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Snakes' virtual glasses, leopard spots and all-optical transistors

l Chung-Hsing University and Oxford's Mathematical Institute, duplicates the changes in the patterns on leopards and jaguars as the animals age. Both felines sport simple spots when they are kittens. By the time they're adults, Jaguar's spots have turned to polygons, while Leopard wears rosettes. The researchers' model replicates the changes each of the species experiences, provided that the model parameters are tuned in different ways after the initial spots have formed. No one has ever found the morphogens that might be responsible for decorative animal pelts, which potentially makes Turing pattern morphogens the "Just So Story" of modern biology. Still, the researchers are encouraged by the fact that their model easily accounts for the big cats' complex and changing patterns, and are hopeful that experimentalists will soon track morphogen chemicals down.

An All-Optical Transistor Breakthrough
G. A. Wurtz, R. Pollard, and A.V. Zayats
Physical Review Letters (forthcoming article, available to journalists on request)

All-optical circuit components are light-based analogues of electrical transistors and other devices. They are among the most eagerly anticipated technological advances, with the potential to revolutionize computers and communications. But all-optical devices built in the past have been far too large and power hungry to be practical. Physicists at the Queen's University in Belfast appear to have solved the problems with a prototype optical amplifier that is both small and low power. The key to the device is a layer of gold film pierced by an array of holes 0.2 millionths of a meter in diameter and coated in a layer of polymer. The researchers shine two beams of light on the structure: a signal beam and a control beam. When the beams strike the patterned film they produce plasmons, which are essentially blobs of electron gas near the surface of a metal. Varying the intensity and the color of the control beam caus
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Source:American Physical Society


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