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Mantis Shrimp's Eyes Hold Key to New Optics

Imitating the most complex vision system in the animal world could improve DVDs and CDs, scientists say

3 min read

27 October 2009—Scientists have discovered the mechanism behind the eyes of the only animal that can detect a certain kind of polarized light: the mantis shrimp, native to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Optical devices can manipulate the polarization of light for research and for commercial products like CD and DVD players and digital cameras. However, these devices can't manipulate light nearly as well as the mantis shrimp can, says biologist Nicholas Roberts of the University of Bristol, in England. Roberts, together with scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Queensland, Australia, reported the finding yesterday in the journal Nature Photonics.

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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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