SIGNAL Focus: Research and Development

June 17, 2009
By Beverly Schaeffer

Research and development is the seed corn of our technology driven world. With the commercial sector providing many of the military's new technologies, the old lines delineating military and commercial technologies are blurring into nonexistence. The defense community is working with academia and the private sector to an ever greater degree, and the rapid pace of commercial information technology innovation is increasing the importance of laboratory research. SIGNAL Magazine's June issue looks at some of the new technologies about to emerge from the laboratory and the effect they might have in this technology-driven age. Bleeding-edge research increasingly is looking at the effects of new and future technologies, and Rita Boland and Maryann Lawlor join forces to lead off this focus report with "Patterns Emerge From Chaos," a writeup on how Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are trying to model chaos from simple behavior patterns. Shape shifting is the topic of Henry Kenyon's article, "Programmable Matter Research Solidifies." He reports on research into programmable matter that would assemble itself into complex three-dimensional objects on command. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program is striving for diverse objects that could assemble themselves into useful gear, but advances in this realm ultimately could lead to Terminator 2-type matter that can change its very nature. Electronics also may become more flexible in the near term, as Kenyon describes in his next article, "Flexible Circuits Unfold." His article looks at research into flexible circuitry that literally could be painted on warfighter uniforms to provide all sorts of functions currently limited to boxy devices. Boland returns with an article on an ongoing effort to create a new qubit. No, that is not a modern form of a Biblical unit of measurement; it is a quantum bit that would operate as a processing element in a futuristic computer. The future may be nearer than most people realize, as she reports in "Science and Technology Challenge Strives to Create First-of-Its-Kind Qubit."

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