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Science and technology科学技术Nanotechnology纳米技术A fab result生物工厂A novel way of making computer memories, using bacteria制造计算机存储器的新奇方法:使用细菌FOR half a century, the essence of progress in the computer industry has been to do more with less.半个世纪以来,计算机产业发展的本质就是花钱更少,成事更多。Moores law famously observes that the number of transistors which can be crammed into a given space doubles every 18 months.尔定律的著名论断是:能够放入某空间内的晶体管数量每18个月翻一番。The amount of data that can be stored has grown at a similar rate.储存的数据也有着类似的增长速率,Yet as components get smaller, making them gets harder and more expensive.但是随着部件越来越小,它们的制造难度和成本也逐渐增加。On May 10th Paul Otellini, the boss of Intel, a big American chipmaker, put the price of a new chip factory at around billion.5月10日,美国芯片巨头因特尔总裁兼CEOPaul Otellini宣布将花费上百亿美元建设新工厂。Happily for those that lack Intels resources, there may be a cheaper option—namely to mimic Mother Nature,对于不像因特尔那么有钱的厂家的好消息是,他们或许可以选择更便宜的方式—模拟大自然。who has been building tiny devices, in the form of living cells and their components, for billions of years, and has thus got rather good at it.对于大自然来说,她建造微小设备已经有数十亿年了,所以自然是信手拈来,当然,这些设备都是以活细胞和其组份的形式呈现。A paper published in Small, a nanotechnology journal, sets out the latest example of the technique.发表在纳米技术期刊《微小》的一篇论文描述了这一新技术的示例,In it, a group of researchers led by Sarah Staniland at the University of Leeds, in Britain, describe using naturally occurring proteins to make arrays of tiny magnets,该技术团队由英国利兹大学的Sarah Staniland领导,他们用自然生成的蛋白质让微型磁性材料进行排列,similar to those employed to store information in disk drives.这与磁盘驱动器上储存信息的磁性材料排序是类似的。The researchers took their inspiration from Magnetospirillum magneticum, a bacterium that is sensitive to the Earths magnetic field thanks to the presence within its cells of flecks of magnetite, a form of iron oxide.研究人员从趋磁细菌上获得了灵感,由于该细菌内部存在磁性颗粒,所以对地球磁场非常敏感。Previous work has isolated the protein that makes these miniature compasses. Using genetic engineering, the team managed to persuade a different bacterium—Escherichia coli, a ubiquitous critter that is a workhorse of biotechnology—to manufacture this protein in bulk.他们先要把制造这种微型罗盘的蛋白质分离出来,并采用基因工程技术设法让另一种细菌—大肠杆菌来批量生产这种蛋白质,而大肠杆菌在生物体内普遍存在,是生物工程中的常用苦力。Next, they imprinted a block of gold with a microscopic chessboard pattern of chemicals.然后他们用化学方法绘制微小的棋盘图案,Half the squares contained anchoring points for the protein.并把图案的每一块染成金黄色,The other half were left untreated as controls.每块区域的一半用该蛋白质做固定点,They then dipped the gold into a solution containing the protein, allowing it to bind to the treated squares, and dunked the whole lot into a heated solution of iron salts.另一半不做任何处理作为对照,再把这些金黄色的棋盘浸入含蛋白质的溶液中,并允许溶液中的蛋白质与棋盘上的固定蛋白质结合,最后把该棋盘全部浸入加热的铁盐溶液中。After that, they examined the results with an electron microscope.他们再用电子显微镜观察实验结果,Sure enough, groups of magnetite grains had materialised on the treated squares, shepherded into place by the bacterial protein.果然,棋盘上的固定蛋白质区域产生了成群的磁铁颗粒,并由细菌蛋白质控制在相应位置。In principle, each of these magnetic domains could store the one or the zero of a bit of information, according to how it was polarised.基本上每个磁域都能按极化的方式存储一个字节信息的1或0。Getting from there to a real computer memory would be a long road.但是要制成真正的计算机存储器还有很长的路要走,For a start, the grains of magnetite are not strong enough magnets to make a useful memory, and the size of each domain is huge by modern computing standards.首先对于可用的存储器来说,那些磁铁颗粒的磁性还不够强大,并且每个区域的尺寸对现在计算机标准来说太大了。But Dr Staniland reckons that, with enough tweaking, both of these objections could be dealt with.但Staniland认为,只要做些足够的调整,那些困难都将不是问题。The advantage of this approach is that it might not be so capital-intensive as building a fab.这种方法的好处就是不用像因特尔那样如此资源密集地去建造新工厂,Growing things does not need as much kit as making them.在制造不断发展的产品时也不需要同样多的设备,If the tweaking could be done, therefore, the result might give the word biotechnology a whole new meaning.所以,如果这种调整可以成功的话,生物技术将会有一个全新的定义。 /201307/248974

Business this week一周商业要闻Aug 17th 2013 |From the print editionIn a surprise move America’s Department of Justice filed a lawsuit opposing the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, specifically because it thinks air fares would rise as a result. In February the airlines announced they would combine, following the trend of consolidation among big American carriers. The merger recently won approval from European antitrust regulators. The American government’s opposition complicates American Airlines’ route to leaving bankruptcy protection, which it entered in 2011. See article.美国司法部提起诉讼反对美国航空公司和全美航空公司的并购,这让人大吃一惊。原因是司法部认为这样会导致航空票价提高。二月,两家航空公司表示它们将合并,紧跟大型美国运营商的合并趋势。最近这起并购得到了欧洲反垄断监管机构的许可。美国政府的反对使得美国航空公司摆脱破产保护之路更加扑朔迷离,该公司在2011年宣布进行破产保护。BlackBerry, which a few years ago was producing the world’s most sought-after smartphones, set up a committee to explore its “strategic alternatives”, including a possible sale of the company. Despite the launch of a revamped range of BlackBerry 10 devices this year the company has seen its market share slip further. Its stockmarket value is now around billion, down from billion three years ago.几年前还生产深受市场欢迎的智能手机的黑莓公司目前成立了一个委员会探讨其战略选择,包括出售公司。尽管今年发布了全新的黑莓10系列设备,但是其市场占有率进一步下滑。目前其市值已从三年前的400亿美元跌倒了现在的60亿美元。Squeezing Apple受挤压的苹果Carl Icahn, an activist investor who is marshalling the resistance to Michael Dell’s proposed buy-out of his computer company, revealed that he had acquired a small stake in Apple and had had a “nice” chat with Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, about boosting the size of its share buy-back programme. Earlier this year Apple was pressured into returning more of its cash pile to investors through dividends and share buy-backs. See article.正在组织抵抗迈克尔·戴尔收购其创立的电脑公司的激进投资者卡尔·伊坎透露其得到了苹果少许份额的股票,并且表示其与苹果的老板蒂姆·库克有一个美好的对话,对话内容是关于扩张苹果股份回购项目的规模。今年早些时候苹果迫于压力通过分红和股份回购的形式向其投资者返还更多的现金。Bill Ackman, another activist investor, resigned from the board of J.C. Penney, a struggling department-store chain, after a public slanging-match with its management. Mr Ackman’s hedge fund owns 18% of J.C. Penney’s shares. In 2011 he pushed to rebrand the stores and recruited an executive from Apple to run the company, only to see his man removed and replaced with J.C. Penney’s former boss. See article.另外一位激进投资者比尔·阿克曼在与管理层互相谩骂之后从彭尼的董事会辞职,彭尼连锁百货处境艰难。阿克曼先生的对冲基金持有彭尼18%的股份。2011年阿克曼推动重塑彭尼的形象,并从苹果招募了一位主管管理公司,结果是他雇佣的主管下台,彭尼的前老板重新执掌公司。América Móvil, Latin America’s biggest mobile-phone operator, bid to take control of KPN, offering 7.2 billion euros (.6 billion) for the 70% of shares in the Dutch telecoms company that it does not aly hold. América Móvil, which is owned by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, bought a minority stake in KPN last year in its first venture into European telecoms.拉丁美洲最大的手机通信运营商“美洲移动”出价72亿欧元(96亿美元)从他人手中购买荷兰皇家电信70%的股份,从而接管荷兰皇家电信。美洲移动持有者Carlos Slim是世界首富,去年在向欧洲电信首次投资时购买了荷兰皇家电信的稍小股份。Cisco, a big maker of networking equipment, said it would cut a further 4,000 jobs, or about 5% of its workforce. The firm is quitting consumer businesses and expanding into corporate cloud-computing.大型网络设备制作公司思科表示其进一步减少4000份职位,约为其员工总数的5%。该公司正在退出消费者市场,扩大企业云计算市场。Europe advances欧洲取得进步The euro zone’s GDP rose by 0.3% in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, ending six consecutive quarters of contraction. Germany’s economy grew by 0.7%, the fastest pace in a year, and France’s by 0.5%. Italy and Spain were still mired in recession, but Portugal’s economy expanded by 1.1%. See article.欧元区的GDP在今年二季度相比一季度增长了0.3%,结束了连续六个季度的持续收缩。德国的GDP增长了0.7%,是今年增速最快的国家,法国则增长了0.5%。意大利和西班牙仍旧处于衰退中,但是葡萄牙GDP增长了1.1%之多。Japan’s economy grew by 2.6% at an annualised rate in the second quarter, well below most forecasts. The figure will fuel a debate about whether to increase the national sales tax to help reduce public debt. Some economists argue that raising the tax next year, as planned, will only dampen Japan’s soggy recovery.二季度,日本经济按照年化率算增长了2.6%,低于大多数预测。该增长数字引起了关于是否增加国家销售税减少国债的讨论。一些经济学家表示明年按计划增加税负只会抑制日本疲软的复苏。A survey of house prices by Britain’s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors recorded the fastest rate of growth since November 2006 (measured as the proportion of surveyors reporting a rise in prices minus those reporting a fall). The index rose in every region of England and Wales, not just in London, as would-be house buyers surged into the market. In March the government unveiled a “Help to Buy” scheme that backs cheap loans for new buyers. Critics say this is merely creating a new property bubble.英国皇家特许测量师协会的一份房价报告记录了自2006年十一月以来房价的最快增速(测算是按照报告价格增长的调查者比例减去报告价格降低的调查者比例)。随着潜在的购房者涌入市场,指数不仅仅是在伦敦,在英格兰和威尔士全境都为增长。三月,英国政府出台了一项助买计划,为新购房者提供低价贷款。批评者表示这几乎正在创造新的房地产泡沫。The minutes from the latest meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee showed that one of its members dissented from the introduction of “forward guidance” that the bank will keep interest rates at 0.5% until the unemployment rate falls to 7%. Martin Weale supported the policy in principle but voted against it because of concerns about inflation. Britain’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in the three months to June at 7.8%.英格兰贷款政策委员会最新会议流出的摘要显示委员会中一名成员对前瞻指引的引言持异议。该引言规定英格兰在失业率下降到7%以下前将会将利率保持在0.5%。马丁·威尔原则上持此项政策,但是由于担忧通货膨胀所以投了反对票。英国的失业率二季度持续保持在7.8%。The first criminal charges were brought in the case of a derivatives trade that resulted in billion in losses last year for JPMorgan Chase. Prosecutors in New York accused two former traders who worked in London of conspiracy and wire fraud, though Bruno Iksil, the trader nicknamed the “London whale”, avoided charges in an immunity deal. See article.JP根收到去年导致60亿美元损失的衍生品交易案件的第一项指控。尽管外号伦敦鲸鱼的交易员布鲁诺·伊克希尔在一项豁免协议中拒绝指控,纽约的检察官仍指控JP根伦敦的其与另一名前交易员合谋策划远程诈骗。Paulson hits the right notes鲍尔森弹对了曲子Steinway Musical Instruments, arguably the world’s best-known maker of pianos, accepted a buy-out offer from John Paulson’s investment firm for 2m. In July Steinway had agreed to be bought out by Kohlberg amp; Company in a separate private-equity deal, but Kohlberg declined to match Mr Paulson’s overtures.斯坦威乐器公司可以说是世界上最好的钢琴生产商,近日接受了约翰·鲍尔森的投资公司5亿1200万美元的收购计划。七月,斯坦威同意科尔伯格公司的独立私募股权交易,但是科尔伯格最终拒绝了此项交易。201308/253986

Science and technology科学技术Launching aircraft发射飞机Proof by induction让电磁感应来验In the future, airliners could be catapulted into the sky by electric motors将来,会用电动机将客机弹射到天空中 READERS of a certain age may remember Fireball XL5, a childrens television programme devised by Gerry Anderson about a spacecraft of that name.某个年龄段的读者可能还记得《雷霆机》这个儿童电视节目,这个节目是由格里安德森制作的,讲的是一艘叫做雷霆机的宇宙飞船的故事。Instead of taking off vertically, as real spacecraft do, Fireball XL5 sat on a rocket-propelled trolley that accelerated it horizontally to launch speed.与现实中的宇宙飞船垂直起飞不同,雷霆机是架在一个由火箭推动的滑车上,水平加速到发射速度。And that, in effect, is what engineers at Airbus, Europes largest civil-aviation company, are proposing in their latest bout of blue-sky thinking.实际上,这是空中客车公司的工程师们在其最近一次天马行空的想法中提出的建议。Apart from the fact that the trolley would be powered by linear-induction motors rather than rockets, they are suggesting that the fantasy of 1962 might become the reality of 2050.滑车由线性感应电动机提供动力,而非火箭,除此之外,他们认为1962年的幻想会在2050年成为现实。Mindful that many passengers are aly nervous about the whole process of getting a plane airborne, the engineers prefer to call their proposal Eco-climb.考虑到飞机离开地面的整个过程中已经够让许多乘客紧张了,工程师更喜欢将他们的提议称为环保型起飞。But the idea is straight out of Fireball.但这一想法是直接来自于雷霆机的。The aircraft to be launched would sit on a platform that ran along a track where the runway would otherwise be.待发射的飞机会架在一个沿轨道滑行的平台上,而这轨道可说是跑道的另一种形式。The platform would accelerate to take-off speed, at which point the plane would lift into the air powered by its own engines.平台会加速到起飞速度,到达这一速度点后,飞机便可以通过自己的引擎升上天空。Taking off in this way would both save fuel and make life more pleasant for those who live near airports.以这种方式起飞既可以节约燃料,又能够让住在机场附近的人过的更舒心些。Aircraft engines are optimised for level flight at cruising speed in the stratosphere.飞机引擎最适合在平流层以巡航速度水平飞行。Using them to accelerate a plane on the ground wastes a lot of fuel.在地面上用它们为飞机加速会浪费很多燃料。An induction-motor-powered platform, by contrast, would be optimised for the job at hand.相比之下,由感应电动机提供动力的平台最适合手头的这个工作,It could launch the plane at higher speed, letting it climb faster.它能以更快的速度发射飞机,让飞机爬升更快,That would save fuel, too.还能节约燃料,It would also mean fewer people on the ground suffered aircraft noise.还意味着地面上要经受飞机噪音的人更少了。And it could do all this from a track that was a third shorter than a conventional runway.所有这些在一条比传统跑道短三分之一的轨道上即可完成。Altogether, according to Airbuss back-of-the-envelope calculations, Eco-climb would reduce fuel consumption by 3% on a typical 900km flight, even with existing aircraft designs.总而言之,很据空中客车的粗略计算,按一次典型的900公里的飞行算,即使按照现在的飞机设计,环保型起飞也能将其油耗减少3%。But it would also allow for the design of lighter aircraft, with smaller engines, which would cut fuel consumption, noise and emissions further.而且它还为设计引擎更小,重量更轻的飞机留下了空间,可以进一步降低油耗,噪声及排放。Nor is the idea complete fantasy. General Atomics, an American military contractor, has aly built and tested a linear-induction-motor-based system of this sort at an airbase at Lakehurst, New Jersey.这个想法并不完全是幻想。通用原子公司是一家美军的承包商,其已经在一座位于新泽西州莱克赫斯特的空军基地建造了一个这类基于线性感应电动机的系统,并进行了测试。The General Atomics system is now being scaled up to be fitted on a new generation of aircraft carriers for the American navy.目前通用原子正在对该系统进行放大,以便能装备到美国海军的新一代航空母舰上。A launcher powered by a linear-induction motor has several advantages over the steam-driven catapults used on existing aircraft carriers, according to General Atomics.据通用原子公司称,与现在航空母舰上使用的蒸汽动力弹射器相比,由线性感应电动机提供动力的发射台有多个优点。Whereas a steam catapult lets rip with a constant force, the speed and power of a linear motor can be controlled to provide smooth acceleration.恒定的力使蒸汽弹射器难以控制;而线性电动机的速度和力量都可以控制,可带来平缓的加速,That extends the life of an aircraft by subjecting it to less stress.因为承受的压力更小,所以能够延长飞机的寿命,It also makes for a more comfortable take off.并且能让起飞时更舒一些。And the launch shuttle can brake quickly once the plane has lifted off by reversing the current running through the motor.飞机一旦起飞,通过反转电动机中的电流,发射装置能够快速制动,然后返回原位准备下一次发射。What works in a military context might not, of course, be appropriate for civil aviation—one reason why nobody has considered equipping airports with steam catapults.当然,在军事中使用的技术不一定适合民用航空,这也是为什么没人会考虑在机场配备蒸汽弹射器的一个原因。But the smooth operation of a linear motor means the take-off force could be kept within the 2.5g typically felt in a modern airliner dashing along a runway.但是线性电动机的平缓运行意味着起飞的力会在2.5倍重力加速度之内,与一架现代的客机沿着跑道加速时的感觉一样。Passengers need not be subjected to Top Gun levels of acceleration.乘客们不需要去承受《壮志凌云》那种级别的加速度。It might be possible to use linear motors for landings, too.将线性电动机用于着陆也是有可能的。Carrier-style arrester wires would cause too much damage and would hardly be comfortable for passengers.航母式的拦截索会是飞机产生很多损伤,而且乘客也不会舒。But if an incoming aircraft landed on a moving platform equipped with a linear motor, the current in the motor could then be reversed to slow it down.但如果一架准备降落的飞机在一个装有线性电动机的移动平台上着陆,电动机中的电流会反转,使飞机减速。That might mean planes could do without landing gear, saving still more weight. Even Mr Anderson didnt think of that one.这或许意味着飞机没有起落架也行,能让飞机再轻一些。Fireball XL5 landed vertically, on retro-rockets.安德森先生都没有想到这种方法,雷霆机是靠制动火箭垂直着陆的。 /201401/272960


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