The Web Time Forgot

MONS, Belgium — On a fog-drizzled Monday afternoon, this fading
medieval city feels like a forgotten place. Apart from the obligatory
Gothic cathedral, there is not much to see here except for a tiny
storefront museum called the Mundaneum, tucked down a narrow street in
the northeast corner of town. It feels like a fittingly secluded home
for the legacy of one of technology’s lost pioneers: Paul Otlet.

In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or
“electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow
people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents,
images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the
devices to send messages to one another, share files and even
congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a
“rĂ©seau,” which might be translated as
“network” — or arguably, “web.”

Historians typically trace the origins of the World Wide Web through
a lineage of Anglo-American inventors like Vannevar Bush, Doug
Engelbart and Ted Nelson. But more than half a century before Tim
Berners-Lee released the first Web browser in 1991, Otlet (pronounced
ot-LAY) described a networked world where “anyone in his armchair
would be able to contemplate the whole of creation.”

Otlet’s proto-Web relied on a patchwork of analog technologies
like index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the
hyperlinked structure of today’s Web. “This was a Steampunk
version of hypertext,” said Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired,
who is writing a book about the future of technology.


RiTdisplay develops OLED touch panels

Taiwan-based RiTdisplay has developed OLED panels with touch functionality, which is now ready for volume production once orders are received, according to the company.

The OLED capacity touch panel adopts STMicroelectronics' controller IC, and currently three sizes – 1.1-, 1.8- and 3.1-inch –have been developed, the company said.

RiTdisplay is a leading supplier of OLED panels, with its focus on the passive matrix type. It said 70% of its clients are brand name vendors.

RiTdisplay OLED touch panel


Scientists develop fastest computer

WASHINGTON - Scientists unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer on Monday, a $100 million machine that for the first time has performed 1,000 trillion calculations per second in a sustained exercise.

The technology breakthrough was accomplished by engineers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and IBM Corp. on a computer to be used primarily on nuclear weapons work, including simulating nuclear explosions.

The computer, named Roadrunner, is twice as fast as IBM's Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which itself is three times faster than any of the world's other supercomputers, according to IBM.

"The computer is a speed demon. It will allow us to solve tremendous problems," said Thomas D'Agostino, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons research and maintains the warhead stockpile.

But officials said the computer also could have a wide range of other applications in civilian engineering, medicine and science, from developing biofuels and designing more fuel-efficient cars to finding drug therapies and providing services to the financial industry.

To put the computer's speed in perspective, it has roughly the computing power of 100,000 of today's most powerful laptops stacked 1.5 miles high, according to IBM. Or, if each of the world's 6 billion people worked on hand-held computers for 24 hours a day, it would take them 46 years to do what the Roadrunner computer can do in a single day.


New 'super-paper' is stronger than cast iron

Punching your way out of a paper bag could become a lot harder,
thanks to the development of a new kind of paper that is stronger than
cast iron.

new paper could be used to reinforce conventional paper, produce
extra-strong sticky tape or help create tough synthetic replacements
for biological tissues, says Lars Berglund from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

its great strength, Berglund's "nanopaper" is produced from a
biological material found in conventional paper: cellulose. This long
sugar molecule is a principal component of plant cell walls and is the
most common organic compound on Earth.

Wood is typically about half cellulose, mixed with other structural compounds.

Support network

plant cell walls individual cellulose molecules bind together to
produce fibres around 20 nanometres in diameter, 5000 times thinner
than a human hair. These fibres form tough networks that provide the
cell walls with structural support.

nanofibres are the main reinforcement in all plant structures and are
characterised by nanoscale dimensions, high strength and toughness,"
Berglund told New Scientist.

is extracted from wood to make paper, is the basis of cellophane, and
has also recently been used by materials scientists developing novel
plastic materials. But they have used it only as a cheap filler
material, ignoring its mechanical properties.

the mechanical processes used to pulp wood and process it into paper
damage the individual cellulose fibres, greatly reducing their
strength. So Berglund and colleagues have developed a gentler process
that preserves the fibres' strength.

Tough as iron

new method involves breaking down wood pulp with enzymes and then
fragmenting it using a mechanical beater. The shear forces produced
cause the cellulose to gently disintegrate into its component fibres.

end result is undamaged cellulose fibres suspended in water. When the
water is drained away Berglund found that the fibres join together into
networks held by hydrogen bonds, forming flat sheets of "nanopaper".

testing shows it has a tensile strength of 214 megapascals, making it
stronger than cast iron (130 MPa) and almost as strong as structural
steel (250 MPa).

paper has a tensile strength less than 1 MPa. The tests used strips 40
millimetres long by 5mm wide and about 50 micrometres thick.



Say goodbye to paper tickets

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has bid farewell to
the paper ticket on the eve of the industry’s conversion to 100%
electronic ticketing.

“Today we say goodbye to an industry icon,” said Giovanni
Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The paper
ticket has served us well, but its time is over. After four years of
hard work by airlines around the world, tomorrow marks the beginning of
a new, more convenient and more efficient era for air travel.”

Paper tickets date back to the 1920s. Each airline used a different
form with varying rules. Airlines soon recognised the need for
standardisation of traffic documents, regulations and procedures to
support the growth of an industry that spanned the world. In 1930, the
IATA Traffic Committee developed the first standard hand-written ticket
for multiple trips. These same standards served the industry into the
early 1970s.

The organisations says a paper ticket costs an average of US$10 to
process versus US$1 for an electronic ticket. With over 400 million
tickets issued through IATA’s settlement systems annually, the
industry will save over US$3 billion each year.

To complete the conversion IATA has contacted 60,000 travel agents in
more than 200 countries to collect the remaining unused paper tickets
in the system – some 32 million worldwide. These will be securely
reclaimed, destroyed and recycled. “An era has ended. If you have
a paper ticket, it’s time to donate it to a museum,” said