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True Random Numbers From Your Smartphone Camera?

Apple hopes its new iPhone can replace credit cards, but many fear mobile transactions are vulnerable to digital pickpockets. New research now suggests that smartphone cameras could help keep credit card data, phone calls, and email secure with just an app.

The cryptographic systems that help protect digital transactions rely on random numbers, which are used to create "keys" to encrypt and decrypt confidential data. However, "if you want to break these cryptographic systems, the random number generator is one of the weakest links," says lead study author Bruno Sanguinetti, a quantum physicist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. That’s because computer programs are completely deterministic, designed to do things predictably, and so cannot easily generate truly random numbers by themselves.

One could produce truly random numbers by monitoring intrinsically random quantum phenomena, such as when radioactive atoms decay. Now Sanguinetti and his colleagues reveal that smartphone cameras can serve as the basis of such a quantum random number generator.

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Formula E Opens With A Crash

The first race in the ten-race electric Formula E series ended with a crash this past Saturday in Beijing. e.dams-Renault driver Nico Prost held the lead toward the end of the race, but as he approached the final lap, Venturi driver Nick Heidfeld passed Prost on the inside. Prost bumped Heidfeld, sending the Venturi car into a crash barrier and into the air. After landing upside down, Heidfeld scrambled out of the car and accosted Prost. Audi Sport ABT driver Lucas di Grassi passed the pair and took first place.

Though Formula E cars are heavier than the Formula One cars that inspired them, and much quieter, race organizers are betting that they can put on enough of a show to attract a new generation of race fans (see "Electrifying Formula One" 24 October 2013, IEEE Spectrum). The inaugural race showed that Formula E, in which drivers put single-seat electric race cars through their paces, can deliver much of the same drama as competitions featuring cars with internal combustion engines. Before the final-lap dust-up, other drivers grazed each other, damaging one car. Other cars suffered technical problems, forcing them out of the race.

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Solar Storms Strike Earth in One-Two Punch

Two recent solar eruptions hurled writhing ribbons of magnetic field and plasma at the Earth. Luckily, the planet's own magnetic field helped to deflect most of the energy and limit the damage. But scientists say that the arrival of these solar storm events could have played some mild havoc with GPS satellites and terrestrial communications systems this past weekend.

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Google's First Quantum Computer Will Build on D-Wave's Approach

Most quantum computing labs hope to slowly build universal "gate-model" machines that could perform as super-fast versions of today's classical computers. Such labs have tended to cast a skeptical eye upon D-Wave, the Canadian company that has rapidly developed a more specialized type of quantum computing machine for lease to corporate customers such as Google and Lockheed Martin. In the latest twist, Google has hired an academic team of researchers to help build the first Google quantum computer based on the specialized D-Wave approach rather than on a universal gate-model blueprint.

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Quantum Photonics on a Single Chip?

Researchers from Nanjing University, Beijing Institute of Aerospace Control Devices, and Southeast University, Nanjing, in China have demonstrated the creation of entangled photons and their manipulation on a single chip. The group reported this research last week in Physical Review Letters.

The researchers used lithium niobate (LN) as the material for the chip. LN, widely used in cellphones and modulators in telecommunications, is a material with a highly nonlinear response to light. Because of these optical properties it allows the integration of a number of quantum devices, and it is becoming the material of choice for the fabrication of photonic chips.

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Satellite Links Help Speed Up Cancer Screening

In the United Kingdom, a fleet of vans patrol rural areas of the nation daily, providing breast cancer screenings for residents. These screenings are a boon to residents in far-flung areas, who may have a hard time accessing care otherwise, especially for procedures like cancer screenings, which can seem less than urgent much of the time.

Now, the nearly 30-year-old service is getting an upgrade to its data delivery system, using satellites to transmit patient data to hospitals from the remote areas where it is often gathered. The dedicated satellite links could help speed up diagnoses and let vans return to hospitals less frequently, allowing them to serve more patients each day.

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“Loading” Symbols Take Over Internet In Net Neutrality Protest

If the Internet seems a little slower than usual today, it’s probably not. But it may look that way due to a protest from Net Neutrality advocates around the web. Sites like Netflix, WordPress, and Reddit will be displaying loading symbols on their front pages to show their support for equal treatment of all the data flowing through the Internet.

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Wearable Tech Could Help Track Gun Violence

Some convicted criminals released on parole or probation are required to wear electronic monitoring devices so that police officers and court officials can track their movements. Despite these precautions, individuals serving their sentences in the community are still responsible for almost half of the incidents of gun violence prosecuted in the United States, says University of Pennsylvania criminology professor Charles Loeffler. Adding existing technology to current monitoring devices, though, could help deter these shooters by recording and reporting when they fire a gun.

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Intel Finally Goes Fanless

PC and laptop sales may be recovering, but tablets are still what's hot. So many hardware developers have tried, unsuccessfully, to generate interest in tablet-laptop hybrids that combine the best of both worlds. Consumers have been turned off by high prices, low battery life, noise, and bulk. Intel's hoping to solve those problems with the release of the Core M processor.

Codenamed Broadwell, the processor is the latest thrust in Intel's effort to develop lower-power processors, and the first to be implemented on the company's 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process.

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Ode to the Pulsar P2 LED Watch

Watch%20front.jpg My refurbished Pulsar P2 "Astronaut" LED watch came in the mail today, an early Xmas gift to myself that I've been anticipating for more than ten years. That's about how long it's been since my dad gave me his old watch and I've been looking for someone to fix it ever since. A recent fascination with the new crop of LED watches coming out of Japan led me to pull the old P2 out of the bottom drawer of my dresser a couple of weeks ago and renew my search for a repair person …

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