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Specially Tailored DNA Could Help Fashion Quantum Wires

Researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology have discovered that single strands of DNA can be used to purify single wall carbon nanotubes that can ultimately form quantum wires. The nanotubes can spiral at various angles, which can provide the nanotube with specific desired properties such as behaving like a pure metal. The so-called “armchair carbon nanotube” is one such form that is desired and could make an ideal quantum wire able to conduct electricity 10 times better than copper. Creating pure samples of these nanotubes and cloning them for mass production has been difficult, but the NIST researchers have found that when working with a specific DNA strand, they can coax it to evolve so that it wraps around the metallic armchair nanotubes. The samples can be easily extracted using chromatography. The researchers plan to fully explore the range of physical properties found in these structures. The work has been reported in The Journal of the American Chemical Society. (PhysOrg)(The Journal of the American Chemical Society)

Facial Recognition, Social Networking Could Unlock Personal Data

Researchers have successfully used a combination of facial recognition and social media to identify and obtain personal information from strangers. Carnegie Mellon University researchers used cloud computing, facial recognition, and publically available information posted on social networking sites to identify people. They were able to positively identify members of an online dating site where members don’t use their real names as well as to identify college students in real life from online information. In a third experiment, they used the technology to correctly predict personal interests and social security numbers. The researchers say the number is easily predicted based on the individual’s hometown and date of birth. A smartphone application that is able to do such identification in real time was also developed. The work is scheduled to be presented Thursday at The Black Hat Security Conference in Las Vegas. ( Business Times)(Carnegie Mellon University)

IQ Browser Study Fabricated

After numerous leading media outlets reported a story correlating browser choice and IQ test results, the story has been uncovered as having been manufactured. Leading technology websites as well as mainstream news outlets worldwide such as CNN and Forbes reported on the “study” by a Canadian testing firm called AptiQuant, which claimed it had found “a substantial relationship between an individual's cognitive ability and their choice of web browser.” The news release included extensive data to back its claim that Internet Explorer users were not as smart as those who chose to use other browsers. The BBC, which had also been among the duped, discovered that the images on the company’s website had been copied from a legitimate website of a Paris-based research firm after its reporters were tipped to the fact that the AptiQuant site appeared to have been newly created. The French firm claims to have no relationship with AptiQuant or the “study.” (Time)(ZDNet)(BBC)

Study: Data Centers Less of Power Drain

A new study finds that data center electricity consumption is slowing down due to more efficient data centers and the economy. Jonathan Koomey, a researcher and Stanford University consulting professor, examined energy use in data centers worldwide between 2005 and 2010 and found consumption increased roughly 36 percent in the US and 56 percent globally. However, the increased consumption is less than the doubled power consumption increase he found between 2000 and 2005. Koomey also found that US data center power use in 2010 was “significantly lower” than had originally been predicted, which he attributes to a smaller installed base of servers. The new research, reportedly commissioned by The New York Times, follows up a 2008 paper on the topic that appeared in Environmental Research Letters. (CNET)(PC Magazine)(Jonathan G. Koomey website)(Koomey, Jonathan. Growth in Data center electricity use 2005 to 2010. Oakland, CA: Analytics Press. 1 August 2011.)

Stuxnet-Type Attack Could Unlock Prison Doors

Security researchers claim they could easily take advantage of the same vulnerabilities Stuxnet used to sabotage centrifuges at a nuclear plant in Iran to unlock doors in high-security prisons in the US. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) control locks on cells and other doors in jails and prisons. John Strauchs, a security researcher who has been a consultant on electronic security systems in law enforcement facilities throughout the US, says the issue has not been raised because the majority of people are unfamiliar with the design of law enforcement facilities. He became concerned after news of Stuxnet was made public and began researching the issue. The research team successfully wrote three exploits, including one that was written in less than three hours. They used US$2,500 to get the items needed to both research the vulnerabilities and create the exploits. These could be seeded via an infected USB drive or a spearphishing attack on a prison employee. Once in control of the system, Strauchs says an attacker could control any number of systems. “Once we take control of the PLC we can do anything,” Strauchs has reportedly stated. “Not just open and close doors. We can absolutely destroy the system. We could blow out all the electronics.” The researchers say they have shared their findings with numerous federal officials. The work is scheduled to be presented this week at DefCon in Las Vegas. (SlashDot)(MSNBC)(Wired)("SCADA & PLC Vulnerabilities in Correctional Facilities,” Newman et al., 30 July 2011. Online at Wired.)

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