Data Points

By Zachary Block '99 / July / August 2003
June 22nd, 2007

Chip Shots

As engineers cram ever smaller circuits onto computer chips, the ability to find defects has become increasingly difficult. “This is costing industry a bundle,” says physics professor Gang Xiao, who along with Ben Schrag ’03 Ph.D. has designed a microscope that could vastly improve quality control in the multibillion-dollar microchip market. The new microscope uses magnetic-scanning technology to map electricity flowing through integrated circuits. Unlike competing devices that must be used in extremely cold environments, it can be used at room temperature. That, Xiao says, could eventually lead to magnetic scanners able to detect everything from cracks in an airplane hull to viruses in the body.


Paper Pusher

Demand for wood and paper fuels deforestation, right? Not necessarily, says economics professor Andrew Foster, who argues in the May Quarterly Journal of Economics that increasing demand for forest products can actually promote tree growth. The study focuses on India, where Foster and a Harvard colleague found that economic incentives have helped promote conservation and tree farming and expand forest cover from 10 percent in 1971 to 24 percent in 1999. Although Foster cautions that forest growth does not necessarily translate into biodiversity—old-growth forests and tree farms are not interchangeable—he says “developing countries with the right kind of policies need not have their forests disappear.”


Sleepy Time

The first time a baby sleeps through the night may be a milestone, but for some children only medication can produce a good night’s rest. Although no drugs are approved for treating pediatric insomnia, more than 50 percent of pediatricians report prescribing medication to treat sleep disorders, according to a survey of 671 primary-care pediatricians published in the May Pediatrics. Lead author and Associate Professor of Pediatrics Judith Owens ’77, ’80 M.D. says the study revealed a need for more data and guidelines. “Clinical trials in pediatric populations are very labor-intensive, and there are ethical considerations,” Owens says. “Quite frankly it’s never been considered terribly lucrative by the pharmaceutical industry.”

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July / August 2003