Two noteworthy reads today:

IEEE Spectrum reports on a paper, originally published on Nature Materials, regarding a UCLA professors efforts to used electron spin to replace transistors (spintronics). Using confined electrons (quantom dots) , current can be used to change the magnetic properties.

To build spintronic circuits, engineers need a switchable magnetic material. So Wang and his colleagues made dome-shaped structures of 95 percent germanium with 5 percent manganese, a material known as a dilute magnetic semiconductor. Because the domes are just 30 nanometers across and 8 nm high, they confine electrons to quantum-scale dimensions, creating what are known as quantum dots. The researchers deposited the dots on silicon to make a complementary-metal-oxide semiconductor gate structure, then modulated the magnetism of the device by applying electric fields. ”We can now switch from nonmagnetic to magnetic,” Wang says.

Using the electrons for computing is not a new notion, as they can be the qbits in quantum computing. That’s the theme of this Science Daily article about a recent breakthrough is of Princeton researchers who were able to isolate and influence the behavior of a single electron:

“In the quest to build a quantum computer with electron spin qubits, nuclear spins are typically a nuisance,” said Guido Burkard, a theoretical physicist at the University of Konstanz in Germany. “Petta and coworkers demonstrate a new method that utilizes the nuclear spins for performing fast quantum operations. For solid-state quantum computing, their result is a big step forward.”

Spintronics have been in the works for awhile (I vaguely reading something in Scientific American in, oh… say… 2001? Wikipedia mentions research in 1970s) .

On a different note in computing, Wired reports on a company in forming that promises “unlimited graphical power.” The technology is software based graphics rendering that uses an alternative to polygons:

Dell [not the PC maker] says Unlimited Detail has an alternative to these systems [polygons or ray tracing]. It uses billions of “point cloud” dots, or voxels, to accurately represent a world. To render an image, Unlimited Detail then acts as a search engine.

Dell says his algorithm can quickly figure out the dots needed to render a scene, search the data to find only those points, and pull them up quickly enough for smooth animation. He calls it “mass connected processing.”

“Instead of putting a trillion dots on screen and covering the ones you don’t use, we show only what needs to be done and how you can manipulate those dots,” says Dell.

Dell [the inventor] is an unusual candidate for a computer-graphics revolutionary. He’s an autodidact who’s never been to a university and who ran a supermarket chain for about eight years.

But I find the idea that revolutionary invention and innovation can still be found laymen and hobbyists- not just well resourced institutions.