, Nokia Siemens Networks, PolyCore Software, Texas Instruments and WindRiver (Merritt, EE Times, 05/22/2008).

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