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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Wave on a Wire
17 November 2004 (All day)
After decades of tinkering with fiber optics, metal tubes, and plastic ribbons, scientists have discovered that all you need to detect an elusive form of electromagnetic ray is a bare metal wire. The simple technology may one day help doctors better explore the human body.
Terahertz rays bridge the gap between microwaves and infrared light in the least-explored portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. These beams can penetrate walls, boxes, and other barriers, helping scientists detect what's inside, yet they are safe for biological use. Labs worldwide are successfully pioneering terahertz emitters for medical diagnostics, wireless communications, and security imaging, but researchers have struggled to invent devices that can pick up the waves and guide them to a receiver. Neither the metal tubes used as microwave waveguides nor the optical fibers used for the near infrared are able to guide terahertz rays over long distances.
In the 18 November issue of Nature, physicists Kanglin Wang and Daniel Mittleman of Rice University in Houston, Texas, show that plain stainless steel wires work just fine, with terahertz pulses even traveling down bends in the lines. Mittleman says that the waves are able to roam free on the wire without dispersing. That means terahertz pulses can be kept short, which is crucial to imaging. The researchers also show that a pair of metal wires can act as terahertz endoscopes. In their instrument, terahertz waves travel down one wire and back up the other, conveying information about targets in the body much as ultrasonic pulses do in echolocation.
"The simplicity of the whole idea, and the fact that no one has really demonstrated this before, is remarkable," says semiconductor physicist David Citrin of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He expects many further studies into how the wires can be optimized.