closing in on the gods

Ray Milland as X, a man with vision

A semi-regular round-up of some technology stories I’ve written about recently:

X-ray vision didn’t do Ray Milland much good in the long run; just as well then that the notion is a bit of a pipe dream. But seeing through an opaque screen is theoretically feasible, at least on a very small scale. You just have to decode the scrambled information that the photons in the blurry image are still carrying about the hidden object. All of which is far from trivial, needing a secondary laser shining on the screen and a whole lot of computing power, but it’s still a nifty trick.

More vision things: an artificial lens made to model the specialized design of natural lenses in some animal eyes, which have a range of refractive index values instead of being stuck with just one. This involves the small matter of eight thousand layers of nano-scale polymer, co-extruded and moulded very precisely.

Motion sensors are cropping up everywhere, for the most part based on long-established principles that limit how small they can be. So a new design small enough to fit onto chip-scale devices could ultimately be big business. This sensor is so tiny that, thanks to a fine example of the things that can happen in small-scale physics, it technically produces a localised temperature of -270 °C for itself to work in.

Also: new machinery for additive manufacturing in Germany; more money for additive manufacturing in the UK. The odd thing about this field is that I first saw it in action two decades ago, and the language about its great promise doesn’t seem to have changed much in all that time.

Plus: Measuring the physical stress that’s unavoidably caused in an embryonic heart by its own beating, which turns out to be connected to some long-term health issues once the embryo stage is long gone.

And: A potential way to diagnose bladder cancer early using confocal Raman spectroscopy, a technique whose suitability for this kind of thing has been known for a while but which never quite solved a couple of fundamental hurdles.

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