Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 6, 2003

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Issue 6, 2003

This week's headlines:

Mobile phones 'may trigger Alzheimer's disease'
February 05, 2003

Mobile phones damage key brain cells and could trigger the early onset of Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests. Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have found that radiation from handsets damages areas of the brain associated with learning, memory and movement.

The researchers experimented on rats aged between 12 and 26 weeks. Their brains are regarded as being in the same stage of development as teenagers. The rats were exposed to two hours of radiation, equivalent to that emitted by mobile phones and their brains were examined 50 days later. The researchers found that rats which had been exposed to medium and high levels of radiation had an abundance of dead brain cells.

The researchers believe that mobile phones could have the same effect on humans as they have the same blood-brain barrier and neurons. they said that there was also a chance exposure to mobile phone radiation could trigger Alzheimer's disease in some people.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

Europe plans cyber-security agency
February 06, 2003

The European Commission is set to announce Europe's first cyber-security agency. Proposals will be published next week for a European network and information security agency, which the Commission hopes will raise levels of IT security and act as a central exchange for information on security.

A spokesman for the Commission said that the agency will have a strongly practical remit. It will avoid policy-making and concentrate on helping businesses and governments to fight security threats.

Duties of the new agency will include: Co-ordinating the work of public and private computer emergency response teams; Helping to distribute warnings of security threats and information about software fixes; Acting as a centre of excellence for information security; Publicising security best-practice procedures and standards.

Full story: VNUnet UK Back to top

Desktop Linux consortium launches
February 04, 2003

Several companies have joined to launch a consortium to promote Linux for desktop computers. The consortium's goal will be to raise awareness of desktop Linux and to speed its adoption, the organisation announced.

Companies behind the Desktop Linux Consortium include Linux sellers SuSE, MandrakeSoft, Lycoris, Xandros and ArkLinux; CodeWeavers, which sells software to help run Windows programs on Linux systems; OpenOffice, an open-source competitor to Microsoft Office; and the KDE user interface software.

Open-source advocate Bruce Perens will lead the consortium at its outset. It will be a non-profit organisation funded by annual dues. It will be open to companies and to open-source organizations, and additional members are expected to be announced soon, the group said.

Full story: ZDNet Back to top

US builds web monitoring system
January 31, 2003

The US government is building an internet monitoring centre to detect and respond to attacks on vital information systems and key e-commerce sites.

The Global Early Warning Information System (GEWIS), which is being built by National Communications System (NCS), has been in development for the past 15 months. The system works by major internet and telecoms providers selling 'real-time' data about the status of their networks. NCS hopes to launch the first stage of its pilot project in two months' time, which will combine the information into a graphical view of the health of the internet.

The White House believes that the monitoring centre is necessary because no single agency has more than a limited view of the global communications network.

Full story: VNUnet UK / Washington Post Back to top

Novel photomasks make 3-D microstructures
February 06, 2003

Scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle have used a new technique to make complex, three-dimensional micro-structures. The method could provide a cheap alternative to current photolithographic techniques to fabricate computer chips and other miniature structures.

In conventional photolithography a flat, patterned 'photomask' is placed on top of a silicon wafer that has been coated with a light sensitive layer known as a 'resist'. Ultraviolet light is shone through the mask and exposes parts of the underlying material. Chemical etching then reveals the pattern created by the photomask. Light exposure is 'all-or-none' and the process results in resist features of uniform height. The fabrication of three-dimensional structures thus requires several exposure steps, which is time-consuming and costly.

To overcome this 'all-or-none' limitation, the researchers made a grey-scale photomask that allows differing amounts of light to pass through it, making it possible to accurately 'sculpt' a 3-D resist surface. Complex shapes can this way be formed in a few seconds.

Full story: Physicsweb Back to top

Physicists teleport quantum bits over long distance
February 03, 2003

Swiss researchers from the University of Geneva say they have successfully caused a quantum particle to disappear and reappear two kilometres away without it ever existing in between. The teleportation feat has set a long-distance record.

Teleporting an object involves gathering detailed information about its subatomic particles and transmitting this information to recreate the object perfectly. The original is dissolved in the process. Last year the researchers teleported a photon over a distance of 55 metres.

For the foreseeable future, teleportation will only work on a quantum scale. For now, physicists cannot even teleport atoms, let alone molecules. However, the technology could be used in quantum cryptography. Sending information would be completely secure as the data would not exist in between the sender and receiver.

Full story: CBC News Back to top

Tech project sweeps for Net scammers
February 03, 2003

Australia's securities and investment watchdogs are turning to document-classification technology employing the latest linguistic techniques in their hunt for web-based fraudsters.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) this week unveiled a joint research project with the Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre, the University of Sydney and Macquarie University to develop an automatic internet document classification system called 'Scamseek'.

Scamseek would, if successful, have the potential to determine potential risk by scanning entities against public and private databases; assess and aggregate the risk associated with information on a website; identify people and companies mentioned on a website; and mark sites that are above the acceptable risk threshold for further analysis.

Full story: ZDNet Back to top

Japanese scientist invents 'invisibility cloak'
February 05, 2003

A Japanese scientist has developed a coat which appears to make the wearer invisible. The illusion was part of a demonstration of optical camouflage technology at Tokyo University.

The coat is the brainchild of Professor Susumu Tachi who is in the early stage of research he hopes will eventually make camouflaged objects virtually transparent. The technology uses a combination of moving images taken behind the wearer to give a transparent effect.

It is hoped the technology will be useful for surgeons frustrated their own hands and surgical tools can block their view of operations and pilots who wish cockpit floors were transparent for landings.

Full story: Ananova Back to top

Slammer spread worldwide in 10 minutes
February 05, 2003

It only took 10 minutes for the SQL Slammer worm to race across the globe and wreak havoc on the internet two weeks ago, making it the fastest-spreading computer infection ever seen, researchers said.

The worm, which nearly cut off web access in South Korea and shut down some US bank teller machines, doubled the number of computers it infected every 8.5 seconds in the first minute of its appearance, said a computer security research group led by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis. By comparison, the Code Red worm - which came 18 months earlier - only doubled every 37 minutes.

The worm, which exploited a flaw in Microsoft's SQL Server database software, caused damage by rapidly replicating itself and clogging the pipelines of the global data network. The tiny malicious program, which was also known as Sapphire, did not erase data or cause damage to desktop computers, but was designed to replicate itself so fast and so effectively that no other traffic could get through networks.

Full story: CNN / Reuters Back to top

Television viewing figures slashed by web use
January 31, 2003

More people are choosing to go online instead of watching television. A study by the University of California has shown that the internet is fast eclipsing TV as the primary medium for entertainment and information, in a pattern identical to when TV replaced radio.

Web users watched an average of 4.8 fewer hours of TV each week than non-users, the study found. And it said that the decline in TV viewing hours grew more dramatic as internet users gained online experience. Internet 'veterans' watched about 5.8 fewer hours of TV than non-users.

The study found that more than 70 per cent of US citizens spend an average of 11.1 hours online a week - up from 9.8 hours a year ago - checking email, reading news and doing research for work or school. At the same time, television viewing among internet users fell from an average of 12.3 hours a week to 11.2 hours.

Full story: VNUnet UK / San Jose Mercury News Back to top

'Matrix' merges games and films
February 05, 2003

A film about machines creating an alternate reality for enslaved humanity is turned into a video game that draws the pretty and the powerful from the movie business to a lavish party to be amused by machines.

'Enter the Matrix' was given a red carpet premiere this week by film studio Warner Bros. and French games publisher Infogrames. The game and the next two 'Matrix' films - 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' - are virtually the same, since Larry and Andy Wachowski, who wrote and directed the films, also wrote the game and shot an hour of original footage with the cast of the films just for it.

The offerings need each other to be successful: a big-ticket 'Matrix' sequel will draw attention to the video game, while a popular Matrix video game will make people want to see the 'The Matrix Reloaded', due out in May, and 'The Matrix Revolutions', set for a November release.

Full story: CNET / Reuters Back to top