rain friction, chaos

The Aug. 26 edition of the journal Science reports that Johns Hopkins University scientists have used superfast computer modeling in a breakthrough discovery of the atomic origins of friction.

The results, conducted with a layer of krypton just one atom thick, shows that the familiar, macroscopic laws of friction do not often apply at the atomic level. Solids, for instance, slide more easily than fluids. The research could help scientists learn more about the atomic roots of friction and could aid in the design of superior materials that reduce or enhance it -- a potential boon for designing more efficient car engines.

Meanwhile, the Aug. 25 edition of Nature writes about Georgia Tech researchers tapping chaos research to develop a potential, non-surgical treatment for severe epilepsy and other disorders. The method, called "anti-control," actually enhances chaotic neuron firing as a way of "shoving" the brain into a more normal firing pattern. Dr. William Ditto, part of the research team, has formed a company called control Dynamics Inc., to use the science of chaos in controlling biological and physical systems.

Russia's Telecom

Russia continues to refine a massive plan for modernizing its telecommunications infrastructure. According to the market research firm BIS Strategic Decisions, the plan calls for Deutsche Telekom, US West and France Telecom to join a firm called Roscom in laying down 76,000 kilometers of fiberoptic wires and 80 sophisticated switches by 2005. Still, the plan is long on ambition and very short of cash, making it difficult to assess how the huge potential of the Russian market will translate into shareholder value for participating western telecom firms.

MCI AND Consulting

MCI has entered the business consulting market, hoping to exploit its own hard-won expertise in using high-tech to market and sell services. It has created a new division, based in Chicago, Ill., known as Integrated Client Services, to aid companies in running telemarketing operations, digital imaging services, network management and customer service center operations.

MCI hopes its experience in advanced telemarketing and network management to compete with AT&T can prompt other companies to cough up consulting fees. Another offering, targeted at businesses, will put an integrated fax messaging, document conferencing, Internet access and news monitoring package on PCs.

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