Saturday, 14 January 2012

IBM researchers make 12-atom magnetic memory bit

The groups of atoms were built using a scanning tunneling microscope

Researchers have successfully stored a single data bit in only 12 atoms.
Currently it takes about a million atoms to store a bit on a modern hard-disk, the researchers from IBM say.
They believe this is the world's smallest magnetic memory bit.
According to the researchers, the technique opens up the possibility of producing much denser forms of magnetic computer memory than today's hard disk drives and solid state memory chips.
"Roughly every two years hard drives become denser," research lead author Sebastian Loth told the BBC.
"The obvious question to ask is how long can we keep going. And the fundamental physical limit is the world of atoms.
"The approach that we used is to jump to the very end, check if we can store information in one atom, and if not one atom, how many do we need?" he said.
Below 12 atoms the researchers found that the bits randomly lost information, owing to quantum effects.
A bit can have a value of 0 or 1 and is the most basic form of information in computation.
"We kept building larger structures until we emerged out of the quantum mechanical into the classical data storage regime and we reached this limit at 12 atoms."
The groups of atoms, which were kept at very low temperatures, were arranged using a scanning tunnelling microscope. Researchers were subsequently able to form a byte made of eight of the 12-atom bits.
Central to the research has been the use of materials with different magnetic properties.
The magnetic fields of bits made from conventional ferromagnetic materials can affect neighbouring bits if they are packed too closely together.
"In conventional magnetic data storage the information is stored in ferromagnetic material," said Dr Loth, who is now based at the
Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Germany.
"That adds up to a big magnetic field that can interfere with neighbours. That's a big problem for further miniaturisation."
Other scientists thought that was an interesting result.
"Current magnetic memory architectures are fundamentally limited in how small they can go," Dr Will Branford, of Imperial College London, told the BBC.
"This work shows that in principle data can be stored much more densely using antiferromagnetic bits."
But the move from the lab to the production may be some time away.
"Even though I as a scientist would totally dig having a scanning tunnelling microscope in every household, I agree it's a very experimental tool," Dr Loth said.
Dr Loth believes that by increasing the number of atoms to between 150 to 200 the bits can be made stable at room temperature. That opens up the possibility of more practical applications.
"This is now a technological challenge to find out about new manufacturing techniques," he said.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Virgin Media to double the speed of customer broadband

Bandwidth allowance will be doubled in accordance with the speed increase, Virgin Media said

Virgin Media will double the speed of its broadband service for more than four million of its customers, the company has said.
The upgrade, which begins in February, will also see the service's top speed increase from 100Mbps to 120Mbps.
The full rollout is expected to be complete by mid-2013 at a cost to the company of £110m.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said the investment would be a "great boost" to the UK.
"I welcome this announcement from Virgin Media," Mr Cameron said in a statement.
"It will provide a great boost for the economy and change the way many households, consumers and businesses use the internet.
"Rolling out superfast broadband across the country is a critical part of our plan to upgrade the UK's infrastructure and build a new and smarter economy."
The government has set targets to improve the UK's broadband speeds considerably in the next three years.
Virgin Media's chief executive Neil Berkett said: "The internet has become an integral part of our social, work and family lives, so we think our customers are going to love this.
"As people are increasingly doing more online, and getting connected to the internet with lots of different devices, having a fast, reliable broadband service should not be a luxury.
"We want to make sure that consumers have access to the best value broadband service and that means a superfast connection."
BT announced it was investing £2.5bn to make fibre broadband available to two-thirds of UK premises by the end of 2015.
It has since invested a further £300m to bring that target forward to the end of 2014.
It promised significant improvements to most homes, while even faster broadband - around 300Mbps - will become available in a limited number of "superfast" areas.
In response to Virgin Media's plans, BT said: "It is no surprise to see that Virgin are following our lead by doubling speeds.
"We announced we would do this for our fibre products last autumn and so they are trying to catch up with us."
BT's fastest available speed to the majority of its customers is currently 40Mbps.
Free of charge
Virgin Media's upgrade will mean customers currently signed up for 10Mbps will be boosted to 20Mbps, while users on 20Mbps and 30Mbps packages will both be upped to 60Mbps.
Those on 50Mbps will be increased to 100Mbps. Customers already on the top 100Mbps tariff will be raised to 120Mbps - the fastest speed Virgin Media is currently able to provide.
The company said bandwidth usage limits will also be doubled to accommodate the increased speed.
Most customers will not notice the upgrades taking place, nor will any have to pay for the changes to take place, a spokesman said.
However, some users with old modems and other similar hardware will receive new up-to-date equipment free of charge.
Fernando Elizalde, a principal analyst from Gartner who specialises in consumer broadband, said he believed Virgin Media's investment in expanding its broadband capability was sound.
"In the last year and a half, multiple connections in the home and online video have caught up so much that it justifies having this high amount of bandwidth," he told the BBC.
"But there is still the question about rural areas. Virgin still cover mostly urban areas - they don't reach as many people in rural areas as BT and other telecoms providers."
According to Ookla, a company which uses monitors broadband speed tests across the world, the UK ranks around 35th globally when ranked by broadband consumer download speed - an average of 11.65Mbps.
Virgin Media say that when the rollout is complete, that average could rise to around 16.46Mbps.
Based on Ookla's research, which gathers data from millions of speed tests, the increase would rank UK the 19th-fastest globally when compared to today's standards.
'Competitive advantage'
The BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas said the service improvement will come at an opportune time as more bandwidth-heavy services like Lovefilm and Netflix, which launched this week in the UK, begin to start attracting larger numbers.
"It means their subscribers can get their television, movies and songs even more quickly than they could before, which is obviously good news," he said.
Fibre optic cablesBT is investing in upgrading the UK's ageing and slow copper infrastructure
"But Virgin still hasn't managed to convince the majority of consumers that their system is better than broadband that comes down the telephone line.
"Until they do, they won't be able to establish a real competitive advantage."
Andrew Ferguson, of independent broadband review site added: "The news is good for UK broadband as a whole and should highlight that the UK is not the internet backwater sometimes it is portrayed as.
"It means that around a quarter of Virgin Media customers will be meeting the basic speed requirement of 30 Meg which is an EU target for 2020, many years ahead of time."

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

America's Least Stressful Jobs 2012

Bring up the idea of LEAST stressful jobs and someone is sure to jump up and declare, “Hey, how do I get one of those?” 

Job-search portal CareerCast has once again crunched the statistics and come up with its list of the 10 least stressful jobs in America. 

“The least stressful jobs are the ones where expectations on you aren’t high and you have complete control over your day,” said Tony Lee, the publisher of and “You’re not dependent on other people to do their job for you in order for you to do yours.” 

They’re also mostly 9 to 5 jobs, so you don’t have to take your work home with you. “You can turn it off when you walk out,” Lee explained. 

And, it can never be overestimated that, with many of these jobs, you’re providing a skill or service that people want and seek out, so your clients are often grateful. They appreciate you and choose to work with you. 

Indeed, the appeal of a low-stress job is great — especially when you consider this extraordinary fact: The salaries of many of the least stressful jobs are about the same as many on the list of most stressful jobs. 

“Your salary may not even suffer” as a result of choosing a low-stress job, Lee said. But, it’s not so easy as just changing teams to a low-stress job. Many people who would choose a high-stress job like, say, firefighter, wouldn’t necessarily choose a low stress job like (spoiler alert) jeweler. 

In all, CareerCast used 11 criteria to come up with its list: travel, outlook/growth potential income, deadlines, working in the public eye, competitiveness, physical demands, environmental conditions, hazards encountered, own life at risk, life of another at risk and meeting the public. 

So what are these low-pressure jobs? Click ahead to read about the 10 least stressful jobs of 2012. 

Routine aspirin 'may cause harm'

                       Should healthy people take aspirin?

Healthy people who take aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke could be doing more harm than good, warn researchers.
An analysis of more than 100,000 patients, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded the risk of internal bleeding was too high.
The UK-led study said only people with a history of heart problems or stroke should take the tablets.
Experts said any decision should be made with a doctor.
Aspirin helps people who have had a heart attack or stroke. It prevents blood clots from forming by preventing cells, known as platelets, from sticking together. By reducing the number of clots formed, the tablets reduce the risk of another heart attack or stroke.
There have also been suggestions that the drug can prevent some cancers, however, the drug is known to increase the chance of internal bleeding, including bleeds on the brain.
The discussion has been whether at-risk or even healthy people should also take aspirin.
Official guidelines were issued in 2005 by the Joint British Societies, which includes the British Cardiac Society, British Hypertension Society and The Stroke Association. It recommended 75 mg of aspirin a day for high risk patients over the age of 50. The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin said in 2008 that preventative aspirin should be abandoned unless there was already evidence of cardiovascular disease.
Good or bad?
Researchers analysed data from nine trials, from a total of 102,621 patients.
They said that while there was a 20% reduction in non-fatal heart attacks in people taking aspirin, there was no reduction in deaths from heart attack, stroke or cancer.
Meanwhile the risk of potentially life threatening internal bleeding increased by 30%.
Lead researcher Prof Kausik Ray, from St George's, University of London, told the BBC: "If you treat 73 people for about six years you will get one of these non-trivial bleeds.
"If you treat about 160 people for the same period of time, you're preventing one heart attack that probably wouldn't have been fatal anyway.
"It suggests that the net benefit for aspirin is not there, it certainly doesn't prolong life. If you think about it the net benefit, actually there is net harm.
The study followed patients for an average of six years. An analysis led by Prof Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University, suggested that regularly taking aspirin reduced the risk of a series of cancers, when patients were followed for much longer.
Prof Rothwell said the new study was "very nicely done, but I don't think it develops [the argument] much further".
He added: "It really just emphasises the need for a more detailed analysis of how risks change over time."
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Aspirin can help reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke among those with known heart disease, and this group of people should continue to take aspirin as prescribed by their doctor.
"Our advice is that people who don't have symptomatic or diagnosed heart disease shouldn't take aspirin because the risk of internal bleeding may outweigh the benefits.
"If you're taking prescribed aspirin and have any concerns, don't simply stop taking it. Always talk to your doctor first."

Monday, 9 January 2012

Children 'switching from TV to mobile internet'

Young people's lives increasingly revolve around mobile phones, suggests an annual survey

Television is being pushed aside by mobile internet gadgets, a UK survey of young people's technology suggests.
The number of children with televisions in their bedroom is falling - almost matched now by those with their own personal internet access, says the annual Childwise monitoring survey.
Among seven to 16 year olds, 61% have a mobile phone with internet access.
Children use their mobiles for an average of 1.6 hours a day, the survey of 2,770 five to 16 year olds says.
The biggest trend in children's use of gadgets, according to the report from the market research company, is the growth in internet use through mobile phones.
The survey was based on interviews carried out in autumn 2011.
Push-button culture
The report presents a picture of a typical young person's home life which increasingly revolves around the mobile phone.
Talking, texting and accessing the internet are now reached through the mobile - with more than three-quarters of secondary-age pupils now using mobiles to get online.
The way children use media through the day is also changing, says the research, suggesting a push-button, on-demand culture, which is moving away from scheduled television programmes.
Before school, children are now more likely to play with their mobiles than watch television.
When children get home from school, instead of rushing to switch on the television, they are more likely to reach for the internet.
When children are reading at home, it is more likely to be through a screen rather than a book or a magazine.
Even in bed at night, the mobile phone is being used by 32% of children across the five to 16 age range.
It also seems to be approaching game over for old-style PCs in children's bedrooms - which have been replaced by laptops and tablet-style computers.
Land-line telephones are also looking like yesterday's world for many of these youngsters - with the research claiming that more children know how to send a text message than find a telephone number.
Facebook remains the most popular website - used by 51% of children in the week before the survey - but the researchers suggest that it is showing signs of having "fallen back".
End of the portable?
Research director Rosemary Duff says that the growth of mobile internet is the most significant change in how children use technology.
The decline in television use is continuing - and she says it appears that the portables once bought for children's bedrooms are not being replaced.
But she says that television should not be written off prematurely - as it still plays a very important role in the media lives of children.
Even though children might be using the internet more than ever, she says, the content can be often be related to television programmes.
Mobile phones and the internet each occupy about an hour and a half on average per day - but television viewing on average still accounts for two and half hours.
And the "multi-tasking" talents of teenagers mean that many youngsters using the internet, or playing on a games console, are also watching television.