Highlights from Science 6/07 issue: wireless power, education, hippocampus, avatars

SciencewithiPhoneIt was a long time ago, when I last had the opportunity to scan through a complete printed, offline Science issue. On the picture made by Anna with my iPhone (it is not named yet), I am just going to relax with Science and sync my iPhone.

Here are my suggestions to read:

Straight Talk About STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Education (audio version of the roundtable is available)

The Power to Set You Free: One of the best-known technology magazines is Wired, capturing in one word both the attraction and the bane of the Information Age. We all want to be connected, but none of us loves the cables that connect. Of course, a rapidly expanding plethora of wireless technologies–cellular phones, WiFi, ID tags, Bluetooth, and many others–provide data connectivity. But despite improvements in battery technology and Moore’s Law, the increasing performance of portable devices still has us reaching for a power cord far more often than we would like. But now Kurs et al. report on page 83 of this issue an ingenious approach that may offer us a chance for true wireless freedom: Wireless Power Transfer via Strongly Coupled Magnetic Resonances: Using self-resonant coils in a strongly coupled regime, we experimentally demonstrated efficient nonradiative power transfer over distances up to 8 times the radius of the coils. We were able to transfer 60 watts with circa 40% efficiency over distances in excess of 2 meters.

GEOMETRY AND THE IMAGINATION: In Hyperbolic Space, Size Matters: Thurston, now at Cornell University, proved a surprising property of hyperbolic manifolds: Given any infinite collection of such manifolds, one member of the collection will be of smallest volume. (By contrast, for example, there is no smallest positive real number.) In particular, the entire collection of all hyperbolic manifolds must have a smallest representative.

The Hippocampus Review The Hippocampus Book–with a gestation period of 20 years, written by a team of 23 researchers, styled by 5 editors, weighing nearly 6 pounds, and running over 850 pages–summarizes 50 years of anatomical, physiological, and behavioral research on the sea horse-shaped structure buried deep within the brain’s medial temporal lobe.

COMPUTER SCIENCE: Virtually Trustworthy Reliability involves tradeoffs. Less reliable communication is often cheaper or easier; when deception becomes too prevalent, more costly signals or social sanctions may be needed. Suspicious citizens of the future may demand to interact with candidates only through trusted “manipulation-free” sites. Today, most 3D graphical sites are fantasy games, where role-playing and artifice are not only accepted but also required. As social sites such as Second Life gain popularity, other uses are emerging, including academic lectures, retail stores, and business meetings. These will require a range of avatar designs, not only in terms of technical sophistication but also across a continuum from the most attractive and impressively persuasive to the most rigorously and reliably grounded.