Click features the smallest types of tech known to mankind, visits Malawi to see a solar projector and looks at dating for over 50s.
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Time now for Click.
This week, deep concentration in Malawi, nanotech candyfloss
in Cambridge, and in Switzerland...
I have no idea what that is, but I want one.
I'm looking for something that is thinner than a human hair.
And that's because nanotech is about building things
on the nanoscale, up to about 100 nanometres in width, or one 200th
of the width of a human hair.
No, I still can't see it.
It's not in there yet!
That'll be why.
Last week, we looked at one instance of nanotechnology - graphene.
Remember, those sheets of carbon that are just one atom thick
and that have amazing properties.
Well, now I've come to Cambridge, where researchers seem to be
pulling nanotech out of the air.
These are carbon nanotube fibres.
What we are looking at is carbon-nanotube based fibre.
So even that is not one carbon nanotube, that's like thousands
of them entwined.
Thousands of entangled carbon nanotubes.
And here in this lab, they've finally cracked how to
incorporate these tiny tubes into a copper cable to make something
they're calling UltraWire.
OK, having a lighter, more conductive copper wire,
because of the carbon nanotubes inside, who benefits from that?
The biggest beneficial is the transport industry.
In a single aeroplane, you may find from a few hundred
kilograms of copper cables up to five tons of copper cables.
It would bring huge savings on fuel consumption, it would reduce
CO2 emission, and who knows?
Even possibly provide some extra space for your luggage!
Always about the excess luggage, tell me about it!
And nowhere will this make more of a difference than in space travel.
At the moment, it gusts an average of $20,000 to
send each kilogram of a payload into space on one of these.
Well, swap out any wiring for something perhaps even half the
weight, and it's easy to see how everyone from Citroen to Nasa are
interested in this kind of tech.
But beyond its weight, the increased conductivity of the
wire will mean faster data speeds.
Carbon nanotubes can take many forms,
so not only do we have these long strands, which are carbon nanotubes,
or intertwined, we also have a film of carbon nanotubes here, we have
a powder that is carbon nanotubes.
This is interesting, these are the scrapings
from the inside of their furnace!
They are also carbon nanotubes, and they also work.
There are thousands of projects now operating on the nanoscale.
On a more everyday level, nanotech could see the creation
of clothes that clean themselves.
Researchers at RMIT university in Melbourne in Australia have ,
with a cheap way to grow nanostructures directly onto
textiles that, when exposed to light, degrade organic matter.
And then there's this, which is a lavatory which does not need water.
In fact, it produces clean water from what you...put
A nano-thick covering seals off any waste material that goes into the
bowl, preventing any smells, and that waste is passed through a nano
carbon filter that is so fine that what comes out the other end, so to
speak, is technically OK to drink.
Although we are told it does whiff a tiny bit, so you may just want to
water your plants with it instead.
Now, obviously, nanotechnology requires you to take
really, really accurate measurements, and for that you need
no vibrations, absolute silence.
Well, LJ Rich has managed to gain access to some really high precision
research in one of the quietest places on earth.
This building in Zurich hides a lab unlike any other.
Welcome to one of the quietest places in the world,
this is IBM's noise-free labs.
We are six metres underground, eight metres underground if you count the
two metres of extra work that's gone on to make this place so quiet.
And behind these doors, some amazing nanotechnology is taking place,
and we get to have a look.
Six labs designed for incredibly sensitive work reside
in IBM's answer to the Batcave.
It's taken years to build this place.
Experiments here are on a truly tiny scale.
In some cases, manipulating single molecules.
Noise of any kind has to be supressed.
So if you start playing around with single molecules, these are
incredibly small building blocks, typically one nanometre in length,
and if you want to make contact with single molecules, of course you have
to work in a very stable environment, because vibrations
can interact with your molecule.
Noise-free is not just about damping down sound, though they do down here
with these sound absorbing tiles.
There's also magnetic material in the walls and ceiling.
This prevents electromagnetic fields from entering the room
and interfering with measurements.
Even the natural vibration of the earth is cancelled out.
All the equipment rests on a suspended platforms
so finely balanced that I can push it with my feet and move 36 tons.
Most of the work here is involved in making transistors smaller.
They're the building blocks of pretty much every bit of
technology we use, and it feels like the set of a science-fiction movie.
In there is an electron lithography machine for making transistors
at sub five nanometre levels.
That is absolutely tiny.
The thing is, it's experimental, so they don't know
if they're going to work.
Now, we all know that smaller components mean, eventually,
smaller tech, but with small tech comes the problem of lots
of excess heat, which is why work is being done here to explore what
happens when our gadgets get hot.
This ultra sensitive thermometer actually touches
the substance to measure its temperature, which is why the
noise and vibration-free environment makes for a more reliable reading.
So if you can better understand and see where the heat is dissipating,
we may change the device design, and by this we can improve the
efficiency and the performance of mobile devices, our computers, and
basically make them operate faster and more energy-efficient.
Sometimes, to see something small, you need to go big.
This is a four metre high massive electron microscope that allows you
to measure at the subatomic level.
And thanks to the fact that we are in
a noise-free environment, this thing is the most accurate in the world.
The microscope excites molecules with a laser
and measures what happens.
Here is a bigger version of the experiment.
As the distance changes between these magnets,
you can find the exact point at which they zap together.
But before you, like me, lust after the thought of working somewhere
completely quiet, here is the catch.
Lab techs actually spend most of their time here, with all
the air-conditioning units.
This is the room which keeps everything constant.
Specially built temperature maintenance systems, electronics,
and basically anything noisy is kept in this room.
And all the experiments are done with the scientists outside
the quiet room, because, well, even humans make quite
a din with all that breathing, heat and everything else we generate.
Well, it is pretty obvious to me that a lot of the stuff going
on here is, you know, ten, 20 years in the future.
Meanwhile, it's time for me to go back to the noisy world upstairs.
That was LJ, and as LJ says, nanotech research takes time.
This is Bojan Boskovic, the boss of the company set up to
make the most of nanotech research here in Cambridge and elsewhere.
I think a lot of people, when they hear the word "nanotechnology",
think of tiny robots and tiny motors the size of molecules.
Should we be thinking like that?
Well, we're pretty much there with the size wise,
so the size of the smallest carbon nanotube, single-walled carbon
nanotube, is already in the range of the DNA molecule.
So we're not going to get much smaller than the atomic level,
and what is going to happen, those molecules and atoms, we will
learn how to manipulate them, and that is all about nanotechnology
engineering, at the nanoscale.
So we will learn to use them, but probably robots like we think
of small tiny parts going inside, it's not going to happen.
But could you make cogs and motors that are the size of molecules?
Yes, yes, yes.
And put them together into something very tiny that could
be called a machine?
It could be, it could be, and we will see more and more tiny
machines, but the real stuff is not probably going to be machines
in the sense that we think it now, of a lot of mechanical parts.
It is going to be what we call molecular machines,
so clever molecules doing things the way how we want.
It could be a drug-delivery vehicle, for delivering drugs exactly to
the cell that we need it.
They can also use, be used to kill the cancer cells,
rather than shooting in the dark.
Many things would be basically far more precise and far more
controlled, and that's the way how the nanotechnology is taking us.
In this week's tech news, one of the Old Masters, Rembrandt,
makes a return with a new painting.
Or at least, a computer has analysed and copied his style.
A team of Dutch researchers, with help from Microsoft, have created
a Rembrandt style image using a 3D-printing paint technique.
The 3D printing creates the same texture as an oil painting.
It was the week that Chinese outfit Huawei launched a brand-new phone
fitted with two cameras on the back.
Like Lytro cameras, the P9 smartphone is capable
of refocusing part of an image after a photo has been taken.
And it was also the week that games giant Valve found a new use
for virtual reality, as a means of allowing e-sports spectators to
get a whole new VR perspective on competitive gaming events.
Next, have you ever wished that your web browser was more complicated?
Well, then the Vivaldi browser, designed for power users,
could be for you.
It's the brainchild of one of the guys behind the Opera browser.
Instead of stripping back features for simplicity, Vivaldi is
customisable to a mind-boggling degree, allowing users to have stuff
bursting out of every corner of the screen - if that is what they like.
Right, next, we're off to Malawi in Africa, and to a clever scheme
that we've reported on before.
We visited a school in Lilongwe, which had just been introduced to
30 tablets used to teach the children maths.
And the results were really startling, so much so that the same
tablets and apps are now being used in the UK with similar results.
Well, that the small scheme has grown at a phenomenal pace
since we first visited.
Dan Simmons has been back to Malawi to see what's new.
This is the primary school, one of the busiest in
the whole of Malawi.
There are 9000 pupils attending this primary school,
and classes of up to 250, which makes teaching,
well, quite a challenge.
It makes getting through the playground quite
a challenge as well!
It is seven o'clock, and the first shift of school begins.
These children will either come for the morning or the afternoon,
because you can't teach 9,000 kids otherwise.
First class of the day -
how to deal with 100 schoolkids wanting to shake hands!
This teacher is brilliant, she's fun, engaging, authoritative.
Even though it's maths, she manages to hold the children's attention.
Well, most of them, anyway.
But she can't monitor what they've written down -
whether it's legible, whether they're all keeping up -
and after this there will be another class of 80.
The classes are so large here, many are held outside.
If it rains, school is off.
A few years back, Malawi made primary education open to all,
before it had enough schools to cope, and it still doesn't.
In the last year or so,
a different kind of classroom has been popping up across Malawi.
It's very much shoes off and time to plug in.
Everything is really quiet,
because everyone's wearing headphones.
The UK's VSO charity is working with onebillion.org
and 68 schools to teach maths and, this year, the local language,
Chichewa, as well as English, to four and five-year-olds.
And when someone does well, the whole class knows about it.
What it does mean is that, for the first time here,
teachers are able to monitor every pupil's progress.
Staff at the school or back in the UK can watch
what works and tweak the lessons to get better results.
Early analysis by independent universities suggests this method
is hugely effective and it needs to be, because each child enrolled
gets just two half-hour sessions in this room each week.
This is a big deal.
Reading even one sentence after two years' schooling has proven
a challenge for most children.
This British project has set its sights on teaching more
than 20,000 children here how to read complete books
in their own language by the time they leave.
And how about this for interactive lessons?
This project it is the first in the country,
maybe even the continent, to run off a solar panel.
Using sunlight is a classic African answer to an African problem,
but the key thing with this project is the projector uses very low
power, so three hours' worth of exposure to the sun
will give these guys three days' worth of lessons.
Every school in the area now wants one of these projectors,
because the electricity here is so unreliable.
Now, you might think Malawi, being one of the poorest ten
countries in the world, doesn't have much to boast about,
but directly across the valley is Lilongwe's new $70 million
stadium, being built and paid for by the Chinese -
a loan for Malawi to pay back.
It sticks in the throat a little that those
on this side of the valley have to pump their own water
and now make their own electricity.
But the marriage of self-sufficiency and technology is hugely empowering.
Unlike the yet to be opened stadium,
any power cuts here won't be stopping work.
It doesn't take being part of a generation
who grew up with smartphones, social networks
and surfing the web to be making the most of life online.
One example of a growing number of apps and websites aimed
at the old market is Stitch, which has been referred to as Tinder
for the over 50s.
Nicole met her partner a few months ago using the app.
I think, within about two days, I'd stitched with someone,
which meant that we'd both seen each others' profiles
and we both liked each other.
That meant we could talk to each other via the messaging service
on there, we started messaging, and then we rang each other
on Christmas Eve to see how we would get along
speaking on the phone.
And, of course, there's always a little bit of anxiety, I'm sure,
when you meet someone you haven't met before, but there
is a sort of verification process with this app,
isn't there, that doesn't exist with all dating sites?
Yes, when you join to be a verified member, you have to show that you've
got another profile somewhere else -
on Facebook or LinkedIn, so you've got that little bit
of security there that the person is a real person.
And there is a stricter level of identification to become
what they call a trusted member, but for Nicole the app overcame one
of her great irritations.
Well, Stitch is for over 50s.
The major thing with other dating websites is that the men, generally,
seem to want women who are about 20 or 30 years younger than themselves.
At least if you go onto Stitch, you know that everyone
is going to be over 50.
You also actually meeting up with some other people
that you've met as a community through the app, haven't you?
That is right, since I've met the person that I'm now seeing,
I've changed my profile, so I don't see people
who are looking for dates now.
But I can still see people that want to be friends, and
I can also join in the discussions, the book groups,
and the different forums.
So we decided it might be quite fun to actually meet,
and so we're planning a trip to Vegas in June or July.
And here is something aimed at older adults whose focus is less
on new people but more about engaging in a more meaningful
way with their loved ones.
The Kindeo app creates an easy way of filming and storing videos
of important moments of your life, so the experience prompts
you to answer specific questions about each area of your life,
so there's family, childhood, work, places, friends.
And once you tap on them, you'll go through a list of questions.
We all experience relatives and family getting older,
and it's very difficult thing to talk about sometimes.
What Kindeo does is give people a really easy way
to express how they are feeling.
For anyone who feels they are no spring chicken,
here is a website that might be able to help.
It's a place where learning mindfulness, tips on overcoming
loneliness, shopping and exercise advice come together.
The team, aged from 18 to 82, keep it up to date
with the latest products and ideas tailored towards seniors.
Begin to inhale...
And after all that screen time, with over 180,000 downloads,
Tai Chi for Seniors is one of many apps encouraging
you to get on your feet,
providing a spot of clearly explained gentle exercise.
Look into my eyes.
Go one, I dare you.
Yes, they're not that practical, but these glasses are just one
of a number of crazy inventions recently shown off at the very first
IBM Mad Scientists evening.
It had everything from soap dispensers that talk to you to
boxes that send messages into space.
No, not that box - this box.
All designed to attract kids of all ages and show
the fun side of coding.
They are testers, they write books, they write code, they are IT
specialists, they are programmers, those sorts of people,
all sorts of stuff, and we thought it would be good if we could show
these guys some of the cool stuff that we've done.
And it doesn't get much cooler than a BB-8 unit
controlled by the power of the mind.
You think of a song... I think of a song.
And it goes in a certain direction. And it goes in a certain direction.
Do you realise how insane that sounds?
Completely insane, but it's part of the event.
So you think of a song and it goes one way,
how do you get it to turn round?
That's just mad!
Luke's brainwaves are actually being analysed by a system
that is taking signals from his headset and then
interpreting them using a Raspberry Pi.
Those commands are then transferred via Bluetooth to BB-8,
although it's much more fun to say that Luke is using the Force.
But if you can't get something to move with your mind,
then how about controlling a drone using a tweet.
Good, trick zone, OK, let's do a backflip, OK, right.
This project teaches kids the importance of accuracy
in programming, both in spelling the commands correctly and in
fully testing things before deployment.
I'll tell you what, just for a laugh, I'm going to fly
into the camera now.
And I will leave you with a dance floor that is controlled
So anyone can change the pattern on it just by sending commands so...
# Come and get your love... #
Or you can send texts, which it will display too,
and I can't foresee any problem with that whatsoever.
So that it from the mad scientists at IBM, thank you for watching.
You can follow us on Twitter throughout the week @BBCClick.
That worked, see?
Brilliant, see you soon!
If you were lucky enough to have spring sunshine yesterday,
you probably got some spring warmth as well.
In fact, it was beautiful - warmest day of the year
so far across England and Wales.
We had highs of 19 degrees.