David Kirkpatrick

September 17, 2009

Consumer spending not returning anytime soon

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:02 pm

[Note: this is the replacement for this lost post without the extensive additional commentary from the lost original.]

News from Bloomberg:

Americans plan to refrain from boosting their spending even after the biggest drop in consumption since 1980, signaling concern about the direction of the economy over the next six months.

Only 8 percent of U.S. adults plan to increase household spending, almost one-third will spend less, and 58 percent expect to “stay the course,” a Bloomberg News poll showed. More than 3 in 4 said they reduced spending in the past year.

Respondents were divided over whether the economy will get better or stay the same in the next six months; only 1 in 6 said things will get worse. More than 40 percent of those surveyed said they feel less financially secure than they did when President Barack Obama took office in January, outnumbering 35 percent who said they feel more secure.


Nanosolar’s panels heading to the marketplace

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:36 pm

(Note this is the replacement for this lost post without some of the additional commentary on the feasibility of alternative power.)

Via KurzweilAI.net:

Advanced Solar Panels Coming to Market

Technology Review, Sept. 17, 2009

Nanosolar has opened an automated facility for manufacturing its solar panels, and says power plants made using these panels could produce electricity at five to six cents per kilowatt hour — near the cost of electricity from coal and significantly less than most solar power, which costs about 18 to 22 cents per kilowatt hour.

The panels are made by printing a semiconductor material called CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and selenium) on aluminum foil.

Nanosolar’s new, fully automated solar-panel manufacturing facility (Nanosolar)

Read Original Article>>

Sadly …

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:31 pm

… it looks like I lost two posts today. I may, or may not do much re-creation because they were fairly lengthy (at least for this blog’s standards).

Apologies and thanks for the patience.

There seem to be WordPress issues …

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:29 pm

Nanosolar’s panels heading to the marketplace

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

[Note: this post was lost in WordPress somehow. Hit this link for new post sans my expanded commentary from the lost original.]

Consumer spending not returning anytime soon

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:14 pm

[Note: this post was lost in WordPress somehow. Hit this link for new post sans my expanded commentary from the lost original.]

September 16, 2009

Worried about retirement?

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:54 pm

This CNNMoney story is for you.

From the link:

3. Worry less

What if you just can’t save that much?

If your budget is tight today and you just can’t find another dime to set aside — well, you’re not alone. But you should resist the urge to become really aggressive to make up for what you’ve lost. You probably have some other arrows in your quiver. Just one of the following can go a long way toward getting you to a comfortable retirement:

Averting a blow to the economy

Maybe. It’s rarely discussed, but there is a major economic crisis coming down the pipe in 2012 or so in the form of commercial real estate paper.

Essentially in the years right before last year’s meltdown most everyone in large-scale commercial real estate was doing what I’ve heard described by a player in the field as “bad deals.” That person said everyone knew the deals were bad (as in not economically feasible unless conditions remained optimal — we all know that’s no longer the case), but did them anyway because that was the only way to continue doing business in the mid- to late-2000s.

Looks like the IRS is making proactive moves to try and take some of the brunt out of this looming economic event.

From the link:

The IRS issued new rules Tuesday designed to make it easier to refinance somecommercial real estate loans in an effort to curb the number of defaults.

The rules would allow commercial loans that are part of investment pools known as Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits, or REMICs, to be refinanced without triggering tax penalties for investors.

The investment pools were designed to encourage mortgage-backed securities by offering tax benefits not typically available through other investment vehicles. However, under the old rules, investors could have lost those benefits if loans in the portfolio were restructured.

The new regulations come as Wall Street braces for a wave of defaults on commercial real estate loans. More than 90 U.S. banks have already failed this year. Hundreds more banks are expected to fail in the next few years largely because of souring loans for commercial real estate.

“These changes will affect lenders, borrowers, servicers, and sponsors of securitizations of mortgages in REMICs,” the new regulation says.

Quantum creatures

Via KurzweilAI.net — This is just wild. There’s not much more to add.

Could we create quantum creatures in the lab?

NewScientist Physics & Math, Sept. 15, 2009

Two laser beams could hold a tardigrade (water bear — ananimal less than a millimeter in size that can survive in avacuum) in a “ground state” in an “optical cavity,” where a photon could force it into a superposition of both its ground state and next vibrational energy state, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics suggest.

Read Original Article>>

September 14, 2009

NASA’ll take you to Jupiter

Filed under: Media, Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:56 pm

At least virtually. Pretty cool idea overall.

A release from today’s inbox:

NASA Launches Virtual Trip to Jupiter

GREENBELT, Md., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA invites the public to travel to Jupiter from the comfort of one of 38 Science On a Sphere theaters around the globe. Viewers will feel like they are in orbit around the largest planet in our solar system as images based on data from NASA missions are projected onto a 6-foot sphere in the center of the theater.

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

Called “LARGEST,” the free, seven-minute presentation opens September 15. “The movie has incredible visual appeal,” said astrophysicist Amy Simon-Miller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who was a scientific consultant for the production. “We think it will engage people and get them interested in learning more about Jupiter and planetary exploration.”

On September 24, the NASA Goddard Visitor Center will hold a public lecture on this new movie. Dr. Amy Simon-Miller, Chief Planetary Systems Laboratory at Goddard will provide details on Jupiter’s active environment and data collection. Michael Starobin, Goddard’s Senior Producer and the film’s director, will discuss the creative process and technical challenges for making a movie on a sphere.  Registration is required to attend the event.

The film is based on data from NASA’s robotic missions to the outer solar system, including Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini, as well as Hubble Space Telescope observations. Watching the movie sends viewers on a journey stretching more than five times the Earth-Sun distance. Jupiter is a “gas giant” — more than 11 times wider than Earth — with a small core forever shrouded beneath a cloak of toxic, roiling clouds and oceans of liquid metallic hydrogen tens of thousands of miles deep.

Viewers will be treated to up-close-and-personal encounters of the Great Red Spot, a storm larger than Earth that’s been raging for hundreds of years. They’ll also experience dramatic fireballs with up to six million megatons of explosive power from the impacts of doomed comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which left planet-sized “bruises” of soot hanging for months in the Jovian atmosphere.

As virtual astronauts, visitors will also explore Jupiter’s swirling mini-solar system of more than 60 moons, including tormented Io, which gushes fountains of molten sulfur over a hundred miles high, and fractured Europa, which may harbor oceans of liquid water, and possibly life, beneath its cracked, icy crust.

Science On a Sphere is an exciting new projection technology developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “LARGEST” is the latest in a series of films for the Sphere created by the team at NASA Goddard using new techniques and technology of their own, designed specifically for making spherical movies. In fact, LARGEST pushed the team to develop several new presentation techniques, demonstrated throughout the film. Goddard released the world’s first major spherical film in 2006 called “FOOTPRINTS.”

“Jupiter is not only a perfect subject for the Sphere, but also simply a great subject for a movie,” said Senior Producer Michael Starobin of Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Columbia, Md. “It presents itself as a regal, mighty character, and we tried hard to invest its cinematic depiction with as much commanding grandeur as possible. This is a movie that takes viewers somewhere way out of the ordinary. It brings abstract ideas to vibrant life and makes the fifth planet real in fresh, unexpected ways. This was a thrilling project to develop.” Starobin wrote, produced, and directed the film.

“LARGEST” was funded by NASA’s Educational and Public Outreach in Earth and Space Science program at NASA Headquarters, Washington. The science and educational outreach team includes Simon-Miller and David Williams of NASA Goddard, Maurice Henderson of Adnet Systems, Inc., Rockville, Md., Pamela Clark of the Catholic University of America, Washington, Louis Mayo of Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., and Sallie Smith of Lux Consulting Group, Silver Spring, Md. Over a dozen people from Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio and Conceptual Image Lab pioneered the techniques used to make the film (complete credits are available at the website below).

To find the nearest Science on a Sphere theater, and for more images and information about Jupiter, refer to:


To register for the September 24 lecture, visit:


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

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

September 11, 2009

Remembering 9/11

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:06 pm

Another day that will live in U.S. history infamy. Here’s the New York Times from today looking back to an awful morning.

And this bit is taken from a post of mine on a different subject remembering where I was and how I felt when I first heard the news of the terror attack:

… that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

Carbon nanotubes and electronics

Via KurzweilAI — This post is a twofer on nanotech and carbon nanotubes.

From the “two” link:

Using Nanotubes in Computer Chips

PhysOrg.com, Sep. 10, 2009

A simple enough manufacturing process developed by MITresearchers could enable carbon nanotubes to replace the vertical wires in chips, permitting denser packing ofcircuits.

Read Original Article>>

And from the “fer” link:

Capsules for Self-Healing Circuits

Technology Review, Sept. 11, 2009

Nanotube-filled capsules could restore conductivity to damaged electronics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have found.

Read Original Article>>

Cocaine is so 1980s

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:31 pm

Snort stem cells instead! Seriously now, this would be quite a therapeutic discovery if it turns into something medically useful.

Via KurzweilAI.net:

Snort stem cells to get them to brain

NewScientist Health, Sept. 10, 2009

Snorting stem cells might be a way of getting large numbers of stem cells or therapeutic proteins such as neural growth factor into the brain without surgery, University Hospital of Tübingen researchers have found in an experiment with mice.

Read Original Article>>

The echo chamber in the GOP …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:54 pm

… is deafening right now. It’s like the entire Republican Party gets all its news and information from one source.


September 10, 2009

The recession (that may or may not be over) and Main Street

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:56 pm

Here’s a report of the reality on the ground:

The recession has slashed families’ earnings, increased poverty and left more people without health insurance, according to the Census Bureau’s annual snapshot of living standards, offering sharp evidence of how much the falling economy has touched Americans of every income and race.

The report released Thursday showed median household income, adjusted for inflation, fell 3.6% last year to $50,303, the steepest year-over-year drop since at least 1967. The poverty rate, at 13.2%, was the highest since 1997, while about 700,000 more people were living without health insurance in 2008 than the year before, although the share of the population living without health insurance was about the same.

“There’s a lot of pain for the average family,” said Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago. “It’s pretty striking how fast and how far the incomes of the typical family have fallen. The decline is bigger than anything we’ve seen in the past, and things are almost certainly going to get worse.”

The NFL’s blackout rule …

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

is stupid, outdated and very counterproductive.

For this reason alone, if nothing else.

Bill Simmons today from the second link:

Prediction VI: Blackouts of home games will become the signature media story of the 2009 season. You’ll hear way too much about it. Here’s my take: This isn’t about the economy. It’s about the fact that it’s more fun to stay home and watch football than it is to sit in crappy seats to watch any team ranging from “lousy” to “mediocre.” It just is. For many fan bases, here are the two choices every Sunday:

Door No. 1 (more expensive): Traffic, parking, long walk to stadium, lousy seats, lifeless state-of-the-art arena, TV timeouts, dead crowds, drunk/bitter fans, more TV timeouts, hiked-up concession prices, PDAs with jammed signals as you’re searching for scores, even more TV timeouts, long walk to car, even more traffic.

Door No. 2 (less expensive): Sofa, NFL package, HD, fantasy scores online, remote control toggling, gambling, access to scores, seven straight hours of football, cell phone calls, beer and food in fridge, no traffic.

I can see going through Door No. 1 once a year just to remind yourself that going to an NFL game sucks. But eight times a year? Unless you had good seats, or unless this was your only excuse to get out of your house and get plastered, why would you? It’s a blue-collar sport with white-collar ticket prices. This blackout trend would have happened whether the economy was suffering or not.

Fed’s latest Beige Book summary

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:51 pm

The whole thing.

The real quick version:

Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve Districts indicate that economic activity continued to stabilize in July and August. Relative to the last report, Dallas indicated that economic activity had firmed, while Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Richmond, and San Francisco mentioned signs of improvement. Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and New York generally described economic activity as stable or showing signs of stabilization; St. Louis remarked that the pace of decline appeared to be moderating. Most Districts noted that the outlook for economic activity among their business contacts remained cautiously positive.

Want to see what the NIST has to say about national ID cards?

Check out this release.

(For the record I am extremely against the concept of any type of ID card, national or otherwise, that incorporates this level of personal data.  Quite hackable and doesn’t make the public any safer. These tracking devices only give the government that much more information on U.S. citizens.)

The release:

New NIST publications describe standards for identity credentials and authentication systems

Two publications from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describe new capabilities for authentication systems using smart cards or other personal security devices within and outside federal government applications. A report describes a NIST-led international standard, ISO/IEC 24727, which defines a general-purpose identity application programming interface (API). The other is a draft publication on refinements to the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) specification.

NIST is responsible for developing specifications for PIV cards required for the government under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12. These smart cards have embedded chips that hold information and biometric data such as specific types of patterns in fingerprints called “minutiae” along with a unique identifying number. The goal is to develop methods that allow each worker to have a PIV card that works with PIV equipment at all government agencies and with all card-reader equipment regardless of the manufacturer.

Because there is growing interest in using secure identity credentials like PIV cards for multiple applications beyond the federal workplace, NIST provided its smart card research expertise in the development of an international standard—ISO/IEC 24727 – Identification cards – Integrated circuit card programming interfaces—that provides a set of authentication protocols and services common to identity management frameworks.

The new NIST report, Use of ISO/IEC 24727 is an introduction to that standard. It describes the standard’s general-purpose identity application programming interface, the “Service Access Layer Interface for Identity (SALII)”, which allows cards and readers to communicate and operate with applications seamlessly. The report also describes a proof-of-concept experiment demonstrating that existing PIV cards and readers can work interoperably with ISO/IEC 24727. The applications tested included logging on to Windows or Linux systems, signing and encrypting email, and performing Web authentications.

NIST Interagency Report 7611 Use of ISO/IEC 24727 may be downloaded at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistir/ir7611/nistir7611_use-of-isoiec24727.pdf.

NIST researchers also are involved in improving PIV components and providing guidelines that the private sector and municipalities can use with a similar smart ID card. They have drafted an update to an earlier publication that contains the technical specifications for interfacing with the PIV card to retrieve and use identity credentials.

Special Publication 800-73-3, Interfaces for Personal Identity Verification, provides specifications for PIV-Interoperable and PIV-Compatible cards issued by non-federal issuers, which may be used with the federal PIV system. It also provides specifications designed to ease implementation, facilitate interoperability and ensure performance of PIV applications in the federal workplace. The new publication specifies a PIV data model, card edge interface and application programming interface. The report also provides editorial changes to clarify information in the earlier version. (For background, see “Updated Specification Issued for PIV Card Implementations,” NIST Tech Beat, Oct. 14, 2008 [http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2008_1014.htm].)


The draft version of NIST SP 800-73-3 is open for public comment through Sept. 13, 2009. The document is available online athttp://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html#800-73-3. Comments should be addressed to PIV_comments@nist.gov with “Comments on Public Draft SP 800-73-3” in the subject line

Reporting on the International Space Station

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:51 am

News from NASA hot from this morning’s inbox:

NASA Publishes Report About International Space Station Science

HOUSTON, Sept. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells, and better materials for future spacecraft are among the results published in a NASA report detailing scientific research accomplishments made aboard the International Space Station during its first eight years.

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

The report includes more than 100 science experiments ranging from bone studies to materials’ research.

“This report represents a record of science accomplishments during assembly and summarizes peer-reviewed publications to date,” said Julie Robinson, program scientist for the station at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “As we enter the final year of station assembly, this report highlights the capabilities and opportunities for space station research after assembly is complete.”

One of the most compelling results reported is the confirmation that the ability of common germs to cause disease increases during spaceflight, but that changing the growth environment of the bacteria can control this virulence. The Effect of Spaceflight on Microbial Gene Expression and Virulence experiment identified increased virulence of space-flown Salmonella typhimurium, a leading cause of food poisoning. New research on subsequent station missions will target development of a vaccine for this widespread malady.

Another experiment produced a potential medical advance, demonstrating a new and powerful method for delivering drugs to targets in the human body. Microgravity research on the station was vital to development of miniature, liquid-filled balloons the size of blood cells that can deliver medicine directly to cancer cells. The research was conducted for the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System experiment.

One of the most prolific series of investigations aboard the station tests how spacecraft materials withstand the harsh space environment. The results of the Materials International Space Station Experiment already have been used to develop solar cells for future commercial station cargo ships. This experiment has significantly reduced the time needed to develop new satellite systems, such as solar cells and insulation materials, and paved the way for materials to be used in new NASA spacecraft such as the Orion crew capsule.

The report compiles experiment results collected from the first 15 station missions, or expeditions, from 2000 to 2008. Results of some of the summarized investigations are complete. Preliminary results are available from other continuing investigations.

NASA’s research activities on the station span several scientific areas, including exploration technology development; microgravity research in the physical and biological sciences; human physiology research; Earth science and education.

The report details 22 different technology demonstrations; 33 physical science experiments; 27 biological experiments; 32 experiments focused on the human body; Earth observations and educational activities. In addition to science important to long-duration human spaceflights, most findings also offer new understanding of methods or applications relevant to life on Earth.

In 2008, station laboratory space and research facilities tripled with the addition of the European Space Agency’s Columbus Laboratory and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s three Kibo scientific modules, adding to the capabilities already provided in NASA’s Destiny Laboratory. In 2009, the number of crew members increased from three to six, greatly increasing crew time available for research.

The stage is set for increased station scientific return when assembly and outfitting of the research facility is completed in 2010 and its full potential as a national and international laboratory is realized. Engineers and scientists from around the world are working together to refine operational relationships and build on experiences to ensure maximum use of the expanded capabilities.

The International Space Station Program Scientist Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center published the report. A link to the full NASA Technical Publication, which provides an archival record of U.S.-sponsored research through Expedition 15, is available at:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20090029998_200903090 7.pdf

For more information about the space station, visit:


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

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

The recession’s over! Everybody cheer …

… oh wait, this doesn’t sound all that great.

From the link:

The U.S. employment picture will stay bleak well into next year long after the recession ends, but the worst of the labor market crisis is over, top private economists said on Thursday.

Private economists polled for the Blue Chip Economic Indicators September survey say the unemployment rate will reach at least 10 percent in early 2010 and “recede from that level only grudgingly over the second half of the year”.

More than 80 percent of the 52 private forecasters polled say the recession that started in December 2007 has ended. They look for gross domestic product to expand at a brisk 3.0 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2009 and rise 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

This compares to growth rates of 2.2 percent and 2.3 percent respectively forecast in the previous survey.

For the year as a whole, the economy is expected to shrink 2.6 percent, the same consensus for July and August. In 2010 the economy will likely expand at a 2.4 percent pace, the survey said.

Graphite, data storage and semiconductors

Interesting release from Rice involving graphite and nanotechnology, but not the usual carbon nanotubes, graphene or graphane.

The release:

Graphitic memory techniques advance at Rice

Researchers simplify fabrication of nano storage, chip-design tools

Advances by the Rice University lab of James Tour have brought graphite’s potential as a mass data storage medium a step closer to reality and created the potential for reprogrammable gate arrays that could bring about a revolution in integrated circuit logic design.

In a paper published in the online journal ACS Nano, Tour and postdoctoral associate Alexander Sinitskii show how they’ve used industry-standard lithographic techniques to deposit 10-nanometer stripes of amorphous graphite, the carbon-based, semiconducting material commonly found in pencils, onto silicon. This facilitates the creation of potentially very dense, very stable nonvolatile memory for all kinds of digital devices.

With backing from a major manufacturer of memory chips, Tour and his team have pushed the technology forward in several ways since a paper that appeared last November first described two-terminal graphitic memory. While noting advances in other molecular computing techniques that involve nanotubes or quantum dots, he said none of those have yet proved practical in terms of fabrication.

Not so with this simple-to-deposit graphite. “We’re using chemical vapor deposition and lithography — techniques the industry understands,” said Tour, Rice’s Chao Professor of Chemistry and a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. “That makes this a good alternative to our previous carbon-coated nanocable devices, which perform well but are very difficult to manufacture.”

Graphite makes a good, reliable memory “bit” for reasons that aren’t yet fully understood. The lab found that running a current through a 10-atom-thick layer of graphite creates a complete break in the circuit — literally, a gap in the strip a couple of nanometers wide. Another jolt repairs the break. The process appears to be indefinitely repeatable, which provides addressable ones and zeroes, just like today’s flash memory devices but at a much denser scale.

Graphite’s other advantages were detailed in Tour’s earlier work: the ability to operate with as little as three volts, an astoundingly high on/off ratio (the amount of juice a circuit holds when it’s on, as opposed to off) and the need for only two terminals instead of three, which eliminates a lot of circuitry. It’s also impervious to a wide temperature range and radiation; this makes it suitable for deployment in space and for military uses where exposure to temperature extremes and radiation is a concern.

Tour’s graphite-forming technique is well-suited for other applications in the semiconductor industry. One result of the previous paper is a partnership between the Tour group and NuPGA (for “new programmable gate arrays”), a California company formed around the research to create a new breed of reprogrammable gate arrays that could make the design of all kinds of computer chips easier and cheaper.

The Tour lab and NuPGA, led by industry veteran Zvi Or-Bach (founder of eASIC and Chip Express), have applied for a patent based on vertical arrays of graphite embedded in “vias,” the holes in integrated circuits connecting the different layers of circuitry. When current is applied to a graphite-filled via, the graphite alternately splits and repairs itself (a process also described in the latest paper), just like it does in strip form. Essentially, it becomes an “antifuse,” the basic element of one type of field programmable gate array (FPGA), best described as a blank computer chip that uses software to rewire the hardware.

Currently, antifuse FPGAs can be programmed once. But this graphite approach could allow for the creation of FPGAs that can be reprogrammed at will. Or-Bach said graphite-based FPGAs would start out as blanks, with the graphite elements split. Programmers could “heal” the antifuses at will by applying a voltage, and split them with an even higher voltage.

Such a device would be mighty handy to computer-chip designers, who now spend many millions to create the photolithography mask sets used in chip fabrication. If the design fails, it’s back to square one.

“As a result of that, people are only hesitantly investing in new chip designs,” said Tour. “They stick with the old chip designs and make modifications. FPGAs are chips that have no specific ability, but you use software to program them by interconnecting the circuitry in different ways.”  That way, he said, fabricators don’t need expensive mask sets to try new designs.

“The No. 1 problem in the industry, and one that gives an opportunity for a company like ours, is that the cost of masks keeps moving up as people push semiconductors into future generators,” said Or-Bach. “Over the last 10 years, the cost of a mask set has multiplied almost 10 times.

“If we can really make something that will be an order of magnitude better, the markets will be happy to make use of it. That’s our challenge, and I believe the technology makes it possible for us to do that.”

The ACS Nano paper appears here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/nn9006225

Read more about Tour’s research of graphitic memory here: 

To download images, go here: http://www.rice.edu/nationalmedia/images/graphitestripes.jpg

River basins, the NFL and the spread offense

Here’s an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal making the argument the NFL is seeing prolific offenses because the game is a flow system where the offense acts as a river does on its basin to constantly improve efficiency.

It’s a fun read, but for the increase in offensive output I’m going to go with a rule book that wildly favors the offensive side of the ball and scoring, coupled with some offensive twists — like the wildcat and the spread offense — that are trickling up from high school and college football.

But hey, the football season is about to officially kick off and what better way to spend a little time than to contemplate how the mighty forces of a river equate to the offensive production of your favorite team.

From the link:

Some football thinkers believe these numbers speak to a temporary period of offensive dominance in the NFL—just one more high point in an endlessly fluctuating historical curve. But if you venture a bit beyond the particulars of football, to the principles of science, there’s another argument to be made: that the NFL’s high-speed, high-scoring offenses are a reflection of one of the laws of nature—the tendency of all things to evolve toward efficiency.

Adrian Bejan a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, likens the NFL’s evolution to a river’s effect on its basin. (Stay with us, here.) Over time, a river relentlessly wears away its banks and, as a result, water flows faster and faster toward its mouth. When obstacles fall in its way, say, a tree, or a boulder—or in the case of an NFL offense, beefy linebackers like the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis or the Chicago Bears’ Brian Urlacher—it will figure out how to wear those away, too.

“The game is a flow system, a river basin of bodies that are milling around trying to find the most effective and easiest way to move,” says Prof. Bejan. “Over time you will end up with the right way to play the game, with the patterns that are the most efficient.”

In 1996, Prof. Bejan, who began following the NFL after coming to the U.S. from Romania to attend college, came up with a theory about natural phenomena known as the Constructal Law. The theory, he says, can be used to explain the evolution of efficiency in everything from river basins to mechanical design. By extension, he says, it could also be applied to the explosion of offense in the NFL.

September 9, 2009

The big moment from Obama’s Congressional health care speech?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:31 pm

An amazing and massive unforced error from GOP Representative Joe Wilson.

Wilson’s apologized, but I’m going to guess it’s much too little, far too late for Wilson’s outburst (he yelled, “You lie,” at Obama during the early portion of the speech.) Republicans need to work hard to separate the party from the partisan nutjobs out there and public spectacles like this are a large step in the wrong direction.

September 4, 2009

Nanotech in the marketplace

I somehow let this release from last week’s inbox get past me. Pretty interesting information on real-world market application of nanotechnology.

The release:

Nanotech-enabled Consumer Products Top the 1,000 Mark

Public Inventory Continues to Grow

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nanotech consumer products have now crossed the millennial threshold.

Over 1,000 nanotechnology-enabled products have been made available to consumers around the world, according to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). The most recent update to the group’s three-and-a-half-year-old inventory reflects the increasing use of the tiny particles in everything from conventional products like non-stick cookware and lighter, stronger tennis racquets, to more unique items such as wearable sensors that monitor posture.

“The use of nanotechnology in consumer products continues to grow rapidly,” says PEN Director David Rejeski. “When we launched the inventory in March 2006 we only had 212 products. If the introduction of new products continues at the present rate, the number of products listed in the inventory will reach close to 1,600 within the next two years. This will provide significant oversight challenges for agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission, which often lack any mechanisms to identify nanotech products before they enter the marketplace.”

Health and fitness items continue to dominate the PEN inventory, representing 60 percent of products listed. More products are based on nanoscale silver — used for its antimicrobial properties — than any other nanomaterial; 259 products (26 percent of the inventory) use silver nanoparticles. The updated inventory represents products from over 24 countries, including the U.S., China, Canada, and Germany. This update also identifies products that were previously available, but for which there is no current information.

The release of the updated inventory coincides with the first public hearing on nanotechnology being held by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  The CPSC, with a staff of fewer than 400 employees, oversees the safety of 15,000 types of consumer products.

Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for PEN, noted that “the CPSC deserves credit for focusing on nanotechnologies. The resources available to the agency to address health and safety issues are negligible compared to the over $1.5 billion federal investment in nanotechnology research and development.”

The inventory is available at http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/consumer/

The PEN consumer products inventory includes products that have been identified by their manufacturer or a credible source as being nanotechnology-based.  This update identifies products that were previously sold, but which may no longer be available.  It remains the most comprehensive and widely used source of information on nanotechnology-enabled consumer products in the world.

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers . A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. The limit of the human eye’s capacity to see without a microscope is about 10,000 nanometers. In 2007 the global market for goods incorporating nanotechnology totaled $147 billion. Lux research projects that figure will grow to $3.1 trillion by 2015.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was launched in 2005 by the Wilson Center and The Pew Charitable Trusts. It is a partnership dedicated to helping business, governments, and the public anticipate and manage the possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology. To learn more, visit www.nanotechproject.org.

Source: The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Web Site:  http://www.nanotechproject.org/

Homeland Security, borders and electronics

I’m no fan of the bureaucratic mess that is the Department of Homeland Security. I”ve always maintained we had a great security apparatus in place before 9/11, it was simply misused. The DHS? More politicized and certainly no better, and almost more certainly much worse, than the pre-9/11 FBI, CIA, NSA, et.al.

This particular outrage has bothered me for a long time. I don’t think I’ve blogged about it before and it is a massive privacy violation that every American should know about.

From the second link:

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made it clear that border crossing officials could continue to search any device that can store electronic media without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

Although the revised policy ensures searches will be completed in a “timely manner” (up to 30 days) and that travelers will stay informed about the search’s progress, travelers crossing the border might want to consider a few things.

Officials can still seize any device (including MP3 players or flash drives) and look at any file on it (including Internet browsing history) without giving any reason.

Click here to find out more!

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) believes agents take laptops, make an image of the hard drive and then return the laptop to its owner in the mail. Any copied files could be stored “indefinitely.” (Imagine what the Border Patrol’s iTunes Library will look like after “indefinitely” storing DRM-free music from several dozen searches.) The ACLU is also taking a dim view of the DHS policy, and is challenging it in court.

The latest investment bubble?

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 pm


Jobless recovery = Main Street killer

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:43 pm

When the economy gets back on track through a “jobless recovery,” the overall result is most people don’t see, feel or believe any evidence things are better in some esoteric “big picture” fashion.

An enduring recovery that remains jobless could be a real political boon to the GOP for the 2010 election cycle if the party could get away from the lampoonable stunt-pulling and histrionics that so far characterize the opposition party.

From the link:

As a technical matter, most economists believe that the United States has escaped the grip of recession, the longest since the Great Depression. The Labor Department’s latest employment report, released Friday, added weight to the view that economic expansion has resumed, marking a continued albeit modest improvement to the rate of lost jobs.

Yet the report also lent credence to a growing consensus that the recovery is likely to be weak and fragile, prompting most companies to hold back from hiring aggressively.

“In the context of a full-blooded recovery, this report is disappointing,” said Alan Ruskin, an economist with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Stamford, Conn. “We’re still clawing our way back.”

Many experts now see a high probability of another so-called jobless recovery, in which the economy expands but jobs continue to disappear — a replay of what happened after the last recession in 2001.

Guidelines for ushering in the Singularity

Via KurzweilAI.net — Singularity news is always fun stuff.

The Singularity and the Fixed Point

Technology Review, Sept. 4, 2009

If one is trying to build an intelligent machine capable of devising more intelligent machines, a few guidelines are essential, says MIT professor Edward Boyden:

– Find a way to build in motivation, and also motivation amplification–the continued desire to build in self-sustaining motivation, as intelligence amplifies.

– Avoid paralysis of decision making from too many choices and a “societal fixed point” outcome that self-reinforces, remaining in the status quo.

Read Original Article>>

Google blackout bad omen for cloud computing?

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:11 pm

Incidents like Google’s outage are exactly what gives me qualms about cloud computing. I had a pretty dodgy DSL line for a while and every time it was down for any amount of time I was a train wreck. If I was busy at the time it was even worse since I work out of a home office. I know for a fact I lost at least one contract because my service was out for an afternoon.

Thinking about going total cloud makes me imagine that scenario jacked up a few orders of magnitude. If your documents are in the cloud any outage takes them away. Running a cloud operating system? A blackout means a black desktop.

Anyone who runs a business using Gmail for a primary email and Google Apps for document storgage was totally shut down Tuesday afternoon.

Cloud computing definitely has some serious kinks to work out before it’s a serious option for real-world application.

From the link:

What have we learned from Google‘s latest outage? That 99.9 percent uptime doesn’t matter during the other one-tenth of one percent.

Yesterday’s outage was not Google’s first. They don’t happen very often, but they do happen often enough that anyone seriously considering Google for cloud computing ought to think again.

Gmail is the core of the Google Apps suite that is targeting Microsoft Office. Imagine Google does that successfully and tens, maybe hundreds of millions of users’ connected offices go offline simultaneously due to some Google glitch.

(My colleague Ian Paul agrees that the outage casts a dark cloud over cloud computing).

That prospect ought to be enough for sensible people to let others enjoy Google’s growing pains. Which is also why Gmail and Google Apps users are wise to retain other ways of getting their work done. But, if we can’t rely on Google Apps, why are we using them?

American Society for Nanomedicine holding first conference in late October

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:09 pm

Very hot from the inbox — news on the first conference from the new organiztion, the American Society for Nanomedicine:

Newly Formed American Society for Nanomedicine (ASNM) to Hold First Conference (www.amsocnanomed.org)

ASHBURN, Va., Sept. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nanomedicine – the science and technology of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease to improve human health using nanotechnology – has the potential to revolutionize healthcare.  Current and future products range from miniaturized “smart pills” that precision-target certain cancers to nanosensors that are capable of navigating through the body for early detection of disorders.  These approaches have the ability to reduce toxicity for the patient, thereby improving efficacy and patient compliance.  The newly formed American Society for Nanomedicine (ASNM) is holding its inaugural conference on October 22-25, 2009 in the Washington D.C. area, where some of the biggest stakeholders in this emerging technology operate and practice.

This major interdisciplinary international conference is designed for physicians, scientists, policy-makers, engineers, lawyers and educators from government, academia and industry.  The conference venue is the Bolger Center in Potomac, Maryland, USA (http://www.dolce-bolger-center-hotel.com/).

This four-day conference will highlight numerous cutting-edge presentations broken up into various sessions focusing on innovations in nanomedicine and applications of nanotechnology to the pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology industries.  It will feature more than forty speakers, who are among the top researchers and leaders in various facets of nanomedicine throughout the world. The areas of emphasis are clinical applications of nanotechnology enabling successful vaccine development, effective cancer therapy and novel drug delivery approaches.  In addition, issues such as ethics, safety and toxicity, patent law, intellectual property and commercialization will be addressed.  Poster sessions, an award ceremony and numerous networking opportunities are included.

About American Society for Nanomedicine

American Society for Nanomedicine (ASNM) is a professional non-profit, medical society headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, USA.  It promotes worldwide seminal research activities in nanomedicine and explores the applications of nanotechnology in the pharmaceutical, device and biotechnology industries.  Members also discuss issues such as ethics, toxicity, patents and commercialization.  They are drawn from diverse and overlapping fields such as biotechnology, engineering, medicine, policy and law. Members enjoy numerous benefits, including reduced rates to attend ASNM conferences and discounted rates to ASNM-affiliated journals.

Conference Information/Registration: www.amsocnanomed.org

Source: American Society for Nanomedicine

Web Site:  http://www.amsocnanomed.org/

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