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Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed a way to record and retrieve data on the fifth dimension. The process involves using light to read information on nanostructured glass. The data files can last billions of years and are being used to store the most influential documents of our civilization to preserve our memory long after we are gone. (via U of Southampton)


Our civilization is obsessed with understanding and uncovering the past. Much of what we know about past civilization, however, has been pieced together by education assumptions and preserved artifacts. But what if we had a way to preserve the most important beliefs and documents of the era to ensure the civilizations to follow can continue to progress mankind, and learn from our mistakes? Well now, they can.


Researchers from the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre have spent the past few years perfecting data storage in the fifth dimension. The new technology can store 360TB of information, withstand temperatures of 190 degrees Celsius for 13.8 billion years, and are considered to be very stable overall. The portable discs of memory are being used to store huge archives of data, including the King James Bible, Magna Carta, Newton’s Opticks, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and that’s just the beginning.


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Aussie researchers base the technology on nanostructured glass, or fused quartz. The glass is encoded with femtosecond laser writing, which results in three small layers of dots separated by five micrometres. When light is shined through the small, circular storage files, the polarization of the light is modified, and the data can be read. The writing, however, must be read through an optical microscope and polarizer.


The researchers compare the innovation to Superman’s memory crystals. They say the files are five dimensional because of the 3D position of the nanostructured quartz itself, in additional to the nano size and orientation of the technology overall. The technology was demonstrated successfully at the UNESCO International Year of Light ceremony in Mexico.


ORC Professor Peter Kazansky said the innovation is thrilling in its ability to preserve the monuments of our civilization; that what we learned will be remembered. The technology has the capability to record entire libraries, and there’s no telling what information the researchers will transform into the timeless files.


The researchers will presented their findings at The International Society for Optical Engineering 2016 Conference in San Francisco, CA, last week. The researchers hope to commercialize their innovation, and are seeking industry partners to make this possible. 



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Researchers at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich successfully made the world’s smallest optical network switch. At one-atom in size, it may revolutionize network infrastructure in only a few years’ time. (via ETH)


In order to keep up with the increasing rate of data transmission, a team of Swiss researchers at ETH Zurich recently developed the world’s smallest optical network switch. It measures on the atomic scale and is actually smaller than the wavelength of light needed to operate it. The research may revolutionize data transmission in only a few years’ time by allowing for the development of the most powerful network infrastructure to date.


According to a paper published by the research team, data transmission on mobile and wire-based platforms continues to soar at incredible rates – 23% and 57% respectively each year. Current operational network switches vary from a few centimeters to a few inches in width, and if rates of data transmission continue to rise, network infrastructure must become physically expansive to keep up. For that reason, researchers at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich tried to make at optical network switch that could make for a more powerful, yet smaller, machine.




ETH Professor of Photonics and Communications Jürg Leuthold led the research team, and Senior Scientist Alexandros Emboras was largely responsible for the design that made the successful development of the switch possible. Emboras discovered that by placing a silicon membrane between a small pad made of silver, and another small pad made of platinum, he could manipulate atoms with wavelengths of light at low frequencies.


The modulator functions by keeping enough space – a few nanometers – between the small pads, and feeding wavelengths of light from an optical fiber through the small crevice. The light acts as a surface plasmon, which enables the transfer of energy to individual atoms on the metallic surfaces. These atoms begin moving at the speed of the light itself, and if the atoms enter the space between the two metallic pads, a short circuit is created through which data may be transmitted.




By controlling the flow of light through the optical fiber, Emboras was able to control the atoms, which acted as an on or off switch to the optical network circuit. By monitoring the activity on a highly specialized computer, team member and ETH Professor Mathieu Luisier was able to confirm the switch was activated by a single atom, making it both the smallest ever optical network switch, and the smallest possible switch at a single atom.


The discovery is revolutionary for a number of reasons. Its size allows for the development of smaller, more powerful network infrastructure that can sustain the rapid growth of data transmission. With this, it also provides a truly digital signal (a one or a zero), allowing the switch to also act as a transistor. It is a significant accomplishment for the information sciences.


Unfortunately, the switch is not ready for commercialization yet. Currently, it only exhibits a 17% success rate, and is only able to transmit data at megahertz frequencies. Researchers plan to continue their efforts and expect to present a practical, potentially marketable solution within the next few years.


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I have been working on a new interface board for the Jetson TK1 embedded supercomputer called the Jetduino. It makes it very easy to build robots that can use the parallel processing capabilites of the NVIDIA GPU for vision and neural neural networks.



The Jetduino mounts above the Jetson and has a small connector that fits in the 2mm J3A connectors. A Raspberry Pi GPIO ribbon cable then connects it to the Jetduino. It has mounting points for a 2.5" HD, wireless antennas, a large proto-typing area, and a built-in shield for an Arduino Due. Just like the GrovePi for the Rapsberry Pi, you can use Python and C libraries to talk directly to the Arduino to set and receive digital and analog data. You can also control regular and smart servos. It has numerous Grove and RobotGeek connectors for modular sensors and motor actuators. I just put out a new blog post and two YouTube videos showing how to setup the Jetduino and perform digital I/O with 12 of the Jetson TK1 GPIO lines, and the 54 lines available on the Due. I am working on videos to show off the other features as well. If you would like to be notified when these are available please sign up for my newsletter. I plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign to get the Jetduino produced sometime in March or April, and I will need the help of any makers out there who want to make it easier to build robots or electronic projects with the awesome Jetson TK1.


Blog Post with YouTube videos:



Here are a couple of links describing what the Jetduino is.

Jetduino V1 description:

Jetduino V1 test results:



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