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Xavier Vowles

Xavier Vowles

Xavier Vowles

Xavier Vowles

Xavier Vowles

Xavier Vowles

The Electrolux Mobile Kitchen Concept combines three basics of modern-day kitchens: a 4-tier induction cooking element, an efficient cutting board and a touchscreen computer for your recipes, downloads and nutrition facts. The placement of the three as a tribute to the laptop makes it a truly portable design. My only concern is the functional relationship between the three. Although the renders make the placement of pots, chopping board and the tablet look synchronistic, but in reality will they hold good? Oil squirts, fumes! Nevertheless, as a camper or travel companion, it fits the bill! Designer: Dragan Trenchevski


The Solar Floating Resort is an example of what the distant future might hold when it comes to architecture, our reliance on renewable resources, and dealing with overpopulation on land. Covered completely in a photovoltaic skin, the resort is 100% self-sufficient and non-polluting.  On top of that, the floating palace is actually a modular system that divides into much smaller components that can be moved and assembled almost anywhere.

Designer: Michele Puzzolante


A tachyonic antitelephone is a hypothetical device in theoretical physics that could be used to send signals into one’s own past. Albert Einstein in 1907[1] presented a thought experiment of how faster-than-light signals can lead to a paradox of causality, which was described by Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld in 1910 as a means “to telegraph into the past“.[2] The same thought experiment was described by Richard Chace Tolman in 1917[3], therefore it is also known as Tolman’s paradox.

A device capable of “telegraphing into the past” was later also called “tachyonic antitelephone” by Gregory Benford et al. According to the current understanding of physics, no such faster-than-light transfer of information is actually possible. For instance, the hypothetical tachyon particles which give the device its name do not exist even theoretically in the standard model of particle physics, due to tachyon condensation, and there is no experimental evidence that suggests that they might exist. The problem of detecting tachyons via causal contradictions was treated scientifically

One-way example

This was illustrated in 1911 by Paul Ehrenfest using a Minkowski diagram. Signals are sent in frame B1 into the opposite directions OP and ON with a velocity approaching infinity. Here, event O happens before N. However, in another frame B2, event N happens before O.[5]

Tolman used the following variation of Einstein’s thought experiment:[1][3] Imagine a distance with endpoints A and B. Let a signal be sent from A propagating with velocity a towards B. All of this is measured in an inertial frame where the endpoints are at rest. The arrival at B is given by:

\Delta t=t_{1}-t_{0}=\frac{B-A}{a}.

Here, the event at A is the cause of the event at B. However, in the inertial frame moving with relative velocity v, the time of arrival at B is given according to the Lorentz transformation:

\Delta t'=t'_{1}-t'_{0}=\frac{t_{1}-vB/c^{2}}{\sqrt{1-v^{2}/c^{2}}}-\frac{t_{0}-vA/c^{2}}{\sqrt{1-v^{2}/c^{2}}}=\frac{1-av/c^{2}}{\sqrt{1-v^{2}/c^{2}}}\Delta t.

It can be easily shown that if a > c, then certain values of v can make Δt’ negative. In other words, the effect arises before the cause in this frame. Einstein and Tolman concluded that this result contains in their view no logical contradiction; they said, however, it contradicts the totality of our experience so that the impossibility of a > c is sufficiently proven.

[edit] Two-way example

A more common variation of this thought experiment is to send back the signal to the sender (a similar one was given by David Bohm[6]). Suppose Alice (A) is on a spacecraft moving away from the Earth in the positive x-direction with a speed v, and she wants to communicate with Bob (B) back home. Assume both of them have a device that is capable of transmitting and receiving faster-than-light signals at a speed of ac with a > 1. Alice uses this device to send a message to Bob, who sends a reply back. Let us choose the origin of the coordinates of Bob’s reference frame, S, to coincide with the reception of Alice’s message to him. If Bob immediately sends a message back to Alice, then in his rest frame the coordinates of the reply signal (in natural units so that c=1) are given by:

(t,x) = (t,at)

To find out when the reply is received by Alice, we perform a Lorentz transformation to Alice’s frame S' moving in the positive x-direction with velocity v with respect to the Earth. In this frame Alice is at rest at position x' = L, where L is the distance that the signal Alice sent to Earth traversed in her rest frame. The coordinates of the reply signal are given by:

t' = \gamma \left(1 - av\right) t
x' = \gamma \left(a -  v\right) t

The reply is received by Alice when x' = L. This means that t = \tfrac{L}{\gamma(a - v)} and thus:

t' = \frac{1 - av}{a - v}L

Since the message Alice sent to Bob took a time of \tfrac{L}{a} to reach him, the message she receives back from him will reach her at time:

T = \frac{L}{a} + t' = \left(\frac{1}{a} + \frac{1 - av}{a - v}\right)L

later than she sent her message. However, if v > \tfrac{2a}{1 + a^2} then T < 0 and Alice will receive the message back from Bob before she sends her message to him in the first place.

Benford et al.[4] wrote about such paradoxes in general:

The paradoxes of backward-in-time communication are well known. Suppose A and B enter into the following agreement: A will send a message at three o’clock if and only if he does not receive one at one o’clock. B sends a message to reach A at one o’clock immediately on receiving one from A at two o’clock. Then the exchange of messages will take place if and only if it does not take place. This is a genuine paradox, a causal contradiction.

They concluded that superluminal particles such as Tachyons are therefore not allowed to convey signals.

A diagram of the law’s application.

The computer industry is nearing a crisis: microchips get smaller and faster but they struggle to transfer data at sufficient speeds. Electrons flowing through standard chip connections are just too slow. Now EU-funded researchers have shown how chips with built-in lasers which use multiple wavelengths of light could in the future transmit data at terabit speeds.

Lasers are great for transmitting information. Every time you use the Internet or make a telephone call data, in the form of light pulses or photons, travels hundreds of kilometres through the optical fibre networks that crisscross the continent.

But the insides of computers still stick to old fashioned electronics. Microprocessors do their calculations with electrons, and they transfer data within and between chips using electrons too.

‘Electronics is fast approaching a crunch point,’ explains Dries Van Thourhout from the Department on Information Technology at Ghent University, an associated lab of imec, in Belgium.’Up to now we have been trying to increase the speed of transistors, but that performance has stopped increasing now, it is just a question of packing more into a smaller space. But the biggest hindrance to performance is the speed of the connections between chips and devices. We call it the “interconnectivity bottleneck.” ‘

Imagine a sweet factory which makes thousands of sweets per second, but the plant can only bag the sweets and dispatch them to the shops at a rate of a few hundred per second. Unless you slow down production you will end up with sweets piling up, rolling over the floor and clogging the system.

The powerful microprocessors in computers today use vast quantities of data and perform millions of calculations per second. You need to transfer this data around your computer (or your mobile phone for that matter). But the connections can’t keep up, they simply can not shift electrons fast enough. The only way to cope is to slow down data production.

This is where light comes in: you can use lasers to send photons down silicon ‘wires’ (light at infrared wavelengths travels remarkably well through silicon, says Mr Van Thourhout) instead of electrons. But the speed of light is not why optical interconnects are better. The real trick is that light can be ‘multiplexed’; basically you can send photons of different wavelengths through your interconnect at the same time. Use three wavelengths and you effectively triple the speed of data transmission.

Divide and conquer

With this in mind the ‘Wavelength division multiplexed photonic layer on CMOS’ ( Wadimos) project set out to develop a demonstration chip with multiplexing optical interconnects. The chip was based on technology developed in a predecessor project (PICMOS) which created the first ever microchip with integrated microlaser light sources, thanks to a unique bonding ‘glue’ developed by the PICMOS partners.

‘The PICMOS project was a great success. We showed that optical interconnects could be manufactured and that they would work,’ says Mr Van Thourhout. ‘But it is one thing to make and demonstrate something in the lab. You won’t get chips like these into the mainstream or solve that interconnectivity bottleneck unless you can manufacture them at the industrial scale, making millions of them. PICMOS demonstrated the principle of optical interconnects. Wadimos is proving that multiplexing is possible and that the chips can be made in a standard CMOS fabrication plant.’

Europe’s largest chip manufacturer STMicroelectronics has worked in collaboration with universities and research institutions from France and Italy and a Dutch SME which specialises in lithography (etching) for electronic components. Together these partners have extended the results of PICMOS and adapted them to more commercial manufacturing processes.

One of the biggest challenges was to replace the gold connections on the microlasers in the PICMOS prototype. ‘You can’t have gold in a chip fabrication plant,’ explains Mr Van Thourhout. ‘Gold is a contaminant, so partner CEA-LETI developed a process that would mean the integrated lasers mounted on the chips could be connected using metals commonly used in chip manufacturing such as aluminium, titanium and titanium nitride.’

Belgian project partner imec has also worked to optimise the passive router structures in silicon and investigated the feasibility for their industrial production. Other project partners have contributed their expertise: the Lyon Institute of Nanotechnology (INL) in France demonstrated a new type of ‘microsource’ for which you can control the output wavelength. INL also worked with STMicroelectronics to develop a way to simulate the optical network on a chip. Finally the University of Trento, Italy, designed and demonstrated a new type of silicon router which could be used to ‘switch’ photons down particular optical pathways.

Bringing these developments together, the Wadimos team has produced a network of eight fully interconnected silicon blocks. The researchers have demonstrated successful multiplexing across these connections and the feasibility of optical filtering to direct and control the passage of photons through the silicon interconnects and their subsequent detection.

There is still plenty of research to do, however, especially to keep the lasers working in the high temperature environment of a chip’s surface. Mr Van Thourhout says that they will need to find new materials that can cope with the heat.

‘Nevertheless, we are very hopeful that this approach will prove very successful in the long term,’ he asserts. ‘We are taking an exploratory approach.’ He explains that other research groups, especially those in the US, have developed optical interconnects that use an ‘off chip’ laser source; the laser beam is split and redirected for each interconnect.

‘These chips are more advanced and will soon be used in supercomputers,’ says Mr Van Thourhout, ‘and may eventually trickle down to mainstream computing, but in the long run it will be more efficient to have chips with integrated laser sources.

‘We expect the Wadimos interconnects to allow computer processing power to continue to increase and overcome the data transmission bottleneck. Our goal is to make optical interconnects a standard technology that will support the development of yet more powerful, smaller microprocessors capable of transferring data at rates of 100 terabits per second.’


HD 10180 planetary system (artist’s impression)
Wikimedia Commons

A star 127 light-years away, which stunned the world in 2010 by becoming the largest star system beyond our own, playing host to five, possibly seven alien worlds, is back in the headlines as it may actually have nine exoplanets orbiting it.

HD 10180 is a yellow dwarf star very much like the sun, so this discovery has drawn many parallels with our own Solar System.

It is a multi-planetary system surrounding a sun-like star. But it is also a very alien place with an assortment of worlds spread over wildly different orbits.

It is believed that one of HD 10180’s exoplanets is small, although astronomers only know the planets’ masses, not their physical size or composition. The smallest world weighs-in at 1.4 times the mass of Earth, making it a “super-Earth”.

When it was first revealed that HD 10180 was a multi-planetary system, astronomers of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) detected six exoplanets gravitationally “tugging” on their host star.

Using the “radial velocity” exoplanet detection method, the astronomers watched the star’s wobble to decipher up to seven worlds measuring between 1.4 to 65 times the mass of Earth.

Five exoplanets were found to be 12-to-25 times the mass of Earth, “Neptune-like” masses, while another was detected orbiting in the outermost reaches of the system with a mass of 65 Earth masses, a “Saturn-like” world, taking around 2,200 days to complete one orbit.

But now, in addition to verifying the signal of the small 1.4 Earth-mass world, there appears to be another two small alien worlds.

“In addition to these seven signals, we report two additional periodic signals that are, according to our model probabilities…statistically significant and unlikely to be caused by noise or data sampling or poor phasecoverage of the observations,” Discovery News quoted Mikko Tuomi from the University of Hertfordshire as saying.

This basically means that Tuomi has reanalysed the data from previous observations made by the HARPS spectrograph (attached to the ESO’s 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile), confirmed signals relating to the seven exoplanets discovered in 2010 and uncovered two new worlds in the process.

What’s more, these two new signals represent another two super-Earths, says Tuomi. One is 1.9 times more massive than Earth and the other is 5.1 Earth-masses.

Although these may be “super-Earths”, the only similarity to Earth is their mass, so don’t go getting excited that we may have spotted the much sought-after Earth analogs.

The 1.4 Earth-mass exoplanet has an orbital period of only 1.2 days. The two new super-Earths also have very tight orbits, where their “years” last only 10 and 68 days.

Therefore, any question of life existing on these worlds is moot, they will likely be hellishly hot, with no chance of liquid water existing on their surfaces. It’s debatable whether these worlds could hold onto any kind of atmosphere as they would be constantly sandblasted by intense stellar winds.

Beltelecom, the Belarusian state-owned fixed line and broadband operator, has employed Huawei to build out its 100G optical network.

The 1,200 km WDM-based network, which leverages the vendor’s optical coherent detection technology, will transit Belarus via a link from Grodno on the Polish border to Vitebsk near the Russian border.

This deployment follows a 100G transmission trial that Beltelecom conducted with Huawei on its live national backbone network over the Grodno-Vitebsk route. Over a distance of 900 km, the trial tested the ability to concurrently transmit 10G and 40G services over the same fiber without regeneration.

For the live 100G long-haul network transmission test, Huawei leveraged Polarization Division Multiplexing Quadrature Phase-Shift Keying (ePDM-QPSK) modulation. Beltelecom will leverage the same ePDM-QPSK modulation format when the network is commercially launched to provide up to 8 Tbps of capacity.

Given all of the customer announcements for 100G by Huawei’s key competitors–Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN)–lately, the win will Beltelecom gives the Chinese vendor its own proof point that its 100G systems are up to serve the task in large networks.

Overall, the ongoing deployments by Beltelecom reflects the larger trend where 40G and 100G deployments are driving 19 percent growth in the DWDM market as seen in a recent Dell’Oro report. Led by the trio of Huawei, Ciena and Alcatel-Lucent the 40G and 100G wavelength market grew over 60 percent, contributing almost one-third of the DWDM equipment segment’s revenues in 2011.