David Kirkpatrick

April 30, 2009

Souter to retire from Supreme Court

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:01 pm

This news comes as something of a surprise. If Obama serves two terms he may put quite a few new justices in the black robes of the big nine.

From the link:

NPR has learned that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the current court term.The vacancy will give President Obama his first chance to name a member of the high court and begin to shape its future direction.

At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court. In fact, he is in the younger half of the court’s age range, with five justices older and just three younger. So far as anyone knows, he is in good health. But he has made clear to friends for some time that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire. Now, according to reliable sources, he has decided to take the plunge and has informed the White House of his decision.

Factors in his decision no doubt include the election of President Obama, who would be more likely to appoint a successor attuned to the principles Souter has followed as a moderate-to-liberal member of the court’s more liberal bloc over the past two decades.

In addition, Souter was apparently satisfied that neither the court’s oldest member, 89-year-old John Paul Stevens, nor its lone woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had cancer surgery over the winter, wanted to retire at the end of this term. Not wanting to cause a second vacancy, Souter apparently had waited to learn his colleagues’ plans before deciding his own.

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Elements of style, part one

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:07 pm

Okay, before any grammarians out there get all twisted about the title of this series (if indeed it turns into a series) the title is merely an homage to the great tome by William Strunk and E.B. White. I keep a copy next to my writing table. It doesn’t get thumbed through nearly often enough.

Now to the point of this first installment of “elements of style” — I’ve noticed an interesting reworking of the often used descriptor, “bite-sized.” That is the traditional usage and makes perfect sense. The object in question, be it an idea or anything else is small enough to be immediately consumed. In effect, a bite-sized thing  is small.

The new version I’ve seen in a number of places over the last few years and growing is “byte-sized.” Essentially the same meaning, same pronunciation of the original and makes perfect sense in the digital world. Small and easily digestible, or usable.

(Hit this link for The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition at Amazon.)

Asinine tax target — digital goods

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:50 pm

This is so beyond stupid, I don’t know where to start. I know the states are hurting for tax revenue, but going teh dumb doesn’t seem like a good place to start.

From the link:

CNet News.com reports that Mississippi has passed a law that will levy sale and use taxes on goods delivered electronically, including digital movies, digital audio (including music and ringtones) and digital books. HB1461 which was adopted in mid-March and goes into effect July 1.

A growing number of states are considering laws to tax digital goods, such as iTunes songs, Amazon MP3s, or electronic books. Yet at a time when governments say they want to encourage broadband adoption and the development of a low-carbon economy, opponents say taxing digital goods sends exactly the wrong message.

And that’s just the beginning. In addition to Mississippi, at least 18 other states have their eye on lucrative digital downloads from the likes of iTunes and AmazonMP3 and plan to tax them shortly.

Unemployment news

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 pm

Not so good.

From the link:

Unemployment rates rose in all of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas for the third straight month in March, with Indiana’s Elkhart-Goshen once again logging the biggest gain.

The Labor Department reported Wednesday all 372 metropolitan areas tracked saw jobless rates move higher last month from a year earlier. Elkhart-Goshen’s rate soared to 18.8 percent, a 13 percentage-point increase. That was the fourth-highest jobless rate in the country.

The Indiana region has been hammered by layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry. RV makers Monaco Coach Corp. Keystone RV Co. and Pilgrim International have sliced hundreds of jobs.

The jobless rate jumped to 17 percent in Bend, Ore., a 9.2 percentage-point rise and the second-biggest monthly gainer. Bend for years has been the center of the central Oregon real estate and construction boom, largely fueled by retirees from California. Many of them bought vacation or retirement homes in high-end rural developments called destination resorts, which the state began allowing in 1984 as an exception to land use laws that otherwise aim to preserve rural land from development.

And if you want more food for not so happy thoughts:

Unemployment rates in 109 metropolitan areas reached 10% or higher in March, almost eight times more than a year earlier, according to a government report released Wednesday.

Just 14 cities reported jobless rates of at least 10% last year, the Labor Department said.

The March 2009 report said unemployment rates in all of the nation’s 372 metropolitan areas rose in March compared with the same month in the prior year.

Jobless rates of at least 15% were reported in March in 18 areas, compared with only one – El Centro, Calif. – the previous year.

The number of metropolitan regions that had unemployment rates under 7% dropped significantly to 95 from 329 in March 2008.

A total of 33 metro areas registered unemployment rates that were at least 6 percentage points higher than a year ago, and another 42 areas’ increases were 5 to 5.9 percentage points.

Discussing cyberattack policy

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:07 pm

A report from the National Research Council.

The release:

Greater transparency needed in development of US policy on cyberattack

WASHINGTON — The current policy and legal framework regulating use of cyberattack by the United States is ill-formed, undeveloped, and highly uncertain, says a new report from the National Research Council. The United States should establish clear national policy on the use of cyberattack, while also continuing to develop its technological capabilities in this area. The U.S. policy should be informed by open national debate on the technological, policy, legal, and ethical issues of cyberwarfare, said the committee that wrote the report.

“Cyberattack is too important a subject for the nation to be discussed only behind closed doors,” said Adm. William Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former vice chairman and CEO of Nortel Corp., and Kenneth Dam, Max Pam Professor Emeritus of American and Foreign Law at the University of Chicago School of Law, who co-chaired the committee.

Cyberattacks — actions taken against computer systems or networks — are often complex to plan and execute but relatively inexpensive, and the technology needed is widely available. Defenses against such attacks are discussed, but questions on the potential for, and the ramifications of, the United States’ use of cyberattack as a component of its military and intelligence arsenal have not been the subject of much public debate. Although the policy and organizational issues raised by the use of cyberattack are significant, the report says, “neither government nor society at large is organized or prepared to handle issues related to cyberattack, let alone to make broadly informed decisions.”

The U.S. could use cyberattack either defensively, in response to a cyberattack from another nation, or offensively to support military missions or covert actions, the report says. Deterring such attacks against the U.S. with the threat of an in-kind response has limited applicability, however; cyberattacks can be conducted anonymously or falsely attributed to another party relatively easily, making it difficult to reliably identify the originator of the attack.

Employing a cyberattack carries with it some implications that are unlike those associated with traditional physical warfare, the report says. The outcome is likely to be more uncertain, and there may be substantial impact on the private sector, which owns and operates much of the infrastructure through which the U.S. would conduct a cyberattack. The scale of such an attack can be enormous and difficult to localize. “Blowback” to the U.S. — effects on our own network systems — is possible.

Clear national policy regarding the use of cyberattack should be developed through open debate within the U.S. government and diplomatic discussion with other nations, the report says. The U.S. policy should make it clear why, when, and how a cyberattack would be authorized, and require a periodic accounting of any attacks that are conducted, to be made available to the executive branch and to Congress.

From a legal perspective, cyberattack should be judged by its effects rather than the method of attack; cyberwarfare should not be judged less harshly than physical warfare simply by virtue of the weapons employed. The Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), an international law regulating conduct during war, should apply to cyberattack. However, there are aspects of cyberwarfare that will not fit neatly within this structure. LOAC was designed to regulate conflict between nations, but cyberweapons can easily be used by non-state groups, making issues such as determining appropriate targets for military retaliation difficult to address. Additional legal constructs will be needed to govern cyberattacks, and the framework of LOAC and the U.N. Charter on the use of armed force would be an appropriate starting point, the report says.

 

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This study was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft Corp., and the National Research Council. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.

Copies of TECHNOLOGY, POLICY, LAW, AND ETHICS REGARDING U.S. ACQUISITION AND USE OF CYBERATTACK CAPABILITIES are available from the National Academies on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU.

[ This news release and report are available at HTTP://NATIONAL-ACADEMIES.ORG ]

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

(more…)

Electrofluidic Display Technology news

Very interesting news for the future of electronic display.

The release:

Make Brighter, Full-Color Electronic Readers? — Brilliant!

Electrofluidic Display Technology developed at the University of Cincinnati puts electronic book readers ahead by a wide margin.

Thinking about getting an e-reader but not sure if you like reading the dim screen? An international collaboration of the University of Cincinnati, Sun Chemical, Polymer Vision and Gamma Dynamics has announced Electrofluidic Display Technology (EFD), the first technology to electrically switch the appearance of pigments in a manner that provides visual brilliance equal to conventional printed media.

This new entry into the race for full-color electronic paper can potentially provide better than 85 percent “white-state reflectance,” a performance level required for consumers to accept reflective display applications such as e-books, cell-phones and signage.

“If you compare this technology to what’s been developed previously, there’s no comparison,” says developer Jason Heikenfeld, assistant professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering. “We’re ahead by a wide margin in critical categories such as brightness, color saturation and video speed.”

This work, which has been underway for several years, has just been published in the paper “Electrofluidic displays using Young–Laplace transposition of brilliant pigment dispersions.

Lead author Heikenfeld explains the primary advantage of the approach.

“The ultimate reflective display would simply place the best colorants used by the printing industry directly beneath the front viewing substrate of a display,” he says. “In our EFD pixels, we are able to hide or reveal colored pigment in a manner that is optically superior to the techniques used in electrowetting, electrophoretic and electrochromic displays.”

Because the optically active layer can be less than 15 microns thick, project partners at PolymerVision see strong potential for rollable displays. The product offerings could be extremely diverse, including electronic windows and tunable color casings on portable electronics.

Furthermore, because three project partners are located in Cincinnati (UC, Sun Chemical, Gamma Dynamics), technology commercialization could lead to creation of numerous high-tech jobs in southwest Ohio.

To expedite commercialization, a new company has been launched: Gamma Dynamics with founding members of this company being John Rudolph as president (formerly of Corning), a world-recognized scientist as CTO (who cannot be announced until July), and Heikenfeld as principal scientist.

“This takes the Amazon Kindle, for example, which is black and white, and could make it full color,” Heikenfeld says. “So now you could take it from a niche product to a mainstream product.”

Funding for this work was provided by Sun Chemical, PolymerVision, the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The pixel structure is able to reveal or hide the pigments with high contrast and video speed. The reservoir (center circle) holds the pigment until it is ready to be displayed by application of voltage. Photo credit: Gamma Dynamics LLC

The pixel structure is able to reveal or hide the pigments with high contrast and video speed. The reservoir (center circle) holds the pigment until it is ready to be displayed by application of voltage. Photo credit: Gamma Dynamics LLC

Quantum cryptography becoming practical

Looks like things are moving that direction. Very cool.

The release:

Computer hackers R.I.P. — making quantum cryptography practical

Quantum cryptography, a completely secure means of communication, is much closer to being used practically as researchers from  and Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory have now developed high speed detectors capable of receiving information with much higher key rates, thereby able to receive more information faster.

Published as part of IOP Publishing’s New Journal of Physics‘ Focus Issue on ‘Quantum Cryptography: Theory and Practice’, the journal paper, ‘Practical gigahertz quantum key distribution based on avalanche photodiodes’, details how quantum communication can be made possible without having to use cryogenic cooling and/or complicated optical setups, making it much more likely to become commercially viable soon.

One of the first practical applications to emerge from advances in the often baffling study of quantum mechanics, quantum cryptography has become the soon-to-be-reached gold standard in secure communications.

Quantum mechanics describes the fundamental nature of matter at the atomic level and offers very intriguing, often counter-intuitive, explanations to help us understand the building blocks that construct the world around us. Quantum cryptography uses the quantum mechanical behaviour of photons, the fundamental particles of light, to enable highly secure transmission of data beyond that achievable by classical encryption.

The photons themselves are used to distribute keys that enable access to encrypted information, such as a confidential video file that, say, a bank wishes to keep completely confidential, which can be sent along practical communication lines, made of fibre optics. Quantum indeterminacy, the quantum mechanics dictum which states that measuring an unknown quantum state will change it, means that the key information cannot be accessed by a third party without corrupting it beyond recovery and therefore making the act of hacking futile.

While other detectors can offer a key rate close to that reported in this journal paper, the present advance only relies on practical components for high speed photon detection, which has previously required either cryogenic cooling or highly technical optical setups, to make quantum key distribution much more user-friendly.

Using an attenuated (weakened) laser as a light source and a compact detector (semiconductor avalanche photodiodes), the researchers have introduced a decoy protocol for guarding against intruder attacks that would confuse with erroneous information all but the sophisticated, compact detector developed by the researchers.

As the researchers write, “With the present advances, we believe quantum key distribution is now practical for realising high band-width information-theoretically secure communication.”

Governments, banks and large businesses who fear the leaking of sensitive information will, no doubt, be watching closely.

 

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The GOP — rhetoric v. reality

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:33 am

Looks like Specter’s defection has created a certain level of soul searching within the Republican Party.

Here’s one thing I find almost comical about this process:

Patrick J. Toomey, a former head of the Club for Growth whose primary challenge to Mr. Specter led the senator to bow out in the face of what he thought was a probable defeat, said Republicans should be open to a “wide range of opinions on a wide range of issues.”

“But I think fundamental common ground that the vast majority of Republicans share is the belief in limited government, freedom and personal responsibility,” Mr. Toomey said.

If the GOP actually stood for those three “shared beliefs,” it wouldn’t be in the position it finds itself right now. You can blame it on the brand, on the sputtery right-wing media or any other number of things, but those three ideals sell very easily to most independent voters and independents do not like the current incarnation of the GOP. The Republican reality is pretty bad and the brand is much, much worse. A huge problem is the brand has taken over the party and there seems to be no real effort from the inside to right the ship.

I don’t see any easy answers and I still think the GOP could honestly fall by the wayside as a theocratic stump of a party and find itself replaced with something new that actually believes, lives and most importantly votes, those three shared beliefs — pretty much summed up with the two governing tenets of small government and civil liberties.

Here’s another bit from the first link:

The question of how the party should respond to Mr. Specter’s departure was the main subject of a Senate Republican lunch on Wednesday. The party can be a “big tent,” said Senator John Ensign of Nevada, “but here are some core principles: fiscal responsibility, more personal responsibility, looking for a smaller, more effective government.”

Mr. Graham scoffed at the notion that the party was suffering because it was not conservative enough.

“Do you really believe that we lost 18-to-34-year-olds by 19 percent, or we lost Hispanic voters, because we are not conservative enough?” he said. “No. This is a ridiculous line of thought. The truth is we lost young people because our Republican brand is tainted.”

A new note to the GOP — right now no one is buying that the core principles of the party is fiscal responsibility and personal responsibility after the Bush 43 years. And its pretty hard to back away from those failed eight years when just about no one in the party fought back against the drunken sailor spending, unbelievable government encroachment into personal behavior and massive expansion of the federal government’s bureaucratic structure.

Hypocrisy doesn’t play all that well when it’s this naked and the GOP doesn’t seem to be learning the lesson.

April 29, 2009

Chrysler to file Chapter 11

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:12 pm

It’s not totally done, but looks immanent. So Chrysler wins the dubious distinction of being the first of the big three to declare bankruptcy.

From the link:

Last-minute efforts by the Treasury Department to win over recalcitrant Chrysler debtholders failed Wednesday night, setting up a near-certain bankruptcy filing by the American automaker, according to people briefed on the talks.

Barring an agreement, which looked increasingly difficult, Chrysler was expected to seek Chapter 11 protection on Thursday, most likely in New York, these people said.

Update 4/30/09 — It’s done. More on the filing here and here.

Foreclosure prevention plan gets a little bigger

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:57 pm

With all the talk about the auto industry and controversy over TARP and harping about financial bailouts recipient bonuses, et. al., Main Street gets little ink spilled its direction.

Here’s news on an expansion of the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention plan.

From the link:

Treasury broadens the President’s home-mortgage plan to address second liens. But Congress may need to act to protect banks from lawsuits

The U.S. Treasury Dept. broadened the Obama Administration’s foreclosure-prevention program on Apr. 28 in a bid to resolve a persistent obstacle to cleaning up problem mortgages. But some financial officials say the fledgling program’s success still hinges on controversial legislation pending in Congress, which is also expected to take up another contentious bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to reduce the principal owed on a home.

The economy stumbles on

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 pm

It’s not imploding, but it’s not getting better just yet. Watch the indicators — such as the still falling GDP and rising unemployment, and on the positive side a rising consumer confidence — before you believe any media hype.

For the most part the media ignored this story until it reached crisis level (I’ve been blogging about the financial meltdown since the first days of this blog) and then went into full “we’re doomed!” mode. After scaring the pants off of everyone, the media is now going with things are better and the worst is over. Don’t go to the bank with that bill of goods.

Here’s the latest from the Fed:

Taking fresh stock of economic and financial conditions, Federal Reserve policymakers are considering whether they need to take additional measures to ease the recession.

Most economists are betting there won’t be any major announcements Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting given the Fed’s bold $1.2 trillion move just last month to revive the economy.

Still, analysts aren’t ruling anything out as credit and financial stresses persist and a new potential danger has arisen to the economy in the form of the swine flu outbreak.

“Never say never with these guys. But I don’t think they have a real reason to increase support at this time,” said Michael Feroli, economist at JPMorgan Economics.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are all but certain to leave the targeted range for its key bank lending rate between zero and 0.25 percent.

International solar energy conference

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

A release from the wee hours of this morning:

International Conference on Solar Energy Features Leading Experts and World’s Top Solar Companies

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands and MUNICH, Germany, April 29/PRNewswire/ —

    – Conference in Munich, Germany Will Include Chief Executives of World’s Largest Solar Manufacturers, Top Investors and Analysts

– Forecast for Solar Industry in Coming Years Revealed, Rare Opportunity for High-Level Networking

 Solarplaza, a leading consultancy on the global solar industry, is pleased to announce “The Solar Future” Conference to be held in Munich, Germany on May 26. For a single day, the world’s top minds will come together to discuss the future of the fastest-growing renewable energy at a critical time for the industry.

Speakers will include such experts and CEO’s as Bruce
Sohn, President of First Solar, Dr. Shi, CEO Suntech Power, Anton Milner, CEO Q-cells, renowned analyst Travis Bradford of the Prometheus Institute; Stephen O’Rourke, analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities on Wall Street; and David Rubin, chairman of the board of directors of the Solar Electric Power
Association.

Solar energy, at the cusp of a historic turning point, is headed toward grid parity in the coming years. And, as demand surges worldwide, major industry leaders are preparing for unprecedented implementation in solar technologies across the globe.

“Most people think that solar energy is something for the future, when prices have come down and cell efficiencies
have further improved,” says Edwin Koot, CEO of organizer SolarPlaza. “Well, this is your wake up call, because this future is closer than you could imagine.”

With huge strides worldwide in such developments as electric-powered vehicles, the implications for the solar industry are
greater than ever. From Spain to Italy to California, solar energy is rapidly becoming competitive in pricing with conventional fossil fuel sources, which marks a new phase for the industry called grid parity.

In 2008, demand for solar energy exploded more than 100 percent. While present economic conditions has challenged the global marketplace, solar stands to win, reaching grid parity at a faster pace. Revenues in the solar industry is expected to top $50 billion in 2012.

“This grid parity is the Holy Grail for the solar industry and only the beginning of an unprecedented growth path,” Koot says. “At that time, market potential will become unlimited.”

More information, visit http://www.thesolarfuture.com.

About SolarPlaza:

Solarplaza.com is the independent global platform for knowledge, trade and events for the solar energy (PV) industry.

Source: SolarPlaza

Post #2000

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:14 am

Woot!

April 28, 2009

Nanoneedles

Nanotech with a lot of likely bioscience and medical applications.

The release:

Nanoneedle is small in size, but huge in applications

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a membrane-penetrating nanoneedle for the targeted delivery of one or more molecules into the cytoplasm or the nucleus of living cells. In addition to ferrying tiny amounts of cargo, the nanoneedle can also be used as an electrochemical probe and as an optical biosensor.

“Nanoneedle-based delivery is a powerful new tool for studying biological processes and biophysical properties at the molecular level inside living cells,” said

Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Nano Letters, and posted on the journal’s Web site.

In the paper, Yu and collaborators describe how they deliver, detect and track individual fluorescent quantum dots in a cell’s cytoplasm and nucleus. The quantum dots can be used for studying molecular mechanics and physical properties inside cells.

To create a nanoneedle, the researchers begin with a rigid but resilient boron-nitride nanotube. The nanotube is then attached to one end of a glass pipette for easy handling, and coated with a thin layer of gold. Molecular cargo is then attached to the gold surface via “linker” molecules. When placed in a cell’s cytoplasm or nucleus, the bonds with the linker molecules break, freeing the cargo.

With a diameter of approximately 50 nanometers, the nanoneedle introduces minimal intrusiveness in penetrating cell membranes and accessing the interiors of live cells.

The delivery process can be precisely controlled, monitored and recorded – goals that have not been achieved in prior studies.

“The nanoneedle provides a mechanism by which we can quantitatively examine biological processes occurring within a cell’s nucleus or cytoplasm,” said Yang Xiang, a professor of molecular and integrative physiology and a co-author of the paper. “By studying how individual proteins and molecules of DNA or RNA mobilize, we can better understand how the system functions as a whole.”

The ability to deliver a small number of molecules or nanoparticles into living cells with spatial and temporal precision may make feasible numerous new strategies for biological studies at the single-molecule level, which would otherwise be technically challenging or even impossible, the researchers report.

“Combined with molecular targeting strategies using quantum dots and magnetic nanoparticles as molecular probes, the nanoneedle delivery method can potentially enable the simultaneous observation and manipulation of individual molecules,” said Ning Wang, a professor of mechanical science and engineering and a co-author of the paper.

Beyond delivery, the nanoneedle-based approach can also be extended in many ways for single-cell studies, said Yu, who also is a researcher at the Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Systems. “Nanoneedles can be used as electrochemical probes and as optical biosensors to study cellular environments, stimulate certain types of biological sequences, and examine the effect of nanoparticles on cellular physiology.”

 

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With Wang, Xiang and Yu, co-authors of the paper are graduate student Kyungsuk Yum and postdoctoral research associate Sungsoo Na. Yu and Wang are affiliated with the university’s Beckman Institute. Wang is also affiliated with the department of bioengineering and with the university’s Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory.

The Grainger Foundation, National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health funded the work.

GOP rump happy to lose senate seat

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:49 pm

Nothing from the bitter fringe of what used to be the Grand Old Party — and is now pretty much old, cranky folks who don’t even understand the meaning of political conservatism — would surprise me at this point.

The overall reaction to Arlen Specter switching sides of the aisle? Happy to see that backstabbing RINO go.

Never mind he gives the Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority, and a full 60 vote majority as soon as Franken is seated from Minnesota. And for anyone who doesn’t get that yet, Franken won. Coleman is spinning his wheels, but he’s not getting that Senate seat. Not by the courts, and certainly not by a new election now that that Minnesota public really, really dislikes him.

David Frum laments the loss of Specter, but check out the comments at NewMajority on his post. This is GREAT day for the Republican Party! Er, folks, not so much.

From the link (and do scroll down to the comments):

The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.

For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?

Let’s take this moment to nail some colors to the mast. I submit it is better for conservatives to have 60% sway within a majority party than to have 100% control of a minority party. And until and unless there is an honored place made in the Republican party for people who think like Arlen Specter, we will remain a minority party.

Here’s one sample comment from “conservative08:”

Good riddance to this clown. And any other “Republicans” that vote like moderate Democrats. These out of touch, crusty beltway types are exactly the reason Republicans have lost the past two elections.

Someone who voted for a trillion dollar stimulus package is somehow the answer for a Republican resurgence? Give me a break.

He’s a joke. And so are so many of the other losers who have spent like Democrats. Bye.

Um, spent like Democrats? How about Bush 43’s eight years of fiscal conservatism. Oh yeah, that didn’t happen and practically no one on the right let out one tiny peep in protest over the entire two terms. Hypocrisy is ugly, and very sad coming from a dying political party.

A Google Profiles primer

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:21 pm

Courtesy of CIO.com. A nice breakdown of how to set up a Google Profile and why you might want to do it.

From the link:

This week, Google launched Google Profiles, which lets you build an online biography listing your interests, educational and professional background, and links to your data on websites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

While some industry analysts view Google Profiles as a competitor to Facebook’s profiles, Google says the main purpose of Google Profiles (right now) is to create a centralized repository for your information on the Web, so that when someone uses Google’s search engine to find you, they actually find you, not another person with the same name.

One quarter of all businesses in trouble

Filed under: Business — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:18 pm

Real trouble.

From the link:

The auditors of nearly one-quarter of companies feel that the companies may not live out the year.

Auditors have become increasingly doubtful about their clients’ ability to continue as going concerns, according to the most recent report on the subject by Audit Analytics, which has tracked the number of such going-concern opinions this decade in a recently released report. With calendar year-end 2008 filings still coming in to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the research firm estimates there will be 3,589 going-concern opinions eventually filed for 2008 annual reports, an increase of 9% compared to last year’s total of 3,293 going-concern opinions.

One bit of Madoff fallout?

A Securities and Exchange Commission with bared teeth and an ax to grind.

From the link:

In the annals of Ponzi schemes, Shawn Merriman is small potatoes. But when the Securities and Exchange Commission announced April 8 that it had charged Merriman of Aurora, Colo. with fraudulently obtaining $17 million to $20 million, the agency’s new director of enforcement, Robert Khuzami, seized on the news. “We pursue Ponzi schemes with a great sense of urgency,” he said, “and bring cases swiftly and successfully to protect investors.”

During the first three months of 2009, the SEC has brought over two-dozen emergency enforcement actions to “halt an ongoing fraud,” added Khuzami. Nine of the cases announced by the agency this year were related to Ponzi schemes; over the same period in 2008, there were none. Observers haven’t had to look far for the reason for the sudden interest.

 

Wolfram|Alpha launches blog

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:10 pm

No, the engine hasn’t launched yet but the blog has and should be a great clearinghouse for information pre- and post-launch.

From the link:

Our teams are working hard to meet our goal of having Wolfram|Alpha ready for you in just a few weeks.

Since Stephen Wolfram’s initial announcement, we’ve had the opportunity to show Wolfram|Alpha to some of the thousands of you who contacted us. Many interesting questions surfaced. We plan to use this blog to address those questions and the many more we expect you’ll have as you think about how you too can use Wolfram|Alpha.

Arlen Specter switches parties

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:44 pm

The Pennsylvania senator leaves the GOP and doesn’t even simply become an independent. That says a lot about just how toxic the Republican Party has become.

It truly is getting down to the rump, and … you know, I’m not going to make a bad joke about rumps and toxicity right here. You can supply your own punchline with that softball setup.

From the link:

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

Was the US a “lost world?”

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:02 am

There is some evidence some dinosaurs survived the extinction event of 65 million years ago for an additional half million years in the southwest and central United States.

Interesting dinosaur news.

The release:

Evidence of the ‘Lost World’ — did dinosaurs survive the end Cretaceous extinctions?

The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of an isolated community of dinosaurs that survived the catastrophic extinction event 65 million years ago, has no less appeal now than it did when it was written a century ago. Various Hollywood versions have tried to recreate the lost world of dinosaurs, but today the fiction seems just a little closer to reality. New scientific evidence suggests that dinosaur bones from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone in the San Juan Basin, USA, date from after the extinction, and that dinosaurs may have survived in a remote area of what is now New Mexico and Colorado for up to half a million years. This controversial new research, published today in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica, is based on detailed chemical investigations of the dinosaur bones, and evidence for the age of the rocks in which they are found.

“The great difficulty with this hypothesis – that these are the remains of dinosaurs that survived – is ruling out the possibility that the bones date from before the extinction” says Jim Fassett, author of the research. “After being killed and deposited in sands and muds, it is possible for bones to be exhumed by rivers and then incorporated into younger rocks” he explains. This is not the usual way in which fossil deposits of this kind form, but it has been shown to explain some other post-extinction dinosaur bones. Fassett has amassed a range of evidence that indicates that these fossils from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone were not exhumed and redeposited and that these dinosaurs really did live after the end Cretaceous extinction event.

The first step must be to demonstrate that the rocks containing the bones are younger than the extinction event. Fassett has analysed the magnetic polarity of the rocks, and the pollen grains they contain, different approaches to finding the age of rocks which, he concludes “independently indicate that they do indeed post-date the extinction”. Fassett also found that “the dinosaur bones from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone have distinctly different concentrations of rare earth metal elements to the bones in the underlying Cretaceous rocks” and this, he argues “makes it very unlikely that the post-extinction bones were exhumed from the underlying sediments.” This is supported by a find of 34 hadrosaur bones together – “these are not literally an articulated skeleton, but the bones are doubtless from a single animal” – if the bones had been exhumed by a river, they would have been scattered.

So does this provide conclusive proof that dinosaurs survived the Cretaceous extinctions? According to David Polly, one of the editors of the journal in which the research is published “this is a controversial conclusion, and many palaeontologists will remain sceptical”, but we already know that flying theropod dinosaurs (more generally referred to as birds) and crocodiles survived, so the possibility of pockets of survivors of other types of dinosaur is not quite as far fetched as it might sound. Finding conclusive evidence, however, is a difficult matter when the crime scene is 65 million years old. “One thing is certain” continues Polly, “if dinosaurs did survive, they were not as widespread as they were before the end of the Cretaceous and did not persist for long.” The ‘Lost World scenario’ of humans and dinosaurs existing at the same time, still belongs firmly in the realms of pure fantasy. END

 

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Notes to Editors:

1. The paper, “New Geochronologic and Stratigraphic Evidence Confirms the Paleocene Age of the Dinosaur-Bearing Ojo Alamo Sandstone and Animas Formation in The San Juan Basin, New Mexico and Colorado” by James Fassett, is published in the April 29 issue of Palaeontologia Electronica. The paper is available on the www at: http://www.palaeo-electronica.org/

2. Jim Fassett holds an emeritus position at the U. S. Geological Survey in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

3. Palaeontologia Electronica is an international internet-based journal co-sponsored by The Palaeontological Association, The Paleontological Society, and Society of Vertebrate Paleontology -the world’s leading learned societies in the field, all non-profit organisations that promote the scientific study of fossils.

Douthat’s debut

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 am

Ross Douthat’s first New York Times column is up. He was formerly blogging at the Atlantic from the right and replaced Bill Kristol as the NYT’s conservative voice.

His first gambit is a little bold in that he’ll likely draw some scorn from the far right looking for any excuse to brand him as a squishy shill imported by the liberal NYT for watered-down right wing views.

Like most of his previous work, I agreed in part and disagreed in part, but overall enjoyed the op-ed. Of course the premise of the column is ridiculous for a  number of reasons. Hit the link for the whole thing. It’s only an op-ed, so it’s short.

From the link:

As a candidate, Cheney would have doubtless been as disciplined and ideologically consistent as McCain was feckless. In debates with Barack Obama, he would have been as cuttingly effective as he was in his encounters with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in 2000 and 2004 respectively. And when he went down to a landslide loss, the conservative movement might – might! – have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.

April 27, 2009

Online sales taxes?

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:51 pm

Looks like they are coming. Too many taxing jurisdictions are losing revenue.

Of course placing a brand new tax burden on a still-growing retail sector and hitting consumers directly in the wallet sounds pretty counterproductive in a severe economic downturn. A downturn that has no horizon at the moment.

Hopefully most e-tailers can find workarounds for the coming spate of governmental overreach.

From the link:

States and local governments hope sales taxes would help them recoup part of the revenue lost amid a recession that has diminished property values and crimped demand for items sold in stores. In the fourth quarter, state sales tax collections dropped 4%, the steepest decline in 50 years, according to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Online sales taxes could help states generate at least $52 billion in added revenue over the next six years, according to an Apr. 13 study conducted by three University of Tennessee professors. Requiring virtual stores to collect taxes, even in parts of the country where they don’t have physical operations, would also place e-tailers on a more even footing with brick-and-mortar stores such as Wal-Mart (WMT), which collect sales taxes on in-store as well as online purchases.

Companies that sell products over the Internet say the taxes would hamper growth. “The introduction and passage of an Internet tax bill would have adverse effects on e-commerce,” George Askew, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus , wrote in a recent note. After New York’s law was passed, Overstock.com says it had to terminate agreements with some 3,400 Web sites that once promoted the closeout retailer in the Empire State.

Overstock ceased operating in New York altogether, says the company’s president, Jonathan E. Johnson III. After losing a court battle seeking to repeal the law, Overstock plans to file an appeal in the coming weeks, Johnson says. “These states are signing up for a lawsuit, or for businesses to pull out of their states,” he says.

GM employee stock fund dumps GM stock

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

GM is officially swirling the drain at this point.

From the link:

The manager of General Motors’ employee stock fund has sold off all remaining shares of the troubled auto maker, which is closing plants and slashing costs in a bid to avoid bankruptcy.

General Motors revealed in a regulatory filing late Friday that its employee stock-purchase plan has unloaded all shares of the company in favor of short-term and money market investments. The plan’s financial manager, State Street Bank and Trust Co., said it began selling off shares of the Detroit automaker in late March “due to the economic climate and the circumstances surrounding GM’s business.” GM disclosed the development in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

April 24, 2009

Right v. wrong

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:33 pm

These are the actual sides in the current discussion on torture— particularly the waterboarding technique which is defined as torture by every legal authority aside from the discredited memos created by the Bush 43 regime’s OLC.

The coda to the linked post:

… this is a defining moment for America. This is not now and never has been a question of right versus left. It is right vs wrong. It is a bright line which the black-and-white crowd has suddenly decided is oh-so-gray. But we have their testimony now. And history has it for ever.

Ten cool robots

Well — cool, useful, interesting, etc.

I usually only run one example from these CIO slideshows, but for obvious reasons I had to do two this time.

Number two:

<!– end

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Image credit: BMT Group

The Fish Bot

Known for: Fighting pollution

A school of robotic carp—equipped with chemical sensors and artificial intelligence—will be unleashed into a Spanish port to search for water pollutants. Developed by British scientists, these five-foot-long robotic fish will monitor oxygen levels and detect potentially hazardous leaks. The fish will communicate with each other using ultrasonics, and information will be wirelessly sent to the “charging hub” (where fish will charge their batteries). The port’s authorities can use this data to track the source and scale of the pollution. If this robotic pollution monitoring system is successful, researchers hope to use it globally. <!–

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And number four:
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Image credit

The Telepathic Bot

Known for: Reading minds

Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot can now be controlled with thought alone—and with a little help from brain machine interface technology. BMI tech relies on electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and newly developed information abstraction technology. How it works: EEG and NIRS sensors are placed on a person’s head. When the user imagines moving one of four predetermined body part options, ASIMO complies with a corresponding movement. The setup detects changes in brain waves and cerebral blood flow, which is analyzed on a real-time basis to translate what the user imagined. Tests on the process yielded a 90 percent accuracy rate, says Honda. <!–

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Search and seizure and data centers

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:34 pm

This ought to be troubling for anyone storing data anywhere other than a drive in their possession. Hopefully you’d at least be backed-up somewhere in your possession, but the idea your data could be indefinitely seized and pored over by the authorities should be very chilling. And as the article mentions, should be a significant aspect of the the cloud computing argument.

From the link:

The FBI’s target in the data center raid—one of five seizures conducted that day—is simply listed as Cabinet 24.02.900 in the affidavit and search warrant.

Cabinet 24.02.900 allegedly held the computers and data used to serve voice-over-IP clients for the companies at the center of the case. Yet, it was also home to the digital presence of dozens of other businesses, according to press reports. To LiquidMotors, a company that provides inventory management to car dealers, the servers held its client data and hosted its managed inventory services. The FBI seizure of the servers in the data center rack effectively shut down the company, which filed a lawsuit against the FBI the same day to get the data back.

“Although the search warrant was not issued for the purpose of seizing property belonging to Liquid Motors, the FBI seized all of the servers and backup tapes belonging to Liquid Motors, Inc.,” the company stated in its court filing. “Since the FBI seized its computer equipment earlier today, Liquid Motors has been unable to operate its business.”

The court denied the company’s attempt to get its data back, but the FBI offered to copy the data to blank tapes to help the company restart its services, according to a report in Wired.

The incident has worried IT managers, especially those with a stake in cloud computing, where a company’s data could be co-mingled with other businesses’ data on a collection of servers.

“The issue, I think, is one of how search and seizure laws are being interpreted for assets hosted in third-party facilities,” James Urquhart, manager of Cisco Systems’ Data Center 3.0 strategy, said in a recent blog post. “If the court upholds that servers can be seized despite no direct warrants being served on the owners of those servers—or the owners of the software and data housed on those servers—then imagine what that means for hosting your business in a cloud shared by thousands or millions of other users.”

Nanotech splitting water cells

An important finding toward developing cost-effective alternative fuel sources.

The release:

Discovery of an unexpected boost for solar water-splitting cells

IMAGE: Scanning electron microscope image of typical titania nanotubes for a photocatalytic cell to produce hydrogen gas from water. Nanotubes average roughly 90-100 nanometers in diameter.

Click here for more information. 

A research team from Northeastern University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has discovered, serendipitously, that a residue of a process used to build arrays of titania nanotubes—a residue that wasn’t even noticed before this—plays an important role in improving the performance of the nanotubes in solar cells that produce hydrogen gas from water. Their recently published results* indicate that by controlling the deposition of potassium on the surface of the nanotubes, engineers can achieve significant energy savings in a promising new alternate energy system.

Titania (or titanium dioxide) is a versatile chemical compound best known as a white pigment. It’s found in everything from paint to toothpastes and sunscreen lotions. Thirty-five years ago Akira Fujishima startled the electrochemical world by demonstrating that it also functioned as a photocatalyst, producing hydrogen gas from water, electricity and sunlight. In recent years, researchers have been exploring different ways to optimize the process and create a commercially viable technology that, essentially, transforms cheap sunlight into hydrogen, a pollution-free fuel that can be stored and shipped.

Increasing the available surface area is one way to boost a catalyst’s performance, so a team at Northeastern has been studying techniques to build tightly packed arrays of titania nanotubes, which have a very high surface to volume ratio. They also were interested in how best to incorporate carbon into the nanotubes, because carbon helps titania absorb light in the visible spectrum. (Pure titania absorbs in the ultraviolet region, and much of the ultraviolet is filtered by the atmosphere.)

This brought them to the NIST X-ray spectroscopy beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS)**. The NIST facility uses X-rays that can be precisely tuned to measure chemical bonds of specific elements, and is at least 10 times more sensitive than commonly available laboratory instruments, allowing researchers to detect elements at extremely low concentrations. While making measurements of the carbon atoms, the team noticed spectroscopic data indicating that the titania nanotubes had small amounts of potassium ions strongly bound to the surface, evidently left by the fabrication process, which used potassium salts. This was the first time the potassium has ever been observed on titania nanotubes; previous measurements were not sensitive enough to detect it.

The result was mildly interesting, but became much more so when the research team compared the performance of the potassium-bearing nanotubes to similar arrays deliberately prepared without potassium. The former required only about one-third the electrical energy to produce the same amount of hydrogen as an equivalent array of potassium-free nanotubes. “The result was so exciting,” recalls Northeastern physicist Latika Menon, “that we got sidetracked from the carbon research.” Because it has such a strong effect at nearly undetectable concentrations, Menon says, potassium probably has played an unrecognized role in many experimental water-splitting cells that use titania nanotubes, because potassium hydroxide is commonly used in the cells. By controlling it, she says, hydrogen solar cell designers could use it to optimize performance.

 

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* C. Richter, C. Jaye, E. Panaitescu, D.A. Fischer, L.H. Lewis, R.J. Willey and L. Menon. Effect of potassium adsorption on the photochemical properties of titania nanotube arrays. J. Mater. Chem., published online as an Advanced Article, March 27, 2009. DOI: 10.1039/b822501j

** The NSLS is part of the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

April 23, 2009

Medical wii?

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:43 pm

Looks like it. The wii is a very cool console platform and I wouldn’t be surprised if more applications beyond gaming are explored.

The release:

For Release: April 23, 2009


Popular Gaming System May Offer Radiologists an Alternative Way to View Patient Images

The popular Wii gaming remote may offer radiologists a fun, alternative method to using a standard mouse and keyboard to navigate through patient images, according to a study performed at the New-York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, NY. The remote may also offer radiologists relief from repetitive motion injuries as a result of using a mouse and keyboard.

“We have developed a new fun and exciting way for radiologists to navigate through patient images using hand movements instead of basic keyboard and mouse clicks,” said Cliff Yeh, MD, Matthew Amans, MD, and George Shih, MD, lead authors of the study. “The device from the Nintendo Wii gaming system has both an infrared sensor and an accelerometer, which when used together, can allow for flexible ways to interact with radiology images,” they said.

“All the basic features that a radiologist routinely requires can be performed using the hand held device. For this study, new software for viewing radiology images which interfaces with the Wii remote was developed in conjunction with computer scientists Lu Zheng and Michael Brown, PhD, both from the National University of Singapore, in Singapore and both co-authors of the study,” according to Drs. Yeh, Amans and Shih.

“The traditional keyboard mouse user interface limits the way a radiologist can interpret images and manage an ever increasing workload. The Wii remote may alleviate those limitations. In addition repetitive motion injuries may be mitigated by altering usage between a device like the Wii remote and the traditional mouse because they use different sets of muscles. Small movements can manipulate the image on the screen and buttons can change windows and move between different series’. It is a lot more flexible than just a simple mouse,” they said.

“The Wii remote along with the software the authors developed is currently just a prototype and is not FDA approved for clinical use. We are constantly updating the software,” said Dr. Shih, senior author of the study. “We can only hope that in the next twenty years the mouse and keyboard will be replaced by something like the Wii remote,” said Drs. Yeh, Amans and Shih.

This study will be presented at the 2009 ARRS Annual Meeting in Boston, MA, on Monday, April 27. For a copy of the full study, please contact Heather Curry via email at hcurry@arrs.org.

About ARRS

The American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) was founded in 1900 and is the oldest radiology society in the United States. Its monthly journal, the American Journal of Roentgenology, began publication in 1906. Radiologists from all over the world attend the ARRS annual meeting to participate in instructional courses, scientific paper presentations and scientific and commercial exhibits related to the field of radiology. The Society is named after the first Nobel Laureate in Physics, Wilhelm Röentgen, who discovered the x-ray in 1895. ###

Nanoantennas

Sounds like some nanotech with potential.

The release:

Bridging the gap in nanoantennas

IMAGE: The bottom line depicts the topography, whereas the upper line plots the scanned near-field images. Figure a shows a metal nanorod that can be considered the most simple dipole antenna….

Click here for more information. 

In a recent publication in Nature Photonics, a joint team of researchers at CIC nanoGUNE, Donostia International Physics Center DIPC, Centro de Física de Materiales of CSIC/UPV-EHU in San Sebastian (Spain), Harvard University (USA) and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich (Germany) reports an innovative method for controlling light on the nanoscale by adopting tuning concepts from radio-frequency technology. The method opens the door for targeted design of antenna-based applications including highly sensitive biosensors and extremely fast photodetectors, which could play an important role in future biomedical diagnostics and information processing.

An antenna is a device designed to transmit or receive electromagnetic waves. Radio frequency antennas find wide use in systems such as radio and television broadcasting, point-to-point radio communication, wireless LAN, radar, and space exploration. In turn, an optical antenna is a device which acts as an effective receiver and transmitter of visible or infrared light. It has the ability to concentrate (focus) light to tiny spots of nanometer-scale dimensions, which is several orders of magnitude smaller than what conventional lenses can achieve. Tiny objects such as molecules or semiconductors that are placed into these so-called “hot spots” of the antenna can efficiently interact with light. Therefore optical antennas boost single molecule spectroscopy or signal-to-noise in detector applications.

In their experiments the researchers studied a special type of infrared antennas, featuring a very narrow gap at the center. These so called gap-antennas generate a very intense “hot spot” inside the gap, allowing for highly efficient nano-focusing of light. To study how the presence of matter inside the gap (the “load”) affects the antenna behavior, the researchers fabricated small metal bridges inside the gap (Figure b). They mapped the near-field oscillations of the different antennas with a modified version of the scattering-type near-field microscope that the Max Planck and nanoGUNE researchers had pioneered over the last decade. For this work, they chose dielectric tips and operated in transmission mode, allowing for imaging local antenna fields in details as small as 50 nm without disturbing the antenna. “By monitoring the near-field oscillations of the different antennas with our novel near-field microscope, we were able to directly visualize how matter inside the gap affects the antenna response. The effect could find interesting applications for tuning of optical antennas” says Rainer Hillenbrand leader of the Nanooptics group at the newly established research institute CIC nanoGUNE Consolider.

The nanooptics group from DIPC and CSIC-UPV/EHU led by Javier Aizpurua in San Sebastián fully confirmed and helped to understand the experimental results by means of full electrodynamic calculations. The calculated maps of the antenna fields are in good agreement with the experimentally observed images. The simulations add deep insights into the dependence of the antenna modes on the bridging, thus confirming the validity and robustness of the “loading” concept to manipulate and control nanoscale local fields in optics.

Furthermore, the researchers applied the well developed radio–frequency antenna design concepts to visible and infrared frequencies, and explained the behavior of the loaded antennas within the framework of optical circuit theory. A simple circuit model showed remarkable agreement with the results of the numerical calculations of the optical resonances. “By extending circuit theory to visible and infrared frequencies, the design of novel photonic devices and detectors will become more efficient. This bridges the gap between these two disciplines” says Javier Aizpurua.

With this work, the researches provide first experimental evidence that the local antenna fields can be controlled by gap-loading. This opens the door for designing near-field patterns in the nanoscale by load manipulation, without the need to change antenna length, which could be highly valuable for the development of compact and integrated nanophotonic devices.

 

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