Photon Encryption

In early April, the Bank Austria Creditanstalt, on behalf of the city of Vienna, Austria, performed the world's first bank transfer encoded via quantum cryptography, which relies on the laws of physics to encrypt information rather than mathematics.

At the transmitter station in the Bank Austria Creditanstalt branch office, a laser produced two "entangled" photon pairs in a crystal. The term "entangled" loosely means the properties of one particle depend on the properties of the other -- regardless of the distance between the two.

One of the two photons was sent via the fiber data channel to City Hall, and the other remained at the bank. Both the receiver in City Hall and the transmitter in the bank then measured the properties of their particles. Both particles receive their properties at the moment of the measurement.

The measuring results are then converted into a string of 0s and 1s -- the cryptographic key -- and due to the laws of quantum physics, the sequence of the numbers 0 and 1 is completely random because it was generated at the time of measurement.

The two parties can then compare the number strings to determine whether they are equal. Any attempt to intervene in the transfer of the photons changes the sequence of the number strings that the measuring stations produce because of the photons' entanglement. In case of eavesdropping, both partners receive an unequal sequence of numbers. -- Project on Quantum Cryptography

Submersible Scooter

Why bother with swim fins and clumsy oxygen tanks when you can ride a bike underwater instead?

An Australian company is selling the Scuba-Doo motorized scuba bike, a self-propelled diving platform that will take riders to a maximum of 32 feet under water. The 94 lb. Scuba-Doo can hit 2.5 knots, with visibility of 180 degrees through a clear, airtight Perspex dome sealed around the rider's head and shoulders.

The air tank and diving weights are built into the Scuba-Doo, and the machine runs for about an hour and half on a single charge of its internal batteries.

The Scuba-Doos sell for $13,246. -- Scuba-Doo World

Robotic Duster

The Robot Accessory for Fuming Fingerprint Evidence (RAFFE), developed by scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary, could be a way to collect fingerprint evidence from packages that are too dangerous for a human to approach.

Currently police robots simply destroy suspicious packages -- along with any fingerprint evidence. The RAFFE is a small box with a heating element, cartridge of superglue and short pipe. Using remote controls, police direct the robot to the package and heat the superglue in the box.

The glue produces fumes that are piped toward the package. The fumes, containing cyanoacrylate, react with the oils and moisture in the fingerprints, turning them white. The fingerprints can then be photographed using the robot's high-definition camera prior to the safe disposal of the package. -- University of Toronto Department of Public Affairs

Need for Speed

An international team set a new Internet2 land speed record in late April by transferring data across nearly 11,000 km at an average rate of 6.25 Gbps -- nearly 10,000 times faster than a typical home broadband connection -- from Los Angeles to Geneva, Switzerland.

The Internet2 land speed record is an open and ongoing competition for the highest-bandwidth, end-to-end networks.

The new mark was set by a team from the California Institute of Technology and CERN, the world's largest particle physics research laboratory in Europe.

The same team set the previous record of 4 Gbps over the same distance using IPv6, the next generation of Internet

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor