First Non-Volatile Light-Based Memory Chips Developed

A team of scientists has developed the world’s first entirely light-based memory chip to store data permanently that can help dramatically improve the speed of modern computing.

The new non-volatile memory uses the GST phase-change material – the same as that used in rewritable CDs and DVDs – to store data.

This material can be made to assume an amorphous state, like glass or a crystalline state, like a metal, by using either electrical or optical pulses.

The team has shown that intense pulses of light sent through the waveguide can carefully change the state of the phase-change material.

An intense pulse causes it to momentarily melt and quickly cool, causing it to assume an amorphous structure; a slightly less-intense pulse can put it into an crystalline state.

“This is a completely new kind of functionality using proven existing materials,” said professor Harish Bhaskaran from Oxford University’s department of materials.

“These optical bits can be written with frequencies of up to one gigahertz and could provide huge bandwidths. This is the kind of ultra-fast data storage that modern computing needs,” he noted.

Today’s computers are held back by the relatively slow transmission of electronic data between the processor and the memory.

“There is no point using faster processors if the limiting factor is the shuttling of information to-and-from the memory. But we think using light can significantly speed this up,” Bhaskaran explained.

For the study, the material scientists at Oxford University worked in collaboration with scientists at Karlsruhe, Munster and Exeter universities.

With this device, “we could read and write to thousands of bits at once, providing virtually unlimited bandwidth”, explained professor Wolfram Pernice from University of Munster.

The team is working on a number of projects that aim to make use of the new technology.

They are particularly interested in developing a new kind of electro-optical interconnect, which will allow the memory chips to directly interface with other components using light, rather than electrical signals.

The paper was published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Nasa’s New Horizons Probe Reveals Colourful, Violent History of Charon

Nasa’s New Horizons probe has returned the best colour and the highest resolution images ever of Pluto’s largest moon Charon which show a surprisingly complex and violent history.

At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system.

Many New Horizons scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world.

Instead, they found a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-colour variations and more.

“We thought the probability of seeing such interesting features on this satellite of a world at the far edge of our solar system was low. But I couldn’t be more delighted with what we see,” said Ross Beyer from Nasa Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

The new images reveal details of a belt of fractures and canyons just north of the moon’s equator.

This great canyon system stretches more than 1,600 km across the entire face of Charon and likely around onto Charon’s far side.

Four times as long as the Grand Canyon, and twice as deep in places, these faults and canyons indicate a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past.

“It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open,” added John Spencer from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

“With respect to its size relative to Charon, this feature is much like the vast Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars,” he said.

The New Horizons spacecraft is currently some five billion km from Earth with all systems healthy and operating normally.

Nasa’s Curiosity Rover Sends Back Postcard From Mars

While you enjoy spectacular landscapes and a lone astronaut’s fight for survival in Matt Damon-starrer “The Martian,” Mars Curiosity rover has sent a stunning “postcard” after it drilled its eighth hole on the Red Planet.

The drilling of 2.6-inche deep hole in a rock – labeled as “Big Sky” – is part of a multi-day sequence that will result in the analysis of the Martian rock’s ingredients by the rover’s onboard laboratories.

“With ‘Big Sky’, we found the ordinary sandstone rock we were looking for,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada.

It also happens to be relatively near sandstone that looks as though it has been altered by fluids – likely groundwater with other dissolved chemicals.

“We are hoping to drill that rock next, compare the results, and understand what changes have taken place,” he said in a statement.

The analyses of the rock-powder samples will occur over the next week.

Meanwhile, the team will be turning the rover’s attention and its wheels towards the second rock, where the sample analysis process will begin anew.

Curiosity is currently on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in a region covered in sandstone called the “Stimson Unit”.

“The only thing more stunning than these images is the thought that Curiosity will be driving through those lower hills one day,” Vasavada noted.

“We couldn’t help but send a postcard back to all those following her journey,” he added.

India, Germany Decide to Extend IGSTC Beyond 2017

To enhance cooperation in the field of science and technology, India and Germany on Monday decided to extend the bi-national Indo-German Science & Technology Centre (IGSTC) beyond 2017 with a two-fold increase in funding every year, a move that will help in supporting industrially relevant research and development (R&D) projects.

The move will see the funding going up from EUR 2 million to EUR 4 million in IGSTC projects that have potential to generate novel technologies and new intellectual property in sectors such as advance manufacturing, embedded systems, renewable energy, food security, clean water and health care technologies – all of which are in tune with present national missions of the government of India.

India is the only country with whom Germany has such a bilateral R&D Centre dedicated to promote applied and industrial research. The IGSTC is already supporting 15 joint projects and pro-types of some new technologies have been co-developed in solar-thermal energy, stress tolerant chic-pea variety, and high altitude cold resistance plants.

Vardhan also offered Germany to participate in some of the future mega science projects, which India will be embarking upon.

At the meeting held before the 3rd Indo-German Consultative meeting, Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for S&T, and his German counterpart Johanna Wanka said the two countries would continue to support and strengthen the basic research component of collaboration which will underpin future technology developments.

The Indian side emphasised on new areas such as anti-microbial resistance and regenerative medicine, earth science system including monsoon studies and marine sciences required to understand the climate change process.

India is investing approximately EUR 14 million for the construction of an additional beam line and access to the synchrotron facility at PETRA-III in DESY at Hamburg.

Similarly, India is equity share holder with investment of EUR 36 million in the construction of the international ‘Facility for Antiproton-Ion Research’ (FAIR) at Darmstadt.

These state of art facilities will further enable Indian scientists to conduct high impact and frontier research in material science, nuclear and high energy physics.

Both the Ministers reiterated the need for “concerted effort” to promote exchanges of young scientists and student researchers. To this end, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through a Letter of Intent agreed to continue the support for participation of 25 Indian science and medical students to the annual Nobel Laureate meet in Lindau.

The two, also echoed that the future cooperation should focus on programmes to promote innovation and techno -entrepreneurship by linking the Small and Medium Enterprises and Start-up enterprises of both the countries in order to make meaningful contribution.

Sony Image Sensor Unit Being Spun Off Into New Business

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Sony’s image sensor business is being spun off into a new business, the company has announce some restructuring of three major parts of its business.

Sony’s image sensor are incredibly popular and are used in the majority of smartphones available at the moment as well as other devices.

The company will spin off their image sensor business into a new unit which is called Sony Semiconductor Solutions.

In the semiconductor business, where image sensors are a primary area of focus, Sony will establish Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation (“Sony Semiconductor Solutions”) to further reinforce this business, and concentrate on sustained growth. R&D, business control, sales and other operations related to the semiconductor business, which are currently overseen by business groups and R&D units within Sony Corporation, will be transferred to Sony Semiconductor Solutions. The new company will aim to commence operations on April 1, 2016. As part of its mid-term corporate strategy announced in February 2015, Sony outlined its intention to sequentially split out the business units currently within Sony Corporation and operate them alongside existing Sony Group companies.

Firefox Browser Now Includes New Firefox Hello Instant Messaging

Firefox Hello

Mozilla has updated its Firefox browser this month to version 41 that brings with it a number of minor updates that allow users to personalise their Firebox Account, but more importantly adds new functionality for the Firefox Hello instant messaging beta.

The new instant messaging functionality that is now available in the latest Firefox browser has been developed in partnership with Telefónica and is fully integrated into the browser code.

Allowing users to send and receive instant messages when users are participating in a video call in Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux. Mozilla explains a little more about the personalisation of your Firefox Account and its new Firefox Hello messaging feature.

Firefox Accounts provides access to services like Firefox Sync to let you take browsing data such as passwords, bookmarks, history and open tabs across your desktop and mobile devices. The latest update to Firefox Accounts allows you to personalize your Firefox Account profile in Firefox for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android by adding a photo.

Firefox Hello provides more value to Firefox users by making it easier to communicate with your friends and family who might not have the same video chat service, software or hardware as you. It’s free to make voice and video calls and there’s no need to download software, plugins or even create an account. It’s ready to go as soon as you open Firefox Beta by clicking on the ‘chat bubble’ icon under the customize menu.

For more information on the new Firefox Hello instant messaging beta that has been rolled out this week jump over to the official Mozilla Blog.

Amazon Prime Membership Discount Is Coming

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An Amazon Prime membership offers some great value for your money. You get free two-day shipping on Prime-eligible items from Amazon and access to a bunch of other services including Amazon’s music and movie streaming services. People who are members seem very happy with the choice.

It is worth it for the $99 per year subscription cost, but maybe not everyone sees it that way. If you find the cost a bit too high, then check this out. An Amazon Prime membership discount is coming later this week.

A similar discount was offered back in January. At that time the service was discounted for one day from $99 to $72. If you subscribed during that day you got your one-year membership for cheaper and got an ever better deal than others.

This time the discount brings it from $99 to $67 for one day one starting 9pm Pacific time on September 24th. If you subscribe on that day you will get the one-year subscription for the discounted price. That is an amazing deal for sure.

Amazon is offering the discount to celebrate the Emmy Awards where its acclaimed series Transparent won earlier this week. Mark your calendars so you don’t miss out on the deal.

Music Streaming Service Deezer Files IPO

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Music streaming service Deezer has filed an IPO, the French company has filed for an IPO on the Euronext stock exchange in Paris.

Deezer was founded back in 2007 and has 6.3 million paying customers, the new IPO could give the company a value of around €1 billion or $1.1 billion.

In the IPO filing some details about the company were revealed, it had revenue of €142 million in 2014 and it has a catalogue of 35 million music tracks and 40,000 podcasts.

Spotify was expected to file for an IPO before Deezer as it has more paid subscribers at 20 million compared to Deezer’s 6.3 million paid subscribers.

Deezer has employed a slightly different tactic to Spotify, it only offers a niche music service in the US and has concentrated on the rest of the world.

The IPO should give the company the capital to expand its service further and we suspect that the US could be its next major target when it has the cash in the bank.

Oyster E-Book Subscription Service Shutting Down

Oyster E-Book Subscription Service Shutting Down

The Oyster E-Book subscription service that launched a Netflix style e-book service application roughly 2 years ago has today announced via its blog that the service will be shutting its doors in early 2016.

It is being reported by the Re/code website that the co-founders of Oyster Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown, and Willem Van Lancker have been hired by Google, but these reports have not been confirmed by either party.

The start-up raised 17 million in funding according to the CrunchBase records and today the company published a statement via their blog :

As an Oyster reader, rest assured, nothing is changing regarding your account today. The existing Oyster service will be sunset in early 2016. If you’ve purchased a book or are an Oyster Unlimited subscriber you will receive an email regarding your account in the next few weeks. You will be able to access and read purchased books indefinitely. If you would like to request a refund at any point please email refunds@oysterbooks.com.

For more information on the Oyster closure jump over to the official website for more details.

14-year old who was accused of bringing a bomb to school gets swag from Microsoft

ahmedOur society overreacts to every little thing these days. Like last week when 14-year old Ahmed Mohamed brought something to school that scared school officials. The Texas high-school student had fashioned a digital clock out of a pencil case, and he likely thought he would get praise from his teacher for this project. Instead, they accused him of having a bomb. The principal agreed and the cops were called. But at least this exposed another bit of stupidity in our culture. When you see these teachers and the principal, you now know that they are idiots.

Well, Ahmed was escorted out of the school in handcuffs. He kept telling the cops it was a clock, but since these cops were idiots too, they charged him with bringing a fake bomb to school. I tell you, it just shows you that anyone can can get into any field, despite being stupid as rocks. Eventually, the charges were dropped. Ahmed had another surprise in store after that. This time a good one.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella decided that Ahmed could use some cheering up. So he sent the kid a Surface Pro 3, a Microsoft Band and some other goodies. Mohamed wants to attend MIT, and has even received an invitation from the president to show him the homemade clock.

So I guess the moral of the story here is that idiots are everywhere, but when they expose their idiocy, it can actually end up helping you. Good on you Microsoft.