David Kirkpatrick

July 31, 2008

Yes, we have bananas …

Filed under: Business — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:17 pm

… I don’t have any reason for this post other than I really wanted to run that header after this release popped up in my inbox.

Of course if you’re tracking Chiquita this is good news.

From the release on Chiquita’s Q2 earnings report:

Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE:CQB) today released financial and operating results for the second quarter 2008.  For continuing operations, the company reported net sales of $1 billion, up 6 percent year-over-year, and income of $59 million, or $1.31 per diluted share, compared to $5 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, in the year-ago period. Including the results of discontinued operations, the company reported income of $62 million or $1.37 per diluted share.  The 2008 quarter includes other income, net of tax, of $6 million, or $0.13 per diluted share, from the resolution of a claim related to a non-income tax refund, and the 2007 quarter included a charge of $3 million, or ($0.07) per diluted share, related to the settlement of U.S. antitrust litigation.

“I am very pleased with our strong second quarter results, which mark our best quarterly performance in three years,” said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer.  “Our ability to deliver year-on-year improvements, despite unprecedented cost increases, is a testament to the strength of our business, the diversity of our product portfolio, and our strategy to drive profitable growth. We are particularly satisfied that our pricing discipline and focus on profitability has improved the performance and momentum of our banana segment for the fourth consecutive quarter.  We are disappointed, however, with the current performance of our salad operations, and we are focused on executing plans to improve our salad margins over time.”

Credit crunch hits small biz

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:43 pm

Small businesses are strainging under credit card debt. The analysis comes on the heels of Advanta Corp.’s just released earnings report. Advanta is an issuer of small-business credit cards.

From the AccountantsWorld.com link:

The financial health of small businesses is deteriorating quickly, if Advanta Corp.’s earnings, released yesterday, are any indicator.

The issuer of small-business credit cards from Spring House said it gave up on collecting $130.5 million of its customers’ debts in the second quarter, up from $102.1 million in the first quarter and $50.7 million a year earlier.

“The economy continues to challenge small-business owners and their ability to pay bills,” said Dennis Alter, chairman and chief executive officer of Advanta, which last year was the fifth-largest credit card lender to small businesses, according to the Nilson Report.

Advanta has ratcheted back on growth while it tries to get a handle on troubled loans to its customers, which typically have 10 or fewer employees and less then $1 million in annual revenue.

Obama attacks McCain on taxes

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:32 pm

Obama seized the moment after McCain waffled on a tax question this past weekend and has gone on the economic issue attack. He’s hammering McCain on the midde-class, a group that has been seen to seemingly vote against its economic interests in the past.

With his already very weak campaigning on economic issues and poor performance last weekend, McCain could be damaged by this attack and not have much of a response. I’m not sure the shake up at the top of McCain’s team to bring in Bush 43 strategists is going to help him.

From the AccountantsWorld.com (second) link:

Barack Obama tapped into the economic worries of middle-class voters on Wednesday, saying rival John McCain would stay on the “reckless” economic course taken by President George W. Bush.

With polls showing a tight race, the economy is at the forefront of U.S. voter concerns as gas prices, inflation and home foreclosure rates soar. As the campaigns head into the stretch before the August and September nominating conventions, Obama has tried to portray his Republican rival as four more years of unpopular Bush policies.

“We can choose to go another four years with the same reckless fiscal policies that have busted our budget, wreaked havoc in our economy, and mortgaged our children’s future on a mountain of debt; or we can restore fiscal responsibility in Washington,” Obama said in remarks prepared for an audience in Springfield, Missouri, the first stop on a bus tour devoted to discussing economic security.

He slammed McCain, saying that his rival wants to cut taxes for the wealthy, while his own policies would repeal Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, give $1,000 tax cuts to 95 percent of workers and provide relief to struggling homeowners.

Obama’s comments come a day after McCain battled to allay concerns among his conservative voter base that he is open to raising taxes to shore up America’s federal retirement program.

Dye-based solar improving

In more solar news today, this PhysOrg.com article outlines improvements in dye-based solar cells. This technology is highly efficient, highly stable and doesn’t use volatile chemicals.

From the link:

The group, including researchers from the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, was studying a new type of solar cell that is being widely researched across the globe, one made of bendy, low-cost, lightweight organic materials rather than rigid, pricey, and often heavy inorganic materials.

“We have uncovered new findings on old solar-cell materials and created high-performance cells,” said Peng Wang, a researcher in the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry and the study’s corresponding scientist, to PhysOrg.com.

The type of organic solar cell Wang and his colleagues improved contains three key parts. The first two components are a semiconductor, such as silicon, and an electrolytic liquid—a conducting solution commonly formed by dissolving a salt in a solvent liquid, such as water. The semiconductor and electrolyte work in tandem to split the closely-bound electron-hole pairs produced when sunlight hits the cell, called excitons (holes are positively charged electron vacancies).

The third component is the source of these photo-induced charge carriers, a photosensitive dye that gives the solar cells their name: “dye-sensitized,” with the most common dye being iodide. In addition, a nanomaterial is also often used to hold the dye molecules in place like a scaffold.

Thin-film solar continues growth

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:31 pm

From KurzweilAI.net, thin-film solar cells are a very promising technology in making solar more affordable and feasible. According to the linked article this tech looks to continue its strong growth.

Thin films: ready for their close-up?
Nature News, July 30 2008

New thin-film solar cells may enable solar-cell technology to maintain its 50% annual growth during the past five years.

Candidate materials to replace today’s amorphous silicon include cadmium telluride, CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide), and dyes painted onto the surface of nanometer-size particles of titanium dioxide.

In sunny climates, the technology is expected to lead to “grid parity” — electricity generated by photovoltaics as cheaply as it is sold by utilities — within four years or so.

Read Original Article>>

The Kinko’s of 3D printing

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:32 am

A company I provide communications consulting for is in the 3D visualization and modeling space. The modeling involves “printing” a 3D image in polymers. A very cool and very expensive process. I’ve held a printed hand that exactly matched the original scan — size, fingerprints, everything. But, instead of soft flesh it was a rigid piece of white plastic.

This Technology Review story covers a new online service providing access to 3D rapid prototyping for anyone with a 3D modeled item in ready data form. A real breakthrough in putting cutting-edge technology in the hands of the masses.

One application of rapid prototyping 3D data is “mass customization” — gaining the benefits of mass production for customized items. And it significantly speeds up the development process.

From the link:

Currently, such 3-D printers–in which successive layers of different polymers are sprayed gradually, building up a 3-D object–are very expensive, says Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways, a spinout from Philips Research, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

But the new service, launched last week, makes this technology accessible to anyone: budding artists, architects, product designers, and general hobbyists. A small design company might want to make samples to show a client, or an artist might want to make copies of the same sculpture created digitally, for example.

“From a technology viewpoint, Shapeways is not that new,” says Weijmarshausen. “Rapid prototyping has been used by the aircraft and automotive industries for years, but now we’re making it accessible to consumers.”

Users submit their design in digital form, after which Shapeways’s software checks it over to ensure that it can be made. Shapeways then passes the design to its production line of polymer printers, delivering the tangible object within 10 days of ordering, with prices typically between $50 and $150.

I don’t see this …

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

… ending well.

NYT headline for a campaign story:

McCain Tries to Define Obama as Out of Touch

July 30, 2008

Ron Paul sponsors bill to decriminalize pot

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:47 pm

Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Barney Frank have co-sponsored a bill to decriminalize possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. The “war on drugs” has been such an abject failure, I’m not even going to go into the issues here (for the very lazy who want more, here’s a Google search to get you started.)

It’s not surprising sensible, privacy respecting civil liberties legislation is coming from Ron Paul. The blatant hypocrisy of US drug laws is a joke. i doubt this bill goes anywhere, but I’m pleased Ron Paul’s new found name recognition and political clout with the public translates into actual policy every now and then.

There’s really no libertarian blueprint. That much is clear if you take even a sidelong glance at the big-L Libertarian Party. It’s full of all manner of cranks, malcontents, isolationists, druggies, tax dodgers and then a whole lot of otherwise average people who just want the government to stay out of their way.

I don’t participate in any party activities for a variety of reasons, most importantly I don’t think the Libertarian Party is honestly serious enough to achieve any real policy goals.

Here is a paraphrase of a common joke among party participants — I’ve read this somewhere, but can’t recall where. Maybe on Wendy McElroy’s blog.

(This block quote is just the joke, not a quote from anyone’s blog)

First time Libertarian Party meeting participant, “Oh my god, look at that table of Nazis!”

Old vet, “Yep, there’s always at least one.”

First-timer, “What? Nazis?”

Vet, “Nope, someone who bitches about ’em.”

Ron Paul is a little bit Libertarian, and quite a bit more libertarian and is the most libertarian congressman, at least publicly. I hope he can translate a wildly successful (given the expectations) presidential bid into real policy results for his ideals.

little green footballs vs the Discovery Institute

And the winner is? Charles Johnson and lgf by KO.

If you want to decide for yourself, here’s the latest salvo between the right wing anti-Islamist blog and the Christianist-shill, pro-creationism “research organization.”

Here’s Johnson’s intro from the first link:

Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute says I made false claims about them, but he doesn’t actually dispute a single fact in my LGF article. I was going to ignore this post at their anti-evolution blog, but on second reading it struck me as a pretty good example of the kinds of misdirection the Discovery Institute commonly employs, so we’ll go through it to see how many obfuscations we can spot.

Johnson added this Corner post from John Derbyshire as an update, and I think it serves to sum this whole thing up very tidily. I’m pretty biased in this debate — if you couldn’t tell from my description of the Discovery Institute — and Johnson goes way overboard on a regular basis at lgf, but he’s dead on about the Discovery Institute. If nothing else lgf is dogged, right or wrong. Johnson’s been right quite a bit as well. I bet his targets wish that wasn’t the case

From Derbyshire’s post at the Corner:

What a Tangled Web We Weave   [John Derbyshire]

I have banged on here at NRO about the corroding dishonesty of the Intelligent Design project, arguing that it arises from the very nature of the thing: pretending, in hopes of winning the occasional church/state lawsuit, to be one thing (a pure-science research institute), while in fact being a different thing (a Christian-proselytizing lecture agency, pressure group, and publisher). There is nothing wrong with being either of those things: the corruption stems from being the one while pretending to be the other. Not only is this dishonest in itself, it does no good to either cause.

Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs has been doing a few rounds with the Discovery Institute, in which the DI sleaze tactics come through loud and clear. It makes for entertaining reading. Plenty of links to follow.

(Hat tip: Panda’s Thumb)

McCain and the tax question

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

The title of this Jonathan Martin post at Politico is, “Why is McCain not slamming the door on taxes?” That is a great question. Here’s a blog post of mine with a great link to head to when comparing the two candidate’s tax plans.

I feel like I’ve been blogging a lot more about Obama than McCain, but frankly McCain is doing very little that is interesting or inspiring and I don’t really have any interest in piling on the negative posts like more partisan blogs are currently enjoying. I did post on an anonymous GOP strategist describing his campaign tactics as “insane.” And I considered dedicating a post to his well-documented problems with the personal computer, and now his campaign’s fumbling with the Web 2.0 crowd with ill-conceived projects like BarackBook.

See how easy it is. I spend a short graf explaining why my McCain blogging might seem light and I found it impossible to ignore two negatives. And that’s without mentioning Huckabee likening McCain’s efforts to Bob Dole in 1996.

Back to the original link, Martin asks a great question. Why isn’t McCain taking the tax issue by the horns and speaking to the fiscal conservative leg of the GOP stool? This past Sunday on “This Week” he was asked if he’d consider raising payroll taxes to address Social Security. McCain said, “There is nothing that’s off the table.”

I don’t expect a “read my lips” moment of disingenuity out of McCain, but taxes is one place he can really set himself apart from Obama. All this may just come down to his very inartful dancing around issues where he differs from the base, doesn’t want to/can’t lie (I pick the latter), and has to come up with a sentence construction that remains true to his beliefs while placating the hardline GOPers listening.

I really don’t see him riding Iraq into the White House.

Beyond the convoluted statements, my corollary guess is McCain just isn’t comfortable talking about economic issues. He’s admitted to not truly understanding that policy area and it’s an area he’s not going to be actively involved in if he were to win the presidency.

From the very first link back up in sentence number one:

By his positions, he meant that he opposes raising taxes.   He reitereated this stance yesterday at a town hall meeting in Nevada with a one-word answer: “no.”   He’s been similiar unequivocal when asked the same question in the past.

But McCain’s refusal to slam the door Sunday on Social Security has worried some Republicans who not only are concerned for philosophical reasons, but because it could have the effect of diluting McCain’s claim that Obama is the tax-increaser.

“If Mr. McCain can’t convince voters that he’s better on taxes than is a Democrat who says matter-of-factly that he wants to raise taxes, the Republican is going to lose in a rout,” said the Wall Street Journal editorial page today in a scathing editorial.

Can we become a Type I civilization?

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:10 pm

It looks like we better hope so. Civilizations are rated on the Kardashev scale and currently mankind is below a Type I. We only harness part of the power available on our planet. Type II civilizations harness all the power of a star and Type III in the scale harnesses the power of a galaxy.

From the KurzweilAI.net (first) link:

Toward a Type 1 civilization
Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2008Our civilization is fast approaching a tipping point. Humans will need to make the transition from nonrenewable fossil fuels as the primary source of our energy to renewable energy sources that will allow us to flourish into the future, resulting in a Type 1 civilization (one that can harness all of the energy of its home planet), says Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine.

To do that, we need a Type 1 polity and economy, along with the technology. Shermer believes that can could be achieved with globalism that includes worldwide wireless Internet access, with all knowledge digitized and available to everyone, and a completely global economy with free markets.

Read Original Article>>

Life imitates art — the Matrix

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:02 pm

From KurzweilAI.net:

Building ‘The Matrix’
Science News, July 27th, 2008

Physicists at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics have created a rudimentary prototype of a machine that simulates quantum phenomena using quantum physics, rather than using data kept in a classical computer.

It demonstrates a technique that could enable physicists to create, in the virtual world, materials that don’t yet exist in nature and perhaps figure out how to build, in the real world, superconductors that work at room temperature, for example.

Read Original Article>>

Nanopastries fighting disease

Nanoscale bialys, well not really tiny pastries, just tiny pastry-shaped particles are the latest nanotech medical breakthrough.

The release:

New disease-fighting nanoparticles look like miniature pastries

Ultra-miniature bialy-shaped particles — called nanobialys because they resemble tiny versions of the flat, onion-topped rolls popular in New York City — could soon be carrying medicinal compounds through patients’ bloodstreams to tumors or atherosclerotic plaques.

The nanobialys are an important addition to the stock of diagnostic and disease-fighting nanoparticles developed by researchers in the Consortium for Translational Research in Advanced Imaging and Nanomedicine (C-TRAIN) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. C-TRAIN’s “smart” nanoparticles can deliver drugs and imaging agents directly to the site of tumors and plaques.

The nanobialys weren’t cooked up for their appealing shape — that’s a natural result of the manufacturing process. The particles answered a need for an alternative to the research group’s gadolinium-containing nanoparticles, which were created for their high visibility in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Gadolinium is a common contrast agent for MRI scans, but recent studies have shown that it can be harmful to some patients with severe kidney disease.

“The nanobialys contain manganese instead of gadolinium,” says first author Dipanjan Pan, Ph.D., research instructor in medicine in the Cardiovascular Division. “Manganese is an element found naturally in the body. In addition, the manganese in the nanobialys is tied up so it stays with the particles, making them very safe.”

The bulk of a nanobialy is a synthetic polymer that can accept a variety of medical, imaging or targeting components. In the July 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Societythe researchers report that targeted manganese-carrying nanobialys readily attached themselves to fibrin molecules, which are found in atherosclerotic plaques and blood clots. Laboratory-made clots then glowed brightly in MRI scans. They also showed that the nanobialys could carry both water-soluble and insoluble drugs.

Pan, who is a research instructor in medicine, played a leading role in the creation of nanobialys and chose the particles’ name. “When we looked at the particles with an electron microscope, we saw they are round and flat, with a dimple in the center, like red blood cells, but also a little irregular, like bagels,” he says. “I came across the word bialy, which is a Polish roll like a bagel without a hole that can be made with different toppings. So I called the particles nanobialys.”

Pan is one of a group of researchers headed by Gregory M. Lanza, M.D., Ph.D., and Samuel A. Wickline, M.D. Lanza is an associate professor of medicine and biomedical engineering. Wickline is a professor of medicine, physics, biomedical engineering and cell biology and physiology. Lanza and Wickline are Washington University cardiologists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Nanoparticles can be a more effective way to administer medications and imaging contrast agents because they are targeted, packaged units — drugs and imaging agents stay on the nanoparticles, which can be made to concentrate at a specific site in the body.

In animal studies, the research group has shown that their original, spherical nanoparticles can carry therapeutic compounds to tumors and atherosclerotic plaques. These nanoparticles also can hold thousands of molecules of gadolinium, which allows the researchers to use standard MRI scanning equipment to see where the nanoparticles congregate. The scans can then detect the size of lesions as well as the effect of drugs delivered by the nanoparticles.

But gadolinium has recently been linked to nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF). First described in 2000, NSF is an unusual progressive, incurable disease seen in about 3 percent of patients with severe kidney disease who have had MRI scans using gadolinium. In NSF, collagen accumulates in tissues causing skin hardening and thickening, joint stiffening that can lead to physical disability, and disorders of the liver, lungs, muscles and heart.

“Even though it seems that gadolinium affects only those with severe renal failure, physicians have decided not to use gadolinium even in those with moderate renal failure,” Lanza says. “A lot of patients with diabetes or hypertension develop renal failure, so that decision potentially affects many people. Our goal has always been that our nanoparticle technology should be able to help everyone. And with a growing number of people having diabetes and related cardiovascular problems, we knew we needed to find a substitute for gadolinium-based particles — nanobialys are our first step in that direction.”

The researchers will continue to adapt the nanobialys for a variety of medicinal applications and work to develop other types of nanoparticles so that they can supply a wide range of medical needs.

“We’re not sitting in the lab generating nanoparticles and then looking for what they could be used for,” Lanza says. “We see a medical problem and ask what kind of particle might overcome it and then try to create it.”



Pan D, Caruthers SD, Hu G, Senpan A, Scott MJ, Gaffney PJ, Wickline SA, Lanza GM. Ligand-directed nanobialys as theranostic agent for drug delivery and manganese-based magnetic resonance imaging of vascular targets. Journal of the American Chemical Society 2008 Jul 23;130(29):9186-7.

Funding from National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute supported this research.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

July 29, 2008

The link economy

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:53 pm

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine has a four-part list covering the “link economy.” This list grew out of a discussion Jarvis was having about the difference between the link vs content economies.

From the BuzzMachine link — see what I did there … :

1. All content must be transparent: open on the web with permanent links so it can receive links. It’s not content until it’s linked.

2. The recipient of links is the party responsible for monetizing the audience they bring.In the old content-economy model of syndication, the creator sells content to another and the one who syndicates has to come up with the ad or circulation revenue sufficient to pay for it. Now in the link economy, it’s reversed: When you get traffic, you need to figure out how to benefit from it. As Doc Searls said at the event: this is a shift from “making money with” to “making money because.”

3. Links are a key to efficiency. In other words: Do what you do best and link to the rest.

4. There are opportunities to add value atop the link layer.This is where one can find business opportunities: by managing abundance rather than the old model of managing scarcity. The market needs help finding the good stuff; that curation is a business opportunity. There is also an opportunity to add context (here are lots of links about Darfur but here is a page that will explain what they mean). There is also a need to add reporting and new content and information atop a link ecology. There is a need to create infrastructure for linking (full disclosure: I am involved with two companies trying to do this — Daylife and Publish2). There is a crying need for advertising infrastructure and networks to help the recipients of links monetize them.

401(K) debit card — a bad, bad idea

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:20 pm

This article is the first I’ve ever heard of the concept of a 401(K) debit card, but man the idea is stupid. The penalties are so high for tapping into 401(K) money early, that “nuclear option” should be reserved for financial relief of the last resort.

I can’t believe Congress is even debating this idea. Guess the bank lobby is flexing some muscle. Banking has such a great track record over the last fifteen years or so for looking out for the best interests of its customers …

From the link:

It’s bad enough that 40% of workers in their 20s and 30s cash out their 401(k)s when they switch jobs, even though taxes and penalties decimate the balances to almost half, according to a CMI survey of 1,200 people in January commissioned by Fidelity.

Worse, even, a small percentage of 401(k) participants take out loans or hardship withdrawals from their retirement savings, which average only $122,000 in the first place, with a national median balance of $66,000, data from the Investment Company Institute and the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows.

Now Congress is debating the pros and cons of supplying people with 401(k) debit cards.

Are they serious? Putting this piece of plastic in investors’ hands would be akin to telling them to live for today and go out and spend whatever money they’ve saved for retirement.

Fed not raising rates before next year

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:05 pm

This is an interesting article from AccountantsWorld.com covering how the short-term interest rates are not go up before next year given the current market conditions.

From the link:

Earlier in the summer, experts thought rates might go higher by December. But this view has receded in recent weeks as financial markets have destabilized anew and leading indicators point to slower growth over the remainder of the year and into next.

“I am a little less confident than I was before” that the Fed would hike rates this year, said former San Francisco Fed Bank President Robert Parry in an interview.

“I frankly thought we’d see more signs that the weakness of the economy was going to disappear,” said Parry.

The tax rebates have not packed the hoped for wallop. The crisis of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has sparked renewed stress in financial markets.

This has put the Fed in something of a box. But investors should keep alert as the Fed is looking to escape.

The simple reason is that, at the moment, almost all Fed officials, both hawks and doves, would like nothing better than to see interest rates move up from the “emergency” low level of 2%.

For the hawks on the panel, it would mean the Fed was backing up its warnings that higher rates are needed to combat ugly inflation data.

For the doves, higher rates would be good news that the economy could be moved out of the intensive-care unit.

At the moment, the doves don’t think the economy is strong enough to swallow the tough medicine of higher interest rates. And they are in the majority.

Nanowire lawns sense images

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:00 pm

From KurzweilAI.net — another nanotech breakthrough from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

Nanowire lawns make for sheets of image sensors
New Scientist news service, July 28, 2008

University of California, Berkeley researchers are growing a mixed “lawn” of two kinds of nanowires to make a new kind of cheap, high-quality image sensor array that could be made in meter-scale sheets.

The arrays are reliable, flexible and easy to scale up. They could be grown to form rolls of tape several meters in diameter with all the needed components to do active sensing, translate the data, and transmit it wirelessly.

Read Original Article>>

Nanotech faces local regulation

Because nanotech and nanomaterials face little, or no, Federal government oversight, state and local government is stepping into the void.

The press release:

Local officials move toward monitoring nanotechnologies

Massachusetts city health officials urge adoption of unique voluntary program

Washington, DC — State and local officials have taken steps to begin monitoring the manufacture and storage of nanomaterials, a major step for a cutting-edge technology that has yet to be regulated by the federal government.

On July 28, the Cambridge (Mass.) Public Health Department recommended to the city manager that Cambridge take several steps to gain a better understanding of the nature and extent of nanotechnology-related activities now underway within the city. In addition, news outlets are reporting that a key member of California State Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials is holding meetings around the state in advance of introducing legislation next year that may grant state regulators landmark oversight of nanomaterials.

In 2006, Berkeley, Calif., passed the first local ordinance in the nation by requiring handlers of nanomaterials to submit toxicology reports on the materials to the city government.

The efforts by state and local officials come as the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) recently released a report that discusses possible options for state and local governments to follow for oversight of potential negative impacts of nanotechnology – including local air, waste and water regulations, as well as labeling and worker safety requirements.

“In the absence of action at the federal level, local and state governments may begin to explore their options for oversight of nanotechnologies,” says Suellen Keiner, the author of Room at the Bottom? Potential State and Local Strategies for Managing the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology.

Another recent PEN report, Application of the Toxics Release Inventory To Nanomaterials, addresses the potential application of local “right-to-know” laws concerning nanotechnologies.

The Cambridge Public Health Department, in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanomaterials Advisory Committee, in its new report does not recommend the city manager enact a new ordinance regulating nanotechnology, but it does recommend that the city take the following steps:


  • Establish an inventory of engineered nanoscale materials that are manufactured, handled, processed, or stored in the city, in cooperation with the Cambridge Fire Department and the Local Emergency Planning Committee. 


  • Offer technical assistance, in collaboration with academic and nanotech sector partners, to help firms and institutions evaluate their existing health and safety plans for limiting risk to workers involved in nanomaterials research and manufacturing. 


  • Offer up-to-date health information to residents on products containing nanomaterials and sponsor public outreach events. 


  • Track rapidly changing developments in research concerning possible health risks from various engineered nanoscale materials. 


  • Track the evolving status of regulations and best practices concerning engineered nanoscale materials among state and federal agencies, and international health and industry groups. 


  • Report to the city council every two years on the changing regulatory and safety landscape of the nanotechnology sector. 

David Rejeski, the director of PEN and a member of an advisory committee that oversaw the public health department’s document, says that while the recommendations are encouraging and important, there is still a need for federal oversight of nanotechnology and an increase in research concerning the risks posed by nanomaterials.

“Today, there are more than 600 manufacturer-identified consumer products available on the market that contain nanomaterials and countless other commercial and industrial applications the public and policymakers are not aware of,” Rejeski says. Unfortunately, federal agencies currently have to draw on decades-old laws to ensure the safe development and use of these technologically advanced products — many of which are woefully out of date. Federal officials need 21st century tools for cutting-edge technologies. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, California Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D), a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, is holding meetings at major state universities and research centers with representatives from industry, government, environmental groups and others in an effort to craft legislation for introduction in 2009 that would establish a state nanotechnology regulatory program, according to an April article in Inside Cal/EPA.



The Cambridge recommendations are available here: http://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/policy-practice/nano_policy.php

Room at the Bottom? Potential State and Local Strategies for Managing the Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology is available here: http://www.nanotechproject.org/publications/archive/room_at_bottom/

Application of the Toxics Release Inventory To Nanomaterials is available here: http://www.nanotechproject.org/publications/archive/toxics/

About Nanotechnology


Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. In 2007, the global market for nanotechnology-based products totaled $147 billion. Lux Research projects that figure will grow to $3.1 trillion by 2015.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (www.nanotechproject.org) is an initiative launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.

Nanoscale sensor weighs single atom of gold

This is pretty amazing. Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California at Berkeley have created a “scale” that can weigh a single atom of gold.

From the link (it’s an article/press release mix):

There’s a new “gold standard” in the sensitivity of weighing scales. Using the same technology with which they created the world’s first fully functional nanotube radio, researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley have fashioned a nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) that can function as a scale sensitive enough to measure the mass of a single atom of gold.

Alex Zettl, a physicist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division (MSD) and UC Berkeley’s Physics Department, where he is the director of the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems, led this research. Working with him were members of his research group, Kenneth Jensen and Kwanpyo Kim.

“For the past 15 years or so, the holy grail of NEMS has been to push them to a small enough size with high enough sensitivity so that they might resolve the mass of a single molecule or even single atom,” Zettl said. “This has been a challenge even at cryogenic temperatures where reduced thermal noise improves the sensitivity. We have achieved sub-single-atom resolution at room temperature!”

The new NEMS mass sensor consists of a single carbon nanotube that is double-walled to provide uniform electrical properties and increased rigidity. One tip of the carbon nanotube is free and the other tip is anchored to an electrode in close proximity to a counter-electrode. A DC voltage source, such as from a battery or a solar cell array, is connected to the electrodes. Applying a DC bias creates a negative electrical charge on the free tip of the nanotube.  An additional radio frequency wave “tickles” the nanotube, causing it to vibrate at a characteristic “flexural” resonance frequency.

Tidal power goes live

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:07 am

This is great news for fans of alternative energy sources. The world’s first tidal power system is now part of the grid in Northern Ireland. The system is built by UK company, Marine Current Technologies (MCT), and is call SeaGen

I’m pretty excited about the various innovations around the world in solar, wind, tidal, geothermal and other alternative energy. The more the merrier.

We’re not going to get away from petroleum-based energy anytime soon, but as more options become feasible and implemented in the real world, the vetting process of what works and what doesn’t gets away from the drawing board and computer models and into actual application. Good for all. Well, except for a handful of emirs out in the desert (and maybe a few dictators — yeah, I’m thowing the current Russian leadership in that category.)

From the Technology Review link:

The system is currently being tested and has briefly generated 150 kilowatts of power into the grid. But it has also damaged one of its rotors due to a failure in the control system when the rotor began turning too fast. Although the problem was a minor setback, the unit is not expected to start running continuously and at full capacity until November, says Peter Fraenkel, the technical director at MCT.

The technology works like a wind turbine, but instead of wind, the turbines are driven by the flow of tidal currents. It offers a significant advantage over wind because currents are predictable, says James Taylor, the general manager of environmental planning and monitoring at Nova Scotia Power, a company that also has plans for a one-megawatt tidal-power project. “Wind is intermittent and, because of that, is much more difficult and expensive to integrate in a power system,” he says.

GlaxoSmithKline putting over $25M in stem cell research

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:54 am

Big pharma is getting into stem cell research in a big way — more than $25 million worth of ways. GlaxoSmithKline announced a five-year, $25M-plus collaboration with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. This agreement is expected to develop new methods for using stem cells to screen drugs with stem cells.

From the Technology Review link:

“GSK believes stem cell science has great potential to aid the discovery of new medicines by improving the screening, identification, and development of new compounds,” said Patrick Vallance, head of drug discovery at GSK, in a statement released by the company.

Big Pharma has mostly shied away from investing in stem-cell research. But drug screening, which some scientists say is likely to be one of the biggest near-term benefits of stem cells, is a growing area of interest.

Tax plans from McCain and Obama

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:20 am

If you’re looking for a one-stop center to compare and contrast the tax plans of the two presidential candidates, look no further.

TaxProf Blog, written by Paul Caron, gives you a starting point and then some.

(Hat tip: Megan McArdle)

July 28, 2008

You can’t blame Dick Cheney …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:59 pm

… for his high ranking status in both of the administrations over the last fifty years that worked hardest to secure all the power of the land in the executive branch.

He just loves the USA so much he wants it all for himself.

DOJ under Gonzales violated the law

An internal Department of Justice report prepared by the department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office found the Gonzales DOJ broke the law by politicizing the department:

In her position as White House liaison for the Justice Department, Ms. Goodling was involved in hiring lawyers for both political appointments and non-political, career positions. Regardless of the type of position, the report said, Ms. Goodling would run through the same batch of questions, asking candidates about their political philosophies, why they wanted to serve President Bush, and who, aside from Mr. Bush, they admired as public servants. Sometimes, Ms. Goodling would ask: “Why are you a Republican?”

Such questioning was allowed for candidates to political appointments, but was clearly banned under both civil service law and the Justice Department’s own internal policies, the inspector general said. Ms. Goodling’s questioning also generated complaints from one senior official who believed it was improper, long before the issue became a public controversy following the firings of nine United States attorneys. The inspector general concluded that Ms. Goodling knew that questioning applicants to career positions about their political beliefs was improper.

Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thinks this politization of the DOJ imperiled US citizens:

Responding to today’s report from the DOJ Inspector General, Leahy said in a statement:

“The report reveals decisions to reject qualified, experienced applicants to work on counterterrorism issues in favor of a less experienced attorney on the basis of political ideology. Rather than strengthening our national security, the Department of Justice appears to have bent to the political will of the administration. Further, the report reveals that the ‘principal source’ for politically vetted candidates considered for important positions as immigration judges was the White House- a clear indication of the untoward political influence of the Bush administration on traditionally non-political appointments.”

For more in-depth coverage of the entire scandal, head over to TPMMucker where they’ve been on this case for a long, long time providing a wealth of information the Bush 43 administration would rather had never seen the light of day.

McCain’s strategy “insane?”

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:59 pm

Here’s a very interesting post from Marc Ambinder at theAtlantic.com on McCain’s campaign strategy from one of his GOP sources:

Here’s what a prominent Republican strategist e-mailed me about my contrarian defense of Sen. John McCain’s election strategy:


“Insane. The GOP base vote is not in play. That’s why we call it the  base. He has it all; it is a generic vote and not candidate driven.  Show me a Prez election where the key outcome driver was partisan base intensity. It is a myth. The winning vs. losing outcome is whether he can get the others he needs to win; and a pure partisan approach — let alone a nagging and off-putting tone — is exactly the way not to get them. They have the strategy of a Congressional candidate running in a base suburb, and barely even that.”

And this comes from a person who is sympathetic to McCain!

SEC and Fed want to toughen rules

This AccountantsWorld.com article outlines an effort by the SEC and the Federal Reserve to press Congress for additional regulatory and supervisory powers.

From the link:

At a Congressional hearing on how to modernize financial regulation, the S.E.C. and the Fed laid out similar, if somewhat competing, visions for a new regime capable of monitoring commercial and investment banks to ensure they remain financially sound in order to prevent another credit crisis.


Both the S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank president, Timothy F. Geithner, said that the current patchwork of regulatory agencies, much of which dates back to the Depression of the 1930s, deserved part of the blame for the yearlong financial market turmoil.

But Mr. Cox said his agency should oversee investment banks, while Mr. Geithner said the Fed must have a direct supervisory role over any firms that borrow from the central bank.

”It’s very important that we have a role in consolidated supervision of these institutions because you will not have good judgments made by this central bank, this Federal Reserve, in the future unless we have the direct knowledge that comes with supervision,” Mr. Geithner told the House Financial Services Committee.

Moore’s Law doesn’t apply to solar

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:11 pm

In a recent speech, former vice president Al Gore implied solar technology is growing at the same rate computer chips are shrinking — basically invoking Moore’s Law without naming the phenomena.

Now I’m all about solar innovation and improvements, but I think Gore’s a bit ahead of himself here. Not unlike a lot of the hyperbole he’s been throwing out there lately. Lots of good, solid and necessary ideas, but tossed into the mix is a pinch of BS and a dash of hucksterism. 

Just to give you an idea of my solar coverage, here’s a link to a search for [solar] on this site— not everything is solar energy, but there’s a lot there and the subject is one of the science and technology areas this blog regularly covers.

ComputerWorld has a good article on Gore’s statement and the actual relationship between Moore’s Law and solar innovation.

From the last link:

“Think about what happened in the computer revolution,” Gore said on NBC’s Meet the Press programme recenty. “We saw cost reductions for silicon computer chips of 50% for every year and a half for the last 40 years,” he said. “We’re now beginning to see the same kind of sharp cost reductions as the demand grows for solar cells — they build new, more efficient facilities to build these solar cells.”

Gore, who has formed a group, The Alliance for Climate Protection, for solar cell creation, was referring to Moore’s Law, which explains the dramatic gains in compute performance. It stems from a 1965 paper written by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, which found that the number of transistors put on a chip doubles every 18 months.

But does Moore’s Law also apply to the solar energy industry? The short answer is no. As with microprocessor technology, the price and performance of photovoltaic solar electric cell is improving. And Gore can clearly point to price drops of solar cells to make his case. But the efficiency of those solar cells — their ability to convert sunlight into electric energy — is not increasing as rapidly.

(Hat tip — KurzweilAI.net)

Nanomagnets fighting cancer

From KurzweilAI.net — Nanoparticle-sized magnets specially coated to “catch” ovarian cancer cells are a new cancer-fighting treatment.


Magnets Capture Cancer Cells
Technology Review, July 22, 2008

Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed magnetic nanoparticles (coated with a specialized targeting peptide molecule) designed to latch onto ovarian cancer cells in mice and drag them out of the abdominal fluid to prevent metastasis.

Nanoparticles (red) on cancer cell

See Also New Nano Weapon against Cancer

Read Original Article>>

538 presidential projections — final week of July

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:02 am

Here’s the presidential race projections from FiveThirtyEight.com for 7/28/08.

Update 8/14/08 — If you’re finding this page now hit this link for my latest update, or better yet head straight to 538 for their very latest projections.

NASA testing solar sails

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:15 am

NASA is preparing to test a small satellite propelled by solar sails. It’ll be interesting to see how the experiment turns out. Solar sails are one of the technologies that has been proposed for use in interstellar travel.

Here’s a Technology Review article on the NASA test:

For the first time, NASA is preparing to send into orbit a small satellite that can be propelled by solar sails. When light particles from the sun strike the surface of the sail, the energy is transferred to it, providing a propulsive force that moves the satellite through space.

NASA’s goal is to test the complex deployment mechanism of the 10-square-meter sails, says Dean Alhorn, an engineer at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, AL, and the lead engineer on the project. “A successful flight will not only make for a unique historical event, but will show that we have a reliable mechanism to deploy a solar sail in space for future missions,” says Alhorn.

The satellite, called NanoSail-D, is scheduled to launch from Omelek Island, in the Pacific Ocean, on July 29 onboard the Falcon 1rocket developed by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of Hawthorn, CA. The NanoSail-D satellite’s main frame is only 30 centimeters long and weighs nine pounds. Its solar sail is made of a custom polymer that is thinner than a piece of paper and coated with aluminum to reflect the photons. “It looks like Saran Wrap with a metalized surface but is stronger and suited for the space environment,” says Alhorn.

Update 8/1/08 — Here’s a PhysOrg.com article titled, “A Brief History of Solar Sails” for anyone looking for more information on the subject.

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