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    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Reuters - Go viral for laughs with UK's Idiots of Ants

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    Go viral for laughs with UK's Idiots of Ants

    Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009 4:53PM UTC

    By Paul Casciato

    LONDON (Reuters) - Don't despair if you haven't already bought tickets to the sold-out Edinburgh Festival Fringe show of one of British comedy's best up and coming troupes. Go viral.

    Idiots of Ants, four young Englishmen whose serious white shirts and black ties offset their absurd sketches, will prance, preen and make you laugh until it hurts your spleen in your own living room today.

    The troupe that had Monty Python's John Cleese laughing out loud on a tour of Canada this year and was chosen by leisure bible Time Out magazine as a top pick of the three-week long Fringe has also racked up millions of hits on YouTube with sketches like "Facebloke" and "New York Cop."

    "We're frantically making as much viral (video sketches on the Internet) as we can to show off our style and what we do," Elliott Tiney, one of the four Idiots, told Reuters.

    Tiney, alongside Benjamin Wilson, James Wrighton and Andrew Spiers have been selling out successively bigger venues at the Fringe for the past three years. They were invited on a Canadian tour alongside Cleese and other "best of British" comedians and have the television producers sniffing around.

    "I guess that's a sign that things are going in the right direction," Wrighton said in an interview with Tiney and Wilson.

    Their madcap sketch show "Idiots of Ants -- This is War" at the Pleasance in Edinburgh was sold out this year before it opened and is an onslaught of gags, video clips and some pretty outrageous humor about the male perspective on life.

    They are not afraid of high risk comedy, making one member of the audience a major part of the show each night. At the Fringe, where people wander from bar-to-theater with drinks in hand, that kind of risk-taking can go badly wrong.

    As the crowd enters, Wilson is already on stage picking out which audience member he thinks will get the most laughs and give the least amount of trouble.

    "I'm kind of giving the briefest psychological assessment you'll ever give when I'm stood at the front going 'right who looks the least mental,'" he said.

    After that, they're off with skits on the "Federation of Fatherhood Preparation" in which dads-to-be learn how to tell terrible jokes and be generally embarrassing, a bachelorette party -- where four women wake up with hangovers and sex changes -- to a cheerfully morbid song about cannibalism for airline crash survivors stranded on a mountain.

    How did they come up with their quirky name?

    Tiney said he thought that Idiot Savants would be a good name for a comedy club and quickly Wrighton and Wilson spoke up to say they didn't.

    "We thought that was quite pretentious, so Jimmy said what about Idiots of Ants, which is a funny collection of words but also it has a double meaning buried in there," Wilson said.

    When asked about the growing comparisons to Monty Python's Flying Circus, the 20-something Ants shuffle their feet, look embarrassed and then Elliott tells the story of how they caught sight of Cleese laughing out loud in the wings at one of their shows and then asking them for advice about a joke.

    "He asked us did we have any different ideas for the punchline of one of his jokes and we just all stood there like bumbling idiots kind of saying it's fine, it's brilliant John you did really well, John."

    (Editing by Steve Addison)

    Reuters - IBM uses DNA to make next-gen microchips

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    IBM uses DNA to make next-gen microchips

    Sunday, Aug 16, 2009 5:11PM UTC

    By Clare Baldwin

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp <IBM.N> is looking to the building blocks of our bodies -- DNA -- to be the structure of next-generation microchips.

    As chipmakers compete to develop ever-smaller chips at cheaper prices, designers are struggling to cut costs.

    Artificial DNA nanostructures, or "DNA origami" may provide a cheap framework on which to build tiny microchips, according to a paper published on Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

    Microchips are used in computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.

    "This is the first demonstration of using biological molecules to help with processing in the semiconductor industry," IBM research manager Spike Narayan said in an interview with Reuters.

    "Basically, this is telling us that biological structures like DNA actually offer some very reproducible, repetitive kinds of patterns that we can actually leverage in semiconductor processes," he said.

    The research was a joint undertaking by scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center and the California Institute of Technology.

    Right now, the tinier the chip, the more expensive the equipment. Narayan said that if the DNA origami process scales to production-level, manufacturers could trade hundreds of millions of dollars in complex tools for less than a million dollars of polymers, DNA solutions, and heating implements.

    "The savings across many fronts could add up significantly," he said.

    But the new processes are at least 10 years out. Narayan said that while the DNA origami could allow chipmakers to build frameworks that are far smaller than possible with conventional tools, the technique still needs years of experimentation and testing.

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