David Kirkpatrick

September 12, 2010

Mapping the internet

Research out of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with the Universitat de Barcelona in Spain and the University of Cyprus.

The release, ahem, article:

SDSC Collaboration Aims to Create First Accurate Geometric Map of the Internet

September 09, 2010

By Jan Zverina

The San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at the University of California, San Diego, in a collaboration with researchers from Universitat de Barcelona in Spain and the University of Cyprus, have created the first geometric “atlas” of the Internet as part of a project to prevent our most ubiquitous form of communication from collapsing within the next decade or so.

In a paper published this week in Nature Communications, CAIDA researcher Dmitri Krioukov, along with Marián Boguñá (Universitat de Barcelona) and Fragkiskos Papadopoulos (University of Cyprus), describe how they discovered a latent hyperbolic, or negatively curved, space hidden beneath the Internet’s topology, leading them to devise a method to create an Internet map using hyperbolic geometry. In their paper, Sustaining the Internet with Hyperbolic Mapping, the researchers say such a map would lead to a more robust Internet routing architecture because it simplifies path-finding throughout the network.

“We compare routing in the Internet today to using a hypothetical road atlas, which is really just a long encoded list of road intersections and connections that would require drivers to pore through each line to plot a course to their destination without using any geographical, or geometrical, information which helps us navigate through the space in real life,” said Krioukov, principal investigator of the project.

Now imagine that a road – or in the case of the Internet, a connection – is closed for some reason and there is no geographical atlas to plot a new course, just a long list of connections that need to be updated. “That is basically how routing in the Internet works today – it is based on a topographical map that does not take into account any geometric coordinates in any space,” said Krioukov, who with his colleagues at CAIDA have been managing a project called Archipelago, or Ark, that constantly monitors the topology of the Internet, or the structure of its interconnections.

Like many experts, however, Krioukov is concerned that existing Internet routing, which relies on only this topological information, is not really sustainable. “It is very complicated, inefficient, and difficult to scale to the rapidly growing size of the Internet, which is now accessed by more than a billion people each day. In fact, we are already seeing parts of the Internet become intermittently unreachable, sinking into so-called black holes, which is a clear sign of instability.”

Krioukov and his colleagues have developed an in-depth theory that uses hyperbolic geometry to describe a negatively curved shape of complex networks such as the Internet. This theory appears in paper Hyperbolic Geometry of Complex Networks, published by Physical Review E today. In their Nature Communications paper, the researchers employ this theory, Ark’s data, and statistical inference methods to build a geometric map of the Internet. They show that routing using such a map would be superior to the existing routing, which is based on pure topology.

Instead of perpetually accessing and rebuilding a reference list of all available network paths, each router in the Internet would know only its hyperbolic coordinates and the coordinates of its neighbors so it could route in the right direction, only relaying the information to its closest neighbor in that direction, according to the researchers. Known as “greedy routing”, this process would dramatically increase the overall efficiency and scalability of the Internet. “We believe that using such a routing architecture based on hyperbolic geometry will create the best possible levels of efficiency in terms of speed, accuracy, and resistance to damage,” said Krioukov.

However the researchers caution that actually implementing and deploying such a routing structure in the Internet might be as challenging, if not more challenging, than discovering its hidden space. “There are many technical and non-technical issues to be resolved before the Internet map that we found would be the map that the Internet uses,” said Krioukov.

The research was in part funded by the National Science Foundation, along with Spain’s   Direcção Geral de Ensino Superior (DGES), Generalitat de Catalunya, and by Cisco Systems. The Internet mapping paper as published in Nature Communications can be found here. The Physical Review E paper can be found here.

September 10, 2010

Graphene could speed up DNA sequencing

I’ve blogged on this topic before (and on this very news bit in the second post from the link), but this just reiterates the versatility of graphene and why the material has so many scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so excited.

From the second link:

By drilling a tiny pore just a few-nanometers in diameter, called a , in the graphene membrane, they were able to measure exchange of ions through the pore and demonstrated that a long  can be pulled through the graphene nanopore just as a thread is pulled through the eye of a needle.

“By measuring the flow of ions passing through a nanopore drilled in graphene we have demonstrated that the thickness of graphene immersed in liquid is less then 1 nm thick, or many times thinner than the very thin membrane which separates a single animal or human cell from its surrounding environment,” says lead author Slaven Garaj, a Research Associate in the Department of Physics at Harvard. “This makes graphene the thinnest membrane able to separate two liquid compartments from each other. The thickness of the membrane was determined by its interaction with water molecules and ions.”

Deceptive robots

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not too sure if I like this idea. Seems like we’re already heading down the path of breaking Asimov’s robotic laws with a lot of milbots in development and practice.

From the link:

We have developed  algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and we have designed techniques that help the robot select the best deceptive strategy to reduce its chance of being discovered,” said Ronald Arkin, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing.

The results of robot experiments and theoretical and cognitive deception modeling were published online on September 3 in the International Journal of Social Robotics. Because the researchers explored the phenomenon of robot deception from a general perspective, the study’s results apply to robot-robot and human-robot interactions. This research was funded by the Office of Naval Research.

In the future, robots capable of deception may be valuable for several different areas, including military and search and rescue operations. A search and rescue robot may need to deceive in order to calm or receive cooperation from a panicking victim. Robots on the battlefield with the power of deception will be able to successfully hide and mislead the enemy to keep themselves and valuable information safe.

“Most social robots will probably rarely use deception, but it’s still an important tool in the robot’s interactive arsenal because robots that recognize the need for deception have advantages in terms of outcome compared to robots that do not recognize the need for deception,” said the study’s co-author, Alan Wagner, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

September 8, 2010

Graphene research may lead to electronics improvement

A fairly radical improvement. Try highly efficient, very-low-heat producing and smaller electronics devices. I enjoy blogging about nanotech research with real promise for market applications.

From the link:

NIST recently constructed the world’s most powerful and stable scanning-probe microscope, with an unprecedented combination of low temperature (as low as 10 millikelvin, or 10 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero), ultra-high vacuum and high . In the first measurements made with this instrument, the team has used its power to resolve the finest differences in the electron energies in graphene, atom-by-atom.

“Going to this resolution allows you to see new physics,” said Young Jae Song, a postdoctoral researcher who helped develop the instrument at NIST and make these first measurements.

And the new physics the team saw raises a few more questions about how the electrons behave in graphene than it answers.

Because of the geometry and electromagnetic properties of graphene’s structure, an electron in any given energy level populates four possible sublevels, called a “quartet.” Theorists have predicted that this quartet of levels would split into different energies when immersed in a magnetic field, but until recently there had not been an instrument sensitive enough to resolve these differences.

“When we increased the magnetic field at extreme low temperatures, we observed unexpectedly complex quantum behavior of the electrons,” said NIST Fellow Joseph Stroscio.

What is happening, according to Stroscio, appears to be a “many-body effect” in which electrons interact strongly with one another in ways that affect their energy levels.

Singularity University to announce session breakthroughs September 13

Via KurzweilAI.net — I blogged about one of the breakthroughs yesterday, and the university leader’s are going to announce the entire group next Monday.

From the first link:

Singularity University to Unveil Breakthrough Solutions for ‘Global Grand Challenges’ at Sept. 13 Briefing

September 8, 2010 by Editor

This summer, 80 students from 35 nations were challenged to apply innovations in exponentially advancing technologies to solve some of the world’s “grand challenges” with a focus on food, water, energy, upcycle, and space industries.

On Monday, September 13, at 9:30am PT/12:30pm ET, in a webinar briefing, Singularity University co-founders Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, and faculty head Dr. Dan Barry will unveil for the first time multiple solutions in each problem space, each aiming to impact a billion people within ten years.

A Q&A session will follow the briefing. The Briefing is open to media and the public, but space is limited. You can visit http://briefing.singularityu.org/ to register for the webinar briefing.

Singularity University (SU) is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies in order to address humanity’s grand challenges. With the support of a broad range of leaders in academia, business and government, SU hopes to stimulate groundbreaking, disruptive thinking and solutions aimed at solving some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. SU is based at the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. For more information, go to www.singularityu.org and follow SU on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday video fun — microwave-powered rocket

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:08 pm

The flight is short (both in time and height — try around five feet) but it is another proof-of-concept for a method of getting off the surface of the Earth without the use of huge liquid or solid fuel boosters.

The video:

Also from the link:

Early this year, scientists in Japan successfully “launched” a tiny metal rocket using an unusual source of thrust – microwaves. The test was the latest a proof of principle for a kind of propulsion that has never been the beneficiary of the levels of investment poured into traditional chemical rockets, but which its proponents say could some day be a superior way to get spacecraft into orbit.

Department of Homeland Security sued for illegal search and seizure

This is a long overdue lawsuit. Unbeknownst to many United States citizens, if you leave the country with an electronic device — like a smartphone, cell phone, camera, or more likely, a laptop — your electronics can be seized, searched and contents archived by the Department of Homeland Security with no due process other than a field officer deciding you might be a threat to the nation.

I’ve blogged about this very topic a couple of times — first back in June 2008 and again in September 2009 — and my sense of outrage at the privacy and civil liberties violation hasn’t abated. Sure we need to protect the nation and monitor who comes and goes into and out of the country, but with the due process that represents the best of America. In the post-9/11 world, policies like this are slowly turning the United States into a police state that would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers.

From the first link:

Civil liberties groups sued the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday, alleging that the government should not be able to search, copy or keep the data on electronic devices carried by people crossing the border without a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Layers (NACDL) announced on Tuesday that they filed a lawsuit against the policy, arguing that Americans “do not surrender their privacy and free speech rights when they travel abroad.”

DHS policy says that electronic devices such as laptops, cameras and cell phones can be searched as a matter of course, and that the border agents can copy the contents of the devices in order to continue searching them once the traveler has been allowed to enter the U.S. — even if the traveler is not suspected of any wrongdoing. Information obtained by the ACLU indicated that over 6,600 travelers — nearly half of whom are U.S. citizens — had their electronic devices searched at the border between Oct. 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010.

Update 9/10/10 — In the meantime, here’s a CIO.com article on getting your data across the border while avoiding the invasive scrutiny of the DHS.

September 7, 2010

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

Happy second birthday, Chrome!

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Well, belated birthday since last Thursday marked the second anniversary of Chrome’s release. Count me among the very satisfied users of Google’s browser war entry.

From the link:

The first beta of Google Chrome made its debut on September 2, 2008, and most reviewers instantly lauded its streamlined, minimalistic design. PCWorld blogger J.R. Raphael noted, “Calling the design of Chrome’s interface streamlined is an understatement. The program barely looks like a program, and the vast majority of your screen space is devoted to the site you’re visiting — with no buttons or logos hogging space.”

Google’s hallmark is a clean, uncluttered interface — remember what search engines looked like before Google came along? — that many of its search rivals have tried to emulate. Since the launch of Chrome, Google’s browser rivals have tried to copy its minimalistic look, with varying degrees of success. Whether they succeed or not, I applaud the effort — and I thank Chrome for reminding others that we’re browsing the Web in order to look at a Web site, not to look at a browser.

Net neutrality and the FCC …

… a lot of talk (a whole lot of talk) and no action.

“Do Not Track” movement gaining traction in DC

“Do Not Track” would be akin to the “Do Not Call” list opt-out consumer registry to prevent unsolicited sales pitches and other calls, and right now looks to have a legitimate shot at reaching the proposed legislation level, if not further. The privacy advocacy, Consumer Watchdog, is running an ad in Times Square (on a 540-square foot digital billboard no less) mocking Google’s CEO Erik Schmidt as a snooping ice cream man.

Now Schmidt (and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) have made some very boneheaded public statements about online privacy — and I’m a huge advocate of online privacy — but the reality is some level of tracking is necessary to keep the internet rolling along in its current fashion. Take away the legitimate revenue from data mining web user’s habits and all of a sudden you’ll be running into paywall after paywall of premium content. And on top of that, the technology to track web usage wouldn’t be going anywhere, it would just only be utilized by criminals or entities looking to circumvent anti tracking regulations.

Because of Schmidt and Zuckerberg’s public idiocy on online privacy, and actual privacy gaffes like Facebook’s well-publicized multiple self-inflicted wounds, the general public is much more aware of exactly how tracked they are, and even if they don’t understand exactly how that data is used, they don’t like it. Consumer Watchdog’s commissioned poll (grain of salt here due to the poll’s source) found 80 percent of the public supporting a “Do Not Track” registry. That is a high number.

So now that the online privacy debate has gone mainstream, look for likely legislation to his Washington sometime soon. And if all comes to pass, the Federal Trade Commission may get its say in this process. Is that what anyone really wants? I doubt it.

From the link:

Do Not Track legislation would be similar to the national Do Not Call registry, allowing consumers to opt out of having their web activities tracked for advertising purposes. It is a concept that has gained surprising momentum –  surprising, given the gridlock that otherwise exists on Capitol Hill – and could well be proposed as legislation in the upcoming session. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee ChairmanRick Boucher, D-Va., and Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee ChairmanBobby Rush, D-Ill., are working on privacy legislation that they hope to have ready for for the next Congress. The Do Not Call list would likely be included.

Then there is the Federal Trade Commission. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Senate panel that the commission is exploring the idea as well (via Nextgov). The opt-out process could be run by the FTC or some private sector entity, he suggested.

September 5, 2010

Papers are going somewhere

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:16 pm

And that somewhere is a path that leads to fewer pages, fewer ads and much lower revenue. Most dailies have essentially priced themselves into a pure luxury good for people who just like the smell of the ink and the feel of the newsprint under finger (I admit to falling into that category even though I no loner take a daily paper.)

Rishad Tobaccowala writes at Adweek on the future of the newspaper industry in a piece titled, “Papers Aren’t Going Anywhere,” and sees a relatively bright future, particularly in serving the local community. The problem with the article is it’s really about the reinvention of traditional print media into something completely different. Yes, if the newspaper industry can adapt to a brand new world, significantly alter business models and realize they don’t stand alone as arbiters of what news their market gets to consume then yeah, the newspaper industry might pull out of the current death spiral. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.

Here’s the four changes Tobaccowala’s sees as necessary for newspapers:

Having spent some time with senior and junior personnel across the newspaper industry, I know they know the perils they face. Many are making the difficult decisions and changes necessary to thrive. These changes are taking places in the following areas:

1. Culture: The newspaper industry needs to be reinvigorated. The people who created the cash cow of the paper package need help to create challenger products that will supplement and even cannibalize the newspaper. In many papers a cultural and organizational soap opera is occurring. I bet on the next generation to win since nothing trumps survival.

2. Technology: Organizations need to elevate the role of technology and technology partnerships to board-level status. The future will be about how to use technology to curate, combine and aid discovery of articles to relevant audiences at scale. This will require world-class technology smarts.

3. Partnering: In addition to technology partnerships, newspapers need to find ways to continue to embrace other voices into their bundle of products and services. These include the blogging community, the Yelps of the world and all the people outside the industry who are trying to reinvent the industry. We are living in a world of links and connections and, oddly, to be more competitive thinking synergistically is better than thinking competitively

4. Focus: Each news organization has to decide what it makes, what it shares and what it borrows. Vertical integration may be fine for Apple, but doing all things is a no go for most other firms. Each newspaper needs to determine what it’s best at or what, with investment, it could be best at. Share and borrow the rest.

September 3, 2010

Graphene transistors hit 300 GHz

Via KurzweilAI.net — Great news, but as always I’d love to see a market-ready application come out of this research in the near future. Blogging about nanotech breakthroughs is all well and good, but it is excellent when I get the chance to blog about a real-world application of said breakthroughs.

From the link:

High-speed graphene transistors achieve world-record 300 GHz

September 3, 2010 by Editor

UCLA researchers have fabricated the fastest  graphene transistor to date, using a new fabrication process with a  nanowire as a self-aligned gate.

Self-aligned gates are a key element in modern transistors, which are semiconductor devices used to amplify and switch electronic signals.  Gates are used to switch the transistor between various states, and self-aligned gates were developed to deal with problems of misalignment encountered because of the shrinking scale of electronics.

“This new strategy overcomes two limitations previously encountered in graphene transistors,” professor of chemistry and biochemistry Xiangfeng Duan said. “First, it doesn’t produce any appreciable defects in the graphene during fabrication, so the high carrier mobility is retained. Second, by using a self-aligned approach with a nanowire as the gate, the group was able to overcome alignment difficulties previously encountered and fabricate very short-channel devices with unprecedented performance.”

These advances allowed the team to demonstrate the highest speed graphene transistors to date, with a cutoff frequency up to 300 GHz — comparable to the very best transistors from high-electron mobility materials such gallium arsenide or indium phosphide.

Graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of graphitic carbon, has great potential to make electronic devices such as radios, computers and phones faster and smaller. With the highest known carrier mobility — the speed at which electronic information is transmitted by a material — graphene is a good candidate for high-speed radio-frequency electronics. High-speed radio-frequency electronics may also find wide applications in microwave communication, imaging and radar technologies.

Funding for this research came from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

More info: UCLA news

Balancing national security and privacy on the internet

An interesting breakdown on the current state of online privacy versus national security.

From the link:

In the wake of revelations that the US military network was compromised in 2008, and that US digital interests are under a relative constant threat of attack, the Pentagon is establishing new cyber security initiatives to protect the Internet. The Pentagon strategy–which is part digital NATO, part digital civil defense, and part Big Brother–may ruffle some feathers and raise concerns that the US Internet is becoming a military police state.

The mission of the United States Department of Defense is to provide military forces needed to deter war and protect the security of the nation. The scope of that mission includes emerging threats and the need to deter cyber war and protect the digital security of the nation as well. To fulfill that mission in an increasingly connected world, and with a rising threat of digital attack, the Pentagon wants to expand its sphere of influence.

This really is a tough issue. Certainly you want the nation to be safe, but at the same time the internet is largely a borderless “pseudo-nation” and clamping down too hard — not unlike the great firewall of China — can stifle much of what makes the net great. No easy answers here, but dramatically increasing the power of the government — particularly the military — over the private sector is not an acceptable solution.

September 2, 2010

William Gibson on Google

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:24 am

William Gibson is one of my favorite authors — reading Neuromancer when it came out was a life-changer for me in terms of literature, science fiction and general outlook — and he has an interesting op-ed at the New York Times on the global reach of Google. He describes the relationship between the behemoth tech company and its users this way, “We are part of a post-geographical, post-national super-state.” And adds, “We’re citizens, but without rights.”

From the third link:

We have yet to take Google’s measure. We’ve seen nothing like it before, and we already perceive much of our world through it. We would all very much like to be sagely and reliably advised by our own private genie; we would like the genie to make the world more transparent, more easily navigable. Google does that for us: it makes everything in the world accessible to everyone, and everyone accessible to the world. But we see everyone looking in, and blame Google.

Google is not ours. Which feels confusing, because we are its unpaid content-providers, in one way or another. We generate product for Google, our every search a minuscule contribution. Google is made of us, a sort of coral reef of human minds and their products. And still we balk at Mr. Schmidt’s claim that we want Google to tell us what to do next. Is he saying that when we search for dinner recommendations, Google might recommend a movie instead? If our genie recommended the movie, I imagine we’d go, intrigued. If Google did that, I imagine, we’d bridle, then begin our next search.

Meet the new boss …

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:14 am

… not even close to same as the old boss (with apologies to the Who.)

Get ready to bow down to your robotic overlord supervisor.

From the link:

Remember the Segway? It never quite revolutionized transportation, but a similar mobility technology now underpins this tele presence robot, called Anybot. It glides on two wheels around an office or factory to let workers videoconference with the boss, who can control the contraption from a remote keyboard.

To my mind it looks more like a cop from a 80s-era science fiction movie more than anything:

Product: Anybot

Cost: $15,000

Availability: November

Source: www.anybots.com

Company: Anybots

Food for not so easy thought

Everyone thought the biggest threat from China was the sheer volume of Treasuries held by that nation and the potential stranglehold it has over the U.S. economy. Realistically that has never been a real issue because as such a heavy investor in the U.S. economy, China has a vested interest in our financial sector remaining strong.

Now squeezing us on manufacturing vital elements of computing and electronics by taking complete control over rare earth metals is a different angle of attack altogether. You know the U.S. government is taking this very seriously when it has both the energy department and the DoD on the job.

The release:

China’s monopoly on 17 key elements sets stage for supply crisis

China’s monopoly on the global supply of elements critical for production of computer hard disc drives, hybrid-electric cars, military weapons, and other key products — and its increasingly strict limits on exports — is setting the stage for a crisis in the United States. That’s the topic of the cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby and Contributing Editor Jessie Jiang explain that the situation involves a family of chemical elements that may soon start to live up to their name, the “rare earths.” China has virtually cornered the global market on them, and produces most of the world’s supply. Since 2005, China has been raising prices and restricting exports, most recently in 2010, fostering a potential supply crisis in the U.S.

The article describes how the U.S. is now responding to this emerging crisis. To boost supplies, for instance, plans are being developed to resume production at the largest U.S. rare-earth mine — Mountain Pass in southern California — which has been dormant since 2002. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are among the government agencies grappling with the problem.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Securing the Supply of Rare Earths”

This story is available at http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/8835cover.html

September 1, 2010

More memory news …

… to join this earlier post from today on memristor storage, this one on silicon nanocrystals and 3D storage.

From the second link, the release:

Silicon oxide circuits break barrier

Nanocrystal conductors could lead to massive, robust 3-D storage

Rice University scientists have created the first two-terminal memory chips that use only silicon, one of the most common substances on the planet, in a way that should be easily adaptable to nanoelectronic manufacturing techniques and promises to extend the limits of miniaturization subject to Moore’s Law.

Last year, researchers in the lab of Rice Professor James Tour showed how electrical current could repeatedly break and reconnect 10-nanometer strips of graphite, a form of carbon, to create a robust, reliable memory “bit.” At the time, they didn’t fully understand why it worked so well.

Now, they do. A new collaboration by the Rice labs of professors Tour, Douglas Natelson and Lin Zhong proved the circuit doesn’t need the carbon at all.

Jun Yao, a graduate student in Tour’s lab and primary author of the paper to appear in the online edition of Nano Letters, confirmed his breakthrough idea when he sandwiched a layer of silicon oxide, an insulator, between semiconducting sheets of polycrystalline silicon that served as the top and bottom electrodes.

Applying a charge to the electrodes created a conductive pathway by stripping oxygen atoms from the silicon oxide and forming a chain of nano-sized silicon crystals. Once formed, the chain can be repeatedly broken and reconnected by applying a pulse of varying voltage.

The nanocrystal wires are as small as 5 nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide, far smaller than circuitry in even the most advanced computers and electronic devices.

“The beauty of it is its simplicity,” said Tour, Rice’s T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. That, he said, will be key to the technology’s scalability. Silicon oxide switches or memory locations require only two terminals, not three (as in flash memory), because the physical process doesn’t require the device to hold a charge.

It also means layers of silicon-oxide memory can be stacked in tiny but capacious three-dimensional arrays. “I’ve been told by industry that if you’re not in the 3-D memory business in four years, you’re not going to be in the memory business. This is perfectly suited for that,” Tour said.

Silicon-oxide memories are compatible with conventional transistor manufacturing technology, said Tour, who recently attended a workshop by the National Science Foundation and IBM on breaking the barriers to Moore’s Law, which states the number of devices on a circuit doubles every 18 to 24 months.

“Manufacturers feel they can get pathways down to 10 nanometers. Flash memory is going to hit a brick wall at about 20 nanometers. But how do we get beyond that? Well, our technique is perfectly suited for sub-10-nanometer circuits,” he said.

Austin tech design company PrivaTran is already bench testing a silicon-oxide chip with 1,000 memory elements built in collaboration with the Tour lab. “We’re real excited about where the data is going here,” said PrivaTran CEO Glenn Mortland, who is using the technology in several projects supported by the Army Research Office, National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

“Our original customer funding was geared toward more high-density memories,” Mortland said. “That’s where most of the paying customers see this going. I think, along the way, there will be side applications in various nonvolatile configurations.”

Yao had a hard time convincing his colleagues that silicon oxide alone could make a circuit. “Other group members didn’t believe him,” said Tour, who added that nobody recognized silicon oxide’s potential, even though it’s “the most-studied material in human history.”

“Most people, when they saw this effect, would say, ‘Oh, we had silicon-oxide breakdown,’ and they throw it out,” he said. “It was just sitting there waiting to be exploited.”

In other words, what used to be a bug turned out to be a feature.

Yao went to the mat for his idea. He first substituted a variety of materials for graphite and found none of them changed the circuit’s performance. Then he dropped the carbon and metal entirely and sandwiched silicon oxide between silicon terminals. It worked.

“It was a really difficult time for me, because people didn’t believe it,” Yao said. Finally, as a proof of concept, he cut a carbon nanotube to localize the switching site, sliced out a very thin piece of silicon oxide by focused ion beam and identified a nanoscale silicon pathway under a transmission electron microscope.

“This is research,” Yao said. “If you do something and everyone nods their heads, then it’s probably not that big. But if you do something and everyone shakes their heads, then you prove it, it could be big.

“It doesn’t matter how many people don’t believe it. What matters is whether it’s true or not.”

Silicon-oxide circuits carry all the benefits of the previously reported graphite device. They feature high on-off ratios, excellent endurance and fast switching (below 100 nanoseconds).

They will also be resistant to radiation, which should make them suitable for military and NASA applications. “It’s clear there are lots of radiation-hardened uses for this technology,” Mortland said.

Silicon oxide also works in reprogrammable gate arrays being built by NuPGA, a company formed last year through collaborative patents with Rice University. NuPGA’s devices will assist in the design of computer circuitry based on vertical arrays of silicon oxide embedded in “vias,” the holes in integrated circuits that connect layers of circuitry. Such rewritable gate arrays could drastically cut the cost of designing complex electronic devices.

###

Zhengzong Sun, a graduate student in Tour’s lab, was co-author of the paper with Yao; Tour; Natelson, a Rice professor of physics and astronomy; and Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Texas Instruments Leadership University Fund, the National Science Foundation, PrivaTran and the Army Research Office SBIR supported the research.

Read the abstract here: http://pubs.acs.org/journal/nalefd

High-resolution images are available for download here:
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2a.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2b.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2c.jpg
https://stage.media.rice.edu/images/media/NewsRels/0830_F2d.jpg

NOTE: The first image (F2) is a key to the other four.

CAPTION: A 1k silicon oxide memory has been assembled by Rice and a commercial partner as a proof-of-concept. Silicon nanowire forms when charge is pumped through the silicon oxide, creating a two-terminal resistive switch. (Images courtesy Jun Yao/Rice University)

(Note: I recommend hitting the link for the first image — 0830_F2.jpg. It’s too big to run in this blog full-size, but it’s a great illustration of the chip.)

Memristor storage coming in 2013

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:48 am

Of course, we’ll have to see if this tech is still state-of-the-art three years down the road.

From the link:

An electronic component that offers a new way to squeeze more data into computers and portable gadgets is set to go into production in just a couple of years. Hewlett-Packard announced today that it has entered an agreement with the Korean electronics manufacturer Hynix Semiconductor to make the components, called “memristors,” starting in 2013. Storage devices made of memristors will allow PCs, cellphones, and servers to store more and switch on instantly.

Making memories: This colorized atomic-force microscopy image shows 17 memristors. The circuit elements, shown in green, are formed at the crossroads of metal nanowires.
Credit: StanWilliams, HP Labs

Memristors are nanoscale electronic switches that have a variable resistance, and can retain their resistance even when the power is switched off. This makes them similar to the transistors used to store data in flash memory. But memristors are considerably smaller–as small as three nanometers. In contrast, manufacturers are experimenting with flash memory components that are 20 nanometers in size.

“The goal is to be at least double whatever flash memory is in three years–we know we’ll beat flash in speed, power, and endurance, and we want to beat it in density, too,” says Stanley Williams, a senior fellow at HP who has been developing memristors in his lab for about five years.

Nanotech making water more safe

This development can make a real quality of life difference in developing countries without running water and disaster areas, and it can make “roughing it” just a little bit less rough.

The release:

High-speed filter uses electrified nanostructures to purify water at low cost

IMAGE: This scanning electron microscope image shows the silver nanowires in which the cotton is dipped during the process of constructing a filter. The large fibers are cotton.

Click here for more information.

By dipping plain cotton cloth in a high-tech broth full of silver nanowires and carbon nanotubes, Stanford researchers have developed a new high-speed, low-cost filter that could easily be implemented to purify water in the developing world.

Instead of physically trapping bacteria as most existing filters do, the new filter lets them flow on through with the water. But by the time the pathogens have passed through, they have also passed on, because the device kills them with an electrical field that runs through the highly conductive “nano-coated” cotton.

In lab tests, over 98 percent of Escherichia coli bacteria that were exposed to 20 volts of electricity in the filter for several seconds were killed. Multiple layers of fabric were used to make the filter 2.5 inches thick.

“This really provides a new water treatment method to kill pathogens,” said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering. “It can easily be used in remote areas where people don’t have access to chemical treatments such as chlorine.”

Cholera, typhoid and hepatitis are among the waterborne diseases that are a continuing problem in the developing world. Cui said the new filter could be used in water purification systems from cities to small villages.

Faster filtering by letting bacteria through

Filters that physically trap bacteria must have pore spaces small enough to keep the pathogens from slipping through, but that restricts the filters’ flow rate.

IMAGE: This is professor of materials science and engineering Yi Cui.

Click here for more information.

Since the new filter doesn’t trap bacteria, it can have much larger pores, allowing water to speed through at a more rapid rate.

“Our filter is about 80,000 times faster than filters that trap bacteria,” Cui said. He is the senior author of a paper describing the research that will be published in an upcoming issue of Nano Letters. The paper is available online now.

The larger pore spaces in Cui’s filter also keep it from getting clogged, which is a problem with filters that physically pull bacteria out of the water.

Cui’s research group teamed with that of Sarah Heilshorn, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, whose group brought its bioengineering expertise to bear on designing the filters.

Silver has long been known to have chemical properties that kill bacteria. “In the days before pasteurization and refrigeration, people would sometimes drop silver dollars into milk bottles to combat bacteria, or even swallow it,” Heilshorn said.

Cui’s group knew from previous projects that carbon nanotubes were good electrical conductors, so the researchers reasoned the two materials in concert would be effective against bacteria. “This approach really takes silver out of the folk remedy realm and into a high-tech setting, where it is much more effective,” Heilshorn said.

Using the commonplace keeps costs down

But the scientists also wanted to design the filters to be as inexpensive as possible. The amount of silver used for the nanowires was so small the cost was negligible, Cui said. Still, they needed a foundation material that was “cheap, widely available and chemically and mechanically robust.” So they went with ordinary woven cotton fabric.

“We got it at Wal-mart,” Cui said.

To turn their discount store cotton into a filter, they dipped it into a solution of carbon nanotubes, let it dry, then dipped it into the silver nanowire solution. They also tried mixing both nanomaterials together and doing a single dunk, which also worked. They let the cotton soak for at least a few minutes, sometimes up to 20, but that was all it took.

The big advantage of the nanomaterials is that their small size makes it easier for them to stick to the cotton, Cui said. The nanowires range from 40 to 100 billionths of a meter in diameter and up to 10 millionths of a meter in length. The nanotubes were only a few millionths of a meter long and as narrow as a single billionth of a meter. Because the nanomaterials stick so well, the nanotubes create a smooth, continuous surface on the cotton fibers. The longer nanowires generally have one end attached with the nanotubes and the other end branching off, poking into the void space between cotton fibers.

“With a continuous structure along the length, you can move the electrons very efficiently and really make the filter very conducting,” he said. “That means the filter requires less voltage.”

Minimal electricity required

The electrical current that helps do the killing is only a few milliamperes strong – barely enough to cause a tingling sensation in a person and easily supplied by a small solar panel or a couple 12-volt car batteries. The electrical current can also be generated from a stationary bicycle or by a hand-cranked device.

The low electricity requirement of the new filter is another advantage over those that physically filter bacteria, which use electric pumps to force water through their tiny pores. Those pumps take a lot of electricity to operate, Cui said.

In some of the lab tests of the nano-filter, the electricity needed to run current through the filter was only a fifth of what a filtration pump would have needed to filter a comparable amount of water.

The pores in the nano-filter are large enough that no pumping is needed – the force of gravity is enough to send the water speeding through.

Although the new filter is designed to let bacteria pass through, an added advantage of using the silver nanowire is that if any bacteria were to linger, the silver would likely kill it. This avoids biofouling, in which bacteria form a film on a filter. Biofouling is a common problem in filters that use small pores to filter out bacteria.

Cui said the electricity passing through the conducting filter may also be altering the pH of the water near the filter surface, which could add to its lethality toward the bacteria.

Cui said the next steps in the research are to try the filter on different types of bacteria and to run tests using several successive filters.

“With one filter, we can kill 98 percent of the bacteria,” Cui said. “For drinking water, you don’t want any live bacteria in the water, so we will have to use multiple filter stages.”

Cui’s research group has gained attention recently for using nanomaterials to build batteries from paper and cloth.

###

David Schoen and Alia Schoen were both graduate students in Materials Science and Engineering when the water-filter research was conducted and are co–lead authors of the paper in Nano Letters. David Schoen is now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.

Liangbing Hu, a postdoctoral researcher in Materials Science and Engineering, and Han Sun Kim, a graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering at the time the research was conducted, also contributed to the research and are co-authors of the paper.

August 31, 2010

RIP — Oxford English Dictionary, print edition

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 pm

This rest-in-peace notice is a bit premature because the Oxford University Press hasn’t officially announced the demise of the printed OED, but it does heavily prognosticate by the time the third edition is ready for print it’s likely to be an online-only affair. I still sort of regret passing up buying a reduced price second edition of the OED back a few years ago.

From the link:

By the time the lexicographers behind the century-old Oxford English Dictionary finish revising and updating its third edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition will be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year,” he said.

Google and Arcade Fire showcase HTML5

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:10 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — The link down there with “Chrome Experiment” as an anchor text is broken, try this instead to check out the interactive video.

From the first  link:

Google Shows Off Chrome, HTML5 With Interactive Music “Experience”

August 31, 2010

Source: ReadWriteWeb, Aug 30, 2010

Google has released its latest “Chrome Experiment” in the form of a music video “experience” that shows off the power of tools like HTML5 and Google products like Chrome, Maps and Street View, using real-time graphics rendering and real-world imagery pulled from Google Maps satellite and Street View imagery from your own home town.

[+]

Opens up an exciting new media form. Highly recommended. – Ed.

Read original article

August 30, 2010

Flying robots with hands …

pretty cool tech, actually.

From the link:

A robotic hand attached to a small helicopter can successfully and autonomously grip objects while the helicopter is hovering, as demonstrated by a group at Yale University led by Aaron Dollar, one of this year’s TR35s.

The helicopter hand, dubbed the Yale Aerial Manipulator, could be used in spots that are difficult for ground robots to get to, such as high or roughly terrained places. It could also be used to pick up bombs or packages, or even as a form of delivery, moving packages in urban environments where trucks would have a hard time, suggests Paul Pounds, first author of the work.

Hit the link for video of the Yale Aerial Manipulator in action.

Public relations no-nos — impersonating consumers

PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.

(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)

And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.

From the first link way up there in the first sentence:

US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.

The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the .

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

August 27, 2010

SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project at TEDxSMU

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. The initial exhibition of the digitally created artwork occurred back in May at the Rapid 2010 trade show. Now the exhibit moves to Dallas for the TEDxSMU event on September 14, 2010.

From the link:

September 14, 2010 | TEDxSMU Rapid Artists Salon + Exhibit Opening

TEDxSMU is partnering with SculptCAD’s Rapid Artists program for the opening of the first art exhibit of its kind. Fourteen Dallas artists have diverged from their typical mediums to learn to sculpt using digital sculpting programs, and the final renderings of their creations were subsequently produced using ground-breaking 3D printing processes in materials from bronze to plastic.

On September 14, the exhibit will open at One Arts Plaza with an evening event co-produced by TEDxSMU and SculptCAD. Please join us to see the exhibit and hear TEDxTalks from several of the artists involved with the project and visit with the artists one-on-one about the pieces and their inspiration.

Click here for more on the Rapid Artist Project.

Tuesday, September 14
6:00-8:00pm | presentations at 6:30
One Arts Plaza Lobby
1722 Routh Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Tickets: $15 in advance / $20 the week of or at the door (pending availability)

Head below the fold for the official release on this event plus images of artwork from the project. (more…)

Oil spill news

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

Came across two interesting news items on oil spills. One is on a technology developed by MIT researchers on cleaning up surface oil after a spill and the second involves the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and how microbes may be cleaning at least the oil in deep water plumes.

From the second link:

Microbes may become the heroes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by gobbling up oil more rapidly than anyone expected. Now some experts suggest we ought to artificially stimulate such microbes in stricken marshland areas to aid their cleanup.

Evidence published this week shows that deep-water microbes in the Gulf may be rapidly chewing up BP’s spilled crude. This could sway federal authorities to use petroleum-digesting microbes or fertilizer additives that can stimulate naturally occurring bacteria for future spills. Such measures were originally rejected for the BP spill.

From the first link, the story on MIT’s oil spill clean-up tech comes from KurzweilAI.net:

MIT researchers unveil autonomous oil-absorbing robot

August 27, 2010 by Editor

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic prototype that could autonomously navigate the surface of the ocean to collect surface oil and process it on site.

The system, called Seaswarm, is a fleet of vehicles that may make cleaning up future oil spills both less expensive and more efficient than current skimming methods.

The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, previously featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused.

The Seaswarm robot, which is 16 feet long and seven feet wide, uses two square meters of solar panels for self-propulsion. With just 100 watts, the equivalent of one household light bulb, it could potentially clean continuously for weeks.

Using swarm behavior, the units will use wireless communication and GPS and manage their coordinates and ensure an even distribution over a spill site. By detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward, a single vehicle could clean an entire site autonomously or engage other vehicles for faster cleaning.

MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots would be able to clean a spill the size of the gulf in one month. The team has future plans to enter their design into the X-Prize’s $1 million oil-cleanup competition. The award is given to the team that can most efficiently collect surface oil with the highest recovery rate.

By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Video: Senseable City Lab

More info: MIT news

US military hacked in 2008

Hacked by a compromised USB thumb drive. Just goes to show you can worry all day about technical threats and software backdoors and plain old network hacking, but all those assets out in the wild — people’s heads with sensitive passwords, unattended laptops, USB drives, et al. — can be hard to lock down and are usually the easiest way into a network.

From the link:

It was a USB drive loaded with malware.

That’s how U.S. defense networks were compromised in 2008, according to U.S Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who today offered the first official confirmation of a data breach that led to restrictions on the use of removable USB drives in the military.

In an article written for Foreign Affairs magazine, Lynn said the breach occurred when a single USB drive containing malicious code was inserted into a laptop computer at a U.S. base in the Middle East. The malware, placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency, was uploaded to a network run by the U.S. Central Command.

The malware then spread — undetected — on both classified and unclassified systems, essentially establishing a “digital beachhead” from which data could be transferred to servers outside the U.S, “It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary,” Lynn wrote.

Here’s additional coverage of this story.

Update 8/30/10: And even more coverage. Looks like the actual threat was very low-level and involved the W32.SillyFDC worm.

August 26, 2010

The Printed Blog Bloggers Network

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:51 pm

I’m pleased to announce this blog is now part of The Printed Blog Bloggers Network. This means some of my posts will be available in the new weekly print subscription magazine. Hit the link up there to subscribe and actually get to hold some of the best of the blogosphere in your hands.

Be sure to follow The Printed Blog at Twitter here twitter.com/theprintedblog, and like The Printed Blog at Facebook here facebook.com/theprintedblog.

Makin’ phone calls with Gmail

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:58 am

Gmail gets deeper into telephony with the ability to make calls to landlines and cell phones.

From the link:

Google is shaping Gmail into the ultimate communications hub. Today, the companyannounced that United States users will be able to make and receive calls within Gmail, providing they install the company’s voice and video plug-in.

Users could already call and video chat with other Gmail users, but the new features allow them to call landlines and cellphones. Google says that calls to phones within the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year, and calls to many other countries will cost 2 cents a minute.

August 25, 2010

Quantum entanglement and free will

A little more closely related than you might think.

From the link:

In practical terms, this means that there can be no shared information between the random number generators that determine the parameters of the experiments to be made, and the particles to be measured.

But the same also holds true for the experimenters themselves. It means there can be no information shared between them and the particles to be measured either. In other words, they must have completely free will.

In fact, if an experimenter lacks even a single bit of free will then quantum mechanics can be explained in terms of hidden variables. Conversely, if we accept the veracity of quantum mechanics, then we are able to place a bound on the nature of free will.

That’s an interesting way of stating the problem of entanglement and suggests a number of promising, related conundrums: what of systems that are partially entangled and others in which more than two particle become entangled.

Free will never looked so fascinating.

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