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In the last month, over 40 internet companies have come out publicly against the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA). This week they've drawn their swords.

Reddit has joined a list of websites committed to shutting down service for 12 hours next Wednesday. If Reddit keeps its promise, from 8am to 8pm visitors to the site will not have access to the “front page of the internet.” Instead they will find a statement from the company about how the anti-piracy legislation would potentially shut down sites like Reddit. It's a nice little glimpse into the future, courtesy of the very websites that would fall under the scrutiny of SOPA and PIPA.

At sopastrike.com individuals can petition sites they use on a regular basis to join the strike and companies can answer the call. So far, only three other companies have pledged at sopastrike—MoveOn, Mozilla, and Tucows. But many others have announced support in their own sites.

Google has yet to chime in. But Wikipedia has been hosting a discussion about whether to participate. For now, members of the Wikimedia foundation seem to have agreed to a partial blackout that would initially present information about SOPA, but which visitors could click their way through.

If great swaths of the internet go down, there will be a lot of lost souls looking for things to do. Organizers in New York City are hoping that some of them will find their ways to the midtown offices of Senators Charles Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand and protest their support of the SOPA/PIPA. A group will be meeting there at 12:30. Those who stay home can watch a congressional hearing on search engine blocking, which Reddit plans to stream live on its site.

Update: As of Monday morning, nearly 30 websites have signed up to strike at sopastrike.org., including Wikipedia, Wordpress and Twitpic. See here for a full list. The sites are evidently coming in too fast for sopastrike to verify them, and so they've put up an unofficial list of supporters who will likely take part in the blackout as well. You can check it out here to see if any of your favorite sites will be down on Wednesday.

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Metamaterials Could Solve One of 6G’s Big Problems

There’s plenty of bandwidth available if we use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces

12 min read
An illustration depicting cellphone users at street level in a city, with wireless signals reaching them via reflecting surfaces.

Ground level in a typical urban canyon, shielded by tall buildings, will be inaccessible to some 6G frequencies. Deft placement of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces [yellow] will enable the signals to pervade these areas.

Chris Philpot

For all the tumultuous revolution in wireless technology over the past several decades, there have been a couple of constants. One is the overcrowding of radio bands, and the other is the move to escape that congestion by exploiting higher and higher frequencies. And today, as engineers roll out 5G and plan for 6G wireless, they find themselves at a crossroads: After years of designing superefficient transmitters and receivers, and of compensating for the signal losses at the end points of a radio channel, they’re beginning to realize that they are approaching the practical limits of transmitter and receiver efficiency. From now on, to get high performance as we go to higher frequencies, we will need to engineer the wireless channel itself. But how can we possibly engineer and control a wireless environment, which is determined by a host of factors, many of them random and therefore unpredictable?

Perhaps the most promising solution, right now, is to use reconfigurable intelligent surfaces. These are planar structures typically ranging in size from about 100 square centimeters to about 5 square meters or more, depending on the frequency and other factors. These surfaces use advanced substances called metamaterials to reflect and refract electromagnetic waves. Thin two-dimensional metamaterials, known as metasurfaces, can be designed to sense the local electromagnetic environment and tune the wave’s key properties, such as its amplitude, phase, and polarization, as the wave is reflected or refracted by the surface. So as the waves fall on such a surface, it can alter the incident waves’ direction so as to strengthen the channel. In fact, these metasurfaces can be programmed to make these changes dynamically, reconfiguring the signal in real time in response to changes in the wireless channel. Think of reconfigurable intelligent surfaces as the next evolution of the repeater concept.

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