Technology April 15, 2012
THIS WEEK IN FUTURE SCIENCE: Infinite Human Eggs, A Baby Quantum Internet, Ultra-Fast Cyberweapons

It's impossible to know what the future holds, but some recent developments in technology and science might hold clues: it will be easier to create human life, information will travel even faster, and military defenses will migrate online and be developed in days. Read on...

Lab-Grown Human Eggs Could Do Away With Menopause


For the first time, scientists have grown human eggs entirely in a laboratory - and they could be fertilized later this year. Researchers at Edinburgh University are working with another team from Harvard Medical School to become the first to produce mature human eggs from stem cells isolated from human ovarian tissue. If they're successful, their research could help infertile women to have babies, make it possible for much older women to give birth, and even do away with menopause.

That last point - the end of menopause - may lead to an "elixir of youth" that would allow older women to "retain the health they enjoyed when younger", according to the Independent. Before any of that work can take place, though, the scientists need permission to fertilize the eggs they've already created. They've informally approached the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), and hope to submit a formal application in the next few weeks.

Behold! The (Miniature) Quantum Internet!


Imagine a massive, unhackable version of the Internet, one that will be able to store and send inconceivably large amounts of data. According to Discovery, Thursday, April 12 could be looked back on as the day that future Internet - which will be built on a quantum network - was born. Physicists Stephan Ritter and Gerhard Rempe of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany, have built a very basic, two-node quantum network. What does that mean? A quantum network works at the atomic level: very small indeed. And the two node network that Ritter and Rempe built was capable of transmitting information about one atom to the other via optical cable.

The network also linked the two atoms together, causing them to be in the same quantum state, for 100 microseconds, which is apparently considered a long time in the world of quantum physics. This experimental network is only the very beginning - the first step in a very long journey to a possible future version of computing. But as the Discovery article points out, this is similar to the way our Internet began back in the late '60s.

The Pentagon Is Developing Cyberweapons - Fast!


Developing a military weapon can take years (you may have heard of the F-35 fighter jet?). But in the online world, the whole technological landscape can change in a matter of weeks. That's why the U.S. Department of Defense is trying to produce cyberweapons on a very short timescale: from conception to deployment in a matter of days, in some cases.

The strategy is based on the idea that in cyberwarfare, a specific threat requires a specific response: if a hacker creates a virus or a worm, a counter-weapon needs to be tailored to fight that attack. That's why Cyber Command (which sounds like a pretty great place to work, actually) is examining the Pentagon's current ability to build cyberweapons and creating two "silos" of development. The "rapid silo" will be focused on responding to immediate threats. The other silo will develop cyberweapons over a longer period. And they're not just working on defensive weapons: they'll also be creating weapons that could be used to attack.

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