Jewish World Review May 31, 2002 / 20 Sivan, 5762

Technology summary | (UPI)


University of Florida researchers have built the first wireless communication system on a computer chip, a development they said could result in extremely fast microprocessors and perhaps a whole new area of useful products. Composed of a miniature radio transmitter and antenna, the tiny system broadcasts information across a fingernail-sized area. This is important, the researchers said, because as conventional chips continue to grow larger and more complex, they are having trouble transmitting information to all parts of the chip simultaneously through the many tiny wires embedded in the silicon platform. Chip-based wireless radios, on the other hand, could bypass these wires, ensuring continued performance improvements. These radios-on-a-chip also could make possible tiny, inexpensive microphones, motion detectors and other devices, researchers said.


Most of the world's glaciers appear to be melting faster, according to a joint assessment by NASA and U.S. Geological Survey. At the same time, a few glaciers are advancing. The assessment used satellites to map and track glacier changes all over the world during the latter part of the melt season, when the underlying permanent ice is exposed. It compared current satellite images with topographical maps and other glacier records from the 20th century. What was found were strong parallels between global temperature rises and glacier retreats. Glacier changes in the next 100 years could affect agriculture, water supplies, hydroelectric power, transportation, mining, coastlines and wildlife habitats. Melting ice may cause both serious problems and -- for the short term in some regions -- beneficial increases in fresh water supplies. But all these impacts will change with time, researchers said.


As physicists continue to scratch their heads about the now-famous "missing mass" in the universe, another candidate particle has emerged, and this one is a doozy. New research suggests super-massive particles may comprise the hidden matter. Cosmological theory predicts most of the universe must be made up of "dark matter" we cannot see. Otherwise, galaxies would not have enough gravitational pull to hold themselves together. So far, the most likely candidates for dark matter are "WIMPs" -- for weakly interacting massive particles -- that have 50 to 100 times the mass of a proton. But some physicists are proposing another candidate particle. Weighing in at perhaps 10 billion times the mass of WIMPs, researchers have named these monsters Wimpzillas. If such superheavy dark matter exists, Wimpzillas reaching Earth might account for another mysterious phenomenon -- high-energy cosmic rays. A description of the particles appears in the June 1 issue of New Scientist.


DuPont has begun an unusual research project involving one of the world's most consumed crops --- soybeans. The chemical company is exploring soybean development in space. The research will be carried out aboard the International Space Station, which will be visited soon by the space shuttle Endeavour. The experiment will last about 70 days and is meant to determine whether plants grow differently in space. Soybean plants germinated from space station-borne seeds and their harvested grain will be returned to Earth this summer by the Space Shuttle Atlantis. New seeds exhibiting unique and desirable qualities will be planted to determine if the traits can be inherited in future generations. Researchers also will study the harvested seeds to find out if they have improved oil, protein, carbohydrates or other qualities that could benefit farmers and consumers. Soybeans are the largest single source of protein and vegetable oil in the human diet, according to the United Soybean Board.

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