David Kirkpatrick

July 13, 2009

Unintentional (?) humor

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:18 pm

From the Daily Dish today:

A reader writes:

I donated a kidney to a fellow animal activist (stranger) in November, and it was absolutely one of the best things I ever did, and I would do it again in a flash.

Er, wouldn’t losing that second kidney end in fairly sudden death?

July 12, 2009

Arturo Gatti, RIP

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:19 pm

I haven’t done posts on the overload of celebrity deaths recently, but Arturo Gatti deserves mentioning because; one — he’s not that well known, and two — he was a decent boxer and a truly good guy. It’s sad to hear his wife was likely involved in Gatti’s untimely death.

From the link:

Police said 23-year-old Amanda Rodrigues was taken into custody after contradictions in her interrogation. Gatti’s body was found early Saturday in a hotel room at the Porto de Galinhas resort in northeastern Brazil.

The former junior welterweight champion was apparently strangled with the strap of a purse, which was found at the scene with blood stains, said Milena Saraiva, a spokeswoman for the Pernambuco state civil police. She told The Associated Press that the Canadian also had a head injury.

The investigation was not complete, but Saraiva said authorities were preparing to present a formal accusation against Rodrigues, who denied being involved in her husband’s death.

Police said Rodrigues, a Brazilian, could not explain how she spent nearly 10 hours in the room without noticing that Gatti was already dead.

Is Dick Cheney sweating yet?

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:55 pm

He should be. If nothing else, Obama has shown a great propensity to allow circumstances to ferment to the point he is totally removed from the ultimate result. Cheney is nearing the end of long, slow walk.

From the link:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Efforts to reach Mr. Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.

July 10, 2009

Debating the stimulus

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:14 pm

I have a feeling this is a discussion that will continue through the 2010 election cycle and maybe even into the 2012 presidential race if the economy remains soft for that long.

Many people don’t realize presidents pretty much live and die by economic cycles, and these cycles are almost entirely outside control by the White House. Just by polling it’s clear Obama has ownership of the current horrible economy and the immediate fire-brigade his administration was forced to put into action. It’s worth noting, to keep things in perspective if nothing else, he was handed a flaming bag of dog poop from one of the worst eight years of economic oversight, spending, saving and planning all coming from a Bush administration that was supposed to be fiscally conservative.

From the link:

And so, stimulus proponents argue, the only remaining actor with the capacity to boost total spending significantly is government. If government fails to act, they warn, the economy is likely to languish for years to come.

Stimulus opponents see things differently. In a recent Forbes column, UCLA economist Lee Ohanian attributed their skepticism to their belief that “the higher taxes on incomes or expenditures that ultimately accompany higher spending depress economic activity.” According to this argument, if the government borrows money to stimulate spending now, people will realize that the resulting debt will necessitate higher taxes in the future. And that realization will cause them to curtail their own current spending further, thereby offsetting the stimulus.

GM exits bankruptcy

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:04 pm

I did plenty of blogging on GM before it finally faced reality and declared bankruptcy. It’s only fitting to add one more post to the group on the automaker quickly exiting the legal process.

From the second link:

A new General Motors emerged from bankruptcy protection on Friday — far more quickly than most industry-watchers had expected — as a leaner automaker pledging to win back American consumers and pay back taxpayers.A whirlwind 40-day bankruptcy for GM concluded with the closing of a deal that sold key operations to a new company that is majority-owned by the U.S. Treasury.

The closing documents were signed early Friday by representatives of the government and GM executives at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, GM’s bankruptcy counsel.

July 9, 2009

Testing graphene for potential applications

Graphene is proving to be one of the most, if not the most, exciting nanotech discovery of the last few years. The material has a lot of promise in terms of applications in medicine, electronics and who know what else.

Here’s some measurement and testing on putting the nanomaterial to actual use in the market.

The release:

Material world: graphene’s versatility promises new applications

July 09, 2009

Since its discovery just a few years ago, graphene has climbed to the top of the heap of new super-materials poised to transform the electronics and nanotechnology landscape. As N.J. Tao, a researcher at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University explains, this two-dimensional honeycomb structure of carbon atoms is exceptionally strong and versatile. Its unusual properties make it ideal for applications that are pushing the existing limits of microchips, chemical sensing instruments, biosensors, ultracapacitance devices, flexible displays and other innovations.

In the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology Letters, Tao describes the first direct measurement of a fundamental property of graphene, known as quantum capacitance, using an electrochemical gate method. A better understanding of this crucial variable should prove invaluable to other investigators participating in what amounts to a gold rush of graphene research.

Although theoretical work on single atomic layer graphene-like structures has been going on for decades, the discovery of real graphene came as a shock.  “When they found it was a stable material at room temperature,” Tao says,  “everyone was surprised.” As it happens, minute traces of graphene are shed whenever a pencil line is drawn, though producing a 2-D sheet of the material has proven trickier.  Graphene is remarkable in terms of thinness and resiliency. A one-atom thick graphene sheet sufficient in size to cover a football field, would weigh less than a gram. It is also the strongest material in nature—roughly 200 times the strength of steel. Most of the excitement however, has to do with the unusual electronic properties of the material.

Graphene displays outstanding electron transport, permitting electricity to flow rapidly and more or less unimpeded through the material. In fact, electrons have been shown to behave as massless particles similar to photons, zipping across a graphene layer without scattering. This property is critical for many device applications and has prompted speculation that graphene could eventually supplant silicon as the substance of choice for computer chips, offering the prospect of ultrafast computers operating at terahertz speeds, rocketing past current gigahertz chip technology. Yet, despite encouraging progress, a thorough understanding of graphene’s electronic properties has remained elusive. Tao stresses that quantum capacitance measurements are an essential part of this understanding.

Capacitance is a material’s ability to store energy. In classical physics, capacitance is limited by the repulsion of like electrical charges, for example, electrons. The more charge you put into a device, the more energy you have to expend to contain it, in order to overcome charge repulsion. However, another kind of capacitance exists, and dominates overall capacitance in a two-dimensional material like graphene. This quantum capacitance is the result of the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that two fermions—a class of common particles including protons, neutrons and electrons—cannot occupy the same location at the same time. Once a quantum state is filled, subsequent fermions are forced to occupy successively higher energy states. As Tao explains, “it’s just like in a building, where people are forced to go to the second floor once the first level is occupied.”

In the current study, two electrodes were attached to graphene, and a voltage applied across the material’s two-dimensional surface by means of a third, gate electrode. Plots of voltage vs. capacitance can be seen in fig1. In Tao’s experiments, graphene’s ability to store charge according to the laws of quantum capacitance, were subjected to detailed measurement. The results show that graphene’s capacitance is very small. Further, the quantum capacitance of graphene did not precisely duplicate theoretical predictions for the behavior of ideal graphene. This is due to the fact that charged impurities occur in experimental samples of graphene, which alter the behavior relative to what is expected according to theory.

Tao stresses the importance of these charged impurities and what they may mean for the development of graphene devices. Such impurities were already known to affect electron mobility in graphene, though their effect on quantum capacitance has only now been revealed. Low capacitance is particularly desirable for chemical sensing devices and biosensors as it produces a lower signal-to-noise ratio, providing for extremely fine-tuned resolution of chemical or biological agents. Improvements to graphene will allow its electrical behavior to more closely approximate theory. This can be accomplished by adding counter ions to balance the charges resulting from impurities, thereby further lowering capacitance.  

The sensitivity of graphene’s single atomic layer geometry and low capacitance promise a significant boost for biosensor applications. Such applications are a central topic of interest for Tao, who directs the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors. As Tao explains, any biological substance that interacts with graphene’s single atom surface layer can be detected, causing a huge change in the properties of the electrons.

One possible biosensor application under consideration would involve functionalizing graphene’s surface with antibodies, in order to precisely study their interaction with specific antigens. Such graphene-based biosensors could detect individual binding events, given a suitable sample.  For other applications, adding impurities to graphene could raise overall interfacial capacitance. Ultracapacitors made of graphene composites would be capable of storing much larger amounts of renewable energy from solar, wind or wave energy than current technologies permit.

Because of graphene’s planar geometry, it may be more compatible with conventional electronic devices than other materials, including the much-vaunted carbon nanotubes. “You can imagine an atomic sheet, cut into different shapes to create different device properties,” Tao says.

Since the discovery of graphene, the hunt has been on for similar two-dimensional crystal lattices, though so far, graphene remains a precious oddity.

 Advanced Online Publication: http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2009.177.html

 -Written by Richard Harth
Science Writer
Biodesign Institute

Paying for health care reform

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:16 pm

Make no mistake about it, the Obama White House will accomplish some measure of health care reform. There are simply too many of the major players sitting at the table and willing to deal for nothing to make it to Congress. The big two health care questions are: how much service and how will the bill get paid?

Looks like in the early go the paying-for-it part is already a little sticky.

From the link:

Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said repeatedly that health reform would be paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Baucus and others have made some progress through savings in Medicare, Medicaid and other programs.

On Wednesday, for instance, Vice President Biden said hospitals would reduce costs by $155 billion over 10 years. But nothing is final until that deal between the White House and business — and a similar one reached with drugmakers last month — is written into legislation.

And on the revenue side of the equation, there is still no apparent consensus.

This much is certain: Lawmakers must find ways to raise a lot of money.

The green wave continues

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:59 am

Open protests had largely ended before today’s planned gathering. The despotic ruling regime threatened its own citizens once again to not demonstrate for any reason and looks to be making good on its promise to rain physical violence down on any protesters.

It is horrible the people of Iran must suffer at the hands of what is now nothing more than a brutal totalitarian state and a leadership that over the last several weeks has continually broken Irani law in an attempt to break the will and spirit of the Irani people.

Today’s protest makes it very obvious to both Iranians and the people of the world the green wave revolution is not over by any stretch, and that the ruling despots days are truly numbered. The ideals behind the revolution of 1979 are gone from Irani leadership. There’s no telling what will come next politically and no way of telling when change at the top will occur, but change is coming to Iran.

From the link:

It was the first protest in 11 days, and was called to commemorate the 10th anniversary of violent confrontations at Tehran University when protesting students were beaten and jailed. Iranian authorities had announced earlier that the demonstration was illegal and would be met with a “crushing response.”

But at the end of the work day, hundreds of protesters began packing the streets of one area of Tehran, chanting, clapping and sitting in jammed traffic as drivers honked their horns, witnesses said. Families brought their children. Many held a hand in the air in the defiant V for victory.

The security forces quickly moved in.

Reuters, citing witnesses, reported that the police used tear gas to disperse a group of about 250 protesters as they headed toward Tehran University, shouting support for a defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi.

At the Daily Dish Andrew Sullivan has a great roundup of mainstream media coverage of today’s protests and the ensuing crackdown.

Bush-era CIA lied to Congress

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:29 am

Disappointing but not surprising.

Guess someone owes Pelosi an apology. She’s annoying, but certainly called a spade a spade when accusing the CIA of dissembling.

From the link:

In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had “misled members” of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. “This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods,” said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.

In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.’s alleged deceptions,. But he said, “We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter.”

Home equity credit crunch hurts entrepreneurs

Many small business have been relying on home equity loans as opposed to Small Business Adminstration loans or lines of credit based solely on the business. This avenue of funding has proven to be very, very volitile in today’s financial market. As home value drops, banks are very quick on the draw to freeze home equity credit. Just one more obstacle in the path of Main Street business.

From the link:

As home equity lines vanish, other avenues of small business financing are also running dry. More than 40% of small business owners polled in April by the National Small Business Association said the limits on their credit cards had been cut in the past year, and 63% said their interest rates went up. Bank lending is in freefall. Even with stimulus incentives, the SBA backed 30% fewer bank loans to small businesses last quarter than it did a year earlier. The agency’s lending volume has dropped to less than half what it was before the recession set in at the end of 2007.

The allure of home equity loans is their liquidity: Business owners can tap cash without submitting detailed business plans. But easy access can be a double-edged sword.

“Used properly, home equity lines of credit are great and get the job done. But a business that isn’t self-sustaining can’t pay it back, and that’s where the problem lies,” says Norm Bour, a debt management strategist and founder of BusinessCashFlowPros.com in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

July 8, 2009

Google to offer netbook OS

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:10 pm

Taking another swipe at Redmond, it’ll be interesting to see if Google tries to port this new OS up to the desktop if the netbook rollout is successful.

From the link:

Google Inc plans to attack Microsoft Corp’s core business by taking on the software giant’s globally dominant Windows operating system for personal computers.Google, which already offers a suite of e-mail, Web and other software products that compete with Microsoft, said on Tuesday it would launch a new operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks.

Microsoft shares fell 1.4 percent to $22.22 in early Nasdaq trade on Wednesday. Google shares rose 1.2 percent to $401.36.

Called the Google Chrome Operating System, the new software will be in netbooks for consumers in the second half of 2010, Google said in a blog post, adding that it was working with multiple manufacturers.

The internet — to the stars and beyond

Via KurzweilAI.net – This is just cool.

Interplanetary internet gets permanent home in space
New Scientist Space, July 6, 2009

The interplanetary Internet now has its first permanent node in space, aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

It could one day allow data to flow between Earth, spacecraft, and astronauts automatically, using delay-tolerant networking (DTN) to cope with the patchy coverage in space that arises when spacecraft pass behind planets or suffer power outages.

NASA aims to have the DTN protocol ready for use on future spacecraft by the end of 2011.

 
Read Original Article>>

Deciphering the latest tech buzzwords

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:57 pm

A handy list from CIO.com allowing everyone to drill down into the cloud-like synergistic world of information technology buzzwords. Or maybe it just helps you wade through the latest in corporate-speak BS. I’m going for the latter.

Of course there’s a few culprit on this list that have gray whiskers, so it’s not quite the latest in buzziness.

From the link, this one’s a beauty (and one I haven’t heard before unless I actively blocked it from my memory — admittedly a possibility):

Buzzword #6: Prosumer

This one is mercifully used less frequently nowadays by marketing departments, as it stands out as one of the most irritating buzzwords ever concocted. Essentially, it’s a mix of “professional” and “consumer.” A “prosumer” product, therefore, is a product that can meet users’ business and personal needs.

Now that this wicked buzzword has been unleashed upon the world, it is routinely used in PR pitch monstrosities that say things such as: “PressureWashersDirect.com today released its recommendations for the best prosumer gas pressure washers” and “Sony is expanding its industry leading line-up of high-definition video products with two new HDV(TM) cameras designed to meet the needs of professionals and prosumers.”

No carbon plan at G-8 summit

Not really surprising given the global recession, among many other issues around climate change politics.

From the link:

The failure to establish specific targets on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging longstanding divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India. In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the specific emissions limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020, and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help.

“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’ ” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”

American officials said they still had made an important breakthrough because the G-8 countries within the negotiations agreed to adopt the 2050 reduction goals, even though the developing countries would not.

Of course if these guys would just listen to this carbon emmission plan out of Princeton University the world could be saved, or something like that.

(Head below the fold for the full Princeton release.) (more…)

Quantum computing progress

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:47 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Quantum computing holds a lot of promise, not so much reality so far. Any news on progress is always good news.

Quantum computer closer: Optical transistor made from single molecule
gizmag, July 6, 2009

An optical transistor has been created from a single hydrocarbon molecule called dibenzanthanthrene by ETH Zurich researchers.

 
Read Original Article>>

CIGS-based solar cells ready for prime time

If CIGS-based solar cells are ready for commercial production this could be a major solar power breakthrough.

The release:

Low-cost solution processing method developed for CIGS-based solar cells

The method could provide an answer to a manufacturing issue

Though the solar industry today predominately produces solar panels made from crystalline silicon, they remain relatively expensive to make. New players in the solar industry have instead been looking at panels that can harvest energy with CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide) or CIGS-related materials. CIGS panels have a high efficiency potential, may be cheaper to produce and would use less raw materials than silicon solar panels. But unfortunately, manufacturing of CIGS panels on a commercial scale has thus far proven to be difficult.

Recently researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a low-cost solution processing method for CIGS-based solar cells that could provide an answer to the manufacturing issue. In a new study to be published in the journal Thin Solid Films on July 7, Yang Yang, a professor in the school’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and his research team show how they have developed a low-cost solution processing method for their copper-indium-diselenide solar cells which have the potential to be produced on a large scale.

“This CIGS-based material can demonstrate very high efficiency,” said William Hou, a graduate student on Yang’s team and first author of the study. “People have already demonstrated efficiency levels of up to 20 percent, but the current processing method is costly. Ultimately the cost of fabricating the product makes it difficult to be competitive with current grid prices. However, with the solution process that we recently developed, we can inherently reach the same efficiency levels and bring the cost of manufacturing down quite significantly.”

The copper-indium-diselenide thin-film solar cell developed by Yang’s team achieved 7.5 percent efficiency in the published study but has in a short amount of time already improved to 9.13 percent in the lab.

“We started this process 16 months ago from ground zero. We spent three to four months getting the material to reach 1 percent and today it’s around 9 percent. That is about an average increase of 1 percent every two months,” said Yang, also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute, where some of the work is being done.

Currently, most CIGS solar cells are produced using vacuum evaporation techniques called co-evaporation, which can be costly and time-consuming. The active elements — copper, indium, gallium and selenide — are heated and deposited onto a surface in a vacuum. Using vacuum processing to create CIGS films with uniform composition on a large scale has also been challenging.

The copper-indium-diselenide material created by Yang’s team does not need to go through the vacuum evaporation process. Their material is simply dissolved into a liquid, applied and baked. To prepare the solution, Yang’s team used hydrazine as the solvent to dissolve copper sulfide and indium selenide in order to form the constituents for the copper-indium-diselenide material. In solar cells, the “absorber layer” (either copper-indium-diselenide or CIGS) itself is the most critical to performance and the most difficult to control. Their copper-indium-diselenide layer, which is in solution form, can be easily painted or coated evenly onto a surface and baked.

“In our method, material utilization is one advantage. Another advantage is our solution technology has the potential to be fabricated in a continuous roll-to-roll process. Both are important breakthroughs in terms of cost,” said Hou.

The team’s goal is to reach an efficiency level of 15 to 20 percent. Yang predicts three to four years before commercialization.

“As we continue to work on enhancing the performance and efficiency of the solar cells, we also look forward to opportunities to collaborate with industry in order to develop this technology further. We hope this technology will lead to a new green energy company in the U.S., especially here in California so that it may also bring job opportunities to many who need it,” said Yang.

 

###

 

The study was funded in part by the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship-Materials Creation Training Program.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering is part of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to five multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies.

July 7, 2009

New America Foundation and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

Hot from the inbox.

The release:

For Immediate Release

July 7, 2009

 

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative Offers Recommendations for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

NAF’s Open Technology Initiative, in partnership with the Columbia Telecommunications Corporation, has released a memorandum with analysis, strategic guidance, policy concerns, and recommendations on the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
 
The memorandum includes the latest developments in the BTOP and how they will impact applicants. It also gives strategic recommendations on activities to undertake to maximize the chances of being funded and precautionary steps to take during the application process.

 
The memorandum also discusses policy concerns surrounding how the BTOP is being implemented and why it does not, in many ways, live up to promises established by the ARRA.
 
Click here for full text of the memorandum.
 
About the Open Technology Initiative
The Open Technology Initiative (OTI) formulates policy and regulatory reforms to support open architectures and open source innovations and facilitates the development and implementation of open technologies and communications networks.
About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

Invisibility cloak plus

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:10 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — I’ve done plenty of blogging on invisibility cloaking technology, and here’s the lastest. I think this tech is very cool and I hate to throw any cold water on the latest news, but I’d be more impressed with seeing an actual effective working model of a simple cloaking device before getting to wild with advanced varients like those described below.

Modified invisibility cloak could make the ultimate illusion
New Scientist Tech, July 7, 2009

An illusion device using metamaterials that makes one object look like another could one day be used to camouflage military planes or create “holes” in solid walls.

To make a cup look like a spoon, for example, light first strikes the cup and is distorted. It then passes through a complementary metamaterial which cancels out the distortions to make the cup seem invisible. The light then moves into a region of the metamaterial that creates a distortion as if a spoon were present. The result is that an observer looking at the cup through the metamaterial would see a spoon.

 
Read Original Article>>

Get ready for another stimulus package

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:03 pm

Bush threw some federal money at the economic downturn and Obama added a large stimulus package. Even as the ink was drying on Obama’s stimulus it was assumed another round of federal money would be necessary and expected, unfortunately that fact did not get reported on all that much. It’ll be interesting to see how the general public reacts to a second stimulus to try and goose this recession.

From the link:

The United States should be planning for a possible second round of fiscal stimulus to further prop up the economy after the $787 billion rescue package launched in February, an adviser to President Barack Obama said.”We should be planning on a contingency basis for a second round of stimulus,” Laura D’Andrea Tyson, a member of the panel advising President Barack Obama on tackling the economic crisis. said on Tuesday.

Addressing a seminar in Singapore, Tyson said she felt the first round of stimulus aimed to prop up the economy had been slightly smaller than she would have liked and that a possible second round should be directed at infrastructure investment.

“The stimulus is performing close to expectations but not in timing,” Tyson said, referring to the slow pace at which the first round of stimulus had been spent on the economy.

Tyson, who is a dean of the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley and was also a White House economic adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said an additional factor affecting the stimulus was that the economy was in a far worse shape than the administration had estimated.

Nanotech and solar

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:49 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — Two of my blogging interests together in one post. Looks like nanotechnology may lead to a cost breakthrough with solar cells.

Nanopillar Solar Cells
Technology Review, July 6, 2009

An array of upright nanoscale pillars grown on aluminum foil could lead to solar cells that cost less than conventional silicon photovoltaics, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.


(Ali Javey, UC Berkeley)

 

China is a quick study …

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:43 am

… when it comes to cracking down on unruly citizens. After watching Twitter rise above other communications in Iran during the ongoing green wave, China made certain to fix that state control bug during its recent Uighur riots.

From the link:

“They cut off the Internet to shut down communications,” said Wu’er Kaixi, an ethnic Uighur who fled China after helping lead pro-democracy protests there twenty years ago. The Uighurs are a minority concentrated in Xinjiang province that China has struggled to assimilate.

Beijing did not want Internet users to upload pictures and videos like they did after deadly riots last year in Tibet, Wu’er said.

China locked down communications much faster this time, he said.

Twitter became inaccessible in China around 3 p.m. local time Monday, according to complaints posted by users on the site. Users of Twitter and similar Chinese sites had been posting messages about the riots through the services. The Chinese sites were not blocked on Monday afternoon.

Twitter and other foreign Web sites, including Flickr and Microsoft’s Bing search engine, were blocked for several days last month. The period included the date when China brutally suppressed the 1989 protests that Wu’er helped lead, an anniversary the government hoped would pass quietly.

Ray Kurzweil on beating aging

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:05 am

Guest blogging at Technology Review, futurist Ray Kurzweil writes about combating the aging process.

From the link:

Entropy is not the most fruitful perspective from which to view aging. There are varying error rates in biological information processes depending on the cell type and this is part of biology’s paradigm. We have means already of determining error-free DNA sequences even though specific cells will contain DNA errors, and we will be in a position to correct those errors that matter.

The most important perspective in my view is that health, medicine, and biology is now an information technology whereas it used to be hit or miss. We not only have the (outdated) software that biology runs on (our genome) but we have the means of changing that software (our genes) in a mature individual with such technologies as RNA interference and new forms of gene therapy that do not trigger the immune system (I am a collaborator with a company that performs gene therapy outside the body, replicates the modified cell a million fold and reintroduces the cells to the body, a process that has cured a fatal disease–Pulmonary Hypertension–and is undergoing human trials).

Social inSecurity Number?

Food for thought and fodder for identity theft nightmares. This research finds social security numbers may be even more insecure than previously thought.

The release:

Carnegie Mellon researchers find social security numbers can be predicted with public information

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University researchers have shown that public information readily gleaned from governmental sources, commercial data bases, or online social networks can be used to routinely predict most — and sometimes all — of an individual’s nine-digit Social Security number.

Project lead Alessandro Acquisti, associate professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon’s H. John Heinz III College, and Ralph Gross, a post-doctoral researcher at the Heinz College, have found that an individual’s date and state of birth are sufficient to guess his or her Social Security number with great accuracy. The study findings will appear this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and will be presented on July 29 at the BlackHat 2009 information security conference in Las Vegas. Additional information about the study and some of the issues it raises is available at http://www.ssnstudy.org.

The predictability of Social Security numbers is an unexpected consequence of seemingly unrelated policies and technological developments that, in combination, make Social Security numbers obsolete for authentication purposes, according to Acquisti and Gross. Because many businesses use Social Security numbers as passwords or for other forms of authentication — a use not anticipated when Social Security was devised in the 1930s — the predictability of the numbers increases the risk of identity theft. ID theft cost Americans almost $50 billion in 2007 alone. The Social Security Administration could mitigate this vulnerability by assigning numbers to people based on a randomized scheme, but ultimately an alternative means of authenticating identities must be adopted, the authors conclude.

“In a world of wired consumers, it is possible to combine information from multiple sources to infer data that is more personal and sensitive than any single piece of original information alone,” said Acquisti, a researcher in the Carnegie Mellon CyLab. Information that once was useful to make public may now be too available. An example is the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File, a public database with Social Security numbers, dates of birth and death, and states of birth for every deceased beneficiary. Its purpose is to prevent impostors from assuming the Social Security numbers of deceased people. But Acquisti and Gross found that analyzing the death file enabled them to detect statistical patterns that would help them predict Social Security numbers of the living.

These statistical patterns can help narrow guesses of an individual’s Social Security number, when combined with that person’s date and state of birth. Birth information can be obtained from various sources, including commercial databases, public records (such as voter registration lists) and the millions of profiles that people publish about themselves on social networks, personal Web sites and blogs.

The statistical patterns and the birth information can be used to predict Social Security numbers because the Social Security Administration’s methods for assigning numbers, based in part on geography, are well-known. For most individuals born nationwide since 1989, Social Security numbers are assigned shortly after birth, making those numbers easier to predict.

Acquisti and Gross tested their prediction method using records from the Death Master File of people who died between 1973 and 2003. They could identify in a single attempt the first five digits for 44 percent of deceased individuals who were born after 1988 and for 7 percent of those born between 1973 and 1988. They were able to identify all nine digits for 8.5 percent of those individuals born after 1988 in fewer than 1,000 attempts. Their accuracy was considerably higher for smaller states and recent years of birth: for instance, they needed 10 or fewer attempts to predict all nine digits for one out of 20 SSNs issued in Delaware in 1996. Sensitive details of the prediction strategy were omitted from the article.

“If you can successfully identify all nine digits of an SSN in fewer than 10, 100 or even 1,000 attempts, that Social Security number is no more secure than a three-digit PIN,” the authors noted.

When the researchers tested their method using birth dates and hometowns that students had self-reported on popular social networking sites, the results were almost as good despite the inaccuracies typical of social network data. Enrollment records were used to confirm the accuracy of the predictions, though the researchers did not receive confirmation of any individual Social Security number, but only aggregate measures of accuracy.

“Dramatically reducing the range of values wherein an individual’s Social Security number is likely to fall makes identity theft easier,” Gross said. A fraudster who knows just the first five digits of an individual’s number might use a phishing email to trick the person into revealing the last four digits. Or, a fraudster could use networks of compromised computers, or “botnets,” to repeatedly apply for credit cards in a person’s name until hitting the correct nine-digit sequence.

Future Social Security numbers could be made more secure by switching to a randomized assignment scheme, but protecting people who already have been issued numbers is harder, the researchers said. Given the ease with which Social Security numbers can be predicted — particularly the first five digits and particularly for the millions of Americans born since 1988 — legislative and policy initiatives aimed at removing the numbers from public exposure, or redacting their first five digits, may be well-meaning but misguided, Acquisti added.

“Given the inherent vulnerability of Social Security numbers, it is time to stop using them for verifying identities and redirect our efforts toward implementing secure, privacy-preserving authentication methods,” Acquisti said. Methods to consider include two-factor authentication, similar to the PIN number/card combinations used for bank accounts, and digital certificates.

 

###

 

Students Ioanis Alexander Biternas, Ihn Aee Choi, Jimin Lee and Dhruv Deepan Mohindra assisted Acquisti and Gross in the study. The Heinz College (http://www.heinz.cmu.edu) includes the School of Information Systems and Management and the School of Public Policy and Management and its faculty and students bring expertise to bear on issues of information security and policy and information systems, as well as public policy, arts and health care management.

The National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office, Carnegie Mellon CyLab and the Berkman Faculty Development Fund provided support for this research.

 

About Carnegie Mellon: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the fine arts. More than 11,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon’s main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California’s Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe. The university is in the midst of a $1 billion comprehensive campaign, titled “Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University,” which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements. For more about Carnegie Mellon, visit http://www.cmu.edu/about/.

July 6, 2009

Self designed human evolution

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:44 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Some insight on human evolution from Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking: ‘Humans Have Entered a New Stage of Evolution’
The Daily Galaxy, July 3, 2009

The rate of biological evolution in humans is about a bit a year, compared to 50,000 new books published in the English language each year, containing on the order of a hundred billion bits of information, Stephen Hawking says.

This means we are now entering a new phase of evolution — “self designed evolution” — in which we will be able to change and improve our DNA, and during the next century, discover how to “modify both intelligence and instincts like aggression.”

 
Read Original Article>>

Happy birthday Walkman!

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:15 pm

The Sony Walkman turned 30 last week. Over the years I’ve owned versions of the Walkman andDiscman numbering in double digits.

Sony Walkman

Revolving credit in a squeeze play

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:05 pm

The economy is tough, and banks — those beneficiaries of federal stimulus largess — aren’t making conducting daily business any easier. Putting the squeeze on revolving credit is yet another exhibit of banks keeping the purse strings tightly drawn.

From the link:

Indeed, banks are “universally adjusting” the terms on revolving lines of credit, according to a June report from CreditSights.

Banks are cutting the size of revolvers, upping interest rates, shortening maturities, and enhancing their collateral positions, regardless of where companies fall on the credit-quality spectrum, says the report, written by analyst Chris Taggert.

Revolving lines of credit are a critical capital source for payroll, buying raw materials, and paying rents, as well as a liquidity backstop for commercial paper. Higher rates and reduced capacity on such debt can mean companies have to consume more of their cash on hand in daily operations.

July 4, 2009

The green wave and the 4th of July

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:03 pm

As we celebrate our Independence Day in America we should all take a few minutes to think about the people of Iran who as I type are seeking a more free, more democratic life.

The green wave is not over by any stretch, but the despotic ruling mullahs will not go quietly into the night. They, and the Irani political structure, have both been exposed. What little democracy the people of Iran enjoyed has been proven to be a sham with this blatantly stolen election, and the mullahs have proven themselves more than ready to attack, torture and kill Iranians young and old to remain in power.

The people of Iran have seen the true great Satan and it’s not the United States as they’ve been told for decades. It currently rules over their land.

Celebrate the red, white and blue today, but also take a moment to celebrate the green that represents those fighting for freedom today in Iran.

This is sad and disturbing news from a dying regime:

Iranian leaders say they have obtained confessions from top reformist officials that they plotted to bring down the government with a “velvet” revolution. Such confessions, almost always extracted under duress, are part of an effort to recast the civil unrest set off by Iran’s disputed presidential election as a conspiracy orchestrated by foreign nations, human rights groups say.

Update: This news is heartening. The green wave may lead to quicker results than expected. It’s also important to note not all the ruling mullahs are part of the anti-democratic Khamenei coup.

From the link:

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.

A statement by the group, the Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum, represents a significant, if so far symbolic, setback for the government and especially the authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose word is supposed to be final. The government has tried to paint the opposition and its top presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as criminals and traitors, a strategy that now becomes more difficult — if not impossible.

4th of July video fun — Jimi Hendrix, “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 pm

Classic Hendrix. And although it’s still considered disrespectful in some circles, I think the Hendrix “Star-Spangled Banner” from Woodstock is a both inspired and inspiring interpretation of the national anthem.

Happy Independence Day!

Filed under: Arts, et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:27 am
Fireworks in Seattle, WA, US

Fireworks in Seattle, WA, US

Photo by Michael Lane

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

July 3, 2009

Music industry loses another toe …

… in yet another self-inflicted injury. You get the feeling the RIAA, ASCAP and other industry organizations are out to destroy commercial music. The industry has evolved, these tired dinosaurs haven’t and keep flailing about damaging everything in their path.

From the link:

A digital rights group is contesting a U.S. music industry association’s assertion that royalties are due each time a mobile phone ringtone is played in public. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) filed suit against AT&T asserting that ringtones qualify as a public performance under the Copyright Act. ASCAP, which has 350,000 members, collects royalties and licenses public performances of works under copyright.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), however, asserts that copyright law exempts performances made “without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage,” which would include a ringtone heard in a restaurant.

Click here to find out more!The organization further argued that the move by ASCAP could jeopardize consumer rights and increase costs for consumers. The EFF filed an amicus brief for the case on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.”These wrongheaded legal claims cast a shadow over innovators who are building gadgets that help consumers get the most from their copyright privileges,” the EFF said in a blog post.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers