SCIENCE TRIBUNE Thursday, October 31, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Innovative computers of the future
Radhakrishna Rao
N a major breakthrough, four Indian researchers have solved the question of what limits exist on the speed of a quantum computer, the futuristic computer which is expected to overcome many of the limitations associated with the silicon based conventional computing machines.

Human cloning seen as inevitable
Sonia Kolehnikov
UMAN cloning will happen at some stage in the future and it would be naive to think otherwise, the British cloning expert who helped create Dolly the sheep has said. "I believe someone will be cloned at some stage in the future," Alan Colman told a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents Association. 


  • Bear that speaks in your voice

  • Iron powder for ground water

  • Lie-detector tests not reliable

  • Do this for the blind




Innovative computers of the future
Radhakrishna Rao

IN a major breakthrough, four Indian researchers have solved the question of what limits exist on the speed of a quantum computer, the futuristic computer which is expected to overcome many of the limitations associated with the silicon based conventional computing machines.

As envisaged now, quantum computing systems are projected to solve computational problems that conventional computers, including supercomputers, could find it difficult to tackle and solve.

Physicists Arun K. Patil of Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar, Sudhir Ranjan Jain and Abhas Mitras of the Mumbai based Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and former BARC head Dr Raja Ramanna have come out with the thesis that the speed and running time of a quantum computer is limited by the type of the fundamental interaction inherent in the system.

Further they have suggested that quantum computing systems, based on different elementary particles, can be labelled according to their speed, running time and physical interaction between the particles.

Based on the principles of quantum mechanics, a quantum computer is a flexible and versatile system that can built out of the logical two state interaction called Qubit. As per the laws of quantum physics, there are basically four types of fundamental interaction between the elementary particles and this interaction help carry information for quantum logic operations. If a quantum computer is engineered from elementary particles subject to interaction, then its speed and running time should depend on the type of interaction.

On another front, researchers at the US computer outfit Hewlett-Packard (HP) have developed a computer memory chip using new molecular technology that takes miniaturisation further than ever before. Significantly, HP researchers have created a 64-bit memory unit that fits inside a square micron (one millionth of a metre). This implies that some thousands of these memory units could be arranged on the end of a single strand of hair. "Capacity and performance could be extended enormously by layering molecular switch devices", observed R.Stanely Williams, Director of Quantum Science Research at HP Labs.

Researchers have also covered much ground in devising a biological computer based on the molecules of DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) — the master molecule and basic blueprint of life. Significantly, this microscopic computer employs enzymes as hardware, which in turn, coaxes DNA molecules to transform themselves into corresponding software. "The living cell contains incredible molecular machine that manipulates information encoding molecules in ways that are fundamentally similar to computation", said Dr Ehud Shapiro, a Professor at the Weizman Institute in Jerusalem which has engineered an experimental DNA computer.

According to Shapiro, a trillion molecules acting together can perform a billion operations per second with 99.8 per cent accuracy. As it is, the trillion cells require less than a billionth watt of power to operate. An operational version of the DNA computer could help medical researchers zero in on the abnormal biochemical changes in the human body that perhaps lead to diseases and disorders and correct them by synthesising and releasing necessary drugs.

In the staggeringly complex and intricate process of protein synthesis made possible by DNA researchers behold the possibility of devising a truly parallel computing machine. In the baffling chemical structure and functions of the double helix DNA, nature has designed a near perfect super computer. This is because DNA can store, retrieve and process billions of bits of complex data in its own inimitable way.

As and when an operational DNA computer becomes a reality, it would be trillion times more energy efficient than an ordinary digital computer. Further, in contrast to the conventional computer, it would just need a trillionth of the space to store information.



Human cloning seen as inevitable
Sonia Kolehnikov

HUMAN cloning will happen at some stage in the future and it would be naive to think otherwise, the British cloning expert who helped create Dolly the sheep has said.

"I believe someone will be cloned at some stage in the future," Alan Colman told a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents Association. If they are cloned, does this mean I should feel an absolute personal responsibility? Of course, you will feel somewhat responsible, but does this mean I should feel guilty, and the answer I feel, is no.

Mr Colman, who helped to clone Dolly from an adult cell in 1997 amid much controversy, said he personally is opposed to human cloning.

"In my view, there is no compelling reason why anyone should have the right to (clone an) individual," Mr Colman said. He pointed out that for Dolly the sheep, 430 eggs had to be used. They resulted in seven pregnancies with the only successful one leading to Dolly. "That’s a huge attrition rate," he noted, adding that he viewed the idea of human cloning as unethical.

"When you go from one species to another, the whole learning process starts again," he explained. "So however successful you are with cows and pigs, it doesn’t mean that when you apply the same technique to human you get the same success, you don’t."

Mr Colman said he did not know where human cloning eventually would take place. However, "there are poor people that can be exploited to give eggs and some scientists sufficiently unscrupulous to exploit them." He also said he does not expect Italian doctor Severino Antinori will succeed in his project to clone a human. Antinori has announced plans to use cloning technology to help infertile couples have children. UPI




Bear that speaks in your voice

No crank calls Please. Parents in the USA are split on the merits of Wabi Buddy, a 15-inch stuffed bear that talks to your kids in your voice.

Just call a PIN-protected phone number and leave a message for your little one. The bear giggles and its bracelet lights — your kid squeezes the bear’s belly and hears your message.

Wabi Buddy stores five minutes of messages and works 500 feet from its 900MHz base station. A cellular version will be available next year. Price: $ 49 to $ 59 for the bear, $ 0.10 per minute for calls.

— Popular Science


Iron powder for ground water

Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, have produced a type of highly reactive iron powder that they claim can be used for decontaminating groundwater as well as river water.

They say it can also be used to remove arsenic — a deadly poison present in wells in several parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Iron powder produced at ARCI is from "haemetite" ore, which is available in plenty in India as mine burden in the form of "blue dust", ARCI deputy Director R Sundaresan told PTI.

"Based on work at ARCI, it may become possible to treat contaminated water (arsenic in West Bengal, organic compounds from chemical industries, chromates from plating industries and nitrates in agricultural fields) with high purity iron powder from our own blue dust", he said.

The special iron powder, scientifically called "Zero Valent Iron (ZVI)" is also being explored elsewhere in the world for treating contaminated ground water after its use was first demonstrated in Canada. But the ZVI used is iron filings and foundry scrap whose reactivity is poor requiring huge quantities of the material.

Scientists at ARCI have enhanced the effectiveness of the decontaminating system by using highly reactive iron powder. They have developed the process for obtaining high purity highly reactive iron powder suitable for such application. PTI

Lie-detector tests not reliable

Lie-detectors are unreliable tools for ferreting out spies and have probably tarnished the reputations of thousands of innocent people, a U.S. scientific panel has found.

Although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US investigators routinely use them, ‘’no spy has ever been caught using the polygraph,’’ George Mason University researcher Kathryn Laskey told the Washington Post.

The National Academy of Sciences study was commissioned by the Energy Department following the scandal around scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was accused, then cleared, of passing nuclear secrets to China.

Lee was wrongly told by investigators he had failed his test, to make him confess to spying, even though the machine had indicated he was telling the truth. He spent months in solitary confinement.

In polygraph tests, subjects are asked questions while the machine measures their heart rate and blood pressure to pick up signs of anxiety and tension associated with lying.

The 17-member panel found lie detectors may have some use in criminal investigations, where subjects can be asked specific questions about a crime, said the Post.

But they warned that the tests have tended to be unreliable in countering espionage, where large numbers of people are asked general questions about whether they have done anything wrong. DPA

Do this for the blind

Taking a cue from the Braille technology, it was made mandatory to provide a dot projection on number 5 of all telephone sets so that the blind may locate it and dial the number they desire by judging other numbers with respect to number 5.

Accordingly, the phone sets are now always provided with this dot projection all over the world and result is that the blind can sometimes dial a number faster than a person having eyesight.

Later the practice was extended to computer keyboards also. It is time now that all mobile phone-sets and all remote control handsets, may be for any appliance, including TV sets, are also provided with a similar dot projection on number 5 to enable the blind to use them. TV sets should be included so that the blind may at least be able to listen to the programmes and the news.

— Jagvir Goyal, Bathinda







1. Bright star in the night sky.

7. Drawing made by projection on horizontal surface.

8. This will be the polestar in 14000 A.D.

9. An HP Corporation promoting mushroom cultivation.

10. …out, another name for an exit or door.

11. Open chain saturated hydrocarbon called paraffin.

12. Symbol for Nickel.

13. Regular beat of the arteries.

14. Self help organization of those in US who wish to leave habit of overeating.

16. A Delhi based society of Gastro-entrology. (abbr.)

17. …..meter measures the degree of shiny finish of a surface.

19. Abbr. for widely used shock treatment by passing electric current through patients’ brain.

21. Mineral from which a metal can be extracted economically.

22. A rigid conductor used to connect three or more circuits.

23. The age of Dinosaurs.

25. Arrangement of single notes in musically expressive succession.

26. Unit of energy in CGS system.


1. …..meter is used to measure curvature of spherical surfaces.

2. This effect is quite useful in study of molecular energy level of liquids.

3. ……meter is used to measure the angle an aircraft makes with the horizontal.

4. Symbol for Uranium.

5. The star that is 400 times larger than the sun.

6. Straight line touching but not cutting a curve.

8. This planet has thick clouds of sulphuric acid.

10. ……Lazuli is the name for bright blue stone.

15. A nuclear device in which a nuclear fission chain reaction takes place. (abbr.)

18. Irrational number especially root of integer.

20. India’s premier multi-disciplinary scientific research organization.

24. Abbr. for Centre of Gravity.

Solution to last week’s Crossword: