November 11th, 2003

Dark Tower

(no subject)

While my nanoguitar gently heats

EVEN Hendrix would have struggled with this guitar. It was etched out of a silicon wafer by researchers at Cornell University in New York state, and it's little more than 30 micrometres long. This isn't the first or smallest "nanoguitar" - the group made one in the shape of a Fender Stratocaster back in 1997 - but it's the first to be played. Lidija Sekaric and her colleagues found a way to turn an ordinary laser into a nanoplectrum. They use interference to modulate the laser light so that it heats the strings intermittently. This makes them bend back and forth, producing notes at around 40 megahertz. The group developed the technique to drive other microelectromechanical devices, or MEMs. Earlier methods only worked well in a vacuum, but this one works in air, so it could be used in microscopic sensors to sniff out drugs or explosives, or to weigh bacteria. The guitar, though, was made for fun - and publicity. The researchers can even listen to the guitar, by detecting light reflected from it, analysing the signal and transposing it down by 17 octaves. "We played the bugle call from Amazing Grace," says Sekaric. "It sounded like a wind instrument - quite pure tones." Sekaric described the work at a meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, on Wednesday.

I haven't kept up too well with nanotech, possibly because I can't quite see how the problem of scale can be overcome, other than things like chemical additives. But being able to make a nano-guitar, and then playing it, seems pretty impressive to me.

Dark Tower

I remember...

...an anecdote told by a teacher in high school. Apparently when they were negotiating a cease fire to the War, it was late on the 10th of the November, and they realised that if they held it over a few hours, the ceasefire could take effect at 11:00 on the 11th of the 11th.

So the guns kept firing and killed a few hundred soldiers, for the sake of numerical neatness.

Is that true? It sounds about right.

(But since I can't remember if we're supposed to be remembering WW1 or WW2, I can't be said to be a particularly informed source)