Tech stories

Some of my articles on technology

Space exploration – Business
Newsweek/The Daily Beast, April 24, 2012
James Cameron and Investors Seek to Lasso and Mine an Asteroid
Lassoing an asteroid could be big business, it might just be a wild ride into space.

Culture – Computing
The New York Times, August 3, 2003
Technology: In DSpace, Ideas Are Forever
The libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are earnestly bookish (2.6 million volumes and 17,000 journals) but increasingly digital (275 databases and 3,800 electronic journals). And just as e-mail dealt a blow to snail mail, digital archives are retooling scholarly exchange. A number of universities, from the California Institute of Technology to M.I.T., are creating ”institutional repositories” designed to harness their own intellectual output. M.I.T.’s archive, perhaps the most ambitious, is called DSpace (

Scholarly Storage: Traditionally, journals make research public after peer review, which can take months, sometimes years. Archives like DSpace, however, collect unpublished work — documents of any length, lecture notes, photos, videos, computer simulations, blueprints, software — in all disciplines and make most of it available to anyone as soon as it’s received.

Energy – Transportation
New Scientist, 3 October 2008
Steam power takes to the road again
To the engineers and steam buffs gathered in the auditorium, most of the images in Roger Waller’s video were familiar enough – the gleaming bulk of a black locomotive standing in Waller’s workshop, a small loco climbing a precipitous mountain railway, an elegant paddle steamer crossing the blue waters of a Swiss lake. What caused a ripple of surprise, though, was a short sequence near the end. It showed a small green car with a round silver tank zipping along a Swiss road, its twin exhausts puffing out clouds of white vapour.

Waller is a modern steam pioneer. Along with a team at his engineering company DLM in Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland, he has spent the last decade redesigning and modernising steam locomotives to make them far cleaner, and more profitable, than “old steam”.

The Boston Globe, July 22, 2003
Body Image: Innovative Technologies Provide an Intimate Look at Our Anatomy

Nature, Oct. 11, 2012
High-throughput neuroanatomy: Charting the brain’s networks
Neuroscientists are going from studying single neurons and brain regions anatomically to tracing how vast neuronal networks connect and interact.

Nature Methods, October 2012
Rendering the brain-behavior link visible
How to monitor the activity of neurons in the brains of awake, active animals.

Cancer – Physics
Nature, April 3, 2014
Cancer treatment: Sharp shooters
Radiation treatment helps to control cancer. With types of beams unlike traditional X-rays, the hope is to reach tumors more precisely with more lethal force and to have less effect on healthy tissue that is next to a tumor. Charged particles such as carbon ions might be the answer. Facilities around the world have treated around 12,000 people with carbon ions. The particles need to be accelerated to around 70% of the speed of light and shot with great precision at a person’s tumor.

Imaging – Data-sharing
Science Magazine, 5 July 2002
News Focus Imaging Technology:
Beautiful Bioimages for the Eyes of Many Beholders
A handful of image-sharing databases and software systems is becoming available, and these images might change the way biologists look at their own and other researchers’ data–if several obstacles can be overcome. Aside from the technical difficulties of creating user-friendly databases and interconnected networks of images in the scientific literature, there are pesky legal and ethical questions, such as ownership and credit.
Full text.

Nature Methods
Bench pressing with ‘omics tool benchmarkers.

In genomics, there are a lot of software tools but without benchmarks , you don’t really know how well the tool does in which situation. I checked in with some benchmarkers, they’re cool and they have a lovely sense of humor, too.

Here is one benchmarking pun. And there are more in the story. Again, a marvelous collaboration with scientists and the oh-so-talented Erin Dewalt, who drew this. And thank you, Kasper!

Office technology  – Security
New Scientist
Will glossy watermarks conquer fraud?
Ordinary office printers could create documents with a “watermark” that cannot be photocopied. Its inventors say the technique will make counterfeiting more difficult, but others argue that its very simplicity makes it of little use in fighting forgery.
Researchers at Xerox laboratories in Webster, New York, made the discovery while studying why images made by laser printers sometimes show glossy patches. …

Science Magazine
Max Planck Takes an E-Publishing Plunge
Germany’s Max Planck Society, which runs the country’s flagship network of 80 research institutes, is about to launch a publicly accessible electronic publishing center that will enable its scientists to post published papers–and findings before they are peer-reviewed. The center will also develop new tools for information dissemination and electronic management, and negotiate on behalf of all the institutes to cut deals for cheaper access to electronic journals.

MIT’s Technology Review, January 1998
Telecommunications seeks its guiding light
“Pipe it in!” That’s the battle cry in telecommunications these days. The more information that can travel down an optical fiber-whether as phone calls, video games, movies, or symphonies-the better. Now MIT researchers in materials science, physics, and electrical engineering and computer science have collaborated to create a device that could dramatically increase the carrying capacity of optical fibers. The device, a “photonic bandgap microcavity resonator,” uses a microcavity, or defect, in a material called photonic crystal to guide the behavior of photons in much the same way that defects in a semiconductor can be used to control electrical properties.

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