David Kirkpatrick

February 20, 2009

Smallest ever square nanotube

Very cool nanotech story and image from PhysOrg.

The image:

An electron microscope image of the smallest reported square-cross-section nanotube. Image courtesy Daniel Ugarte.

An electron microscope image of the smallest reported square-cross-section nanotube. Image courtesy Daniel Ugarte.


And from the link:

Scientists have observed the smallest reported nanotube that has a square cross-section. The structure formed spontaneously and unexpectedly when silver nanowires were stretched and is a reminder that scientists still have much more to learn about the nanoscale world.

The study was performed by scientists at two Brazilian institutions, the Laboratorio Nacional de Luz Sıncrotron (the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory) and the Universidade Estadual de Campinas-UNICAMP.

This research illustrates how material behavior at the nanoscale can be vastly and surprisingly different from the macroscopic scale, particularly in the case of applied mechanical stress. In general, the main differences between the behaviors of nanoscale and bulk materials are due to “surface energy.” In the physics of solid materials, surfaces must be less energetic than the rest of the material, lest surfaces be constantly created until the material become nothing but a single surface.

For nanostructures, surface energy is more powerful because there is such a small amount of the material. Scientists expect to see certain atomic behaviors, such as how the atoms order themselves, based on predictions of surface energy. But this work has shown that the addition of a mechanical stress, such as pulling, can produced unexpected results.


Blogging and small business

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:24 pm

Blogging, Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools can be a real boon for small business, but it’s important to have a solid plan and stay with the plan. Unless a small business owner has a lot of time to devote to social media, or has staff in place that can fill the role hiring a professional writer to ghost blog is not a bad idea.

The business owner can stay on top of the subject matter covered and frequency of blogging while the ghost blogger can focus on solid, SEO content posts and stay of abreast of the rapidly changing Web 2.0 world.

From the MainStreet.com link:

Blogs have blown up. So how does blogging fit into your marketing strategy?

First, the eye-popping statistics. There is a total Internet audience of 188.9 million worldwide for blogs, according to comScore, and eMarketer says half of all readers are in the U.S. By the end of 2009, there will be 28 million bloggers in America and 116 million readers, eMarketer projects.

Some demographics: Readers of blogs have household income of $75,000, meaning upper-middle class, according to Technorati. Half of all bloggers are on their second blog, and 59% have been posting for at least two years. In addition, two-thirds are male; half are 18 to 34 years old; 74% have college degrees; and 44% are parents.

One interesting stat that caught my eye: Fewer than 1% of readers have incomes in excess of $150,000, which tells me the following: Decision leaders aren’t typically reading blogs, and the very wealthy are not reading blogs

PennyPic.com launches new daily report

The release from today:

PennyPic Daily Report Alerts Subscribers on Market Movers: JNJ, GS, GOOG, YHOO, FSLR

MIAMI, FL, Feb. 20 /PRNewswire/ — PennyPic.com, a premier micro-cap research firm, announces the launch of PennyPic Investment Stock Report. The PennyPic Investment Stock Report focuses on small to micro-cap companies poised for movement in the market, with an emphasis on stocks with the greatest potential for advancement.

The daily trading notes are available to interested investors at no cost. Investors simply need to subscribe for free at: http://www.pennypic.com/

Today’s Trade Alerts include: Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE:GS), Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR)

PennyPic.com’s Investment Stock Report covers and analyzes active stocks that are typically overlooked by the markets. The daily reports include breaking news, insider activity, recent 52-week highs/lows, technical breakouts, and other market driving information. PennyPic provides small investors with authoritative research on potentially huge movers in the micro-cap sector, and delivers that information before the rest of the market has noticed those stocks.

In addition to investment information, PennyPic’s FREE report is filled with daily trading ideas. Interested investors may receive the free report by visiting: http://www.pennypic.com

PennyPic.com is one of the market’s most reliable micro cap research providers. PennyPic uncovers promising small cap companies, many of which are overlooked by the standard Wall Street investment advisors. We consolidate the publicly available information available on these companies to provide our investor subscribers with important and timely information they need for their research and due diligence. Our subscribers also receive frequent updates and trading ideas to s. For more information and to become a subscriber, please visit: http://www.pennypic.com

PennyPic.com Disclosure

PennyPic.com is not a registered investment advisor and nothing contained in any materials should be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. PennyPic.com is a wholly owned entity of, a financial public relations firm. Please read our report and visit our website, PennyPic.com, for complete risks and disclosures.

Christopher Lim of Pennypic.com is a member of the National Association of Securities Dealers, CRD number 2124654.

Source: PennyPic.com

Light blogging and tweeting …

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:08 pm

… this week. I’ve had (and still fighting) some late-winter killer flu. Been trying to get at least a couple of posts in each day.

February 19, 2009

NASA message for teachers and students

Filed under: Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:47 pm

A release from a little while ago:

NASA Teachers Turned Astronauts Have Messages For Educators and Students

HOUSTON, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA astronauts and educators Joseph Acaba and Richard Arnold, members of the next space shuttle crew, have special announcements for teachers and students.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

The messages from Acaba and Arnold, both former middle and high school science teachers, urge students and educators to take advantage of teaching materials on NASA’s Web site as a compliment to their mission. Acaba’s video also is available in Spanish.

The brief messages will air on NASA Television’s video file beginning Friday, Feb. 20.

The 14-day STS-119 shuttle mission will install a final set of solar arrays on the International Space Station and includes four spacewalks. Acaba and Arnold will conduct two and three spacewalks, respectively. The educational materials focus on NASA’s spacesuits.

To view the educational materials and the astronauts’ messages on the Web, visit:


  For NASA TV downlink information and streaming video, visit:


Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

FOMC outlook bleak

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:06 pm

It’s been bleak and now it’s worsening.

From the link:

The U.S. economy was weakening further in January and a gradual recovery wasn’t likely until the second half of the year, members of the Federal Open Market Committee agreed, according to minutes of the Jan. 27 and 28 meeting released on Wednesday.

At the meeting, the committee held its interest-rate target near zero, and promised that it would “employ all available tools” to restore the economy to growth.

Many policymakers saw some risk of excessively low inflation for a protracted period, the minutes said, and a few even warned of deflation – a general decline of prices and wages.

According to the minutes, the FOMC’s updated forecasts predict that the economy would likely shrink between 1.3% and 0.5% this year, and grow about 2.5% to 3.3% in 2010. The unemployment rate would likely rise to 8.5% to 8.8% this year before gradually declining over the next two years. The group said consumer prices would likely rise 0.3% to 1% this year.

The outlook is considerably worse than in October, when they thought the economy might grow as much as 1.1%.

The minutes also contain the FOMC’s first public long-term economic projections, a step closer to adopting a formal inflation target. Among the 16 governors and bank presidents, the central tendency for long-term inflation was 1.7% to 2%, with a majority clustering at 1.9% or 2%.

Six Twitter tips

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:59 pm

Twitter is suddenly everywhere. Here’s six more tips on maximizing your tweets.

You can find me on Twitter at @davidkonline.

From the link:

Twitter is vapid, Twitter is narcissistic—Twitter is actually terribly useful if you can ignore knee-jerk backlash. The casual, instant nature of the service lends itself to solving small problems quickly, distributing live-on-the-scene news reports, and keeping track of people. Here are six easy ways to transform Twitter from a time sink into an indispensable tool.

February 18, 2009

Facebook on the brink?

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:59 am

The flap over user content may be the tipping point for Facebook. MySpace had a similar problem, but no one really cared because it mostly hit gloomy kid’s bad poetry and indie band MP3s. Facebook is a player in the adult world — I get hit up once or twice a week to start a Facebook page — so these allegations carry a little more weight.

From the link:

Have Social Media/Web 2.0 Companies Gone Too Far To Obtain & Own Data?

Absolutely.  Here’s why – The data they collect is what is fueling and stabilizing their ridiculous valuations and the funding coming in which they rely on to survive due to their minimal revenue streams.  It’s this data “gold” that companies and VC’s DEPEND on and are in fact inesting in.  It’s not the UI, or the ability to poke a friend.  The maximum protection or “assurance” the Investment bankers, VC’s and Angels are investing in is the data & who owns it.

It’s that simple – Nothing else to it.


Joining the groups emerging on Facebook isn’t going to change a thing, just as it didn’t when they changed the UI and everyone was in an uproar.  Zuck and the legal team are making moves to protect valuation.  In the grand scheme of the things 50 thousand or 1M peope joining a group won’t make a difference.  This I believe, will be the tipping point to create attrition to the already hairline cracks emerging in the Facebook empire.  They simply refuse to listen to their customers. We saw this with Beacon, their development requirements, the new UI and now the new TOS.  The valuation has dropped from a reported $15B to $4B in less than a year and this recent stunt may see more defection in their user base.  Although they own the content after a user leaves, if 20 or 30 Million strong decide the terms aren’t for them the cards will collapse on the empire and quickly.

The stimulus hits Main Street

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:31 am

To the tune of $75 billion for staving off foreclosusres.

From the link:

Seeking to stabilize the foundering housing market, President Obama is offering a plan to help as many as nine million families refinance their mortgages or avoid foreclosure, according to a summary released by the White House on Wednesday morning.

The plan, which is more ambitious than expected, would spend $75 billion to help keep as many as four million families in their homes, and would help as many as five million more refinance their mortgages to take advantage of lower interest rates.

“The plan not only helps responsible homeowners on the verge of defaulting, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from being pulled over the edge too,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

February 17, 2009

Solar air conditioning

A release from this afternoon:

Cooling Buildings With Solar Heat

Solar air conditioning an up and coming trend at estec2009

MUNICH and PFORZHEIM, Germany, Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ — Intersolar 2009, Munich, May 27 – 29, 2009 — Up and coming markets such as the solar air conditioning market are among the major themes of the 4th European Solar Thermal Energy Conference estec2009, which will take place in Munich on May 25 and 26. estec is the largest international conference for solar thermal technology and an international forum for representatives of industry, associations, research and politics. As was the case with estec2007, the event will take place in the run-up to the world’s largest trade show for solar technology, Intersolar.

Demand for cooling systems is growing extremely rapidly. This growth is driving up worldwide demand for electricity, especially in the warmer climatic zones. As a consequence, interest in innovative, energy-saving technologies such as solar thermal is also growing. The principal function of solar thermal systems is actually to convert solar energy into useful heat energy. However, this heat energy can also be used for the energy-efficient air conditioning of buildings.

Rising electricity prices are creating increased interest in alternative cooling

Sales of air conditioning systems with a cooling capacity of up to 5 kW almost doubled between 2002 and 2007, rising from 44 to 75 million systems. This increasing demand for cooling capacity, coupled with the rising cost of electricity, is creating additional interest in innovative and sustainable technologies  such as solar thermal air conditioning of buildings. The electricity consumption of conventional air conditioning systems is very high. In addition, they are subject to increasing criticism, not only due to the use of problematic cooling agents such as CFCs but also due to the CO2 emissions they cause. The solar thermal cooling of buildings, on the other hand, makes use of natural resources and protects the environment. Unlike conventional cooling systems, which draw electrical energy from the electricity grid, solar air conditioning is powered by solar heat. This heat is obtained using solar collectors. The basis for solar thermal cooling is the thermochemical process known as sorption. The cooling energy is generated either by the adherence of the vaporized cooling agent (generally water) to a solid (adsorption) or by the incorporation of the cooling agent into a solvent mixture (absorption). Solar heat is then introduced to force the cooling agent out of the solution or solid, so that the process can be repeated.

Water is generally used as the cooling agent in these systems as it is environmentally friendly and has no negative effects on the climate. Solar air conditioning therefore not only saves energy; it is also an efficient way of protecting the climate. In addition, buildings require the most cooling at the hottest times of the day and in sunnier southern regions. It is a further advantage of solar air conditioning that the greatest demand for air conditioning exists where solar irradiation is at its highest.

1.4 to 2 kilowatt hours of solar heat are required for the production of one kilowatt hour of cooling energy. However, as solar heat does not have to be purchased from an electricity supplier at great cost, this efficiency ratio does not represent a serious problem for the new technology. The initial outlay costs, which are still high, and the consequently long amortization periods represent challenges for solar air conditioning; but they are challenges which can be met. According to the European scientists involved in the European Solar Thermal Technology Platform (ESTTP), which was set up at estec2005: “rising electricity prices and more and more efficient systems mean that mid-term prospects are excellent in this sector.”

estec2009 – trends and challenges in the European solar thermal sector

The prospects of solar air conditioning and other big issues facing the solar thermal industry are among the central themes of the 4th European Solar Thermal Energy Conference estec2009. The conference is organized by the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and will take place on May 25 and 26, 2009, at the Bayrischer Hof hotel in Munich. As the world’s largest international conference focusing exclusively on solar heating and cooling, The conference will feature specialist presentations on technological trends and global and national market developments and is aimed at the decision makers of the sector, including representatives of industry, commerce, the associations and politics. There will also be plenty of time and scope for networking – beyond European borders. The organizers are expecting around 600 expert visitors from over 50 countries to attend. ESTIF is presenting a growing industry which has a turnover of around two billion euros a year and which provides more than 30,000 jobs in Europe – and both these figures are set to continue to rise.

The continued cooperation with the world’s largest solar technology trade show Intersolar 2009 provides innovative solar thermal companies with the opportunity to present themselves to a wide target audience – beyond the scope of the conference itself – and ensures that both events and the companies involved gain a maximum of international attention.

For further information on Intersolar 2009, please visit www.intersolar.de.

For further information on ESTIF and estec2009, please visit www.estif.org / www.estec2009.org.

Sponsors of Intersolar 2009:

Intersolar 2009 is supported by the leading solar industry associations: the German Solar Industry Association (BSW), as the exclusive partner of Intersolar, the German Solar Energy Society (DGS), the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and the International Solar Energy Society (ISES).

About Intersolar:

The Intersolar brand is internationally recognized as the leading event for the solar energy industry. The two events, Intersolar in Munich and Intersolar North America, are jointly organized by Solar Promotion GmbH and Freiburg Wirtschaft Touristik und Messe GmbH & Co. KG and their North American subsidiaries and serve the entire international solar supply chain and global solar industry. Intersolar in Munich, held annually, is the world’s largest solar exhibition with 1,300 exhibitors – currently from 38 countries – across 1,076,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space and 60,000 visitors expected in 2009. Intersolar North America 2009, also held annually, will feature about 400 exhibitors across more than 90,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space and 15,000 visitors.

About estec2009/ESTIF:

The European Solar Thermal Energy Conference estec2009 is the largest conference of its kind in the world. It is organized every two years by the European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF).

Source: Intersolar

Web Site:  http://www.intersolar.us/

Microsoft v Adobe — catfight!

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:51 pm

Um, this whole issue is just dumb. MS seems a tab tad oversensitive these days.

From the link:

Microsoft is crying foul over recent comments made by an Adobe executive that Silverlight has “fizzled” as a competitor to Adobe’s Flash.

In his blog, Tim Sneath, director of the Windows and Silverlight technical evangelism team, accused Adobe Executive Vice President and CFO Mark Garrett of “living in a fantasy world” if he thinks that Silverlight adoption is waning.

“The idea that Silverlight is in anything other than rude health is more to do with what Adobe would like to be the case, rather than what actually is the case,” he wrote in the blog posting. “The suggestion that ‘Silverlight adoption has fizzled out in the last 6-9 months’ is pretty risible, in fact. For starters, Silverlight 2 shipped four months ago, and in just the first month of its availability, we saw over 100 million successful installations just on consumer machines. That doesn’t sound like ‘fizzling out’ to me.”

Five-act play on Wall Street stupidity

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:35 pm

Pretty funny stuff from MainStreet.com. Here’s five bits of prima-facie evidence of Wall Street stupidity.

From the link, number one with a Dumb-o-meter score of 95:

If Tim Geithner actually believed his “Financial Stability Plan” was going to calm anybody, we’d hate to hear his ideas on how he would wreak true terror.

Stocks in New York sold off sharply Tuesday after the Treasury secretary unveiled his much-hyped plan. (The fact that he called it a financial stability plan is an oxymoron, italics intended.) In short, Geithner’s $1.5 trillion program aims to combat the financial crisis through a collaboration of public and private investments and a consumer and business lending initiative.

Bud Selig is an idiot …

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

… if he thinks the steroid era isn’t going to be the sum total of his legacy as head of Major League Baseball.

From the link:

In the volatile wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s admission that he used performance-enhancing substances earlier this decade, Bud Selig remains bothered by the suggestion that he is to blame for Major League Baseball’s steroids era.

“I don’t want to hear the commissioner turned a blind eye to this or he didn’t care about it,” Selig told Newsday in a Monday phone interview. “That annoys the you-know-what out of me. You bet I’m sensitive to the criticism.

“The reason I’m so frustrated is, if you look at our whole body of work, I think we’ve come farther than anyone ever dreamed possible,” he said, adding, “I honestly don’t know how anyone could have done more than we’ve already done.”

Twitter in the OR

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

Is there anywhere Twitter hasn’t invaded these days? The last ten days or so may be the time when Twitter reaches critical mass.

Find me on Twitter at @davidkonline.

From the link:

t’s potentially a risky surgery, but everything’s ready: The doctors and nurses are in the operating room, the surgical instruments are sterilized and ready to go, and the chief resident is furiously Twittering on his laptop.

That’s right — last week, for the second known time, surgeons Twittered a surgery by using social-networking site Twitter to give short real-time updates about the procedure

(Hat tip: copyblogger)

Taxpayers and the stimulus package

A press release from H&R Block:

Stimulus 2009: Something for Nearly Everyone
Marketwire via NewsEdge :


Millions of taxpayers will take home more money from the almost $790 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expected to be signed into law early this week, but most provisions won’t happen automatically.

“The Recovery Act gives taxpayers money to spend, incentives to spend it and choices to spend it on,” said Amy McAnarney, executive director of The Tax Institute at H&R Block (NYSE: HRB). “There are provisions that pay you now and some that pay you later. But for most individuals, this isn’t a check-is-in-the-mail stimulus. Taxpayers will need to have guidance to maximize the benefit.”

H&R Block notes five key areas that impact individual taxpayers today and in the future:


--  Putting money in taxpayers' pockets now
--  Helping more of those who have less
--  Making homeownership more affordable
--  Increasing access to higher education
--  Getting green from the garage


Review chart with the breakdown of taxpayer benefits.

“Taxpayers want to know how this Recovery Act affects them so they can get all the credits and deductions they’re due,” McAnarney said. “The Tax Institute recommends consulting with a trusted tax professional to help decipher the complex changes and what they mean to each individual.”

Review complete Recovery Act FAQ.

Putting money in taxpayers’ pockets now

The bill includes several provisions that immediately boost the wallets of workers, non-workers, the unemployed and retirees. For both 2009 and 2010, the Making Work Pay tax cut means up to $400 for individuals and $800 for couples through a reduction in income tax withholding; in other words, bigger paychecks. Eligible workers may need to work with their employers to ensure any adjusted income tax withholding is appropriate for their situation. For example, if all working taxpayers are automatically transferred to the new reduced withholding amounts, certain taxpayers may actually owe more taxes when they file their 2009 and 2010 returns.

“Knowing your tax situation is extremely important in instances like this,” said McAnarney. “How and when this credit is actually going to be administered is still unclear.”

Eligible self-employed taxpayers can adjust their quarterly estimated payments. For those taxpayers who do not receive the full amount this year, they will receive the remaining as a credit on next year’s tax return.

Social Security and SSI recipients, retired and disabled veterans, and railroad retirees will get a one-time payment of $250. The Social Security Administration and Veterans Administration will provide the information about who qualifies for this payment, so eligible individuals won’t have to do anything. Individuals on a federal or state retirement program who don’t receive Social Security benefits can claim a $250 credit when they file their 2009 tax returns.

“However, there’s no double-dipping,” said McAnarney. “Taxpayers who qualify for both the Making Work Pay Credit and the $250 payment can’t get the full amount of both benefits.” In these cases, the Making Work Pay Credit will be reduced by $250.

The Act has several benefits for the unemployed. Many will receive a $25 weekly boost to their unemployment check. In addition, the first $2,400 in benefits will be exempt from federal tax in 2009. Eligible unemployed workers paying for COBRA will benefit from a 65 percent federal subsidy for their monthly insurance premiums.

Helping more of those who have less

The Recovery Act expands the Child Tax Credit, allowing families to begin qualifying for the credit with every dollar earned over $3,000. For taxpayers, this change translates into a refundable credit of up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under 17. Refundable credits give taxpayers a real boost because if the person has no tax liability, the credit is issued in the form of a refund.

This is the second year in a row the income threshold has been lowered. For 2008, it was lowered to $8,500 from $11,750.

The Act also increases the Earned Income Credit for families with three or more children, where previously EIC benefits were capped at two children. The Act would also increase the beginning point of the phaseout range for all married couples filing a joint return. That’s good news for married couples regardless of the number of children they have.

Making homeownership more affordable

Taxpayers on the fence about buying their first home may want to consider the Act’s $8,000 tax credit.

Unlike the incentive passed last year, first-time homebuyers will not have to repay the credit as long as they live in the house for three years. To qualify, eligible homebuyers must make their purchase between Jan. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2009. Taxpayers who have purchased a home this year can take advantage of this credit on their 2008 return. For those who have already filed, filing an amendment is the best way to capture this full credit on their 2008 tax return.

The plan also includes tax credits for energy-efficient improvements such as qualified new furnaces, windows and doors to existing homes. The credit applies to 2009 and 2010 tax returns, with a lifetime cap of $1,500.

Increasing access to higher education

More taxpayers will be able to qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will provide a new, partly refundable $2,500 tax credit for college tuition in 2009 and 2010. By making the credit partially refundable, nearly 4 million low-income students now will be able to qualify for the credit. This can be a better alternative for taxpayers than the two existing higher education credits.

Also, computer and computer technology costs will now qualify in 2009 and 2010 under the Section 529 Education Plans, which are tax-exempt college saving plans. Previously, eligible expenses included only tuition, room and board, and books, supplies and equipment that were required for attendance at the school.

Getting green from the garage

The package allows taxpayers to deduct the state and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light trucks, recreational vehicles and motorcycles. The vehicles must be purchased from the enactment date of the Act through the end of the year.

The Act also provides a tax credit of up to $7,500 for families who purchase plug-in hybrid vehicles purchased after 2009 or plug-in conversion after date of enactment and before 2012. Even those taxpayers who don’t itemize can benefit from this.

H&R Block will provide ongoing information about the Recovery Act on www.digits.hrblock.com.

The Tax Institute, a division of H&R Block, is a national leader in providing unbiased research, analysis and interpretation of federal and state tax laws. Staffed by Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and Attorneys, The Tax Institute provides industry expertise for matters related to taxes and the professional tax preparation industry.

About H&R Block

H&R Block Inc. (NYSE: HRB) is the world’s preeminent tax services provider, having served more than 400 million clients since 1955 and generating annual revenues of $4.1 billion in fiscal year 2008. H&R Block provides income tax return preparation and related services and products via a nationwide network of approximately 13,000 company-owned and franchised offices and through TaxCut® online and software solutions. The company also provides business services through RSM McGladrey. For more information visit our Online Press Center at www.hrblock.com.

February 16, 2009

Internet advertising is drowning …

… in a sea of endless content. This is a case of supply (web pages to advertise on) wildly outstripping demand (eyeballs to view those pages and ads).

From the WSJ:

What does the Internet display-ad market have in common with Zimbabwe?

Both are printing nearly-limitless amounts of their main currency, vastly diminishing its value and undermining their future. The currency, for Web sites, is their ad inventory. And while Zimbabwe, under different management, can change course, the same isn’t true of the display-ad market. Web sites keep generating new content and extra pages on which ads can run.

That is why the sudden sharp weakness in online display advertising, which hit fourth-quarter revenue at companies ranging from Yahoo to Time Warner‘s AOL and New York Times Co., isn’t just about a cyclical downturn caused by the recession.

For sure, part of it is due to depressed demand among advertisers, including those who buy “brand image” ads that suit the display format. AOL, for instance, whose display revenues fell 25% in the quarter, cited “softness” in categories such as “personal finance, technology, autos and retail,” which clearly relate to the economy.

But weak demand is simply highlighting the more fundamental oversupply problem — and pressuring prices. The cost per thousand views of display ads on big Web sites sold through ad networks — rather than sales forces of individual sites, which usually handle premium inventory — fell 54% in the fourth quarter compared with the year earlier, estimates PubMatic, which offers online services to publishers.

GM and the UAW

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:26 pm

I’ve been hard on General Motor’s hands-out, crocodile tears method of hoping to stay afloat, but now the ball is firmly in the court of the auto unions. If the UAW balks and refuses to play ball in these negotiations GM has the absolute right to blame the last straw on the unions.

From the link:

With its access to a government lifeline in the balance, General Motors was locked in intense negotiations on Monday with the United Automobile Workers over ways to cut its bills for retiree health care.

Both G.M. and its rival, Chrysler, are racing to file restructuring plans with the Treasury Department by Tuesday’s deadline. The companies must show progress in cutting long-term costs as a condition for keeping loans they have received from the federal government.

For G.M., the restructuring will be the largest in its 100-year history, the next step in justifying its $13.4-billion loan package from the federal government.

The plan will outline in great detail, as much as 900 pages, how G.M. will cut its work force, downsize its North American factories and reduce its brand lineup to four from eight.

But G.M.’s plan to shrink will not mean much without an agreement with the U.A.W.

On Monday, G.M. pressed union leaders in a meeting in Detroit for a deal on financing what was the centerpiece of the 2007 U.A.W. contract — a perpetual, G.M.-financed trust to cover health care for hundreds of thousands of retired hourly workers and their spouses.


Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:35 pm

Just wow.

The release:

Chemists create two-armed nanorobotic device to maneuver world’s tiniest particles

Chemists at New York University and China’s Nanjing University have developed a two-armed nanorobotic device that can manipulate molecules within a device built from DNA. The device is described in the latest issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

“The aim of nanotechnology is to put specific atomic and molecular species where we want them and when we want them there,” said NYU Chemistry Professor Nadrian Seeman, one of the co-authors. “This is a programmable unit that allows researchers to capture and maneuver patterns on a scale that is unprecedented.”

The device is approximately 150 x 50 x 8 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Put another way, if a nanometer were the size of a normal apple, measuring approximately 10 centimeters in diameter, a normal apple, enlarged proportionally, would be roughly the size of the earth.

The creation enhances Seeman’s earlier work—a single nanorobotic arm, completed in 2006, marking the first time scientists had been able to employ a functional nanotechnology device within a DNA array.

The new, two-armed device employs DNA origami, a method unveiled in 2006 that uses a few hundred short DNA strands to direct a very long DNA strand to form structures that adopt any desired shape. These shapes, approximately 100 nanometers in diameter, are eight times larger and three times more complex than what could be created within a simple crystalline DNA array.

As with Seeman’s previous creation, the two-armed nanorobotic device enables the creation of new DNA structures, thereby potentially serving as a factory for assembling the building blocks of new materials. With this capability, it has the potential to develop new synthetic fibers, advance the encryption of information, and improve DNA-scaffolded computer assembly.

In the two-armed nanorobotic device, the arms face each other, ready to capture molecules that make up a DNA sequence. Using set strands that bind to its molecules, the arms are then able to change the structure of the device. This changes the sticky ends available to capture a new pattern component.

The researchers note that the device performs with 100 percent accuracy. Earlier trials revealed that it captured targeted molecules only 60 to 80 percent of the time. But by heating the device in the presence of the correct species, they found that the arms captured the targeted molecules 100 percent of the time.

They confirmed their results by atomic force microscopy (AFM), which permits features that are a few billionths of a meter to be visualized.




The study’s other co-authors were Hongzhou Gu, a graduate student in NYU’s Department of Chemistry, and Jie Chao, who had been a visiting graduate student at NYU, and Professor Shou-Jun Xiao, both based at China’s Nanjing University.


Media tips from the American Chemical Society

Just passing these along — enjoy as you see fit.

The release:

ACS Weekly PressPac — Feb. 11, 2009

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Weekly PressPac from the Office of Public Affairs. It has news from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News. Please credit the individual journal or the American Chemical Society as the source for this information.

IMAGE: This is a photo of the charcoal combustion heater that Japanese scientists say will offer cleaner, more efficient home heating.

Click here for more information. 

New biomass heater: A “new era” of efficiency and sustainability
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Millions of homes in rural areas of Far Eastern countries are heated by charcoal burned on small, hibachi-style portable grills. Scientists in Japan are now reporting development of an improved “biomass charcoal combustion heater” that they say could open a new era in sustainable and ultra-high efficiency home heating. Their study was published in ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

In the study, Amit Suri, Masayuki Horio and colleagues note that about 67 percent of Japan is covered with forests, with that biomass the nation’s most abundant renewable energy source. Wider use of biomass could tap that sustainable source of fuel and by their calculations cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4.46 million tons.

Using waste biomass charcoal, their heater recorded a thermal efficiency of 60-81 percent compared to an efficiency of 46-54 percent of current biomass stoves in Turkey and the U.S. “The charcoal combustion heater developed in the present work, with its fast startup, high efficiency, and possible automated control, would open a new era of massive but small-scale biomass utilization for a sustainable society,” the authors say. – JS

“Development of Biomass Charcoal Combustion Heater for Household Utilization”




Antibacterial plaster could put a clean sheen on walls
Crystal Growth & Design
Scientists in China are reporting development and testing of new self-sanitizing plaster with more powerful antibacterial effects than penicillin. The material could be used in wall coatings, paints, art works and other products. The study is in the current issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

Liang-jie Yuan and colleagues note that plaster has been used for centuries as building material and surfaces for great works of art, including Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel ceiling in Vatican City. The new, first-of-its kind plaster —formed from different ingredients from traditional gypsum plaster — still retains similar mechanical properties while having added antibacterial effects.

Lab tests showed that the so-called “supramolecular” plaster has a “very broad” antibacterial spectrum, killing five types of disease-causing bacteria. When compared with penicillin, the plaster was more effective at controlling growth of four kinds of bacteria, including dangerous Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. “It can be expected that the supramolecular plaster can be used for building, painting, coating and carving, and the coat, brick, or art ware constructed by the plaster do not need additive antiseptic or sterilization,” the authors say. – JS

“A Novel Supramolecular Plaster Based on An Organic Acid-Base Compound: Synthesis, Structure, Mechanical Properties, and Sterilizing Performance”


IMAGE: Materials from printed circuit boards used in electronics, such as computers and cell phones, could be used to strengthen asphalt paving, scientists report. Above is a micrograph of the modified…

Click here for more information. 

Information superhighway’s trash yields a super highway asphalt
Environmental Science & Technology
Discarded electronic hardware, including bits and pieces that built the information superhighway, can be recycled into an additive that makes super-strong asphalt paving material for real highways, researchers in China are reporting in a new study. It is scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. They describe development of a new recycling process that can convert discarded electronic circuit boards into an asphalt “modifier.” The material makes high-performance paving material asphalt that is cheaper, longer lasting, and more environmentally friendly than conventional asphalt, the scientists report.

In the new study, Zhenming Xu and colleagues note that millions of tons of electronic waste (e-waste) pile up each year. The printed circuit boards used in personal computers, cell phones, and other electronic gear, contain toxic metals such as lead and mercury and pose a difficult disposal problem. The boards also are difficult to recycle. Xu’s group, however, realized that the boards, which provide mechanical support and connections for transistors and other electronic components, contain glass fibers and plastic resins that could strengthen asphalt paving.

The scientists describe a new recycling method that quickly separates toxic metals from circuit boards, yielding a fine, metal-free powder. When mixed into asphalt in laboratory tests, the powder produced a stronger paving material less apt to soften at high temperatures, the researchers say. -MTS

“Asphalt Modified with Nonmetals Separated from Pulverized Waste Printed Circuit Boards”



IMAGE: Aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called “frozen smoke, ” may capture oil from wastewater and soak up environmental oil spills.

Click here for more information. 

“Frozen smoke:” The ultimate sponge for cleaning up oil spills
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Scientists in Arizona and New Jersey are reporting that aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called “frozen smoke,” may serve as the ultimate sponge for capturing oil from wastewater and effectively soaking up environmental oil spills. Their study is in ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

In the new study, Robert Pfeffer and colleagues point out that the environmental challenges of oil contamination go beyond widely publicized maritime oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident. Experts estimate that each year people dump more than 200 million gallons of used oil into sewers, streams, and backyards, resulting in polluted wastewater that is difficult to treat. Although there are many different sorbent materials for removing used oil, such as activated carbon, they are often costly and inefficient. Hydrophobic silica aerogels are highly porous and absorbent material, and seemed like an excellent oil sponge.

The scientists packed a batch of tiny aerogel beads into a vertical column and exposed them to flowing water containing soybean oil to simulate the filtration process at a wastewater treatment plant. They showed that the aerogel beads absorbed up to 7 times their weight and removed oil from the wastewater at high efficiency, better than many conventional sorbent materials. – MTS

“Removal of Oil from Water by Inverse Fluidization of Aerogels”




Greener pesticides, better farming practices help reduce U.S. pesticide use
Chemical & Engineering News
Although few consumers realize it, fruits, veggies, and other agricultural products marketed in the United States today are grown on farms that use less pesticide than 30 years ago, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 16 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Stephen K. Ritter points out in the magazine’s cover story that pesticide use has dropped in the U.S. due to more efficient pesticides and better agricultural practices. Pesticide use peaked at 1.46 billion pounds in 1979 and fell to 1.23 billion pounds in 2001 — the last year for which comprehensive data are available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Since then pesticide use has remained at those lower levels, the article states.

Several innovations are responsible for this decline in pesticide use, including better, more selective pesticides that can be applied at lower rates while having less impact on human health and the environment. Other factors include a farming practice called integrated pest management (IPM), which involves withholding the use of synthetic pesticides only until damage reaches a certain threshold. In addition, farmers also are using more so-called biopesticides. These natural substances, derived from plants, microorganisms, and insects, can combat noxious weeds, insects, and fungi with less harm to crops and the environment.

“Greening The Farm”

This story will be available on Feb. 16 at





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




Creativity in action

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:09 pm

Here’s a very cool bit on whether creativity makes you happy.

I love this description here. I’ve been there writing fiction at times.

Early in the talk, Csikszentmihalyi presents us with the following description by a leading composer, of his experience while composing music:

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And [the music] just flows out of itself.

This sounds like a mystical experience, yet Csikszentmihalyi offers a scientific explanation. Apparently our nervous system can only process about 110 bits of information per second. Listening to someone speak takes up about 60 bits of neurological ‘bandwidth’, which explains why we can’t listen to more than one person at a time. Because the composer is concentrating so hard on his music, he is using all his available bandwidth and there’s none left over to monitor his sense of self:

when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new – as this man does – he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired, his body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration and at the same time to feel that he exists.

Politics, critique and this blog

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:13 pm

I’ve been pretty tough on the GOP over the last couple of weeks and it’s disappointing. With Obama’s election and the Democratic clean-sweep of November I was looking forward to pushing back against the new establishment and challengeing areas where I didn’t like the direction they were taking the nation. And don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to touch on — right now some of the more insidious provisions stuck in the stimulus package come to mind.

The problem is the GOP is acting so stupidly and pathetically as a minority party, it’s impossible for me to stay off the topic. Right now for me the GOP is a festering wound with a scab I can’t help but pick at repeatedly. And I’ll have to admit there’s some morbid fascination watching a political party completely implode. I don’t wish this for the Republican Party, but I’m not kidding when I write it could be coming to an effective end as a national political force.

When you have party mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh wishing for insta-failure for Obama’s administration instead of hoping America gets back on economic track and becomes the great nation it has always been once again; when you have minority whip Eric Cantor reliving those glory years of Gingrichism instead of working within the current political climate to improve our nation; when you have has-been punchline Ken Starr making pronouncements about Obmama’s potential Supreme Court nominee fights; and when you have the far-right bloc of the party trying to oust the three Senators who voted for the stimulus package for being RINOs, you don’t have any hope for a ruling coalition.

Rush Limbaugh, traitor

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

Rooting for the president to fail less than a month into his first term is simply rooting for America to fail. The people overwhelmingly voted Obama into office. Democracy spoke and Rush’s “team” got their asses handed to them. His response? Crying like a baby and hoping, wishing, for failure. Not unlike the mad child who wants everyone to just die.

The rabid base might like this, but I think the general public has had enough of right-wing crap. I’m guessing if a Democrat were spouting off like he repeatedly has, Rush would be screaming “treason” at the top of his lungs.

He’s a hypocritical fool and always has been, but rarely quite this naked about it. I’ve always thought Rush played purely for ratings. He might believe some of the bullshit he throws out there, and he probably doesn’t believe some of it. It’s all merely a tool for ratings.

I do think at this point he is hurting the GOP. If his voice is the main voice of the Republican Party as the media and party members have said, the GOP is in a sorrier place than even I have opined about. And I’ve been pretty tough on the party since McCain chose Palin as a running mate.

From the link:

Rush Limbaugh caused a bit of a stir about a month ago, when he told his audience, “I disagree fervently with the people on our [Republican] side of the aisle who have caved and who say, ‘Well, I hope [President Obama] succeeds.’ … I hope Obama fails. Somebody’s gotta say it.”

The right-wing host went on a similar tirade yesterday when talking about the economic recovery package: “I want everything he’s doing to fail… I want the stimulus package to fail…. I do not want this to succeed.”

Limbaugh is, without ambiguity, rooting for failure. In the midst of an economic crisis, Limbaugh quite openly admitted that if Obama’s economic policies are successful, it would undermine the talk-show host’s worldview. As such, Limbaugh wants desperately to see more Americans suffer, more workers unemployed, more businesses close up shop. The key here is philosophy — if government spending can stimulate the economy, as it always does, then the right is wrong. Limbaugh would much prefer a suffering nation than a reevaluation of conservative ideas.

Using LinkedIn company profiles for job search

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:36 am

For LinkedIn users who are looking for work, here’s a CIO.com article on utlizing LinkedIn company profiles when searching for jobs.

From the link:

Since LinkedIn Company Profiles launched nearly a year ago, more than 160,000 companies have established a profile page. If you’re job hunting in today’s struggling economy, LinkedIn company profiles can help you learn about companies on your short list in greater depth, according to career experts who have analyzed the service. Another bonus: a careful examination of LinkedIn contacts who have recently joined (or worked at) a company can help you determine if the organization would be a good fit, as you compare your own qualifications against the candidates hired.

After using the service and talking with experts, we’ve constructed a quick primer on LinkedIn company profiles and how you can start utilizing this resource right away for job hunting or networking.

How to tell your geek doesn’t love you anymore

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:30 am

Yeah, this is late for St.V-day but still pretty funny — 10 ways to tell your guy and girl geek isn’t into you from CIO.com.

From the link, signals from a guy geek:

2. He uses “Wii” more than “we” in conversation.

And signals from a girl geek:

7. She tells her Twitter followers more than she tells you

Military scandal with Iraq reconstruction funds?

I’d like to see some domestic reporting on this story, because it would completely rock the US military to think high-ranking officials engaged in this level of criminal activity. A scandal like this this would send shock waves throughout the armed forces and be an image-destroyer and would call into question the entire culture of the US military.

Here is reporting from the Independent in the UK:

In what could turn out to be the greatest fraud in US history, American authorities have started to investigate the alleged role of senior military officers in the misuse of $125bn (£88bn) in a US -directed effort to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exact sum missing may never be clear, but a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) suggests it may exceed $50bn, making it an even bigger theft than Bernard Madoff’s notorious Ponzi scheme.

“I believe the real looting of Iraq after the invasion was by US officials and contractors, and not by people from the slums of Baghdad,” said one US businessman active in Iraq since 2003.

In one case, auditors working for SIGIR discovered that $57.8m was sent in “pallet upon pallet of hundred-dollar bills” to the US comptroller for south-central Iraq, Robert J Stein Jr, who had himself photographed standing with the mound of money. He is among the few US officials who were in Iraq to be convicted of fraud and money-laundering.

Despite the vast sums expended on rebuilding by the US since 2003, there have been no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline except those at work building a new US embassy and others rusting beside a half-built giant mosque that Saddam was constructing when he was overthrown. One of the few visible signs of government work on Baghdad’s infrastructure is a tireless attention to planting palm trees and flowers in the centre strip between main roads. Those are then dug up and replanted a few months later.

(Hat tip: Wes)

February 15, 2009

Solar shingles

Now we’re talking. I’d love to have something like this new tech on my sun-drenched house selling power back to the grid. Dow Chemical may have a winner here if this solar energy application actually works.

From the link:

Solar shingles is not a new disease, but Dow Chemical Co. hopes they spread like gangrene.

During the past year, engineers, scientists and others at Dow Solar Solutions — a $50 million investment — have worked at a photovoltaic facility, a retrofitted former research and development building in the company’s sprawling 1,900-acre complex here.

Their goal is to produce thermoplastic solar roof shingles for sale throughout North America. With President Barack Obama’s insistence on renewable energy and conservation, the time is ripe for such an enterprise, said Robert J. Cleereman, senior director of solar development for Dow.

Using thin film photovoltaic technology, Dow intergrates solar cells with shingles. By 2011, officials expect to begin selling the product with its partners — home builders Lennar Corp. of Miami, Pulte Homes Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and Jefferson City, Mo.-based Prost Builders Inc., and Global Solar Energy, a maker of flexible materials.

(Hat tip — Steve P.)

The left/right blogosphere and the GOP

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:28 pm

This is merely a quick hit observation based on years of casual comment section scanning and not an in-depth critique. I read a lot of online material, and I try to read hyperpartisan blogs and the comments for both the left and the right. It always gets to a point where I just can’t stomach both sides at times, but I like to keep a proverbial finger on the pulse of both edges.

One thing really sticks out after taking in a good-sized sample over a variety of electoral conditions — who’s in power where, which party is beaten-down, which party is riding high, etc. The thing that really sticks out is taken broadly the left is actually interested in policy and governing with some ridicule of the right. On the other hand the right is mostly about “my team” and defining the left as “the enemy” and winning. Not governing, not debating policy, but just beating the left.

It’s really no wonder why the GOP is flailing right now. When the other side of the aisle is defined as the enemy and not a partner you agree to disagree with while getting the job of government done, there is no politics happening.

And when there’s no reason to debate policy because that is handed to you from down on high — or very, very low and banal as the case may be right now — there’s no reason or room for debate. If you push against any aspect of the party line you’re branded a RINO and money flows for your ouster in the next electoral cycle.

This concept for a political party serves no purpose but to prune away to reduce the aspostate, but doesn’t allow for new growth. This is easily seen in today’s GOP. It’s a true electoral minority and growing smaller every day.

Demographics do not favor any hope of a resurgence under the current platform. The Latin vote? What little was there was is gone for a generation at the very least and most likely much longer. The youth vote? See the incumbent in Pennsylvania Avenue and ask yourself which party is the generation of first-time voter and almost voting teens going to support. Obama won the youth vote overwhelmingly — very overwhelmingly like a two-to-one ratio — and probably has won those hearts and minds for a long, long time.

Ken Starr opens mouth and expels gas

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:14 am

Why is Starr even given a mic to embarass himself with?

From the link:

Kenneth W. Starr has a warning for the Obama administration: what goes around comes around.

During a speech yesterday in Boston, Starr told a group of attorneys that President Barack Obama could face an uphill battle over his Supreme Court nominees because as a senator he opposed two of George W. Bush’s Supreme Court picks, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Starr’s message: elephants don’t forget.

The former independent counsel during Bill Clinton’s Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals, Starr said an aging Supreme Court meant that Obama could be able to name perhaps two or more nominees to the high court. And that could lead to a showdown with Senate Republicans who were livid with Democratslike Obama who filibustered and voted against the Bush picks.

Er, leaving Obama’s actions as a senator aside, if I were part of the GOP braintrust I’d put Ken Starr in deep mothballs. I certainly wouldn’t want to remind the public of the GOP’s cockblocking Clinton at every turn and actually moving forward with a failed impeachment effort.

Taking a longer view I’m betting history sees the last sixteen, and probably an even longer block of time, as the dark ages of the GOP. That is, if the party doesn’t completely implode which is still a very real possibility. Right now you have pundits, the right-wing blogosphere and the far right bloc looking to unseat the three Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus plan. Slick move there — it’s always a good idea to force your party into an even larger minority position at the ballot box.

History will see this period as the dark ages of the GOP because the party is purely obstructionist, partisan and hypocritical.

Partisan because every move the GOP has made over the last two presidential terms, and now the beginning of a third is to promote the GOP. Even if that means putting party over the nation. The voters have recognized that fact and if nothing changes in tone and action, the GOP may find itself in a very compromised position as an ongoing concern.

Obstructionist? See the Clinton years with the inane impeachment dog-and-pony show and the treatment offered the Democrats during the early Bush years when the GOP had the White House, Senate and House.

And hypocritical is the worst sin of all. The “small government” party spent taxpayers money like they controlled the printing press and ran up gigantic deficits to saddle the next several generations of Americans. A lot of the think tank ideas that finally went into practice under Bush 43 clearly should have remained in the filing cabinet.

The GOP coalition is in complete shambles and having a washed-up player in a failed farce making public statements isn’t going to help solve any of the many problems facing the party.

After the election I feared, and made the dark prediction, the GOP would continue to marginalize itself through a hard right-wing turn. The Palinistas were, and still are, very, very bitter. Bitter enough to bite their own noses off to spite the electorate that utterly rejected them.

That is the lesson the GOP needs to learn — the electorate has rejected them and demographics look very dismal indeed for any hope of a comeback unless drastic steps are taken. I’m not seeing those drastic steps.

I’ve contributed to NewMajority.com, and I like a lot of what I’m reading there, but I don’t see any real answers to the core problems right now. Culture11, another great new blog of conservative thought went belly-up recently. Former right wing blogosphere powerhouse Pajamas Media changed their business model to some ridiculous and soon-to-fail two-bit version of TMZ for politics. Joe the Plumber is their “star.” That’s all that needs to be said there.

I hope whatever new party rises from the ashes of the still burning brightly GOP corpse gets back to civil liberties, small government and personal responsibility. I’m not holding my breath — well, except when I keep voting Democrat because the GOP if full of folly, fools and fecklessness.

Nanoparticle toxicity? Not so much

Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time knows I’m a sucker for nanotech news. This comes from the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting.

The release:

Nanoparticle toxicity doesn’t get wacky at the smallest sizes

Big and small nanoparticles affect most genes similarly

CHICAGO — The smallest nano-sized silica particles used in biomedicine and engineering likely won’t cause unexpected biological responses due to their size, according to work presented today. The result should allay fears that cells and tissues will react unpredictably when exposed to the finest silica nanomaterials in industrial or commercial applications.

Nanotoxicologist Brian Thrall and colleagues found that, mostly, size doesn’t matter, by using total surface area as a measure of dose, rather than particle mass or number of particles, and observing how cultured cells responded biologically.

“If you consider surface area as the dose metric, then you get similar types of responses independent of the size of the particle,” said Thrall, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash. “That suggests the chemistry that drives the biological responses doesn’t change when you get down to the smallest nanoparticle.”

Nanoparticles are materials made up of spherical particles that are on average 100 to 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are being used in tires, biomedical research, and cosmetics. Researchers are exploring these tiny spheres because their physical and chemical properties at that size offer advantages that standard materials don’t, such as being able to float through blood vessels to deliver drugs.

But whether these materials are safe for human consumption is not yet clear. Previous work suggested in some cases, nanoparticles become more toxic to cells the smaller the particles get.

Thrall presented this toxicology data on amorphous silica nanoparticles today at the 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. He also presented data on which cellular proteins the nanoparticles use to get inside cells.

One difficulty in measuring toxicity is that not everyone agrees which kind of dose unit to compare. Some researchers measure the dose by total weight, some by the number of particles. Neither method distinguishes whether a nanomaterial’s toxicity is due to the inherent nature of the material or the particle size under scrutiny.

“Different dose metrics give different impressions of which particles are more toxic,” he said.

To find out, Thrall and his colleagues at PNNL measured the dose at which the particles caused a biological response. The biological response was either death of the cell, or a change in which genes the cell turned on and off. They found that when calculating doses by particle number or mass, the amount needed to generate a biological response was all over the map.

They found that the best way to pinpoint how toxic the particles are to cells was to calculate the dose based on the total surface area of the nanomaterial. Only when they considered the surface area of the dose could they predict the biological response.

And the biological response, they found, was very similar regardless of the size of the nanoparticles. Inside cells, some genes responded to nanoparticles by ramping up or down. More than 76 percent of these genes behaved the same for all nanoparticle sizes tested. This indicated to the researchers that, for these genes, the nanoparticles didn’t pick up weird chemical properties as they shrunk in size.

“The big fear is that you’d see unique biological pathways being affected when you get down to the nanoscale. For the most part, we didn’t see that,” said Thrall.

However, the team found some genes for which size did matter. A handful of genes, these fell into two categories: smaller particles appeared to affect genes that might be involved in inflammation. The larger particles appeared to affect genes that transport positively charged atoms into cells. This latter result could be due to metals contaminating the preparation of the larger particles, Thrall suggested.

Overall, the results contribute to a better understanding of what goes on at the nanoscale.




Reference: Brian Thrall, Systems Toxicology of Engineered Nanomaterials in seminar titled Driving Beyond Our Nano-Headlights? Saturday, February 14, 8:30 am – 11:30 am in conference room Hyatt Regency, Crystal Ballroom B, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2009 Annual Meeting, Chicago, Ill.

This work was supported by Laboratory-Directed Research and Development and then the National Institutes of Health.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America’s most intractable problems in energy, national security and the environment. PNNL employs 4,200 staff and has an $850 million annual budget. Ohio-based Battelle has managed PNNL since the lab’s inception in 1965.


Aliens amonst us

Yep, this is a total release dump and there’s one more to come. I couldn’t resist because a slew of very cool news came out of the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting today.

The release:

Cosmologist Paul Davies explores notion of ‘alien’ life on Earth

CHICAGO – Astrobiologists have often pondered “life as we do not know it” in the context of extraterrestrial life, says Paul Davies, an internationally acclaimed theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University. “But,” he asks, “has there been a blind spot to the possibility of ‘alien’ life on Earth?”

Davies will challenge the orthodox view that there is only one form of life in a lecture titled “Shadow Life: Life As We Don’t Yet Know It” on Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His presentation is part of the symposium “Weird Life.”

“Life as we know it appears to have had a single common ancestor, yet, could life on Earth have started many times? Might it exist on Earth today in extreme environments and remain undetected because our techniques are customized to the biochemistry of known life?” asks Davies, who also is the director of the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In the lecture, Davies will present, challenge and extend some of the conclusions from a July 2007 report by the National Research Council. That report looked at whether the search for life should include “weird life” – described by the Council as “life with an alternative biochemistry to that of life on Earth.”

“If a biochemically weird microorganism should be discovered, its status as evidence for a second genesis, as opposed to a new branch on our own tree of life, will depend on how fundamentally it differs from known life,” wrote Davies in the Nov. 19, 2007, issue of Scientific American.

Davies and other pioneers who speculate that life on Earth may have started many times are wondering “why we have overlooked this idea for so long?”

The concept of a shadow biosphere, according to Davies, “is still just a theory. If someone discovers shadow life or weird life it will be the biggest sensation in biology since Darwin. We are simply saying, ‘Why not let’s take a look for it?’ It doesn’t cost much (compared to looking for weird life on Mars, say), and, it might be right under our noses.”

Davies, whose research is steeped in the branches of physics that deal with quantum gravity – an attempt to reconcile theories of the very large and the very small – is a prolific author (27 books, both popular and specialty works) and is a provocative speaker (he delivered the 1995 Templeton Prize address after receiving the prestigious award for initiating “a new dialogue between science and religion that is having worldwide repercussions”).

Among his books are: “How to Build a Time Machine,” “The Origin of Life,” “The Big Questions,” “The Last Three Minutes,” “The Mind of God,” “The Cosmic Blueprint” and his most recent book “The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the universe just right for life?” published in the United States under the title “Cosmic Jackpot.”

He is putting the finishing touches on “The Eerie Silence,” to be published in 2010 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the SETI Institute. According to Davies, the book is “a comprehensive fresh look at the entire SETI enterprise.”




Arizona State University
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Tempe, Arizona USA

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