David Kirkpatrick

January 23, 2009

Strad secrets uncovered?

Filed under: Arts, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:04 am

Maybe, according to this research.

The release:

Secrets Of Stradivarius’ Unique Sound Revealed

Thursday, January 22, 2009

 

For centuries, violin makers have tried and failed to reproduce the pristine sound of Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, but after 33 years of work put into the project, a Texas A&M University professor is confident the veil of mystery has now been lifted.

Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry, first theorized in 1976 that chemicals used on the instruments – not merely the wood and the construction – are responsible for the distinctive sound of these violins. His controversial theory has now received definitive experimental support through collaboration with Renald Guillemette, director of the electron microprobe laboratory in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Clifford Spiegelman, professor of statistics, both Texas A&M faculty members. Their work has been published in the current issue of the scientific journal Public Library of Science (PloSONE).

 “All of my research over the years was based on the assumption that the wood of the great masters underwent an aggressive chemical treatment and this had a direct role in creating the great sound of the Stradivarius and the Guarneri,” Nagyvary explains.

Nagyvary obtained minute wood samples from restorers working on Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments (“no easy trick and it took a lot of begging to get them,” he adds). The results of the preliminary analysis of these samples, published in “Nature” in 2006, suggested that the wood was brutally treated by some unidentified chemicals. For the present study, the researchers burned the wood slivers to ash, the only way to obtain accurate readings for the chemical elements.

They found numerous chemicals in the wood, among them borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts.

 “Borax has a long history as a preservative, going back to the ancient Egyptians, who used it in mummification and later as an insecticide,” Nagyvary adds.

 “The presence of these chemicals all points to collaboration between the violin makers and the local drugstore and druggist at the time. Their probable intent was to treat the wood for preservation purposes. Both Stradivari and Guarneri would have wanted to treat their violins to prevent worms from eating away the wood because worm infestations were very widespread at that time.”

Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) made about 1,200 violins in his lifetime and sold them only to the very rich, primarily the royalty. Today, there are about 600 Stradivarius violins remaining and they are valued at up to $5 million each.

A lesser-known contemporary of Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesu, like the painter van Gogh, had trouble selling his work, but his instruments are now considered equal in quality and price by experts to Stradivarius violins.

Nagyvary, a native of Hungary who learned to play the violin by using an instrument that once belonged to Albert Einstein, has wondered for decades how Stradivari, with his rudimentary education and no scientific training, could have produced musical instruments with such an unequaled sound.

 “These current research results are highly gratifying for me because they prove what I first proposed 33 years ago, that – contrary to common wisdom – the wood of the great masters was not natural (unadulterated) but chemically treated by certain minerals, some of which I had predicted at the outset. Based on my lifetime experimentations with similar chemicals, we have reason to believe that they could have played a major role in the great tonal refinement of the antique instruments,” Nagyvary says.

 “When you use science to prove a point, it often de-mystifies the glory of the legendary masters, and for that reason, there has been some reluctance to get to the truth. To have undeniable scientific proof that supports my work is very satisfying, to say the least.”

Nagyvary said he believes the current findings will be of great interest to art historians and musical instrument makers around the world and could change the process of how fine violins are made.

For more about his work, go to www.nagyvaryviolins.com.

Texas A&M University, among the world’s leading research institutions, is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $540 million and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.

Digital-to-cinema from Paramount

This is a first.

The release from yesterday:

Paramount Pictures Announces Direct-to-Exhibitors Digital Cinema Deal

First Studio To Implement Agreement To Accelerate Expansion Of Digital Footprint

HOLLYWOOD, Calif., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. (NYSE:VIA)(NYSE:and)(NYSE:VIA.B), today announced it has become the first studio to offer digital cinema support directly to exhibitors across the United States and Canada.  The move is expected to accelerate the roll-out of digital and 3-D projection systems in theatres.  The announcement was made by Jim Tharp, President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution.

The deal works in parallel with previously announced agreements with DCIP (Digital Cinema Implementation Partners), Cinedigm, Kodak, and Sony but allows exhibitors to seek financing for d-cinema systems locally rather than wait for comprehensive integrator agreements, which require significantly more upfront capital, to be completed.  In addition, the agreement allows exhibitors to own and control their equipment (which is required to be DCI/SMPTE compliant), and to switch to an integrator-supported agreement at a later date if desired.  The new agreement also includes independent theatres that do not belong to any integrator groups.

In making the announcement, Tharp said, “We are excited about the potential of more theatres offering more of Paramount’s films in the highest quality digital and 3-D.  Today’s announcement is a good step forward to providing more audiences with the very best in movie viewing.”

NATO President and CEO John Fithian said, “Paramount is getting out front on this critical industry transition and we applaud them.  Direct arrangements between distributors and exhibitors won’t work for everyone, but for some of our members, it could make the difference in surviving and thriving in the digital era.  And it certainly enables some exhibitors to get wired much faster — and that means more 3-D screens sooner.  We urge all studios to give this creative option a fair chance.”

To date, Paramount has signed nine digital cinema integration deals, the most of any major studio.  They include domestic agreements with Cinedigm (previously Access IT) Phase 1 and Phase 2, Kodak, Sony, and DCIP, three deals with European integrators XDC, Arts Alliance Media and Ymagis, and two deals with Asian integrators DCK and GDC.  So far, more than 3,500 screens have been converted to digital under Cinedigm’s Phase 1 plan.

About Paramount Pictures Corporation

Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NYSE:VIA)(NYSE:VIA.B), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands.  The company’s labels include Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Movies.  PPC operations also include Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., Paramount Studio Group, and Worldwide Television Distribution.

Source: Paramount Pictures

Carbon nanotube electronics hit the market

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 am

Very exciting news here. A transparent plastic product with a carbon nanotube coating will be the first electronic nanotube product to hit the market. Lots of promising applications with this product.

From the link:

The first electronic product using carbon nanotubes is slated to hit the market this year. Unidym, a startup based in Menlo Park, CA, plans to start selling rolls of its carbon-nanotube-coated plastic films in the second half of 2009.

The transparent, conductive films could make manufacturing LCD screens faster and cheaper. They could enhance the life of touch panels used in ATM screens and supermarket kiosks. They might also pave the way for flexible thin-film solar cells and bright, roll-up color displays. The displays could be used in cell phones, billboards, and electronic books and magazines.

In all of these applications, the nanotube sheets would replace the indium tin oxide (ITO) coatings that are currently used as transparent electrodes. ITO cracks easily and is a more expensive material. “The cost of indium has gone up by 100 times in the last 10 years,” says Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, a research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, U.K.

Unidym

Nanotube shrink-wrap: A small sample of the carbon-nanotube-coated plastic film that could be used as the see-through electrodes in touch screens, roll-up displays, and thin-film solar cells. Credit: Unidym

Be on the lookout …

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:31 am

… for this new phishing attack. Sounds like it might catch the unwary.

From the link:

A vulnerability in major browsers recently discovered by Trusteer could make this trick much more dangerous, by allowing for “in-session phishing” and a more tailored attack. Using this new vulnerability, a phisher could detect, via the hacked site, when a user was already logged in to a banking website. The hacked site could then launch a pop-up warning the user that her session has timed out and asking her to reenter her login details. This approach would be less likely to raise a red flag, says Klein, since the pop-up does not appear completely out of the blue.

The core vulnerability discovered by the Israeli researchers is a Web browser flaw that lets the phisher see what other websites a person is visiting. Klein explains that a certain JavaScript function, commonly used by online retailers, financial institutions, and other sites, leaves a footprint revealing that the user is logged in to that site. Klein says that protections such as pop-up blockers wouldn’t necessarily derail the attack because the hacked site could itself be altered to seem like a request to log in again.

January 22, 2009

Building a broadband superhighway

The New America Foundation has an interesting position paper out on utilizing some of the infrastructure stimulus spending. Interesting and at first glance looks like a great idea for a number of reasons.

This is from an email sent by the think tank:

Last Friday the New America Foundation hosted a debate on proposals to spur investment in broadband in the upcoming economic stimulus bill. There were clear differences on how best to encourage investment and the merits of placing conditions on federal subsidies, which you can view at the video highlights below.

New America also released a paper by Benjamin Lennett and Sascha Meinrath, focusing on a long-term approach to broadband investment. Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway seeks to leverage federal spending on traditional infrastructure (road, bridges and possibly railways) to create a fully interconnected, public access fiber infrastructure to bring high-speed connectivity to nearly every community.

The hundreds of billions that will be spent over the next few years to rebuild the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure provide a unique opportunity for the U.S. to extend critical middle-mile fiber connections, at an incremental cost to taxpayers. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost deploying fiber in public rights of way along roadways is associated with digging up and repairing the road to install the buried fiber. Thus, the U.S. has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the construction, repairing, and upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure that will already occur to deploy fiber at a fraction of the cost of typical deployments. 

The paper calls for the federal government to fund and mandate the installation of conduit and high-capacity, dark fiber bundles along all federally-subsidized and direct federal highway projects. The approach offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to build the middle-mile wholesale fiber links necessary to facilitate high-speed broadband deployment by all providers; creating a foundation for universal and affordable broadband access, improving competition, increasing speeds and lowering prices.   

You can download a copy of the paper at:
http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/building_21st_century_broadband_superhighway .

And this is the conclusion of the paper:

The Interstate Highway System and broader National Highway System serve as the backbone of transportation and commerce in the United States. A 21st Century Broadband Superhighway would serve as the backbone for communication and commerce in the 21st century.  Given the nation’s current woeful standing in terms of broadband adoption, availability, speeds, and prices compared to other developed nations, a dramatic intervention is necessary to maintain U.S. technological and economic competitiveness. 

It was federal leadership and funding that helped build ARPANET and NSFNET, the research networks that served as the foundation for the Internet. Once again, it will take a national effort to regain our technological standing.  The U.S. needs a sustained broadband build-out effort that brings the necessary infrastructure to communities across the country and provides the speeds and capacity to meet, not just the communication needs of today, but the demands of tomorrow.  Mandating and funding the deployment of high-speed, open access fiber bundles along all Federal-aid highway and direct Federal highway projects offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to achieve these goals, bringing high-speed connectivity to nearly every community and providing the foundation for universal, affordable access to high-speed broadband.

 

The fiscal GOP under Bush 43

Not the least bit fiscally conservative. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite. That’s going to be a tough mantle to bear when the next election cycle rolls around and Republican candidates start in on the empty rhetoric of big-spending Democrats and prudent Republicans.

Yes, the current administration and Congress will be big spenders. It’s not going to be surprising. Disappointing maybe, but no surprise. The surprise will be it’s almost impossible that a Democratic White House, Senate and House will outspend the most recent GOP-controlled White House, Senate and House.

Any new-found GOP fiscal conservatism is going to ring hollow for probably a couple of more election cycles, and very maybe much longer.

From the Cato-at-Liberty link:

House Minority Leader John Boehner tells NPR, “I and most Republicans believe that a smaller, less costly government gives us a healthier economy and a healthier society.”

Reality check: How the federal budget grew during the years of President Bush and a Republican Congress:

Obama moves to shut down Gitmo

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:16 pm

In one of his first acts as president, Obama issued a directive to close the Guantanamo prison camp. The move restores the rule of law to our current military operations and makes the successful prosecution of international criminals in the “war on terror” much more likely.

From the link:

Saying that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program, directing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up a sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future.

“We intend to win this fight,” Mr. Obama said, “We are going to win it on our own terms.”

As he signed three orders, 16 retired generals and admirals who have fought for months for a ban on coercive interrogations stood behind him and applauded. The group, organized to lobby the Obama transition team by the group Human Rights First, did not include any career C.I.A. officers or retirees, participants said.

One of Mr. Obama’s orders requires the C.I.A. to use only the 19 interrogation methods outlined in the Army Field Manual, ending President Bush’s policy of permitting the agency to use some secret methods that went beyond those allowed to the military.

The Cato Institute applauds this move:

Within a day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, he has asked the military commissions judges to halt all trials in Guantanamo.  All indications point toward detainees being tried in federal courts.  This is a good decision for a couple of reasons.

First, the military commissions play into the propaganda game that terrorists thrive on.  It confirms their message that normal courts can’t address the threat that they pose.  In fact, the opposite is true.  When you convict a terrorist and lock him up with murderers and rapists, you take away his freedom fighter mystique.

Gel rocket fuel

Okay, this has now become a release dump but I couldn’t resist this story. It’s just that cool

The release:

January 21, 2009

Researchers cooking up new gelled rocket fuels

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -

Testing gelled
rocket fuels
Download photo

caption below

Engineers and food scientists are teaming up to develop a new type of gelled fuel the consistency of orange marmalade designed to improve the safety, performance and range of rockets for space and military applications.

“This is a very multidisciplinary project,” said Stephen Heister, the Purdue University professor of aeronautics and astronautics who is leading one of two teams on the project, which is funded by the U.S. Army Research Office.

 

Gels are inherently safer than liquids because they don’t leak, and they also would allow the military to better control rockets than is possible with solid fuels now used. Motors running on gelled fuels could be throttled up and down and controlled more precisely than conventional rockets that use solid propellants, Heister said.

“You can turn the engine on and off, you can coast, go fast or slow,” he said. “You have much greater control, which means more range for missiles. The gelled propellants also tend to have a little more energy than the solid propellants.”

Gelled fuels also could be used in thrusters to position satellites and on NASA space missions.

The team includes researchers from mechanical engineering, aeronautics and astronautics, food science, and agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, as well as researchers from Iowa State University and University of Massachusetts.

Paul Sojka, a professor of mechanical engineering and an associate director of the project, is building an experiment to take high-speed videos of the gelatinous fuel’s behavior. Jets of the gel form during the fuel-injection process.

“These jets are wiggling, there are pulsations, and those pulsations, we believe, lead to the formation of specific spray patterns and droplet formation,” Sojka said. “The fluid mechanics of gels are quite challenging. The viscous properties of the gel change depending on how fast it’s flowing, which is not true of common liquids such as water or gasoline.”

The project will tap the expertise of food scientists and food engineers, who are accustomed to working with gels, said Carlos Corvalan, an associate professor of food science.

“Gels are more complex than ordinary solids and fluids,” Corvalan said. “Fluids are characterized by viscosity, and solids are characterized by elasticity. Because gels share properties of both solids and fluids, they possess viscoelastic properties, or a combination of both.”

Food science and agricultural engineering researchers will study these viscoelastic properties and create simulations describing how the gels behave.

The five-year, $6.4 million “spray and combustion of gelled hypergolic propellants” project is a U.S. Army Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, or MURI. Another team is led by Pennsylvania State University.

Future rockets could require that gelled propellants be sprayed by fuel injectors into a motor’s combustion chamber at rates of thousands of pounds per second. Using the gelled propellants, however, will require a thorough knowledge of how the fuel breaks into droplets as it is being sprayed into the chamber.

The fuels are hypergolic, meaning they require no ignition source but ignite spontaneously when mixed with an oxidizer. The fuel and oxidizer tanks each feed into a separate fuel injector. As the streams of fuel and oxidizer mix, they form droplets that ignite.

“There is an unsteadiness of these two jets, and these fluctuations can have all sorts of ramifications in terms of engine performance,” said Sojka, who specializes in research to learn what happens between the fuel and oxidizer streams as they form elliptical sheets, spaghetti-like strands and droplets.

The high-speed movies are recorded at about 10,000 frames per second, or roughly 300 times faster than the typical video signal.

The collision of fuel and oxidizer jets causes “impact waves.”

“We are trying to understand the source of those waves and be able to control or capitalize on the unsteadiness to make smooth combustion,” Heister said.

Purdue faculty members and graduate students are conducting experiments at the university’s Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, in the Department of Food Science and in the School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering aimed at developing a comprehensive spray model that describes the precise behavior of propellant droplets in a rocket motor.

One aim is to be able to consistently create the relatively small, uniform droplets that would be needed for rocket propulsion. Food scientists are familiar with processes used to create droplets in foods.

“The texture of those foods is closely associated with the average size and range of sizes of droplets,” said Osvaldo Campanella, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering. “In a combustion chamber you also want to control droplet size, but for a different reason – to precisely control combustion. You want uniform combustion, and for that you need controlled drop size.”

Corvalan will lead work to develop simulations that determine the viscoelastic behavior of the gels and droplets.

Researchers will first work with water-based gels that simulate fuels and will eventually conduct experiments using actual propellants.

“It’s kind of like orange marmalade without the rind,” Heister said. “We are going to make this gel and push it through holes and study how it flows and how big the drops are. Eventually we’ll study the real gelled fuels, which can be quite hazardous and reactive, so we will use them in small quantities and under tightly controlled conditions.”

The viscoelastic properties of the gels will not only be experimentally measured, but molecular models representing the gels also will be developed as part of research in Purdue’s Department of Chemistry. The models will enable researchers to predict the behavior of gels and optimize their formulations.

Information from experiments and modeling will be used to design systems that have improved combustion.

Timothee Pourpoint, a research assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, is in charge of setting up and maintaining a propulsion lab to test the fuels at Zucrow. Because the fuels being tested are toxic, the lab will be equipped with a specialized ventilation system. Pourpoint conducted extensive research on hypergolic fuels for his doctoral thesis at Purdue.

 

PHOTO CAPTION:
Timothee Pourpoint, a research assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, is in charge of designing and operating a new Purdue lab to test gelled rocket fuels that have the consistency of orange marmalade. The fuels are designed to improve the safety, performance and range of rockets for space and military applications, and the research will involve a team of engineers and food scientists. Standing in the new lab are, from left, Tim Phillips and Mark James, both graduate students in aeronautics and astronautics, Pourpoint and Travis Kubal, a graduate student in mechanical engineering. (Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock)

Semiconducting nanotubes produced

Very cool news. This is the sort of progress in nanotech that could change an industry — electronics in this case.

The release:

Semiconducting nanotubes produced in quantity at Duke

DURHAM, N.C. — After announcing last April a method for growing exceptionally long, straight, numerous and well-aligned carbon cylinders only a few atoms thick, a Duke University-led team of chemists has now modified that process to create exclusively semiconducting versions of these single-walled carbon nanotubes.

The achievement paves the way for manufacturing reliable electronic nanocircuits at the ultra-small billionths of a meter scale, said Jie Liu, Duke’s Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor of Chemistry, who headed the effort.

“I think it’s the holy grail for the field,” Liu said. “Every piece is now there, including the control of location, orientation and electronic properties all together. We are positioned to make large numbers of electronic devices such as high-current field-effect transistors and sensors.”

A report on their achievement, co-authored by Liu and a team of collaborators from his Duke laboratory and Peking University in China, was published Jan 20, 2009 in the research journal Nano Letters. Their work was funded by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, the National Science Foundation of China, carbon nanotube manufacturer Unidym Inc., Duke University and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.

Liu has filed for a patent on the method. A post doctoral researcher in his laboratory, Lei Ding, was first author of the new report as well as the previous study http://news.duke.edu/2008/04/stnanotubes.html published April 16, 2008, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

That earlier JACS report described how the researchers coaxed forests of nanotubes to form in long, parallel paths that will not cross each other to impede potential electronic performance. Their method grows the nanotubes on a template made of a continuous and unbroken kind of single quartz crystal used in electronic applications. Copper is also used as a growth promoter.

Carbon nanotubes are sometimes called “buckytubes” because their ends, when closed, take the form of soccer ball-shaped carbon-60 molecules known as buckminsterfullerines, or “buckyballs.” The late Richard Smalley, who headed the Rice University laboratory where Liu was based before coming to Duke, shared a Nobel Prize for synthesizing buckyballs.

In addition to being especially tiny, those nanotubes offer other advantages — including reduced heat output and higher frequency operation — over current materials used to make miniaturized electronic components such as transistors, said Liu. “Operating at higher frequencies means they would be much better devices for wireless communications,” he added.

But the April 2008 JACS report left one unresolved issue blocking use of such numerous, straight and well-aligned nanotubes as electronic components. Only some of the resulting nanotubes acted electronically as semiconductors. Others were the electronic equivalent of metals. To work in transistors, the nanotubes must all be semiconducting, Liu said.

In their new Nano Letters report, the researchers announced success at achieving virtually all-semiconductor growth conditions by making one modification. In their earlier work they had used the alcohol ethanol in the feeder gas to provide carbon atoms as building blocks for the growing nanotubes. In the new work they tried various ratios of two alcohols — ethanol and methanol — combined with two other gases they also used previously — argon and hydrogen.

“We found that by using the right combination of the two alcohols with the argon and hydrogen we could grow exclusively semiconducting nanotubes,” Liu said. “It was like operating a tuning knob.” Chemically inert argon gas was used to provide a steady feed of the ethanol and methanol, with hydrogen to keep the copper catalyst from oxidizing.

After making the nanotubes by the chemical vapor deposition method in a small furnace set to a temperature of 900 degrees Celsius, the researchers assembled some of them into field-effect transistors to test their electronic properties.

“We have estimated from these measurements that the samples consisted of 95 to 98 percent semiconducting nanotubes,” the researchers reported.

As a double-check, the scientists also subjected some nanotubes to Raman spectroscopy, an analytical technique that can differentiate semiconducting and metallic properties by studying how materials interact with various types of lasers.

According to the new Nano Letters report, the introduction of methanol to complement ethanol also shrunk the diameters of the resulting nanotubes and improved their atomic alignments with the underlying quartz crystal.

The resulting nanotubes can only be seen with exceptionally high magnification devices like scanning electron and atomic force microscopes. Whether the hollow carbon cylinders are metallic or semiconducting is a matter of their three dimensional alignments in space — a trait scientists call “chirality.”

The group’s next challenge will be to understand at an atomic level how “just so” tuning of growth gas mixtures resulted in the right chirality to produce exclusively semiconducting nanotubes. The researchers are also wondering whether another combination might produce all-metallic nanotubes.

“We want to be able to control that chirality,” he said.

 

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Other authors of the Nano Letters report include Alexander Tselev, Dongning Yuan and Thomas McNicholas at Duke, and Yan Li, Jinyong Wang and Haibin Chu at Peking University.

 

January 21, 2009

Latest on graphene — various substrate growth

Graphene is one of nanotech’s serious breakthroughs and here’s the latest on the single-atom thick carbon material.

The release:

Light-Speed Nanotech: Controlling the Nature of Graphene

Researchers at Rensselaer have developed a new method for controlling the conductive nature of graphene. Pictured is a rendering of two sheets of graphene, each with the thickness of just a single carbon atom, resting on top of a silicon dioxide substrate.

Researchers “tune” graphene’s properties by growing it on different surfaces

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered a new method for controlling the nature of graphene, bringing academia and industry potentially one step closer to realizing the mass production of graphene-based nanoelectronics.

Graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon, was discovered in 2004 and is considered a potential heir to copper and silicon as the fundamental building blocks of nanoelectronics. 

With help from an underlying substrate, researchers for the first time have demonstrated the ability to control the nature of graphene. Saroj Nayak, an associate professor in Rensselaer’s Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, along with Philip Shemella, a postdoctoral research associate in the same department, have determined that the chemistry of the surface on which graphene is deposited plays a key role in shaping the material’s conductive properties. The results are based on large-scale quantum mechanical simulations.

Results show that when deposited on a surface treated with oxygen, graphene exhibits semiconductor properties. When deposited on a material treated with hydrogen, however, graphene exhibits metallic properties.

“Depending on the chemistry of the surface, we can control the nature of the graphene to be metallic or semiconductor,” Nayak said. “Essentially, we are ‘tuning’ the electrical properties of material to suit our needs.” 

Conventionally, whenever a batch of graphene nanostructures is produced, some of the graphene is metallic, while the rest is semiconductor. It would be nearly impossible to separate the two on a large scale, Nayak said, yet realizing new graphene devices would require that they be comprised solely of metallic or semiconductor graphene. The new method for “tuning” the nature of graphene is a key step to making this possible, he said. 

Graphene’s excellent conductive properties make it attractive to researchers. Even at room temperature, electrons pass effortlessly, near the speed of light and with little resistance. This means a graphene interconnect would likely stay much cooler than a copper interconnect of the same size. Cooler is better, as heat produced by interconnects can have negative effects on both a computer chip’s speed and performance.

Results of the study were published this week in the paper “Electronic structure and band-gap modulation of graphene via substrate surface chemistry” in Applied Physics Letters, and are featured on the cover of the journal’s January 19 issue. 

Large-scale quantum simulations for the study were run on Rensselaer’s supercomputing system, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI). 

Researchers received funding for the project from the New York State Interconnect Focus Center at Rensselaer.

Published January 20, 2009

Stretchable electronics news

Stretchable, flexible, electronics are a key component of wearable electronics, amongst many other applications. Any news on this front is always welcome.

The release:

University of Miami engineer designs stretchable electronics with a twist

The new mechanical design accommodates extreme bending and straining without reduction in electronic performance

IMAGE: This picture shows an optical image of a freely deformed stretchable array of complementary metal-oxide semiconductors inverters.

Click here for more information. 

CORAL GABLES, FL (January 21, 2008)- Jizhou Song, a professor in the University of Miami College of Engineering and his collaborators Professor John Rogers, at the University of Illinois and Professor Yonggang Huang, at Northwestern University have developed a new design for stretchable electronics that can be wrapped around complex shapes, without a reduction in electronic function.

The new mechanical design strategy is based on semiconductor nanomaterials that can offer high stretchability (e.g., 140%) and large twistability such as corkscrew twists with tight pitch (e.g., 90o in 1cm). Potential uses for the new design include electronic devices for eye cameras, smart surgical gloves, body parts, airplane wings, back planes for liquid crystal displays and biomedical devises.

“Our design is of great interest because the requirements for complex shapes that can function during stretching, compression, bending, twisting and other types of extreme mechanical deformation are impossible to satisfy with conventional technology,” said Song.

The secret of the design is in the silicon (Si) islands on which the active devices or circuits are fabricated. The islands form a chemically bonded, pre-strained elastomeric substrate. Releasing the pre-strain causes the metal interconnects of the circuits to buckle and form arc-shaped structures, which accommodate the deformation and make the semiconductor materials much more stretchable, without inducing significant changes in their electrical properties. The design is called noncoplanar mesh design.

The study is featured in the cover of the December issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and was selected for the special section of the journal called “In this issue.” The work is titled “Materials and Noncoplanar Mesh Designs for Integrated Circuits with Linear Elastic Responses to Extreme Mechanical Deformations”. The study describes a design system that can be stretched or compressed to high levels of strain, in any direction or combination of directions, with electronic properties that are independent of such strain, even in extreme arrangements. These types of systems might enable new applications not possible with current methods.

 

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The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. www.miami.edu

The dollar is roaring back

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:42 pm

After a long while in the cellar, the US dollar is finally seriously rebounding against the pound and euro.

From the link:

Sterling tumbled on Wednesday, hitting a 7 1/2-year low against the dollar, as intensified risk aversion drove investors back into the U.S. currency which reached its strongest levels against the euro in six weeks.

Economic worries around the world stung global stock markets and sliding European shares kept demand high to dump risky assets. The pound extended deep losses on the view that an ailing U.K. banking sector will keep the economy weak despite drastic interest rate cuts.

Banking stocks and TARP …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:40 pm

a bad, bad combination.

From the link:

New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini, who foresaw the credit crisis, heightened investors’ panic when Bloomberg reported on Jan. 20 that he estimated credit losses for U.S. firms could hit $3.6 trillion. Thus, the U.S. banking system—with just $1.4 trillion in capital—is “effectively insolvent,” Roubini said, according to Bloomberg. “The problems of Citi, Bank of America, and others suggest the system is bankrupt,” he added.

The supposed cure for this is the federal government’s $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, enacted late last year. However, a growing number of investors and analysts warn that the TARP program may come at a large cost to bank shareholders.

Banks get TARP relief only by giving the federal government preferred shares. On Jan. 16, BofA issued the government another $20 billion in preferred stock that pays an 8% dividend. In exchange, the government agreed to limit future losses on $118 billion in BofA investments, including a large amount of the portfolio acquired through BofA’s buyout of Merrill Lynch.

“Increased support by the U.S. government provides protection on certain problem assets,” notes Deutsche Bank (DB) analyst Mike Mayo, but “it also comes with more restrictions on [BofA] as a whole.”

Geithner’s hearing is done and confirmation is expected

A bit of drama here in the opening days of the Obama administration, but confirmation is the correct move here.

From the link:

President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, though tarnished by disclosures of his failure to pay taxes, is likely too uniquely qualified for Congress to reject amid hopes to contain the worst economic downturn in decades.

A red-faced Geithner will undoubtedly be grilled at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday about his failure as an International Monetary Fund official to pay tens of thousands of dollars in U.S. taxes, and how that squares with taking the job that includes responsibility for U.S. tax collection.

But barring a glaring slip at the hearing, Geithner, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank and a key participant in government efforts to prop up financial markets, looks on track to be confirmed as Treasury secretary.

January 20, 2009

Missing hedge fund manager

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:38 pm

I have a feeling this type of story, and reports of suicide, will continue for a while as rotten apples drop of the financial world’s trees.

From the link:

The F.B.I. and securities regulators have joined the investigation of Arthur Nadel, a Florida hedge fund manager who disappeared four days ago, leaving clients concerned that they might have lost as much as $350 million.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Securities and Exchange Commission are helping on the case, police Lt. Stanley Beishline of Sarasota, Fla., said in a telephone interview.

 

One of Mr. Nadel’s business partners, Neil Moody, said Mr. Nadel had spoken to his wife, Peg, since he was reported missing. Mr. Nadel, 76, is president of Scoop Management in Sarasota, which oversees funds that include Valhalla Investment Partners. Mr. Moody holds no position in Scoop Management and was a partner with Mr. Nadel only on the Vahalla fund and two Viking funds.

Scoop’s claim to have managed as much as $350 million ”may be high because performance results were exaggerated,” Mr. Moody said in an interview. Mr. Moody said he did not know anything was wrong until Mr. Nadel was reported missing.

Mr. Nadel was last seen by his wife at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday when he left for work, said Lt. Chuck Lesaltato of the Sarasota County sheriff’s office.

Text of Obama’s inauguration speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:57 pm

Here’s the complete text courtesy of the New York Times:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

”Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

 

Obama sworn in as 44th United States President

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:11 pm

A historic day– the inauguration of a new president is always a historic day, the fact Obama is our nation’s first black president makes it even more so. I think after the election last year all Americans should truly feel they could become president.

Black, white, brown or any other color, male and female alike.

Our nation is in interesting times in many ways. I wish President Obama the  best of luck and hope he, and his administration, can bring good judgement and large ideas to bear on the issues facing the US right now.

From the link:

Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, before a massive crowd reveling in a moment of profound racial significance, and called on Americans to confront together an economic crisis that he said was caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices.”

Mr. Obama spoke just after noon to a sea of cheering people, appearing to number well over a million, who packed the National Mall from the Capitol to the Washington Monument and beyond. Four hours later, at the end of the parade route, he left his car and strolled with his wife along Pennsylvania Avenue on the final steps of a long march to the White House, holding hands and waving to cheering crowds.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Obama acknowledged the change his presidency represented, describing himself in his inaugural address as a “man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant.” But although the crowd and the podium around him were full of elated African Americans, Mr. Obama, the first black to become president, did not dwell on that in his speech.

He spoke for about 20 minutes, after taking the oath of office on the same Bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural in 1861, emphasizing his determination to unite Americans in confronting both the economic challenges facing him and the continuing fight against terrorism.

January 19, 2009

The Bush 43 legacy

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:39 pm

Here on the final day of his presidency, there’s no way to determine the legacy. One thing that’s becoming clear, he’s pushing the idea that his greatest achievement was preventing another attack on US soil after 9/11.

Andrew Sullivan makes a great point here that sums my thoughts exactly.

From the link:

In the end, the Bush presidency was something of a mixed bag: massive increases in the power of the federal Leviathan was the dark side. But President Bush’s most important legacy is the fact that he kept Americans safe after September 11.

The latter talking point remains as hard to gage as any. We simply do not know yet, from the vantage of history, whether Bush’s record in preventing another 9/11 style attack was luck or design or some mix of the two. We don’t talk of how Clinton “kept us safe” after the 1993 WTC attack – at least, I fail to remember that as a GOP talking point in 2000 – because from the vantage point of 2001, it didn’t look so great.

I have a sinking feeling that we surrendered enormous amounts of freedom and the heart of the Constitution … for the usual meager portions of pseudo-security. But the point is: I don’t actually know. No one does, except those whose direct interest it is to defend their own record.

House stimulus plan looks good from Governor’s mansion

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:01 pm

I’m not even going to speculate on how good, or bad, an idea the current stimulus plan might be. At this point ideas are a waste of time — something is coming, it’s going to be big and it’ll be totally driven by the Democratic Party.

It is probably a good sign that the states are given a little support. That was one area of the current financial crisis that could’ve become ugly.

From the link:

State officials got their first look of the massive economic package worth $825 billion that Congress promises to deliver next month to President-elect Barack Obama, and many liked what they saw.
 
House Democrats Jan. 15 released details of their version of a plancontaining $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts that they say will help pull the country out of a financial freefall compared by some experts to the Great Depression.
 
Crucial to states, the two-year package includes $87 billion to help pay for Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that costs $330 billion annually and serves 59 million needy Americans, and at least $100 billion for infrastructure spending — two top priorities of many governors and state legislators.
 
“Obviously they heeded our concerns,” said Michael Bird, the National Conference of State Legislatures lobbyist in Washington, D.C. He said the package includes “ample funds to create jobs; help the most disadvantaged get through the recession and perhaps ease some of the really tough budget decisions that state legislatures are facing.”
 
In a surprise to some, the proposed package also contains $79 billion aimed to prevent states from cutting into schools and college funding and another $41 billion to local school districts. While states and localities were asking for help on the education front, the levels were much higher than many had expected.

IRA and 401(k) advice from the Department of Labor

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:21 pm

Here’s a press release that will come in handy for anyone making moves with retirement funds.

The release:

U.S. Labor Department finalizes rule on investment advice for 401(k) plans and IRAs
PR Newswire via NewsEdge :

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The U.S. Department of Labor today announced publication of a final rule to make investment advice more accessible for millions of Americans in 401(k) type plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The final rule will be published in the Jan. 21, 2009, edition of the Federal Register. The rule includes a regulation that implements the new statutory exemption for investment advice added to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by the Pension Protection Act (PPA) and a related class exemption.

“Access to professional investment advice is particularly important now for workers as they manage their 401(k) plans and IRAs in changing and volatile financial markets,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

The final rule provides general guidance on the exemption’s requirements, including computer model certification and disclosures by fiduciaries. The regulation also includes a model form to assist advisers in satisfying the exemption’s fee disclosure requirement. In addition, the final rule includes a class exemption expanding the availability of investment advice.

The PPA amended ERISA by adding a new prohibited transaction exemption that allows greater flexibility for participants of 401(k) plans and IRAs to obtain investment advice. One of the ways in which investment advice may be given under the exemption is through the use of a computer model certified as unbiased. The other way is through an adviser compensated on a “level-fee” basis. Several other requirements also must be satisfied, including disclosure of fees the adviser is to receive.

“Millions of American workers are responsible for managing their 401(k) and IRA accounts. The department took extraordinary steps to engage a broad spectrum of participants, employers, plan fiduciaries and others throughout the rulemaking process,” said Bradford P. Campbell, assistant secretary of the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration. “The final rule expands access to investment advice without compromising the critical protections for plan participants and beneficiaries.”

The department published a Request for Information in December 2006, published a proposed regulation in August 2008 and held a public hearing on the proposals on Oct. 21, 2008.

U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor

17 years of t-man failure with Madoff

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:07 pm

This story really is amazing. Quite the juggling act from Madoff, that’s for sure.

From the link:

Seventeen years ago, federal investigators questioned for the first time whether Bernard L. Madoff was connected to a Ponzi scheme. Their inquiry centered on Frank Avellino, an accountant who had been funneling investors to Mr. Madoff since the 1960s.

The investigators did not get far. Within days, Mr. Avellino agreed to return to investors the money he and his partner had raised and to pay a small fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The inquiry petered out, and Mr. Avellino — represented in the case by Ira Lee Sorkin, the same lawyer who now represents Mr. Madoff — kept sending money to Mr. Madoff.

 

Now questions have again arisen about the ties between Mr. Madoff and Mr. Avellino. A lawsuit claims that Mr. Avellino warned his housekeeper, who had invested with him, that her money was lost 10 days before Mr. Madoff’s fraud became public.

Through his new lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Avellino declined to comment on his relationship with Mr. Madoff.

But archived court documents from the 1992 case reveal numerous red flags that raise questions about the S.E.C.’s failure to examine Mr. Avellino and Mr. Madoff long before Mr. Madoff’s apparent Ponzi scheme spread worldwide. The documents show that Mr. Avellino and Michael Bienes, his business partner, kept almost no records at Avellino & Bienes, a firm that oversaw $440 million. When court-appointed auditors asked Mr. Avellino to prepare a balance sheet, he responded that ”my experience has taught me to not commit any figures to scrutiny.”

For MLK Day …

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:04 pm

… Here’s the full text of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

From the link:

Martin Luther King Speeches

I Have a Dream – Address at March on Washington

August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

 

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. [Applause]

 

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech

January 16, 2009

Bush 43′s approval ratings …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:28 pm

… in a chart. I think if that were a profit chart, the CEO-in-chief would get the axe long before now.

George W. Bush's approval ratings over his two terms.

George W. Bush's approval ratings over his two terms.

Bush’s Iraq failure

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

Whatever else you think about the war in Iraq, this bit of analysis is beyond reproach. You can try and shout down the facts, but the facts do remain.

From the link:

The Iraq war was a case study of what happens when politicisation is mixed with incompetence. A long-standing convention holds that politics stops at the ocean’s edge. But Mr Bush and his inner circle labelled the Democrats “Defeaticrats” whenever they were reluctant to support extending the war from Afghanistan to Iraq. They manipulated intelligence to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had close relations with al-Qaeda. This not only divided a country that had been brought together by September 11th; it also undermined popular support for what Mr Bush regarded as the central theme of his presidency, the war on terror.

Sean Wilentz, a historian at Princeton, remarks how unusual it is for a president to have politicised such a national catastrophe: “No other president—Lincoln in the civil war, FDR in world war two, John F. Kennedy at critical moments of the cold war—faced with such a monumental set of military and political circumstances, failed to embrace the opposing political party to help wage a truly national struggle. But Bush shut out and even demonised the Democrats.”

Trammell Crow, RIP

Filed under: Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:07 pm

The man was a Dallas real estate legend.

From the link:

Trammell Crow, the renowned Dallas developer who reshaped the city and other metropolitan areas with his commercial developments, died Wednesday night. He was 94.

Crow founded the Trammell Crow Co. in the post-World War II era.

The Dallas native began his real estate empire by constructing his first commercial development in 1948. Crow’s initial project was an 11,250-square foot-warehouse in the Trinity River Industrial District near downtown Dallas. From there, Crow partnered with Dallas civic leader John Stemmons and pioneered a real estate boom the district.

Collection agency gives up and uses witchcraft

Filed under: Business, et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:41 pm

Yeah it’s Lithuania, but this is comical. I hope it’s a hoax. If not, good luck there, guys. Lets us all know how this turns out.

From the link:

In these difficult times for creditors, a Lithuanian debt collector is offering an unconventional service to retrieve arrears: witchcraft.

The Vilnius-based firm has hired Vilija Lobaciuviene, the Baltic nation’s most famous self-styled witch, to hunt down companies and individuals who are failing to pay their debts amid the credit crunch.

“There are certain people, who are using this crisis situation and refuse to pay back banks or other companies,” said Amantas Celkonas, director of the Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras, or debt collecting bureau.

“Our new employee will help them to understand the situation, reconsider what is right and wrong and act accordingly,” he said. “We will also help those who are in real trouble, suffering from psychological impact of bankruptcy and depression.”

The Fed’s still freaking

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:21 pm

Hopefully Obama’s economic team can do something to staunch this spate of chicken little news out of the governing bodies that are overseeing this mess.

From the link:

Top Federal Reserve policy-makers hammered home their worries about the U.S. economy’s downward spiral on Thursday, urging aggressive action on all policy fronts as deflationary forces gather and many banks face new pressure.

Well-functioning credit markets remain critical to any economic upturn, and the Fed may need to expand its use of unorthodox policy tools, the officials said.

Janet Yellen, President of the San Francisco Fed, said the central bank would not let inflation fall below one percent, and that setting inflation targets would be “one way” to convey the Fed’s commitment to a turnaround.

“We need to make it clear that would be undesirable, unwelcome and we would fight it,” Yellen told reporters after a speech to the Financial Women’s Association in San Francisco.

Citigroup to split into two parts

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:58 pm

At this point nothing is surprising about the financial crisis.

From the link:

Citigroup Inc (C.N), scrambling to survive losses triggered by the credit crunch, unveiled plans to split in two and shed troubled assets, and reported a quarterly loss of $8.29 billion.

The banking giant also said it expected more departures from its embattled board, which is losing former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin as a director later this year.

Still, the bank’s shares rose 4 percent in premarket trading, in part because investors hoped the plan to separate its most troubled assets into a new company would help revive the company.

“It’s one of the first steps toward some positive news and the end of this nightmare,” said Michael Holland, founder of Holland & Co in New York, which manages more than $4 billion of investment.

Citigroup, whose shares have plunged 87 percent since the beginning of 2008, said it recorded $28.3 billion of writedowns and credit losses in the 2008 fourth quarter. Losses over the past 15 months total more than $92 billion.

Ten ways to make Vista more secure

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:55 pm

And who doesn’t want to make their computer more secure? If you’re running Windows Vista here’s some tips and tricks from CIO.com.

From the link:

Check Your Work

Now that you’ve tweaked Windows Vista, you can keep tabs on your system’s security with the System Health Report. This diagnostic tool takes input from the Performance and Reliability Monitor and turns it into an information-packed report that can spotlight potential security problems.

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click System.
  3. In the Tasks list, click Performance (near the bottom).
  4. In the resulting Tasks list, click Advanced tools (near the top).
  5. Click the last item on the resulting list: Generate a system health report.

The report will list any missing drivers that might be causing error codes, tell you whether your antivirus protection is installed, and declare whether UAC is turned on. You may want to run this report once a month just to make sure everything’s still good.

Nine hot IT skills for this year

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:33 pm

Here’s nine of the hottest IT skills for 2009 according to CIO.com. I’ll have to admit the list is a little mundane, in that pretty much anyone could build the list in their sleep. With “hot” lists I always like to see at least one or two wildcards in there.

From the link, here’s number five:

5. Business Intelligence

Now more than ever, corporate executives want to be able to analyze customer and sales data in order to make informed decisions about business strategies. That’s driving demand for business intelligence specialists across the board, including people with data mining, data warehousing and data management skills.

At Aspen Skiing Co., which operates four ski resorts in western Colorado, company officials will be making year-over-year comparisons on customer spending, including analyses of spending habits during the previous recession, says CIO Paul Major. “We’re going to have to get very granular with our analytics,” he says.

Meanwhile, there’s steady demand for IT professionals with experience using vendor-specific BI tools from companies such as Business Objects and Cognos, says Spencer Lee. But the toughest people to find in this area are those who can help business managers understand the type of data they’re trying to analyze and how to interpret the results, she says. “What’s difficult,” she adds, “is to find someone who’s the full-meal deal.”

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