If you would have given us 10 guesses as to where we thought the fastest average broadband speed in the world was located, we still would have gotten it wrong. Who would have thought that Berkeley would top the list, followed by two more U.S. cities?
Yet that's what a recent report from Akamai Technologies claims. According to data collected, Berkeley, California led the list with an average broadband speed of 18.7Mbps. Chapel Hill, North Carolina came in second at 17.0Mbps, while Stanford, California took third place with 13.6Mbps.
Surprisingly, quite a few other U.S. cities ranked high on the list, including Durham, North Carolina in eighth place, followed by Ithaca, New York; Ann Arbo, Michigan; College Station, Texas; Urbana, Illinois; Cambridge, Massachusetts; University Park, Pennsylvania, and East Lansing, Michigan.
So what gives? You might have noticed that all these spots share something in common, namely that each one is home to a major research university.
"What this likely represents is the extremely high speed connections these university/college campuses have to the Internet, as opposed to particularly high-speed consumer broadband services available to local residents. (However, it may also be the case that the speed of local consumer broadband offerings is potentially higher than average.)," Akamai noted.
The boys and girls at Berkeley are at it again, but this time they're working on an invisibility cloak, which could turn out to be one of the greatest inventions ever, right up there with X-ray goggles and other nifty gadgets we used to read about in the marketing section of yesteryear's comic books.
For the first time, researchers have demonstrated they were able to cloak 3D objects using artificially engineered materials that redirect light around the objects. Prior to the demonstrations, cloaking has been limited to thin 2D objects.
The technology works using materials known as metamaterials to deflect radar, light, and other waves around an object. These metamaterials consist of mixtures of metal and circuit board materials (ceramic, Teflon, or fiber composite), and scientists continue to try and find ways of using them to bend light around obstacles.
Uses for cloaking technology include the obvious military applications, and as such, the research was funded in part by the U.S. Army Research Office. But not only do scientists have to fine tune the concept, but manufacturing the required materials on a large scale also poses a problem.
Do you think we'll ever see a full-fledged invisibility cloak in our lifetime?
The future of computing may find its roots in optics technology, and if so, there's a good chance the brainiacs from Berkeley will be the ones ushering in the new era. The newest breakthrough comes courtesy of mechanical engineering professor Xiang Zhang and his team of researchers who managed to pass light through a gap just 10 nanometers wide, the equivalent of only five times the width of a single piece of DNA. Prior to this, the record stood at 200 nanometers, or about 400 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
"There has been a lot of interest in scaling down optical devices," Zhang said. "It's the holy grail for the future of communications."
As research associate Rupert Oulton puts it, light and matter make strange bedfellows, and because their characteristic sizes are on vastly different scales, linking electronics and optics is a difficult task, no matter how much researchers would like to do so. But the processor of confining light can alter the interaction between light and matter, so just as computer engineers keep cramming more and more transistors into computer chips, optics researchers are continually looking to squish more light into smaller wires. Ideally, researchers would like to cram light down to the size of electron wavelengths for force light and matter to cooperate.
Get all the geeky details in Berkeley's press release.