David Kirkpatrick

March 31, 2009

Worried about Conficker?

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:29 pm

Here’s a page full of information.

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Jim Canton on the future of technology

Filed under: Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:08 pm

A cool article from CIO.com. I’m always a sucker for anything Singularity.

From the first link:

Dr. James Canton has made a living out of predicting the future: He’s the CEO of the Institute of Global Futures, a Fortune 1000 advisor, author of such books as The Extreme Future and Technofutures, and an advisor to the new Google– and Nasa-backed Singularity University.

Despite the bleak economy and uncertain future, technology is key to our future, says Canton. Because of that tech workers and IT leaders are in a unique position to create opportunities for themselves. He weighed in on which trends were most important to techies.

 

James Canton
“Singularity—when AI based computers and networks rival or surpass human intelligence—wins the top prize for outrageous ideas of the year.”
Institute of Global Futures CEO James Canton

This is why the left scares me …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:23 am

… and ought to concern any freedom-loving American.

This link is a post from Michelle Cottle at the New Republic’s Plank blog. I like the Plank. I have it in my blogroll, but sometimes it reminds why the mindset of the political left really frightens me. (Not unlike how say, the Corner, does the same thing for me from the right.)

Cottle’s post is about the concept of banning fast-food restaurants within 500 feet of public schools, well more specifically on a study that hopes to achieve something along those lines. Cottle doesn’t totally agree with the idea but then this graf appears in the blog post:

I can, of course, already hear the logical response from objectors: Sure this move isn’t The Answer, but where is the harm in trying to make it An Answer. Like all political quests, tackling childhood obesity must be looked at in terms of strategic prioritizing. From a purely legalistic perspective, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be complicated, costly, time-consuming law suits (not to mention potential PR problems) if the government moved from controlling what takes place on public school grounds to dictating where private companies who products are in no way proscribed for use by minors can peddle their wares. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done. But whenever we’re talking about imposing new nanny-state limitations on private individuals and/or institutions, there should be serious cost-benefit anlyses conducted beforehand. I have to think there are more obvious, more useful, and less intrusive avenues to be attempted.
(boldemphasis mine)

I reiterate, Cottle isn’t going along with the left-wing groupthink here, but it’s just second nature for her to think (rightly I might add) the political left sees no problem with throwing government action — nanny-state bans in this case — at a “problem” regardless whether the cure might work, or if it’s even curing an actual problem facing our society. And any of the above is nothing more than very, very bad policy and ridiculous government overreach.

Hypothetical clowns like Cottle tacitly describes here were the only reservation I had in voting for Obama. The idea this mindset might feel some sense of entitlement to actual policy decision making was stomach churning. That churning was easily forgotten by simply thinking about “President Palin” and all the fail that reality would entail. (Also.)

DNA as nanoparticle assembly plant

More forward motion in the world of nanotech.


The release:



DNA-based assembly line for precision nano-cluster construction


Method could lead to rapid, reliable assembly of new biosensors and solar cells


UPTON, NY – Building on the idea of using DNA to link up nanoparticles – particles measuring mere billionths of a meter – scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have designed a molecular assembly line for predictable, high-precision nano-construction. Such reliable, reproducible nanofabrication is essential for exploiting the unique properties of nanoparticles in applications such as biological sensors and devices for converting sunlight to electricity. The work will be published online March 29, 2009, by Nature Materials.


The Brookhaven team has previously used DNA, the molecule that carries life’s genetic code, to link up nanoparticles in various arrangements, including 3-D nano-crystals. The idea is that nanoparticles coated with complementary strands of DNA – segments of genetic code sequence that bind only with one another like highly specific Velcro – help the nanoparticles find and stick to one another in highly specific ways. By varying the use of complementary DNA and strands that don’t match, scientists can exert precision control over the attractive and repulsive forces between the nanoparticles to achieve the desired construction. Note that the short DNA linker strands used in these studies were constructed artificially in the laboratory and don’t “code” for any proteins, as genes do.


The latest advance has been to use the DNA linkers to attach some of the DNA-coated nanoparticles to a solid surface to further constrain and control how the nanoparticles can link up. This yields even greater precision, and therefore a more predictable, reproducible high-throughput construction technique for building clusters from nanoparticles.


“When a particle is attached to a support surface, it cannot react with other molecules or particles in the same way as a free-floating particle,” explained Brookhaven physicist Oleg Gang, who led the research at the Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials. This is because the support surface blocks about half of the particle’s reactive surface. Attaching a DNA linker or other particle that specifically interacts with the bound particle then allows for the rational assembly of desired particle clusters.


“By controlling the number of DNA linkers and their length, we can regulate interparticle distances and a cluster’s architecture,” said Gang. “Together with the high specificity of DNA interactions, this surface-anchored technique permits precise assembly of nano-objects into more complex structures.”


Instead of assembling millions and millions of nanoparticles into 3-D nanocrystals, as was done in the previous work, this technique allows the assembly of much smaller structures from individual particles. In the Nature Materials paper, the scientists describe the details for producing symmetrical, two-particle linkages, known as dimers, as well as small, asymmetrical clusters of particles – both with high yields and low levels of other, unwanted assemblies.


“When we arrange a few nanoparticles in a particular structure, new properties can emerge,” Gang emphasized. “Nanoparticles in this case are analogous to atoms, which, when connected in a molecule, often exhibit properties not found in the individual atoms. Our approach allows for rational and efficient assembly of nano-‘molecules.’ The properties of these new materials may be advantageous for many potential applications.”


For example, in the paper, the scientists describe an optical effect that occurs when nanoparticles are linked as dimer clusters. When an electromagnetic field interacts with the metallic particles, it induces a collective oscillation of the material’s conductive electrons. This phenomenon, known as a plasmon resonance, leads to strong absorption of light at a specific wavelength.


“The size and distance between the linked particles affect the plasmonic behavior,” said Gang. By adjusting these parameters, scientists might engineer clusters for absorbing a range of wavelengths in solar-energy conversion devices. Modulations in the plasmonic response could also be useful as a new means for transferring data, or as a signal for a new class of highly specific biosensors.


Asymmetric clusters, which were also assembled by the Brookhaven team, allow an even higher level of control, and therefore open new ways to design and engineer functional nanomaterials.


 


###

 


Because of its reliability and precision control, Brookhaven’s nano-assembly method would be scalable for the kind of high-throughput production that would be essential for commercial applications. Brookhaven Lab has applied for a patent on the assembly method as well as several specific applications of the technology. For information about the patent or licensing this technology, contact Kimberley Elcess at (631) 344-4151, or elcess@bnl.gov.


In addition to Gang, the team included materials scientist Dmytro Nykypanchuk, summer student Marine Cuisinier, and biologist Daniel (Niels) van der Lelie, all from Brookhaven, and former Brookhaven chemist Matthew Maye, now at Syracuse University. Their work was funded by DOE’s Office of Science and through a Goldhaber Distinguished Fellowship sponsored by Brookhaven Science Associates.


The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at BNL is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize, and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Brookhaven, Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, and Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit http://nano.energy.gov.


Related Links


DNA Technique Yields 3-D Crystalline Organization of Nanoparticles, 1/30/2008:
http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=07-127


New DNA-Based Technique For Assembly of Nano- and Micro-sized Particles, 9/12/2007:
http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=07-94


Nanoparticle Assembly Enters the Fast Lane, 10/11/2006:
http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=06-112


One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.


Visit Brookhaven Lab’s electronic newsroom for links, news archives, graphics, and more: http://www.bnl.gov/newsroom


Update — Here’s this topic from KurzweilAI.net:










DNA-Based Assembly Line for Nano-Construction of New Biosensors, Solar Cells (w/Video)


PhysOrg.com, Mar. 30, 2009

A molecular assembly line using DNA linkers for predictable, high-precision nano-construction has been developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy‘s Brookhaven National Laboratory.





Read Original Article>>



 

Why did New Hampshire polls not pick Clinton over Obama?

Here comes the science

The release:

Presidential primary 2008 polls: What went wrong

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—University of Michigan survey experts working with the American Association for Public Opinion Research have identified several reasons polls picked the wrong winners in the 2008 Presidential Primary.

The study is believed to be the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted of presidential primary polls.

“The most jarring element of the presidential primary polling was that polls picked the wrong winner in New Hampshire,” said U-M polling expert Michael Traugott, who chaired the AAPOR committee composed of leading academic and private sector experts in public opinion and survey research. “We wanted to find out why.”

The results of the committee’s analysis show that a handful of methodological missteps and miscalculations combined to undermine the accuracy of predictions about presidential primary winners in New Hampshire and three other states.

One source of error the researchers were able to eliminate was the so-called ‘Bradley Effect,’ in which people say they support a Black candidate in order to appear unbiased, but then cast their ballots for a white candidate in the privacy of the voting booth.

“Many New Hampshire polls predicted Barack Obama would beat Hillary Clinton in that state,” said Traugott. “So when Clinton won, some people pointed to latent racism as the reason. But in the data we have from a wide variety of New Hampshire pre-election and exit polls, we found no evidence that whites over-represented their support for Obama.”

For the report, supported in part by a grant from the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), Traugott and colleagues analyzed individual, household-level response data provided by seven polling organizations. They also compared information on question wording, weighting, interviewer characteristics, sampling frames, and other methodological issues from up to 19 other firms, in many cases relying on publicly available information gleaned from the Internet.

“This analysis suggests some important explanations for the errors in the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential Primary and raises significant questions about pre-election polling methods,” said Richard Kulka, AAPOR president.

“The materials we received from polling organizations showed that there was much more variation in the methodology of pre-election polls than I ever imagined there would be,” Traugott said.

The committee analyzed poll performance in four primary states: Wisconsin, South Carolina, California, and New Hampshire. Although the limited data they received made it impossible to conduct definitive tests of all likely sources of different poll performance, the following factors were identified as the most likely reasons the polls got it wrong:

  • The New Hampshire primaries occurred only five days after the Iowa caucuses, truncating the polling period in New Hampshire. 
  • Most commercial polling firms conducted interviews on the first or second call, but respondents who required more effort to contact were more likely to support Clinton. Instead of reworking their initial samples to reach these hard-to-contact people, pollsters typically added new households to the sample, skewing the results toward the opinions of those who were easy to reach on the phone, and who typically supported Obama. 
  • Non-response patterns, identified by comparing characteristics of the pre-election samples with the exit poll samples, suggest that some groups that supported Clinton—such as union members and those with less education—were under-represented in pre-election polls, possibly because they were more difficult to reach. 
  • The order of candidate names on state primary ballots likely contributed to increased support for Clinton in New Hampshire, where her name appeared near the top of a long list of names and Obama’s appeared near the bottom. 

Traugott noted that the analysis also revealed wide variation in the primary question respondents are asked—the so-called trial heat question about which candidate they prefer in the coming election. In New Hampshire, there were 11 different question wordings used in the Democratic primary, and 10 different wordings used in the Republic primary. In some versions, the candidates’ names were not mentioned at all. In others, only the “major” candidates were named. Some polls randomized the candidates’ names.

“We also learned that some polling firms are buying lists of registered voters with phone numbers, and then they are contacting people with interactive voice response technology—basically computerized calls—and that they’re taking information from the person who answers the phone which may or may not be the person identified in the sample,” Traugott said. “This should be a focus of further research.” Another firm interviewed any registered voter in the household.

 

###

 

ISR survey research expert Robert Groves was a member of the AAPOR committee.

The full report is available on the AAPOR website at www.aapor.org A special panel session on the findings will be held at the AAPOR annual conference in May. Details are available at http://www.aapor.org/2009aaporconference

Established in 1949, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world’s oldest academic survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely cited studies in the nation, including the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study, and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other social science research projections.

March 30, 2009

Social networking and news distribution

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

Interesting idea, but it completely sounds like college a thought-experiment that won’t really port over to the real world.

I could be totally wrong if social networking continues to grow as a hub  featuring a confluence of online and real-world interaction  along with information seeking and gathering. Right now social networking is cool, it’s fun and it is useful, but it isn’t a total clearinghouse for users.

The release:

U of Minnesota researchers test new ways to involve people in news through social media

Facebook app could be future business model for newspapers

University of Minnesota researcher Christine Greenhow, Seattle-based news aggregator NewsCloud and student newspaper The Minnesota Daily today announced the launch of the Minnesota Daily Facebook application. The Minnesota Daily application aims to become the hub of news and sharing for U of M students and community, combining both professional student and citizen journalism. Researchers will use it to test new ways to engage youth in news and information through social media.

The Daily, the U of M’s 109 year-old independent, student-run newspaper, has teamed up with researchers to provide the application with its Web content. The application, funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, includes an incentive-based feature for users that allows them to receive points for completed challenges and to comment and share stories with Facebook friends. After a user gains a certain number of points, they are eligible for prizes offered by The Minnesota Daily.

“It could revolutionize the way young people engage and interact with news through their social network,” said Vadim Lavrusik, editor in chief and co-publisher of The Minnesota Daily.

Moreover, Lavrusik said, the application could provide a future business model for media organizations that are struggling to find viable revenue on the Web. Media groups with such applications could work with business to post challenges to the users that they would gain points for, such as visiting a business’ Website or attending a restaurant’s happy hour, resulting in direct business to the advertisers. “It changes the way we think about Web advertising, but business could see direct results,” Lavrusik said.

U of M researchers, led by Greenhow, will use the data provided by application users to investigate how online social network sites such as Facebook can engage youth in world events, build community and generate real world impact. The study, with an anticipated publication date of fall 2009, seeks to discover which strategies work best to engage 16 to 25 year-olds in current events and how the Internet can be used to educate, inform and connect students in new and powerful ways.

“Understanding how youth not only consume online information but manipulate, produce and talk through it for social and educational purposes will move us closer to understanding how to develop students’ digital age competencies, such as their online communication, collaboration, and citizenship, thus informing the design and development of successful media-rich environments,” Greenhow said.

The Minnesota Daily application is the second media publication on Facebook launched by Greenhow’s team of researchers. The first, called “Hot Dish: Serving up the hottest climate news” launched in March 2009 and focuses on building community and sharing news around climate change.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased from 25 to 34 percent since 1998.

“It’s important that we find new ways to reverse these trends by engaging young people where they increasingly spend time — online in social networks,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director.

“We’re excited to apply our technology to support Dr. Greenhow’s research,” said NewsCloud founder Jeff Reifman, the Seattle organization behind the application’s development. “We hope these publications serve as a model for using Facebook to engage younger readers in important current events.”

 

###

 

To view The Minnesota Daily Facebook application, visit: http://apps.facebook.com/mndaily/

Prison reform …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:55 pm

… is a long-overdue topic for Congress to take on. Jim Webb introduced “The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009” to address the issue, and here’s a PDF of his Senate floor speech introducing the legislation.

From Webb’s speech:

Let’s start with a premise that I don’t think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have 5% of the world’s population; we have 25% of the world’s known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.

These numbers are simply shameful. All Americans ought to be embarrassed when reading this graf from Webb’s intro speech. I hope something tangible comes from this bill.

BofA in on Ponzi action

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:22 pm

Not sure if this is opportunism or something serious. Seems the New York legal system really has is out for Wall Street and the financial sector right now.

From the link:

Bank of America effectively set up a branch in a Long Island office that helped Nicholas Cosmo carry out a $380 million Ponzi scheme, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn late Thursday, contends that Bank of America ”established, equipped and staffed” a branch office in the headquarters of Mr. Cosmo’s firm, Agape Merchant Advance. As a result, the lawsuit contends that the bank knowingly ”assisted, facilitated and furthered” Mr. Cosmo’s fraudulent scheme.

 

”Bank of America was at the epicenter of this scheme,” said the lawsuit, which seeks $400 million in damages from the bank and other defendants. ”Without Bank of America’s participation, the scheme would not have succeeded and grown to such an enormous size.”

Twitter looks to monetize

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:35 pm

It’s the talk of the town right now, so no better time and all that

From the link:

Twitter, the hugely popular messaging service, is regularly mocked for not yet finding a way to make money rather than spend it sending out its members “tweets” to computers and cellphones. Now, a Wall Street Journal report quotes Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, who says the company recently hired a product manager to oversee the development of premium services — that is, extra features that companies or other users would need to pay for.

Find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

Wild tax deductions

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:37 pm

Tax season is nigh and insane tax deductions are always a rich vein to mine. Here’s nine “wacky” deductions curtesy of MSN Money.

From the link:

3. At least it wasn’t ‘travel and entertainment’

Sometimes business owners will try to slide a fast one by the IRS by classifying a business deduction in a category where the dollar signs might not raise an eyebrow.

 

One such fastball didn’t pass the eyebrow test with this Oklahoma accountant, however.

“We were reviewing a business client’s accounting entries and noted a check for over $2,000 written to a gynecologist. It was classified on the business books as ‘repairs and maintenance.'”

GM and Citi out of Global Dow

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:31 pm

Ouch.

SEC stops another Ponzi scheme

I guess it’s sort of like those 3D abstract imges from the early 90s. Once you are able to see the actual image in there, you can see them everytime …

The SEC’s release:

US SEC: SEC Halts $68 Million Ponzi Scheme Involving Caribbean-Based Bank and Swiss Affiliate
M2 PressWIRE via NewsEdge :

RDATE:26032009

Washington, D.C — The Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an emergency court order halting a $68 million Ponzi scheme involving the sale of fictitious high-yield certificates of deposit (CDs) by Caribbean-based Millennium Bank.

The SEC alleges that the scheme targeted U.S. investors and misled them into believing they were putting their money in supposedly safe and secure CDs that purportedly offered returns that were up to 321 percent higher than legitimate bank-issued CDs. The SEC’s complaint alleges that William J. Wise of Raleigh, N.C., and Kristi M. Hoegel of Napa, Calif., orchestrated the scheme through Millennium Bank, its Geneva, Switzerland-based parent United Trust of Switzerland S.A., and U.S.-based affiliates UT of S, LLC and Millennium Financial Group. In addition to Wise and Kristi Hoegel and these entities, the SEC has charged Jacqueline S. Hoegel (who is the mother of Kristi Hoegel), Brijesh Chopra, and Philippe Angeloni for their roles in the scheme.

“As alleged in our complaint, the defendants disguised their Ponzi scheme as a legitimate offshore investment and made promises about exuberant returns that were just too good to be true,” said Rose Romero, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office. “This case demonstrates that investors need to be especially cautious when placing money with entities that may be outside the reach of U.S. regulators.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, at least $68 million was raised from more than 375 investors since July 2004. Millennium Bank, a licensed St. Vincent and the Grenadines bank, solicited new investors for its CD program through blatant misrepresentations and glaring omissions in its online solicitations and in advertising campaigns targeting high net-worth individuals. For example, in offering materials, Millennium Bank claimed that its parent, United Trust of Switzerland S.A., provides Millennium Bank with “over 75 years of banking experience, correspondent banking relationships, decades of knowledge in privacy and confidentiality as well as extensive training for our customer services professionals.” In fact, the SEC alleges, United Trust of Switzerland S.A. is not a Swiss-licensed bank or securities dealer. Potential investors visiting Millennium Bank’s Web site also were falsely informed that Millennium Bank is not affected by the global financial crisis and has a 100 percent client satisfaction record going back close to 10 years, and has its own affiliate asset management company with highly seasoned professionals who invest meticulously.

The SEC alleges that investor funds were not used for legitimate banking or investment activities. Instead, to create the appearance of a legitimate offshore investment, investors purchasing the CDs were instructed to deliver their investment checks to the offshore bank. The SEC alleges that the checks were then packaged and delivered to UT of S LLC’s office in Napa, Calif., where the checks were electronically deposited by a remote deposit machine into a UT of S, LLC account. The account, which is held at a U.S. financial institution, also received millions of dollars of investor funds via wire transfer. From that account, the SEC alleges, the defendants misappropriated a vast majority of the investor funds to enrich themselves and pay personal expenses, while making relatively small Ponzi payments to investors.

Judge Reed O’Connor, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, granted the SEC’s request for an asset freeze and emergency relief for investors.

The SEC charges that the defendants violated the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The SEC’s complaint also alleges that the defendants violated the registration provisions of the Securities Act. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement together with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.

Additionally, the SEC’s complaint names four individuals and four entities as relief defendants: Lynn P. Wise of Raleigh, N.C. (the wife of William J. Wise); Ryan D. Hoegel of Lincoln, Calif. (the brother of Kristi Hoegel); Daryl C. Hoegel of American Canyon, Calif. (the husband of Jacqueline Hoegel), Laurie H. Walton of Raleigh; and United T of S, LLC, Sterling I.S., LLC, Matrix Administration, LLC, and Jasmine Administration, LLC. All four entities are based in Las Vegas. The SEC’s enforcement action seeks an order compelling them to return funds and assets traceable to the Millennium Bank fraud.

http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2009/2009-68.htm

 

((M2 Communications Ltd disclaims all liability for information provided within M2 PressWIRE. Data supplied by named party/parties. Further information on M2 PressWIRE can be obtained at http://www.presswire.net on the world wide web. Inquiries to info@m2.com)).

<<M2 PressWIRE — 03/30/09>>

A “Map of Science” from Los Alamos

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

Here’s the release from earlier this month — you’ll have to hit the link for the map.

From the link:

Los Alamos Researchers Create ‘Map of Science’

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., March 11, 2009 — Data provides high-resolution picture of scientists’ information retrieval habits

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have produced the world’s first Map of Science—a high-resolution graphic depiction of the virtual trails scientists leave behind when they retrieve information from online services. The research, led by Johan Bollen, appears this week in PLoS ONE (the Public Library of Science).

“This research will be a crucial component of future efforts to study and predict scientific innovation, as well novel methods to determine the true impact of articles and journals,” Bollen said.

While science is of tremendous societal importance, it is difficult to probe the often hidden world of scientific creativity. Most studies of scientific activity rely on citation data, which takes a while to become available because both the cited publication and the publication of a particular citation can take years to appear. In other words, citation data observes science as it existed years in the past, not the present.

Bollen and colleagues from LANL and the Santa Fe Institute collected usage-log data gathered from a variety of publishers, aggregators, and universities spanning a period from 2006 to 2008. Their collection totaled nearly 1 billion online information requests. Because scientists typically read articles online well before they can be cited in subsequent publications, usage data reveal scientific activity nearly in real-time. Moreover, because log data reflect the interactions of all users—such as authors, science practitioners, and the informed public—they do not merely reflect the activities of scholarly authors.

Whenever a scientist accesses a paper online from a publisher, aggregator, university, or similar publishing service, the action is recorded by the servers of these Web portals. The resulting usage data contains a detailed record of the sequences of articles that scientists download as they explore their present interests. After counting the number of times that scientists, across hundreds of millions of requests, download one article after another, the research team calculated the probability that an article or journal accessed by a scientist would be followed by a subsequent article or journal as part of the scientists’ online behavior. Based on such behavior, the researchers created a map that graphically portrays a network of connected articles and journals.

Bollen and colleagues were surprised by the map’s scope and detail. Whereas maps based on citations favor the natural sciences, the team’s maps of science showed a prominent and central position for the humanities and social sciences, which, in many places, acted like interdisciplinary bridges connecting various other scientific domains. Sections of the maps were shaped by the activities of practitioners who read the scientific literature but do not frequently publish in its journals.

The maps furthermore revealed unexpected relations between scientific domains that point to emerging relationships that are capturing the collective interest of the scientific community—for instance a connection between ecology and architecture.

“We were surprised by the fine-grained structure of scientific activity that emerges from our maps,” said Bollen.

According to Bollen, future work will focus on issues involved in the sustainable management of large-scale usage data, as well the production of models that explain the online behavior of scientists and how it relates to the emergence of scientific innovation. This information will help funding agencies, policy makers, and the public to better understand how best to tap the ebb and flow of scientific inquiry and discovery.

The research team includes Bollen, Herbert Van de Sompel, Ryan Chute, and Lyudmila Balakireva of LANL’s Digital Library Research and Prototyping Team and Aric Hagberg, Luis Bettencourt and Marko A Rodriguez of LANL’s Mathematical Modeling and Analysis Group, and LANL’s Center for Nonlinear Studies. Bettencourt also is part of the Santa Fe Institute.

Bollen and colleagues received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to examine the potential of large-scale usage data. The study is part of the MESUR (Metrics from Scholarly Usage of Resources) project of which Bollen is the principal investigator. The MESUR usage database is now considered the largest of its kind.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and the Washington Division of URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

Helmut Smits, “Dead Pixel in Google Earth”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:03 am

Very cool environmental art.

From the link:

Dead pixel in Google earth 

Helmut Smits. Dead Pixel in Google Earth. 2009.

82 x 82 cm burned square, the size of one pixel from an altitude of 1 km.

March 29, 2009

Play video games, improve your vision

Seems counterintuitive, but check out this study. Video gamers (especially kids), here’s some ammo against the argument your ruining your eyes playing hours of Halo.

The release from today:

Action video games improve vision

Ability to perceive changes in shades of gray improves up to 58 percent

IMAGE: This is a Pelli-Robson chart showing decreasing contrast from upper left to lower right. True contrast varies between monitors.

Click here for more information. 

Video games that involve high levels of action, such as first-person-shooter games, increase a player’s real-world vision, according to research in today’s Nature Neuroscience.

The ability to discern slight differences in shades of gray has long been thought to be an attribute of the human visual system that cannot be improved. But Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has discovered that very practiced action gamers become 58 percent better at perceiving fine differences in contrast.

“Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery—somehow changing the optics of the eye,” says Bavelier. “But we’ve found that action video games train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after game play stopped.”

The finding builds on Bavelier’s past work that has shown that action video games decrease visual crowding and increases visual attention. Contrast sensitivity, she says, is the primary limiting factor in how well a person can see. Bavelier says that the findings show that action video game training may be a useful complement to eye-correction techniques, since game training may teach the visual cortex to make better use of the information it receives.

IMAGE: This is an animation illustrating the difference between 38 percent contrast and 60 percent contrast — the approximate difference perceived by non-action gamers and action gamers.

Click here for more information. 

To learn whether high-action games could affect contrast sensitivity, Bavelier, in collaboration with graduate student Renjie Li and colleagues Walt Makous, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, and Uri Polat, professor at the Eye Institute at Tel Aviv University, tested the contrast sensitivity function of 22 students, then divided them into two groups: One group played the action video games “Unreal Tournament 2004” and “Call of Duty 2.” The second group played “The Sims 2,” which is a richly visual game, but does not include the level of visual-motor coordination of the other group’s games. The volunteers played 50 hours of their assigned games over the course of 9 weeks. At the end of the training, the students who played the action games showed an average 43% improvement in their ability to discern close shades of gray—close to the difference she had previously observed between game players and non-game players—whereas the Sims players showed none.

IMAGE: This is a photo illustrating 58 percent better contrast perception versus “regular ” contrast perception.

Click here for more information. 

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that contrast sensitivity can be improved by simple training,” says Bavelier. “When people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we’ve seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over.”

Bavelier says that the findings suggest that despite the many concerns about the effects of action video games and the time spent in front of a computer screen, that time may not necessarily be harmful, at least for vision.

Bavelier is now taking what she has learned with her video game research and collaborating with a consortium of researchers to look into treatments for amblyopia, a problem caused by poor transmission of the visual image to the brain.

 

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This research was funded by the National Eye Institute and the Office of Naval Research.

GM CEO is out

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:42 pm

Rick Wagoner steps down the day before Obama announces a new auto industry bailout plan.

From the link:

Mr. Wagoner, who has served as G.M.’s top executive since 2000, agreed to step down after it was requested by the president’s auto task force, these people said.

Torture and (the lack of) intelligence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:00 pm

Did we get any useful information from initiating systemic torture under the Bush 43 regime? Apparently not.

Cheney and his apparatchiks continue to insist that they got reliable and vital information from these torture sessions, but they can never verify it:

 

Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.

We sold our souls for lies.

March 28, 2009

The wheels of justice creak …

… a little farther forward.

That line that Bush 43 officials might not want to travel overseas? It’s becoming reality. At some point the highest levels of U.S. jurisprudence will have to look into the fact of Bush administration war crimes.

From the link:

Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Públicoidentifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

Andrew Sullivan makes a point on exactly what this means:

More ominous for Yoo and Addington et al is that the judge involved is the one who nailed Pinochet. That dude doesn’t mess around. Spain’s action means these war criminals are vulnerable in 24 European countries for arrest and prosecution for enabling torture. It’s a start.

Discovery lands

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:45 pm

The release from this afternoon:

NASA’S Shuttle Discovery Glides Home After Successful Mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Space shuttle Discovery and its crew landed at 3:14 p.m. EDT Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a 13-day journey of more than 5.3 million miles.

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

The STS-119 flight delivered the space station’s fourth and final set of solar array wings, completing the station’s truss, or backbone. The additional electricity provided by the arrays will fully power science experiments and help support station operations.

During three spacewalks, astronauts installed the S6 truss segment to the starboard, or right, side of the station and accomplished important tasks to prepare the station for future upgrades and additions later this year.

The flight also replaced a failed unit for a system that converts urine to potable water. Samples from the station’s Water Recovery System will be analyzed. It’s expected to take about a month for the analysis to be completed and the water to be cleared for the station crew to drink.

STS-119 spacewalkers were unable to deploy a jammed external cargo carrier on the Port 3 truss segment. It was tied safely in place. Because the issue is not yet understood, Mission Control cancelled the installation of a similar payload attachment system on the starboard side. Engineers are evaluating the problem and will address it during a future spacewalk.

On March 24, the 10 shuttle and station crew members gathered in the station’s Harmony module and spoke to President Barack Obama, members of Congress and school children from the Washington, D.C. area. From the White House’s Roosevelt Room, the president and his guests congratulated the crew on the mission and asked about a range of topics including sleeping in weightlessness to the station’s travelling speed.

Lee Archambault commanded the flight and was joined by Pilot Tony Antonelli and Mission Specialists Joseph Acaba, Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, John Phillips and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata. Wakata remained aboard the station, replacing Flight Engineer Sandra Magnus, who returned to Earth on Discovery after more than four months on the station.

Acaba and Arnold are former science teachers who are now fully-trained NASA astronauts. They made their first journey into orbit and conducted critical spacewalking tasks on this flight. STS-119 was the 125th space shuttle mission, the 36th flight for Discovery and the 28th shuttle visit to the station.

With Discovery and its crew safely home, the stage is set for the launch of STS-125, targeted for May 12. Atlantis’ mission will return the space shuttle to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope for one last visit before the shuttle fleet retires in 2010. Over 11 days and five spacewalks, Atlantis’ crew will upgrade the telescope, preparing it for at least another five years of research.

  For information about the space station, visit:

  http://www.nasa.gov/station

  For more about the STS-119 mission and the upcoming STS-125 flight, visit:

  http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle

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/

March 27, 2009

PINO

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:44 pm

Marc Ambinder totally nailed today’s Republican Party – ” … the GOP is a PINO — a Party In Name Only at this point.”

This is one …

Filed under: et.al., Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:27 pm

… offensive science project! (And probably fake, I might add.)

(Hat tip: caseywright)

Margarito’s gloves contained plaster

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:40 pm

It’s been confirmed, Antonio Margarito’s gloves had elements of plaster of paris in them before his fight with “Sugar” Shane Mosley in January. Mosley’s trainer complained before the fight started and the illegal gloves were confiscated. Mosley went on to take the WBA welterweight title from Margarito by ninth round TKO.

Rightly, or not, this taints Margarito’s entire boxing career, and with this evidence both he and his trainer should be banned from the sport for life. The trainer put the contraband into the gloves and there’s no way Margarito wasn’t aware of what was happening.

Twistori.com

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:25 pm

This is a funky little Twitter-related website. I think it’s better to just check it out rather than have me try to describe the site.

Interesting idea and sort of fun. Voyeuristic peeks into active web content is always fun.

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/davidkonline.

Watch out for FileFix Pro 2009

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:16 pm

This is a new, and disturbing, twist on malware/virus attacks. It’s an encryption trojan horse that extorts money from you to decrypt the files (.doc, .pdf, etc.) in your My Documents folder.

If you have a problem with FileFix Pro 2009 do keep in mind there are no-cost fixes (read: file decrypters) out there so don’t send these cybercriminals any money.

If you need a fix, here are options from the link:

Users who have fallen for the FileFix Pro 2009 con do not have to fork over cash to restore their files, according to other researchers, who have figured out how to decrypt the data. The Bleeping Computer site, for instance, has a free program called “Anti FileFix” available for download that unscrambles files corrupted by the Trojan. And security company FireEye Inc. has created a free online decrypter that also returns files to their original condition.

Also from the link:

The new scam takes a different tack: It uses a Trojan horse that’s seeded by tricking users into running a file that poses as something legitimate like a software update. Once on the victim’s PC, the Trojan swings into action, encrypting a wide variety of document types — ranging from Microsoft Word .doc files to Adobe Reader .pdf documents — anytime one’s opened. It also scrambles the files in Windows’ “My Documents” folder.

When a user tries to open one of the encrypted files, an alert pops up saying that a utility called FileFix Pro 2009 will unscramble the data. The message poses as an semi-official notice from the operating system: “Windows detected that some of your MS Office and media files are corrupted. Click here to download and install recommended file repair application,” the message reads.

Clicking on the alert downloads and installs FileFix Pro, but the utility is anything but legit. It will decrypt only one of the corrupted files for free, then demands the user purchase the software. Price? $50.

GOP budget plan?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:37 pm

Apparently this …

GOP budget chart

GOP budget chart

The Republican Party isn’t even trying anymore is it? This has already been very widely (and rightly so) mocked on the blogosphere as being a bit too reminiscent of South Park’s underwear gnomes profitability plan.
The “Rebpulican Road to Recovery” rectangle is where all the “magic” happens here. Too bad the curtain has long been pulled aside exposing exactly what that “magic” entails. And it’s not policy, brains or, judging by this chart, any iota of seriousness.
The long walk in the wilderness just got a little longer for the GOP.
(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

Nanogenerators

Very cool nanotech. Not sure how close this is to market, but man it’s very cool.

The release:

New nanogenerator may charge iPods and cell phones with a wave of the hand

IMAGE: Pictured is a schematic illustration shows the microfiber-nanowire hybrid nanogenerator, which is the basis of using fabrics for generating electricity.

Click here for more information. 

SALT LAKE CITY, March 26, 2009 — Imagine if all you had to do to charge your iPod or your BlackBerry was to wave your hand, or stretch your arm, or take a walk? You could say goodbye to batteries and never have to plug those devices into a power source again.

In research presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting, scientists from Georgia describe technology that converts mechanical energy from body movements or even the flow of blood in the body into electric energy that can be used to power a broad range of electronic devices without using batteries.

“This research will have a major impact on defense technology, environmental monitoring, biomedical sciences and even personal electronics,” says lead researcher Zhong Lin Wang, Regents’ Professor, School of Material Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The new “nanogenerator” could have countless applications, among them a way to run electronic devices used by the military when troops are far in the field.

The researchers describe harvesting energy from the environment by converting low-frequency vibrations, like simple body movements, the beating of the heart or movement of the wind, into electricity, using zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires that conduct the electricity. The ZnO nanowires are piezoelectric — they generate an electric current when subjected to mechanical stress. The diameter and length of the wire are 1/5,000th and 1/25th the diameter of a human hair.

In generating energy from movement, Wang says his team concluded that it was most effective to develop a method that worked at low frequencies and was based on flexible materials. The ZnO nanowires met these requirements. At the same time, he says a real advantage of this technology is that the nanowires can be grown easily on a wide variety of surfaces, and the nanogenerators will operate in the air or in liquids once properly packaged. Among the surfaces on which the nanowires can be grown are metals, ceramics, polymers, clothing and even tents.

“Quite simply, this technology can be used to generate energy under any circumstances as long as there is movement,” according to Wang.

To date, he says that there have been limited methods created to produce nanopower despite the growing need by the military and defense agencies for nanoscale sensing devices used to detect bioterror agents. The nanogenerator would be particularly critical to troops in the field, where they are far from energy sources and need to use sensors or communication devices. In addition, having a sensor which doesn’t need batteries could be extremely useful to the military and police sampling air for potential bioterrorism attacks in the United States, Wang says.

While biosensors have been miniaturized and can be implanted under the skin, he points out that these devices still require batteries, and the new nanogenerator would offer much more flexibility.

A major advantage of this new technology is that many nanogenerators can produce electricity continuously and simultaneously. On the other hand, the greatest challenge in developing these nanogenerators is to improve the output voltage and power, he says.

Last year Wang’s group presented a study on nanogenerators driven by ultrasound. Today’s research represents a much broader application of nanogenerators as driven by low-frequency body movement.

 

###

 

The study was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

 

Facebook 2009=PR blunder

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:41 pm

Two big public relations hits already this year. And this one is a cave-in to a very vocal super-minority (in the ballpark of one percent) of users.

Ouch.

From the link:

Facebook says it will tweak its homepage in the coming weeks in direct response to user uproar over recent designs changes. The social network caved to customer feedback against the site’s recent improvements and says it decided to listen to the millions asking for less change.

Also from the link:

Certainly most of the unhappy users will be fairly content with Facebook’s decision to listen to their feedback, but critics actually think this is a bad decision. Judged by numbers, around just one percent of Facebook users complained about the site’s latest redesign, still — in numbers alone, two million sounds a lot.

But as some point out, Facebook has enforced several times now redesigns on its users and ignored their complaints. This time round though, just like with the site’s Terms of Service, the number of users complaining grew tenfold (around 200,000 last year and just under two million over the last week) Facebook might have thought that they couldn’t risk losing such a large number of users.

Nanotubes strengthen epoxy composites

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:11 am

The lastest in carbon nanotube applications.

The release:

Fitter Frames: Nanotubes Boost Structural Integrity of Composites

Researchers at Rensselaer have discovered a new technique for provoking unusual crazing behavior in epoxy composites. The crazing, which causes the composite to deform into a network of nanoscale pillar-like fibers that bridge together both sides of a crack and slow its growth, could lead to tougher, more durable components for aircraft and automobiles.

New research finding could lead to more durable aircraft, automotive components

A new research discovery at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could lead to tougher, more durable composite frames for aircraft, watercraft, and automobiles. 

Epoxy composites are increasingly being incorporated into the design of new jets, planes, and other vehicles. Composite material frames are extremely lightweight, which lowers the overall weight of the vehicle and boosts fuel efficiency. The downside is that epoxy composites can be brittle, which is detrimental to its structural integrity. 

Professor Nikhil Koratkar, of Rensselaer’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, has demonstrated that incorporating chemically treated carbon nanotubes into an epoxy composite can significantly improve the overall toughness, fatigue resistance, and durability of a composite frame. 

When subjected to repetitive stress, a composite frame infused with treated nanotubes exhibited a five-fold reduction in crack growth rate as compared to a frame infused with untreated nanotubes, and a 20-fold reduction when compared to a composite frame made without nanotubes.

This newfound toughness and crack resistance is due to the treated nanotubes, which enhance the molecular mobility of the epoxy at the interface where the two materials touch.  When stressed, this enhanced mobility enables the epoxy to craze – or result in the formation of a network of pillar-like fibers that bridge together both sides of the crack and slow its growth.

“This crazing behavior, and the bridging fibers it produces, dramatically slows the growth rate of a crack,” Koratkar said. “In order for the crack to grow, those fibers have to first stretch, deform plastically, and then break. It takes a lot of energy to stretch and break those fibers, energy that would have otherwise gone toward enlarging the crack.”

Results of the study were published this week in the journal Small.

Epoxy composites infused with carbon nanotubes are known to be more resistant to cracks than pure epoxy composites, as the nanotubes stitch, or bridge, the two sides of the crack together. Infusing an epoxy with carbon nanotubes that have been functionalized, or treated, with the chemical group amidoamine, however, results in a completely different bridging phenomenon.

At the interface of the functionalized nanotubes and the epoxy, the epoxy starts to craze, which is a highly unusual behavior for this particular type of composite, Koratkar said. The epoxy deforms, becomes more fluid, and creates connective fibers up to 10 microns in length and with a diameter between 100 nanometers and 1,000 nanometers.

“We didn’t expect this at all. Crazing is common in certain types of thermoplastic polymers, but very unusual in the type of epoxy composite we used,” Koratkar said. “In addition to improved fatigue resistance and toughness, the treated nanotubes also enhanced the stiffness, hardness, and strength of the epoxy composite, which is very important for structural applications.” 

Koratkar said the aircraft, boat, and automobile industries are increasingly looking to composites as a building material to make vehicle frames and components lighter. His research group plans to further investigate crazing behavior in epoxy composites, in order to better understand why the chemical treatment of nanotubes initiates crazing.

Co-authors of the paper include Rensselaer Associate Professor Catalin Picu, of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering; Rensselaer doctoral students Wei Zhang and Iti Srivastava; and Yue-Feng Zhu, professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tsinghua University in China.

Visit Koratkar’s Web site for more information on his nanomaterials research.

Published March 26, 2009

“Smart Dew” intruder detection

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:06 am

This is heading into science fiction territory, but it is very cool.

The release:

Intruder Alert: TAU’s “Smart Dew” Will Find You!

Dewdrop-sized motes serve as invisible security guards


A TAU researcher’s fingertip (bottom
right) points to a “Smart Dew” droplet

A remarkable new invention from Tel Aviv University — a network of tiny sensors as small as dewdrops called “Smart Dew” — will foil even the most determined intruder. Scattered outdoors on rocks, fence posts and doorways, or indoors on the floor of a bank, the dewdrops are a completely new and cost-effective system for safeguarding and securing wide swathes of property.

Prof. Yoram Shapira and his Tel Aviv University Faculty of Engineering team drew upon the space-age science of motes to develop the new security tool. Dozens, hundreds and even thousands of these Smart Dew sensors — each equipped with a controller and RF transmitter/receiver — can also be wirelessly networked to detect the difference between man, animal, car and truck.

“We’ve created a generic system that has no scale limitations,” says Prof. Shapira. This makes it especially useful for large farms or even the borders of nations where it’s difficult, and sometimes impractical, to install fences or constantly patrol them.

“Most people could never afford the manpower to guard such large properties,” explains Prof. Shapira. “Instead, we’ve created this Smart Dew to do the work. It’s invisible to an intruder, and can provide an alarm that someone has entered the premises.”

“The Cheapest and Smartest Solution on the Market”

Photo: Prof. Yoram Shapira, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Yoram Shapira

Each individual “dew droplet” can detect an intrusion within a parameter of 50 meters (about 165 feet). And at a cost of 25 cents per “droplet,” Prof. Shapira says that his solution is the cheapest and the smartest on the market.

A part of the appeal of Smart Dew is its near-invisibility, Prof. Shapira says. “Smart Dew is a covert monitoring system. Because the sensors in the Smart Dew wireless network are so small, you would need bionic vision to notice them. There would be so many tiny droplets over the monitored area that it would be impossible to find each and every one.”

Electronic Ears, Noses, Skin and Eyes

Unlike conventional alarm systems, each droplet of Smart Dew can be programmed to monitor a different condition. Sounds could be picked up by a miniature microphone. The metal used in the construction of cars and tractors could be detected by a magnetic sensor. Smart Dew droplets could also be programmed to detect temperature changes, carbon monoxide emissions, vibrations or light.

Each droplet sends a radio signal to a “base station” that collects and analyzes the data. Like the signals sent out by cordless phones, RF is a safe, low-power solution, making Prof. Shapira’s technology extremely cost-effective compared to other concepts.

“It doesn’t require much imagination to envision the possibilities for this technology to be used,” says Prof. Shapira. “They are really endless.”

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