E&T staff select their picks of the week from our daily news coverage – the best stories, industry developments, company announcements, new product releases, future predictions and past reflections.
Friday May 23 2014
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Dickon Ross, editor in chief
This week I had the amazing opportunity to interview Professor Stuart Wenham, the winner of the latest IET AF Harvey Prize, about his ground-breaking work in solar panel design. Professor Wenham’s team is using lasers to control charge state of hydrogen atoms and use them to fix defects in silicon – this approach can make solar technology considerably more efficient while cutting cost by half. Professor Wenham predicts that in ten years, solar will be able to compete even with large-scale fossil fuel power plants.
Tereza Pultarova, online news reporter
Earlier this week, online auction site eBay revealed cybercriminals compromised its employee database gaining access to eBay customers’ names, encrypted passwords, phone numbers and email addresses. Though there is no evidence of unauthorised access to financial information of PayPal users, eBay is advising all account holders to change their passwords, as well as the same password used for other websites.
Aasha Bodhani, assistant technology features editor
eBay has been left with massive être couvert de ridicule because of the slowness with which it is alerting its revenue-generating customers that password changes are now advisable. Why has it relied only on static notices, and not also used its internal Messaging system – which many users have set-up to forward to their primary email Inboxes – to raise the alert to this serious problem?
James Hayes, technology features editor
Another political tour de force for President Putin. With Russia’s Ukrainian and European gas markets looking increasingly insecure, the agreement with China will make sure that Russian gas will continue to flow out. And in will flow billions of dollars in gas money that will be used (at least partially) to support Putin’s continuing aggressive conduct towards Ukraine. Let’s be honest: the EU’s and the USA’s timid economic sanctions against Russia have been made virtually futile by the China deal. Money doesn’t smell, they say. Yet gas money probably does. And in this case the smell is not particularly fragrant.
Vitali Vitaliev, features editor
This is a major development that could really boost the emerging field of electroceuticals – medical interventions relying on electrical stimulation. By allowing implants to be made far smaller and placed far deeper in the body, they can take on much more sophisticated tasks than their cumbersome predecessors.
Edd Gent, online news reporter
Teaching of engineering in UK higher education may be generally good and often world-class, but it’s virtually non-existent at primary school and variable in quality at secondary level, a report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering this week found. Too late for my own children, who are all now at secondary school, but I hope the new national curriculum coming this year encourages young people to think like engineers from an early age by taking advantage of their natural inquisitiveness and problem-solving capacity.