Here’s a headline you’ve probably seen before: “IBM creates brain-like computer chip.” Here’s a more exciting one: “New IBM circuit works in three dimensions, flips switches with atoms.” Heck, both are exciting. The latter’s just, for lack of a more appropriate cliché, a bit more mind-boggling. IBM scientists described a new kind of circuit in a paper published in Science on Thursday. There is no chip involve, per se. It’s being described accurately as a “post-silicon transistor” and potentially paves the way for the most powerful and efficient computers the world has ever seen. This is possible largely because it mimics the behavior of another hyper-efficient computational marvel: the human brain. The new so-called nanofluidic circuit works a little bit like a network of streams. A charged fluid moves over the surface of the circuit changing its properties (e.g. flipping a switch “on” or “off”) with the positively and negatively charged atoms in the fluid. Like the synapses of the brain, the ions operate in three dimensions, a game changer in terms of efficiency and uncharted territory in terms of computing. “We could form or disrupt connections just in the same way a synaptic connection in the brain could be remade, or the strength of that connection could be adjusted,” Stuart Parkin, a physicist and IBM Fellow, told The New York Times. It’s a little bit easier to visualize. Below, the green represents the ionic fluid and the orange is the surface. (via IBM’s Newest Invention Mimics the Human Brain on an Atomic Level - Adam Clark Estes - The Atlantic Wire)
Hollywood likes a good explosion. Now, with the help of an open source algorithm called Wavelet Turbulence, filmmakers can digitally create pyrotechnics that were formerly time-consuming and difficult to control.
UCSB’s Theodore Kim (along with three collaborators) picked up the Academy Award in Technical Achievement for Wavelet Turbulence. The algorithm uses a theory of turbulence developed in the 1940s by Russian mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov.
So far, it has been used in over 26 major hollywood productions including Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Hugo, and Super 8 (pictured above).
Each cell in our body is encompassed by a lipid-filled “sandwich sac”, or membrane. These bilayered fatty sacs take on a variety of different forms when our cells move or change shape. Finger-like projections from their surface (tethers) help transport nutrients and ‘talk’ to neighbouring cells. Tethers can take up any slack when new lipids are made or if the cell shrinks. Despite their importance, little is known about their molecular structure. So researchers are generating computer models of lab-made lipid bilayers to simulate tether formation. Applying forces from different angles, they can watch the membrane as it stretches and deforms into a tether (as the image shows).