David Kirkpatrick

August 23, 2010

Microsoft’s Arc Touch Mouse

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:11 pm

Here’s some photos of Microsoft’s latest mouse tech — the Arc Touch Mouse – from CIO.com:

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse
(Photos are from WinFuture.de)

Making graphene electronics friendly

Electronics is a very attractive application for both carbon nanotubes and graphene, but graphene is proving fairly stubborn to working out in real world deployment. This news out of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory sounds very promising.

From the link:

Structural loops that sometimes form during a graphene cleaning process can render the material unsuitable for electronic applications. Overcoming these types of problems is of great interest to the electronics industry.

“Graphene is a rising star in the materials world, given its potential for use in precise electronic components like transistors or other semiconductors,” said Bobby Sumpter, a staff scientist at ORNL.

The team used quantum  to simulate an experimental graphene cleaning process, as discussed in a paper published in . Calculations performed on ORNL supercomputers pointed the researchers to an overlooked intermediate step during processing.

Imaging with a transmission electron microscope, or TEM, subjected the graphene to electron irradiation, which ultimately prevented loop formation. The ORNL simulations showed that by injecting  to collect an image, the electrons were simultaneously changing the material’s structure.

Scientists help explain graphene mystery

ORNL simulations demonstrate how loops (seen above in blue) between graphene layers can be minimized using electron irradiation (bottom).

A tip for seekers of ET life — look for AI

Via KurzweilAI.net — I think is very sound advice. Of course even though I wholeheartedly support the efforts of SETI and other science-based searches for extraterrestrial life, I’m pretty skeptical we are going to come across any ET intelligence, biological or artificial.

Alien hunters ’should look for artificial intelligence’

August 23, 2010

Source: BBC News — Aug 22, 2010

The odds favor detecting alien AI rather than biological life because the time between aliens developing radio technology and artificial intelligence  would be short, says SETI Institute senior astronomer Seth Shostak.

He also says that artificially intelligent alien life would be likely to migrate to places where both matter and energy — the only things he says would be of interest to the machines — would be in plentiful supply. That means the SETI hunt may need to focus its attentions near hot, young stars or even near the centers of galaxies.

Photo of Allen Telescope Array: SETI Institute

Update 8/25/10: Here’s more on this story from PhysOrg.

The death of print

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 am

Wired‘s Chris Anderson has revised his prediction on electronic versus print delivery of content. Two years ago he said ink-on-paper would be the main delivery mechanism for magazines.

From the link, here he is this year:

In light of these developments, I emailed Anderson to ask whether or not he’d like to revise his estimate for the death of print.

He said, perhaps not surprisingly, that he now believes that within a decade most reading will be done on e-readers and tablets.

“I still think that ten years from now we’ll still have lots of print magazines, along with lots of print books, and they will be more-or-less like they are now. What I’ve changed my mind about is what fraction of the market they will be. E-readers, from tablets to smart phones, have matured faster than I thought they would back in 2008.”

That predictions for the “death of print” changed so drastically in the span of just two years tells us something about where we are on the hype and/or adoption curve of e-readers and their ilk.

Which is to say: we are coming up on an inflection point, beyond which rates of adoption explode, feedbacks and network effects kick in, and total market penetration becomes inevitable.

This is an interesting ongoing conversation. A conversation newspapers pooh-poohed to their great detriment. I love print. I read a novel last night on print, not on an e-reader. I love magazines and I love newspapers. But even though I held a book in my hands yesterday evening, right now all my magazine subscriptions have lapsed — down from a high of around 15 or so a number of years ago — and I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal online and have for years. I let my local paper subscription go several years ago when the total page count dwindled to almost nothing while the price rose almost monthly. Plus I realized I had already digested almost all the news and op-ed pieces long before the paper arrived on my doorstep.

So as much as I love print and physically holding, smelling and interacting with books, magazines and newspapers, the reality is I do almost all my considerable daily reading online now, and have for many years. The effective death of print might actually come to pass — maybe sooner than later.

Beautiful space image — the Earth from the moon

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:48 am

Well, really this one isn’t very beautiful at all aesthetically, but as a human achievement it is utterly amazing. This is the first image of the Earth taken from the moon’s distance by United States Lunar Orbiter I on this day (August 23) in 1966.

File:First View of Earth from Moon.jpg

The world’s first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the Moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the United States Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station at Robledo De Chavela near Madrid, Spain. This crescent of the Earth was photographed August 23, 1966 at 16:35 GMT when the spacecraft was on its 16th orbit and just about to pass behind the Moon. Reference Numbers: Center: HQ / Center Number: 67-H-218 / GRIN DataBase Number: GPN-2000-001588

August 22, 2010

Keeping solar panels clean

By using technology developed for Mars missions. The budget for NASA gets debated, scoffed at and cut, but all too often people against giving NASA money forget how many products and processes developed for space travel ended up with solidly terrestrial applications.

The release:

Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free

IMAGE: Researchers have developed technology for large-scale solar power installations to self-clean.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 22, 2010 — Find dusting those tables and dressers a chore or a bore? Dread washing the windows? Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That’s the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution — self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars.

In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

“We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems’ solar energy output,” study leader Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D. said. “Our technology can be used in both small- and large-scale photovoltaic systems. To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn’t require water or mechanical movement.”

Mazumder, who is with Boston University, said the need for that technology is growing with the popularity of solar energy. Use of solar, or photovoltaic, panels increased by 50 percent from 2003 to 2008, and forecasts suggest a growth rate of at least 25 percent annually into the future. Fostering the growth, he said, is emphasis on alternative energy sources and society-wide concerns about sustainability (using resources today in ways that do not jeopardize the ability of future generations to meet their needs).

Large-scale solar installations already exist in the United States, Spain, Germany, the Middle East, Australia, and India. These installations usually are located in sun-drenched desert areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel. Just like grime on a household window, that dust reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

“A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent,” Mazumder explains. “In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at about 4 times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in the Middle East, Australia, and India.”

Working with NASA, Mazumder and colleagues initially developed the self-cleaning solar panel technology for use in lunar and Mars missions. “Mars of course is a dusty and dry environment,” Mazumder said, “and solar panels powering rovers and future manned and robotic missions must not succumb to dust deposition. But neither should the solar panels here on Earth.”

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen’s edges.

Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

The current market size for solar panels is about $24 billion, Mazumder said. “Less than 0.04 percent of global energy production is derived from solar panels, but if only four percent of the world’s deserts were dedicated to solar power harvesting, our energy needs could be completely met worldwide. This self-cleaning technology can play an important role.”

###

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

On the Cordoba Center controversy

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:26 am

Or as it’s better known these days thanks to the latest media meme, the “ground zero” mosque. Here’s the plain facts as simply put as I can get them down — the group behind the Cordoba Center has every Constitutional right to put the center right where it is planned to be as it has met New York’s zoning, and other, requirements. Proponents, and (more likely) opponents of the center have every Constitutional right to debate, discuss, cajole and otherwise use their free speech rights to influence the general public and the group behind the center. Whether placing the Cordoba Center that close to ground zero of the New York 9/11 attacks is a good or bad thing is subject for debate, but whether it can, or cannot, be placed there is not.

Which leads to this incredibly wrong-headed post by Andy McCarthy at the Corner.

From the link:

A friend poses the following: Imagine that there really were these fundamentalist Christian terror cells all over the United States, as the Department of Homeland Security imagines. Let’s say a group of five of these terrorists hijacked a plane, flew it to Mecca, and plowed it into the Kaaba.

Now let’s say a group of well-meaning, well-funded Christians — Christians whose full-time job was missionary work — decided that the best way to promote healing would be to pressure the Saudi government to drop its prohibition against permitting non-Muslims into Mecca so that these well-meaning, well-funded Christian missionaries could build a $100 million dollar church and community center a stone’s throw from where the Kaaba used to be — you know, as a bridge-building gesture of interfaith understanding.

McCarthy goes on to pose a series of hypothetical questions on the reaction from the Saudis, the Obama administration, Christian leaders and more. It’s very clear he’s getting at the point if his friend’s imagined situation had come to pass (I’ll just ignore the insinuation right-wing Christian extremist groups don’t exist in the United States) the conversation would be quite different.

In that he would be very correct, but unless he’s arguing the United States should become more like Saudi Arabia — a freakish mix of monarchical and theocratic power — the entire premise of his point means nothing. Of course if the situation were reversed the entire discussion would be radically different. Because the Cordoba Center discussion is playing out the way it is here is testament to the strength of the United States Constitution, and an example of what makes our nation great — truly the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It’s too bad some actors in this late-summer mini-drama want neither freedom, nor see bravery, in America. Some of those commenting on the center want the power to bulldoze the Constitution and to see fear in the America people.

August 21, 2010

Cool tech news — solar powered toothbrush

And it uses an electron/mouth acid reaction to kill disease-causing bacteria and breakdown plaque instead of toothpaste. Very cool indeed, but I’m curious how the dental hygiene industry will react to the device?

From the link:

Dr. Kunio Komiyama, a dentistry professor emeritus at the University of Saskatchewan, designed the first model of the unconventional toothbrush 15 years ago. Today, Komiyama and his colleague Dr. Gerry Uswak are seeking recruits to test their newest model, the Soladey-J3X. The toothbrush, which is manufactured by the Shiken company of Japan, will soon be tested by 120 teenagers to see how it compares to a normal toothbrush.

The Soladey-J3X has a solar panel at its base that transmits electrons to the top of the toothbrush through a lead wire. The  react with acid in the mouth, creating a chemical reaction that breaks down  and kills . The toothbrush requires no toothpaste, and can operate with about the same amount of light as needed by a solar-powered calculator.

(And to answer a concern from the comment section on the toothbrush, the word “lead” in the second graf more than likely refers to a “leed” wire running between the solar panel and the top of the toothbrush, and not the heavy metal that’s been so excoriated.)

Viking I Mars mission 35 years later

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:23 pm

Well, thirty years and a day since I didn’t post this yesterday.

From the link:

Thrust from a Titan 3/Centaur rocket launched NASA’s Viking 1 spacecraft on a 505-million-mile journey to Mars on Aug. 20, 1975. Viking 2 followed three weeks later.

This is the first photograph ever taken on the surface of the planet Mars. It was obtained by Viking 1 just minutes after the spacecraft landed successfully.
Here’s another cool image from the link:
This color image of the Martian surface in the Chryse area was taken by Viking Lander 1, looking southwest, about 15 minutes before sunset on the evening of August 21. The sun is at an elevation angle of 3 or 4 degrees above the horizon and about 50 degrees clockwise from the right edge of the frame. Local topographic features are accentuated by the low lighting angle. A depression is seen near the center of the picture, just above the Lander’s leg support structure, which was not evident in previous pictures taken at higher sun angles. Just beyond the depression are large rocks about 30 centimeters (1 foot) across. The diffuse shadows are due to the sunlight that has been scattered by the dusty Martian atmosphere as a result of the long path length from the setting sun. Toward the horizon, several bright patches of bare bedrock are revealed. Image: NASA/JPL

August 20, 2010

Is the US in danger of losing its nanotech hegemony?

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not just yet, but there are a number of countries putting money and other resources into nanotechnology. One place the United States could stand to see a lot of improvement is commercializing the nanotech developments going on right now.

From the link:

U.S. Risks Losing Global Leadership in Nanotech

August 20, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. dominated the rest of the world in nanotech funding and new patents last year, as U.S. government funding, corporate spending, and VC investment in nanotech collectively reached $6.4 billion in 2009. But according to a new report from Lux Research, countries such as China and Russia launched new challenges to U.S. dominance in 2009, while smaller players such as Japan, Germany and South Korea surpassed the United States in terms of commercializing nanotechnology and products.

The report, titled “Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” compares nanotech innovation and technology development in 19 countries in order to provide government policymakers, corporate leaders and investors a detailed map of the nanotech’s international development landscape. Overall, the report found global investment in nanotech held steady through the recent financial crisis, drawing $17.6 billion from governments, corporations and investors in 2009, a 1% increase over 2008’s $17.5 billion. Only venture capitalists dialed back their support, cutting investments by 43% relative to 2008.

“Part of what motivated our research was the emerging possibility that ambitious new government funding in Russia and China represented a threat to U.S. dominance in nanotech innovation,” said David Hwang, an Analyst at Lux Research, and the report’s lead author. “But while the field certainly gained momentum in both countries as a result of the increased funding, both countries have economic and intellectual property protection issues that prevent them from being real threats just yet.”

To uncover the most fertile environments for technology developers, buyers, and investors, Lux Research mapped the nanotech ecosystems of select nations, building on earlier reports published from 2005 through 2008. In addition to tracking fundamentals, such as the number of nanotech publications and patents issued, the report also inventoried direct and indirect spending on nanotech from government, corporate and venture sources. Among its key observations:

  • The U.S. continues to dominate in nanotech development… for now. Last year saw the U.S. lead all other countries in terms of government funding, corporate spending, VC investment, and patent issuances. But its capacity to commercialize those technologies and leverage them to grow the economy is comparatively mediocre. U.S. competitiveness in long-term innovation is also at risk, as the relative number of science and engineering graduates in its population is significantly lower than it is in other countries.
  • Other countries stand to get more bang for their nanotech buck. Japan, Germany, and South Korea continued their impressive trajectories from 2008, earning top spots in publications, patents, government funding, and corporate spending. Compared to the U.S., all three also remain more focused on nanotech and appear more adept at commercializing new technology. The relative magnitude of the technology manufacturing sectors in these three countries are the world’s highest, meaning their economies stand to benefit the most from nanotech commercialization.
  • Russian and Chinese investment in nanotech yields slow progress. While both governments launched generous nanotech investment programs last year, the technology hasn’t gained momentum in either country’s private sector, both of which have a history of skimping on R&D. The relative lack of momentum was further underscored by the abysmal number of new nanotech patents for either country last year.

“Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” is part of the Lux Nanomaterials Intelligence service. Clients subscribing to this service receive ongoing research on market and technology trends, continuous technology scouting reports and proprietary data points in the weekly Lux Research Nanomaterials Journal, and on-demand inquiry with Lux Research analysts.

More info: Lux Research

Ray Kurzweil on exponential growth and reverse engineering the brain

Via KurzweilAI.net — At the conclusion of a longer blog post refuting PZ Myers characterization that he “doesn’t understand the brain,” Ray Kurzweil concludes with a very salient point on exponential versus linear thinking and why many of seemingly fantastic predictions (from the coming of the Singularity on down) may not be so unreachable after all.

From the link:

Halfway through the genome project, the project’s original critics were still going strong, pointing out that we were halfway through the 15 year project and only 1 percent of the genome had been identified. The project was declared a failure by many skeptics at this point. But the project had been doubling in price-performance and capacity every year, and at one percent it was only seven doublings (at one year per doubling) away from completion. It was indeed completed seven years later. Similarly, my projection of a worldwide communication network tying together tens and ultimately hundreds of millions of people, emerging in the mid to late 1990s, was scoffed at in the 1980s, when the entire U.S. Defense Budget could only tie together a few thousand scientists with the ARPANET. But it happened as I predicted, and again this resulted from the power of exponential growth.

Linear thinking about the future is hardwired into our brains. Linear predictions of the future were quite sufficient when our brains were evolving. At that time, our most pressing problem was figuring out where that animal running after us was going to be in 20 seconds. Linear projections worked quite well thousands of years ago and became hardwired. But exponential growth is the reality of information technology.

We’ve seen smooth exponential growth in the price-performance and capacity of computing devices since the 1890 U.S. census, in the capacity of wireless data networks for over 100 years, and in biological technologies since before the genome project. There are dozens of other examples. This exponential progress applies to every aspect of the effort to reverse-engineer the brain.

Friday video fun — “AT-AT DAY AFTERNOON”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:12 pm

I know this one has made the rounds for a while now, but it’s too cool to pass up forever. Plus I haven’t done a “video fun” post in a while.

(Hat tip for pushing me to posting: Michael Brower)

Don’t piss off a writer

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:58 pm

Especially if they work in television.

Tread lightly honorable blog reader or, er, well, you know.

From the link:

After several seasons of disappointing reviews, writers on the USA network’s mystery series “Psych” decided to get revenge. They crafted an episode involving a psychotic killer doctor. The deranged murderer’s name? Ken Tucker, who in real life is the mild-mannered, 57-year-old TV critic for Entertainment Weekly magazine.

“It was never ‘Dr. Tucker’ or just ‘Ken.’ It was always ‘Did Ken Tucker eviscerate the body?’” says USA original programming chief Jeff Wachtel.

Hell hath no fury like a TV writer scorned.

And:

The practice isn’t all puerile payback. A sharp pen and the threat of an unappealing storyline can help TV writers keep a production—and the egos involved—in check. In popular imagination, Hollywood is a place where luminous actors reign supreme and the brains behind the operation are secondary.

In reality, crossing a TV writer is “suicide,” says actor Ed O’Neill, who played sad-sack dad Al Bundy on “Married with Children” and now plays the patriarch on “Modern Family.” “I’ve heard many stories of someone getting brutally murdered on a show because they insisted on a bigger trailer,” he says.

Measuring worker productivity — here comes the science

Interesting research on worker productivity, particularly on the question of why workers in low-paying, low supervision jobs don’t simply complete the bare minimum of work to get by.

From the link:

One line of thinking focuses on the relationship between the workers and their employer, which can be influenced by contracts set out in writing and by personal relationships between workers and their managers.

That suggests that one way for an employer to improve productivity would be to perfect its employment contracts.

Another line of thinking is that peer pressure plays an important role. The people around you may affect the way you work. For example, good workers, leading by example, might raise the quality of everybody’s work. On the other hand, bad apples may make the good ones rotten.

But working out which of these effects wins out is hard. Peer pressure is hard to quantify and the various results in this area are somewhat contradictory, suggesting that they may depend on the environment too

But a new tool is emerging that can help, according to John Horton at Harvard University who says the recent development of online marketplaces, in which people can buy and sell services over the web, provides a fascinating laboratory in which to test these ideas.

Today he publishes the results of a set of experiments that reveal some of the ways in which peer pressure may influence productivity.

Hit the link up in the intro graf for the results of his study. One interesting aspect is Horton used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service as his “laboratory.”

August 19, 2010

Yoga improves your mood

I have no doubt about this research. This year I’ve become a huge pusher of Wii Fit Plus, and I regularly do about a thirty minute yoga workout on the balance board. I’m as flexible as I’ve ever been, and according to this research my mood is better and I have less anxiety for my efforts. All I know is it’s pretty fun and more than a little bit cool to work out with an on-screen trainer putting you through the paces.

From the second link, the release:

New study finds new connection between yoga and mood

Boston, MA—Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety. The findings, which currently appear on-line at Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, is the first to demonstrate an association between yoga postures, increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety.

The researchers set out to contrast the brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels of yoga subjects with those of participants who spent time walking. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The researchers followed two randomized groups of healthy individuals over a 12-week long period. One group practiced yoga three times a week for one hour, while the remaining subjects walked for the same period of time. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging, the participants’ brains were scanned before the study began. At week 12, the researchers compared the GABA levels of both groups before and after their final 60-minute session.

Each subject was also asked to assess his or her psychological state at several points throughout the study, and those who practiced yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who walked. “Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM.

According to Streeter, this promising research warrants further study of the relationship between yoga and mood, and suggests that the practice of yoga be considered as a potential therapy for certain mental disorders.

###

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

Google’s Eric Schmidt is losing his mind

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:28 pm

What’s the deal with CEOs of big name internet companies going off the rails? Here’s Yahoo’s Carol Bartz from back in May, and now Google’s Eric Schmidt has made an increasing series of completely ridiculous statements culminating (for now) with this doozy. I hope this was said tongue-in-cheek and didn’t translate to the printed word. For some reason I doubt it. Do no evil, indeed.

From the second link:

Google (GOOG) is often accused of behaving like Big Brother, and Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt isn’t doing much to dispel those perceptions. In fact, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schmidt dropped an interesting — and frightening — tidbit: perhaps people should change their names upon reaching adulthood to eradicate the potentially reputation-damaging search records Google keeps.

“‘I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,’ [Schmidt] says. He predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Thoughts on the “internet kill switch” …

from Paul Kocher, CEO of Cryptography Research.

Here’s part of the intro, hit the link for Kocher’s thoughts:

That’s what activists are saying is one potential outcome of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act. The so-called “Internet Kill Switch” is not actually an outcome of that bill, by the way – some commentators have compared this meme to the “death panels” myth that almost derailed the healthcare bill.

But the fact remains that the president has broad power under the 1934 Telecommunications Act to restrict “wire communications” during a time of war – and that includes the Internet. So even under existing laws, an off switch for the United States’ most important information conduit is, in theory at least, only one over-eager lawmaker in chief away from reality.

Paul Kocher, current CEO of Cryptography Research, is a legend in the field of security – one of the engineers behind SSL 3.0 and an innovator in a host of other areas. Recently I interviewed him on the subject; here’s what he had to say about the so-called “Internet Kill Switch.”

Graphene and DNA sequencing

News on potential applications of graphene is always interesting, but I’ll have to admit I’d like see more actual market-ready solutions. This news is both intriguing and promising, but the nut graf contains those dreaded words, “could help (insert the gist of any story here).” It’ll be a pretty exciting day when I blog about something that will help, instead of could help with graphene as the key helping element.

From the second link:

Layers of graphene that are only as thick as an atom could help make human DNA sequencing faster and cheaper. Harvard University and MIT researchers have shown that sheets of graphene could be a big improvement over membranes that are currently used for nanopore sequencing–a technique that promises to speed up and simplify the sequencing of long strands of DNA.

And:

The researchers create their membrane by placing a graphene flake over a 200-nanometer-wide opening in the middle of a silicon-nitride surface. Then they drill a few pores, just nanometers wide, in the graphene with an electron beam. The membrane is finally immersed in a salt solution that’s in contact with silver electrodes. The researchers observed dips in the current when a DNA strand passed through the pore, showing that the method could eventually be used to identify DNA bases.

August 18, 2010

The world’s darkest material

I’ve previously blogged on a world’s darkest material in the past (couldn’t find the post in the archives, however) and it was nanotech-based as well so it’s possible this is the same stuff. Pretty cool either way.

From the link:

Harnessing darkness for practical use, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have developed a laser power detector coated with the world’s darkest material — a forest of carbon nanotubes that reflects almost no light across the visible and part of the infrared spectrum.

NIST will use the new ultra-dark detector, described in a new paper in ,* to make precision laser power measurements for advanced technologies such as optical communications, laser-based manufacturing, solar energy conversion, and industrial and satellite-borne sensors.

Inspired by a 2008 paper by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on “the darkest man-made material ever,”** the NIST team used a sparse array of fine nanotubes as a coating for a thermal detector, a device used to measure . A co-author at Stony Brook University in New York grew the nanotube coating. The coating absorbs  and converts it to heat, which is registered in pyroelectric material (lithium tantalate in this case). The rise in temperature generates a current, which is measured to determine the power of the laser. The blacker the coating, the more efficiently it absorbs light instead of reflecting it, and the more accurate the measurements.

This is a colorized micrograph of the world’s darkest material — a sparse “forest” of fine carbon nanotubes — coating a NIST laser power detector. Image shows a region approximately 25 micrometers across. Credit: Aric Sanders, NIST

Social networking advertising tops $1.5B

And not surprisingly Facebook is getting half of the $1.68 billion in social media/web 2.0 advertising forecasted for 2010. Facebook offers a very attractive advertising model in terms of very granular audience targeting coupled with a flexible set of criteria for creating an ad campaign. Expect to see more advertising dollars going into social networking in the future, particularly if it proves out to be very effective.

From the link:

Just after Facebook hit 500 million users last month, some analysts increased their 2010 forecasts for spending on social media advertising.

U.S. advertising is expected to increase 20% over last year to $1.68 billion, up from December’s forecast of $1.3 billion, according to a study by digital research group EMarketer.

“That’s primarily due to the strong performance of Facebook and somewhat due to the fact that we started adding Twitter to our analysis,” said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst.

The study, conducted every six months, also measures sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn and Classmates.com as well as popular sites in China, Japan and Russia for worldwide figures.

Half of that $1.68 billion spent by U.S. advertisers will go to Facebook, according to the study. By 2011, advertisers will spend $1.06 billion on the San Francisco company — a 112% increase from 2009.

Ratcheting up data storage density

Via KurzweilAI.net —  ratcheting data density up a lot!

World record data density for ferroelectric recordin

August 18, 2010 by Editor

Scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recorded data at a density of 4 trillion bits per square inch,  a world record for the experimental ferroelectric data storage method, and about eight times the density of today’s most advanced magnetic hard-disk drives.

The data-recording device uses a tiny cantilever tip that rides in contact with the surface of a ferroelectric material. To write data, an electric pulse is sent through the tip, changing the electric polarization and nonlinear dielectric constant of a tiny circular spot in the substrate beneath. To read data, the same tip detects the variations in nonlinear dielectric constant in the altered regions.

“We expect this ferroelectric data storage system to be a candidate to succeed magnetic hard disk drives or flash memory, at least in applications for which extremely high data density and small physical volume is required,” said Tohoku University scientist Dr. Yasuo Cho.

Existing data storage technologies also continue to improve. Disk drive maker Seagate, for example, has said it can envision achieving a density of 50 trillion bits per square inch.

“Actual Information Storage with a Recording Density of 4 Tbit/inch^2 in a ferroelectric recording medium” by Kenkou Tanaka and Yasuo Cho will appear in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

More info: American Institute of Physics news

The long arm of the internet reaches 5B devices

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:28 pm

Yes, that header is correct — this month will see the five billionth device connected to the world via the internet Something to think about there. From the early days of ARPANET up to today’s World Wide Web full of commercialization, social media, viral video and everything else you can track down in the online world, human communication has gone through an honest revolution. A revolution I doubt very many of us would want to see rolled back.

From the first link:

Sometime this month, the 5 billionth device will plug into the Internet. And in 10 years, that number will grow by more than a factor of four, according to IMS Research, which tracks the installed base of equipment that can access the Internet.

On the surface, this second tidal wave of growth will be driven by cell phones and new classes of consumer electronics, according to an IMS statement. But an even bigger driver will be largely invisible: machine-to-machine communications in various kinds of smart grids for energy management, surveillance and public safety, traffic and parking control, and sensor networks.

Earlier this year, Cisco forecast equally steep growth rates in personal devices and overall Internet traffic. [See "Global IP traffic to increase fivefold by 2013, Cisco predicts"]

Today, there are over 1 billion computers that regularly connect to the Internet. That class of devices, including PCs and laptops and their associated networking gear, continues to grow.

August 17, 2010

Trawling for space junk

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:21 pm

You have to admit, it’s a pretty cool idea for cleaning up low Earth orbit.

From the link:

A dozen space vehicles, equipped with 200 nets each, could scoop up the space debris floating in low Earth orbit, clearing the way for a future space elevator. That’s the idea described last Friday at the annual Space Elevator conference by Star Inc., a company that is receiving funding for the project from DARPA.

The white dots represent space debris that is currently being tracked by NASA. The dots are not scaled to Earth. Credit: NASA

Nanotech and solar efficiency

Nanotechnology and solar energy get a lot of virtual ink around here, and I always enjoy getting the chance to blog about both topics in the same post. This study finds that incorporating quantum dots in photovoltaic solar cells through nanoscience should both increase the efficiency of the cells and reduce their cost. A win-win all the way around.

From the link:

As the fastest growing energy technology in the world, solar energy continues to account for more and more of the world’s energy supply. Currently, most commercial photovoltaic power comes from bulk semiconductor materials. But in the past few years, scientists have been investigating how semiconductor nanostructures can increase the efficiency of solar cells and the newer field of solar fuels.

Although there has been some controversy about just how much nanoscience can improve solar cells, a recent overview of this research by Arthur Nozik, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and professor at the University of Colorado, shows that semiconductor nanostructures have significant potential for converting solar energy into electricity


August 13, 2010

100 year-old Scotch recovered in Antarctica

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:54 pm

I’ll drink to that

From the link:

In this Feb. 5, 2010 file photo released by Antarctic Heritage Trust on Feb. 8, 2010, one of crates of Scotch whisky and brandy is pictured after they have been recovered by a team restoring an Antarctic hut used more than 100 years ago by famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. One of the crates of the Scotch whisky that was trapped in Antarctic ice for a century was finally opened Friday, Aug. 13, 2010 but the heritage dram won’t be tasted by whisky lovers because it’s being preserved for its historic significance. (AP Photo/Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Smart windows on the cheap

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:27 pm

If lower cost smart windows go into wide production — and more importantly, use — homeowners and businesses stand to save a lot of money on energy costs, and by extension use a lot less energy. Effective smart windows do make that much of a difference. Soladigm’s CEO, Rao Mulpuri, says the average savings in commercial buildings is 25 percent of HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning)  usage. This is one energy conservation development to keep an eye on.

From the link:

Windows that absorb or reflect light and heat at the flick of a switch could help cut heating and cooling bills. A company called Soladigm has developed methods for making these “electrochromic” windows cheaply, making them more viable for homes and office buildings.

Existing electrochromic window designs cost around $100 per square foot. Soladigm has not disclosed how much its windows will cost, but some experts say the method could reduce the cost to around $20 per square foot.

The Milpitas, CA-based company uses a thin-film deposition process that creates conducting layers between two panes of glass for controlling the amount of sunlight and heat that can pass through. A homeowner or office dweller could control how much light or heat a window lets in or absorbs and reflects.

Stock options do improve corporate performance

Particularly stock options for the c-level.

August 12, 2010

Over 50% of Treasuries held by US investors

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:19 pm

For the first time in three years.

From the link:

For the first time since the start of the financial crisis in August 2007, U.S. investors own more Treasuries than foreign holders.

Mutual funds, households and banks have boosted the domestic share of the $8.18 trillion in tradable U.S. debt to 50.2 percent as of May, according to the most recent Treasury Department data. The last time holdings were as high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke cut interest rates for the first time between scheduled policy meetings as losses in subprime mortgages spurred a flight from riskier assets.

Foreclosures still a problem

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:04 pm

To join my previous post on the sluggish nature of the current economic recovery, here’s more dark gray news on foreclosures

From the link:

The latest foreclosure numbers carried a mixed message: They’re up 3.6% from the month before but down 9.7% from 12 months earlier.

In July there were more than 325,000 foreclosure filings — including notices of default, auctions notices and bank repossessions. That is the 17th month in a row total filings exceeded 300,000, said RealtyTrac’s CEO, James Saccacio.

“Declines in new default notices, which were down on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month in July,” he said, “have been offset by near-record levels of bank repossessions, which increased on a year-over-year basis for the eighth straight month.”

Economic recovery weakening …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:23 am

… per the Fed. Not good news out there at all, and a lot of us are really feeling it right now.

From the link:

The U.S. economic recovery is weakening, the Federal Reserve warned at the conclusion of its meeting Tuesday, its most bearish outlook in more than a year.

“The pace of recovery in output and employment has slowed in recent months,” the Fed said in its statement. It said while it still expects the economy to grow, the improvement will be “more modest in the near term than had been anticipated.”

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