Previous month:
February 2004
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April 2004

Love is like oxygen

BBC Technology, Tracey Logan

By the year 2010, scientists predict we will be immersed in a sea of miniature computers.

Many of us already carry three or four digital devices with us, according to Simon Moore of Cambridge University's Computer Laboratory, but soon that figure will be in the hundreds.

"They'll be woven into our clothing as identification markers during manufacture," he said.

"They might tell your washing machine what cycle to use, or monitor bio-signs to alert us to impending illness."

Those predictions came at the launch of the Cambridge-MIT Institute's Pervasive Computing initiative (CMI).

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BBC News

Few users know how best to use search engines.

Six in 10 of those surveyed typed in just one word in order to find what they were looking for - a big ask, when market leader Google, for instance, indexes 4,285,199,774 documents.

Add in those who use two words, and that's four-fifths of searchers. Only 3% tie words together with quote marks, and 1% use other advanced search techniques to get better results.

And when results are returned, few people look beyond the initial links provided. "If it is beyond the first page, it is as if it did not exist," Dr Nielsen says.

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Biometric Passports

BBC News, Jo Twist

By the middle of next year, the British passport could be quite different to the document currently waved at immigration.

As part of growing concerns about national and global security, immigration and asylum, as well as plain old identity theft, the official UK travel document will not just carry a photograph, it will also have a microchip in it.

The chip will hold biometric data - unique physiological or behavioural characteristics - and will be mandatory in passports renewed from 2007/8.

From mid-2005, this data will be in the form of a digitised photograph which will be matched with the passport's chip.

The photo and the chip will have the digital signature of the UK Passport Service (UKPS), in an attempt to protect against possible fraud.

One other biometric identifier, iris pattern or fingerprints, will also eventually be stored on the chip and trials are underway in the UK to decide which one is used.

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On the Web 4

BBC News

One of the greatest artworks of all time is scattered in fragments across Europe. But there is now a way to view the surviving Parthenon sculptures together for the first time - a virtual reconstruction.

They're still magnificent nearly 2,500 years after being carved, but the sculptures of the Parthenon are a bit like sad ghosts - pale, battered, half-lost and spread far and wide.

The fragments are strewn across 10 museums in eight countries. The Greeks are keen to reunite these in a purpose-built museum within sight of the ruined temple the frieze once adorned.

But the British Museum, the guardian of the Elgin Marbles - which were cut from the Parthenon 200 years ago - is reluctant to let its prized possession go. Its argument goes that half the Parthenon sculptures are lost forever, and the rest are so scattered and damaged that it is no longer possible to recreate them in any real sense. A better solution is a computer reconstruction, which will give a more complete sense of how the whole might once have looked.

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On the Web 3

BBC NEWS | Health | Vast digital health archive opens

A project to store digitally every single issue of one of the world's greatest medical journals has been completed.

The pages of The Lancet, founded in 1823, and published weekly ever since, have carried reports of many of the greatest medical triumphs of the past 180 years.

A two-year project to digitally capture each page - a total of 340,000 articles - and convert them into a fully searchable database, will be a boon both to medical researchers and medical historians.

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On the Web 2

BBC News

Shakespeare's will features three rare examples of his signature

Rare examples of William Shakespeare's signature in a will are among important historical papers now available online.

The document, which is joined by one million others, has been put on the web by the National Archives.

Shakespeare's will reveals how he bequeathed his second-best bed to his wife, Anne Hathaway.

Wills from Jane Austen, Sir Christopher Wren and Horatio Nelson - the latter's with a personal diary - can also be viewed at DocumentsOnline.

The documents span six centuries of British history from 1384 to 1858.

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On the Web 1

BBC Nature

The world's oldest biological society plans to make all its major collections available in a digital format.

The Linnean Society's collections comprise almost 40,000 specimens of plants, insects, fish and shells, many of which date to the 18th Century.

The society was founded in London in 1788 and takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus. The scientist is perhaps best known for devising a system for classifying and ranking plants using Latin names. The system he first expounded in the 1730s formed the basis of modern taxonomy which describes all living things on Earth.

The aim of the new project is to get the entire collection digitised in time for the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus' birth in 2007.

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Digital paper soon...

BBC Technology

Sony, Philips and digital paper pioneer E-Ink have announced an electronic book reader that is due to go on sale in Japan in late April for $375 (£204).

Called Librié, the device will be the size of a paperback book and can hold 500 texts in its onboard memory.

The display has a resolution of 170 pixels per inch, which E-Ink says is comparable to the print quality of newspaper. Unlike more familiar LCD displays, the screen can be read at almost any angle and in bright sunlight as it uses tiny charged beads to form letters and images.

Each pixel point on the display is a tiny pit containing a small number of black and white beads each one of which is about as wide as a human hair. The white beads are positively charged and the black beads negatively charged. Each pit is topped with a transparent electrode and has two other electrodes at its base. Changing the charge on the base electrodes makes either white or black beads leap to the top of the pit forming either a blank or black spot on the larger display. Making one base electrode positive and the other negative creates a grey spot.

The Librié will weigh just over 300g including batteries and front cover and will run off four AAA batteries. E-Ink says the display only draws on battery power when text is refreshed which means it will be able to display about 10,000 pages before the batteries need changing. The device is 13mm thick and its screen measures 15cm diagonally. It also includes a qwerty keyboard, USB 2.0 connector and a slot for Sony Memory Sticks.

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The Eyes have it

New York Times, Ian Austen, 18 Mar 04

MINIATURIZING the electronic parts of digital cameras is relatively easy. Witness the proliferation of cellphones and hand-held computers that have built-in cameras.

But in trying to make ever-smaller lens assemblies that can focus and zoom, camera designers encounter difficulties. These lenses require moving parts, and as moving parts become smaller, overcoming friction between them is increasingly difficult. As a result, many miniature cameras make do with fixed-focus lenses and simply forget about zooming.

But scientists at Philips' research center in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, say the answer may lie with lenses based on liquids rather than glass or plastic. Fluid lenses, that is, that can change their shape, and thus their focus, through electronic commands.

Continue reading "The Eyes have it" »

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A Tale of Two Cities

Yahoo!, New York (AFP)

The number of Americans with Internet access has topped 200 million, or nearly three-fourths of the US population older than two, a survey showed.

BBC News, London

Citizens Online is a member of a working group set up by Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, to look at how the government can reach those members of society not yet online.

Half of UK homes do not have internet access and a third of all adults have never surfed the web.

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