David Kirkpatrick

November 30, 2009

Plasma kills superbugs dead

Via KurzweilAI.net — This is good news for a serious medical concern.

Device spells doom for superbugs
BBC News, Nov. 26, 2009

A prototype device that uses “cold atmospheric plasma” to rid hands, feet, or even underarms of bacteria, including the hospital superbug MRSA, has been developed by Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics researchers.

The team says that an exposure to the plasma of only about 12 seconds reduces the incidence of bacteria, viruses, and fungi on hands by a factor of a million, a number that stands in sharp contrast to the several minutes hospital staff can take to wash using traditional soap and water.


(New Journal of Physics)

 

Read Original Article>>

The secret life of fingerprints

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:43 pm

They do a lot more than leave behind vague identifying traces of your presence.

From the link:

Today, Georges Debregeas et amis at the University of Paris 6 and 7 say that’s only part of the story. In fact the role that fingerprints play in touch is far more important and subtle than anyone imagined.

Debregeas et amis say it looks as if the ridges and whorls in fingerprints filter mechanical vibrations in a way that best allows nerve endings to sense them.

(And yes, the accompanying graphic is total nonsense to me, too.)

November 29, 2009

Nanomagnet cancer treatment

Nanoscale magnetic discs actually physically wreck cancer cells. Nanotech is offering a lot of medical treatments, particularly in cancer research.

From the link:

Laboratory tests found the so-called “nanodiscs”, around 60 billionths of a metre thick, could be used to disrupt the membranes of , causing them to self-destruct.

The discs are made from an iron-nickel alloy, which move when subjected to a magnetic field, damaging the cancer cells, the report published in Nature Materials said.

One of the study’s authors, Elena Rozhlova of Argonne National Laboratory in the United States, said subjecting the discs to a low magnetic field for around ten minutes was enough to destroy 90 percent of cancer cells in tests.

November 28, 2009

Saturday video fun — techno chicken

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:08 pm

If you’re hitting the clubs tonight you might want to pick a few moves from this funky chicken …

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”

Filed under: Arts, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:54 pm

This autobiographical animated film from 2007 is an excellent view into the Iran of the last thirty years. It opens with the Iranian Revolution and the high hopes of all Iranians looking to get out from under the Shah only to find out the Islamacists ended up as bad or worse.

The film is informative, happy, wistful and more, and it was very interesting for me to watch after this year’s ongoing green wave in Iran against the hard line Islamic leadership and the election by the ruling despots.

Hit this link to find Persepolis on DVD at Amazon.

Want a reason to wean the US from OPEC?

How about bringers of democracy being “cursed” by a Saudi prince this week.

The link goes to MEMRI, an excellent resource into Mideast media — a resource I don’t tap into near often enough. Long ago I used to read through MEMRI’s offerings on a regular basis, but it’s been out of my usual rotation for a while and ought to get back in there.

From the first link, the intro:

In an op-ed in the Saudi daily Al-Watan, Saudi Prince Saud bin Mansour bin Saud bin ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz  took on Saudi and Arab liberals and reformists and the Western ideal of democracy. Without naming names, he said that these people were promoting Western democracy despite all its flaws and despite the fact that Islam is vastly superior. Calling democracy “demo-khratiyya” (i.e. “demo-mendacity”), the prince said that writers who criticized Saudi Arabia needed an “ideological bloodletting” to purge them of their corrupt ideas.

And here’s some of the prince’s rabbit pellets:

“Those who hasten to endorse the Western ‘openness’ – whose arrows appear gentle but [carry] a fatal load – have they forgotten our principles and our clarity? Have [these people] not noticed that the West is always marketing democracy as a secular and civil system, not a religious [system]? [Struck by] waves of political Alzheimer’s, they keep telling us that Islam is not democratic.

“A curse on anyone who wants to enforce this demo-khratiyya on all political and constitutional issues. A curse on all those dictatorships that masquerade as demokhratiyya in order to destroy what they define as third-world countries!

“It should be remembered that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, and that the sons or residents of the homeland have never been denied their rights. Our country’s structure is perfect [thanks to] Islam, which has established the [concept of] shura [i.e consultation] and the protection of rights, freedom, justice and anything [else] of value, as laid down by this generous religion.”

November 27, 2009

3 Quarks Daily looking for best political blog post of the year

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:59 pm

The year dating back to November 23, 2008, and with a $1K top prize to boot.

From the link:

The winners of the polictics prize will be announced on December 21, 2009. Here’s the schedule:

Today:

  • The nominating process is hereby declared open. Please nominate your favorite blog entry in the field of politics by placing the URL for the blog post (the permalink) in the comments section of this post. You may also add a brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win.
  • Each person can only nominate one blog post.
  • Entries must be in English.
  • The editors of 3QD reserve the right to reject entries that we feel are not appropriate.
  • The blog entry may not be more than a year old from today. In other words, it must have been written after November 23, 2008.
  • You may also nominate your own entry from your own or a group blog (and we encourage you to).
  • Guest columnists at 3 Quarks Daily are also eligible to be nominated, and may also nominate themselves if they wish.
  • Nominations are limited to the first 100 entries.
  • You may also comment here on our prizes themselves, of course!

December 2, 2009

  • The nominating process will end at 11:59 PM (NYC time) of this date.
  • The public voting will be opened immediately afterwards.

December 9, 2009

  • Public voting ends at 11:59 PM (NYC time).

December 21, 2009

  • The winners are announced.

Looking for an anonymous browsing solution?

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:12 pm

Try Freenet.

From the link:

Large swaths of the world are subject to censorship, or else track their citizens’ use of the Internet. Free program Freenet lets you anonymously browse the Web, share files, chat on forums, and more–no matter where you are. Download and run the software, and you become part of a decentralized P2P network that uses encryption and other tools to keep you hidden and anonymous. As you browse, your data is encrypted and sent through a series of Freenet nodes, making it very difficult to track you.

Beautiful nature image — triangular snowflakes

I didn’t know snowflakes come in all sorts of geometric shapes.

From the link:

The beautiful six-fold symmetry of snowflakes is the result of the hydrogen bonds that water molecules form when they freeze.

But snowflakes can form other shapes too when the growth of the crystal is perturbed on one side. In theory, diamonds, trapezoids and other irregular shapes can all occur. And yet the one most commonly observed (after hexagons) is the triangle. The puzzle for is why? What process causes deformed snowflakes to become triangles rather than say squares or rectangles?

NFL Network inadvertendly airs blue language

Filed under: et.al., Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:47 am

So (expletive) what.

And why is ESPN breathlessly reporting on this non-story?

From the link:

The NFL Network accidentally aired a vulgarity yelled by Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as he chastised his players on the sideline of their Thanksgiving night game against the New York Giants.

Coming out of a commercial break following a series of false starts near the goal line that resulted in Denver settling for a field goal, the NFL Network showed a clip of McDaniels, who yelled at his players: “All we’re trying to do is win a (expletive) game!”

Semiconducting nanowires are coming

With all the news about nanotechnology and wiring that’s been coming out over the last year or so, this release is no surprise.

The release:

November 26, 2009

Nanowires key to future transistors, electronics

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –

Nanowire formation
Download photo
caption below

A new generation of ultrasmall transistors and more powerful computer chips using tiny structures called semiconducting nanowires are closer to reality after a key discovery by researchers at IBM, Purdue University and the University of California at Los Angeles.The researchers have learned how to create nanowires with layers of different materials that are sharply defined at the atomic level, which is a critical requirement for making efficient transistors out of the structures.

 

“Having sharply defined layers of materials enables you to improve and control the flow of electrons and to switch this flow on and off,” said Eric Stach, an associate professor of materials engineering at Purdue.

Electronic devices are often made of “heterostructures,” meaning they contain sharply defined layers of different semiconducting materials, such as silicon and germanium. Until now, however, researchers have been unable to produce nanowires with sharply defined silicon and germanium layers. Instead, this transition from one layer to the next has been too gradual for the devices to perform optimally as transistors.

The new findings point to a method for creating nanowire transistors.

The findings are detailed in a research paper appearing Friday (Nov. 27) in the journal Science. The paper was written by Purdue postdoctoral researcher Cheng-Yen Wen, Stach, IBM materials scientists Frances Ross, Jerry Tersoff and Mark Reuter at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y, and Suneel Kodambaka, an assistant professor at UCLA’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Whereas conventional transistors are made on flat, horizontal pieces of silicon, the silicon nanowires are “grown” vertically. Because of this vertical structure, they have a smaller footprint, which could make it possible to fit more transistors on an integrated circuit, or chip, Stach said.

“But first we need to learn how to manufacture nanowires to exacting standards before industry can start using them to produce transistors,” he said.

Nanowires might enable engineers to solve a problem threatening to derail the electronics industry. New technologies will be needed for industry to maintain Moore’s law, an unofficial rule stating that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles about every 18 months, resulting in rapid progress in computers and telecommunications. Doubling the number of devices that can fit on a computer chip translates into a similar increase in performance. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to continue shrinking electronic devices made of conventional silicon-based semiconductors.

“In something like five to, at most, 10 years, silicon transistor dimensions will have been scaled to their limit,” Stach said.

Transistors made of nanowires represent one potential way to continue the tradition of Moore’s law.

The researchers used an instrument called a transmission electron microscope to observe the nanowire formation. Tiny particles of a gold-aluminum alloy were first heated and melted inside a vacuum chamber, and then silicon gas was introduced into the chamber. As the melted gold-aluminum bead absorbed the silicon, it became “supersaturated” with silicon, causing the silicon to precipitate and form wires. Each growing wire was topped with a liquid bead of gold-aluminum so that the structure resembled a mushroom.

Then, the researchers reduced the temperature inside the chamber enough to cause the gold-aluminum cap to solidify, allowing germanium to be deposited onto the silicon precisely and making it possible to create a heterostructure of silicon and germanium.

The cycle could be repeated, switching the gases from germanium to silicon as desired to make specific types of heterostructures, Stach said.

Having a heterostructure makes it possible to create a germanium “gate” in each transistor, which enables devices to switch on and off.

The work is based at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university’s Discovery Park and is funded by the National Science Foundation through the NSF’s Electronic and Photonic Materials Program in the Division of Materials Research.

PHOTO CAPTION:
Researchers are closer to using tiny devices called semiconducting nanowires to create a new generation of ultrasmall transistors and more powerful computer chips. The researchers have grown the nanowires with sharply defined layers of silicon and germanium, offering better transistor performance. As depicted in this illustration, tiny particles of a gold-aluminum alloy were alternately heated and cooled inside a vacuum chamber, and then silicon and germanium gases were alternately introduced. As the gold-aluminum bead absorbed the gases, it became “supersaturated” with silicon and germanium, causing them to precipitate and form wires. (Purdue University, Birck Nanotechnology Center/Seyet LLC)

That SBA stimulus cash loan program? Gone

Well, more correctly out of money.

From the link:

The stimulus cash that helped boost small business lending this year just ran out.

The Small Business Administration said Monday that it has run through all of the $375 million Congress allocated to temporarily waive fees and boost guarantees on loans backed by the SBA’s lending programs. Businesses still hoping for a slice of the pie can get in line, cross their fingers and wait.

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:42 pm

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Mine was filled with family, a lot of food, football and a little travel.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=thanksgiving+turkey&iid=7136305″ src=”8/e/5/d/Obama_pardons_Thanksgiving_161d.JPG?adImageId=7868151&imageId=7136305″ width=”500″ height=”600″ /]

November 25, 2009

Almost a quarter of all mortgages under the water line

Ouch. This economy just doesn’t look or feel any better right now. I just had a major project for this year — a project on standby for around five months — move into the “not likely to happen” file. At least I’m ahead of the game on my mortgage.

From the link:

In a sign that more foreclosures could be on the horizon, 23% of people with mortgages owe more than their home is worth, according to a report released Tuesday.

Almost 10.7 million U.S. mortgages were “underwater” as of September, said research firm First American CoreLogic.

Another 2.3 million homeowners are within 5% of negative territory, the report said. The two figures combined comprise almost 28% of all residential properties with mortgages.

Negative equity, also called an “underwater” or “upside down” mortgage, has become more common as home values plummet. The report is closely watched because borrowers who are underwater are more likely to be foreclosed.

Self-assembling spherical solar cells

Via KurzweilAI.net — Pretty interesting solar concept. There is still a lot of innovation going on in the solar space.

Origami Solar Cells
Technology Review, Nov. 25, 2009

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed self-assembling spherical solar cells capable of capturing more sunlight than flat ones.

If they prove practical, the devices could be wired up into large arrays that have the same power output as conventional cells, but that save on materials costs by using less silicon.


(PNAS)

 

Read Original Article>>

Nanny company alert — Apple

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:17 pm

Apple is actually voiding warranties for secondhand smoke “contamination.” Second hand smoke residue on computer parts make them too toxic to handle? Really?

I hope this is some sort of hoax, but it seems to have some factual basis. Apple already has a very sorry track record in digital rights management, and it now looks like they want to either start defrauding customers of legitimate warranty claims or become some sort of anti-smoking police, because they can’t be seriously arguing the remnants of tobacco smoke on electronic parts is least bit dangerous.

From the first link:

Apple is apparently telling at least some customers that the amount of cigarette smoke residue inside their computers makes it unsafe for the company to perform warranty service on them, despite the lack of such a clause in the company’s warranty agreement.

The Consumerist says the complaint as been raised as far as Steve Jobs’ office, with no relief for the customers involved.

The story was reported on Friday, though the Consumerist said it had sought, but failed to receive, any explanation from Apple HQ over a period of months. (The site is part of the Consumers Union/Consumer Reports organization, so I deem the report credible).

November 24, 2009

Bringing strategic management theory to bear on today’s economy

In surprising news, this release claims the current economy is too complex for macroeconomics. (Psst, it’s not really surprising at all.)

The release:

Strategic management theory offers fresh take on the economic crisis

New research published in Strategic Organization

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (November 24, 2009) – The recent financial crisis and resulting global economic downturn has been the most defining global economic event since the Great Depression. Now research which appears in the November issue of Strategic Organization, published by SAGE, illustrates new ideas and philosophies in economics from strategic management, uncovering the micro-level underpinnings of the macro-level events we witness today.

Macroeconomics experts have used traditional theories to understand the causes of the economic crisis and offer new schemes and ideas for recovery. These discussions about fiscal and monetary policy dominated much of the conversation about the crisis and what to do about it, according to one of the authors Peter Klein, from the Division of Applied Social Sciences, University of Missouri.

Klein and his co-authors argue that macroeconomics is not equipped to offer full solutions to this crisis. Its basic assumption is that factors of production, firms, and industries in the economy are homogeneous and interchangeable. Research in strategic management has consistently shown that the assumption that the economy is made up of homogeneous or interchangeable factors of production is incorrect.

Strategic management theory—with its emphasis on heterogeneously distributed and rather immobile and inelastic resources and capabilities—is ready to open the debate to new ideas for the recovery.

The idea that resources, firms, and industries are different from each other, that capital and labor are specialized for particular projects and activities, and that people (human capital), are distinct, is constantly encountered in strategic management theory and practice. That macroeconomic models assume factors of production in an economy are homogeneous is interesting, the authors point out, because this assumption creates problems for macroeconomics in both explaining the current crisis, and in deriving solutions.

The Bush Administration bailout and stimulus program in 2008 and continuing through the Obama Administration in 2009 represent a complex mixture of programs, designed to rescue failing banks, strengthen the financial sector, and appear to help homeowners. The same programs have been copied in the European Community throughout 2008.

The Obama Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included both stimulus and infrastructure spending. The latter was designed to target particular industries, regions, technologies, and business practices for government support and to provide incentives for particular kinds of business and consumer behavior (e.g., to invest in new “green industries”. The EU plan copied this two-step approach on a smaller scale).

The article focuses on the macroeconomic stimulus itself, and—particularly in the US—the financial-sector bailout measures that followed. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress in September 2008 that radical steps were needed “to avoid a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets that threaten American families’ financial well-being, the viability of businesses both small and large, and the very health of our economy.”

The US government’s restructuring plans for the financial and automobile industries, and potentially for other sectors are likely to run into problems due to their basis in macroeconomic principles, the authors warn.

What should governments do during an economic downturn? The authors believe it is critical to avoid policies that generate poor investment in the first place. They argue strongly that basic heterogeneity of individuals, fiirms, industries, and regions cast doubt on the macroeconomic stimulus policies governments currently preach.

The authors discuss how just as strategic management theory has much to offer in understanding the crisis, the crisis has also thrown certain important weaknesses in current strategic management theory into sharp relief. Strategic management theory must extend its focus on heterogeneous capabilities to include the capabilities to handle major, anticipated shocks. Resourceful entrepreneurs and business managers urgently need us to do so, the authors state.

Adapting to external change is an important theme in strategic management research. Performance depends not only on resources and capabilities involved in production and market exchange, but also on the ability of business to influence political decision makers. In this climate, entrepreneurs may need to become skilled political lobbyists, taking advantage, and influencing the direction of the political debate.

Strategic management scholars have much to offer, and they must now engage in meaningful debate on how management theory can help resolve the current crisis, because the future, both immediate and long term, is at stake.

###

Heterogeneous Resources and the Financial Crisis: Implications of Strategic Management Theory by Rajshree Agarwal, Jay B. Barney, Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein is published today in Strategic Organization, published by SAGE. The article will be free online for a limited period fromhttp://soq.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/7/4/467

SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepublications.com

Unemployment taxes an impediment to small business job creation

This is one of those chicken/egg scenarios, but states are hurting for revenue, unemployment remains high and small business are being dissuaded from hiring because those broke states are cranking up the unemployment taxes on those small businesses. The end result? Small businesses are going to put of taking on new employees right at a time when jobs are needed. There’s no great answer here, but I’m going out on a limb and the discussion needs to be begin in state capitals around the nation.

From the link:

Employers already are squeezed by tight credit, rising health care costs, wary consumers and a higher minimum wage. Now, the surging jobless rate is imposing another cost. It’s forcing higher state taxes on companies to pay for unemployment insurance claims.

Some employers say the extra costs make them less likely to hire. That could be a worrisome sign for the economic recovery, because small businesses create about 60 percent of new jobs. Other employers say they’ll cut or freeze pay.

Small business are getting bigger

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:20 pm

At least in the eyes and definition of the Small Business Administration. Both small- and mid-sized businesses can use all the help they can get right now, but these moves seem to always open a back door for the very large structures in the corporate world to get hold of some unneeded “free” money through subsidiaries that are big, but just enough not so to qualify.

From the link:

The Small Business Administration will redefine what “small” means for firms in hundreds of industriesby revamping size standards over the next two years. The result: More businesses will qualify for all types of SBA financial aid, such as the flagship 7(a) loan guarantee program.

The SBA hasn’t taken a hard look at its size standards for more than 25 years, although it periodically makes inflation adjustments, as it did last year. There’s no doubt that in the last quarter-century, changes in industry structure, market conditions and business models have changed the definition of “small” for all sorts of businesses. The SBA’s effort will involve reviewing the standards for businesses in about 900 industries and adjusting them upward — or, in a few cases, downward — as needed.

Also from the link:

In the first round of this size standard revamp, SBA is looking at 138 industries and proposing to change the standards for 71 of them. For example, SBA wants to raise the cap on annual receipts for jewelry stores from $7 million to $25 million, which would allow a lot more stores to qualify for aid. The cap for nurseries and garden centers is proposed go from $27 million to $30 million.

Newspapers are worse off than advertised

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:26 pm

Probably much worse off. Not only is circulation down across the nation, new auditing rules allow newspapers to to count readers as paying customers in terms of circulation figures. I guess that’s nice to feebly prop up dying ad rates, but does nothing to stop the real bleeding. Add me to the cassandra chorus — newspapers as we still (barely) know them today will be gone within ten years. Maybe sooner.

From the link:

These looser standards are especially helpful to a newspaper if it sells an “electronic edition.” That can include a subscriber-only Web site, such as what The Wall Street Journal has, or it can be a digital replica of a newspaper’s printed product. Several dozen publications, including USA Today, sell access to these daily “e-editions” that show how the news was laid out in print.

Under the new auditing standards, if a newspaper sells a “bundled” subscription to both the print and electronic editions, the publication is often allowed to count that subscriber twice.

If not for these rules, the industry’s numbers would look even worse. Average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6 percent during the six months ending in September. That was the steepest decline ever recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the organization that verifies how many people are paying to read publications.

It’s not clear what the numbers would have been under the old auditing standards. But the effects of the new rules were widespread. There were 59 newspapers that listed at least 5,000 electronic editions in their weekday circulations, according to an Associated Press review of the figures filed with the ABC for the April-September period. In all but a few instances, the number of electronic subscribers was substantially higher than a year ago.

Is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on its last legs?

Looks like it. In this topsy-turvy political world Sarbox was ushered in by a GOP-controlled Congress and is being systematically gutted by a Democratic Congress. Of course one the unintended consequences of Sarbox was an untenable burden on small business. Wall Street was going to motor along, accounting firms were going to bank and Main Street was going to take it on the chin once again.

From the link:

The House Financial Services Committee has approved an amendment to the Investor Protection Act of 2009 to allow most companies to never comply with the law, and mandating a study to see whether it would be a good idea to exempt additional companies as well.

Some veterans of past reform efforts were left sputtering with rage. “That the Democratic Party is the vehicle for overturning the most pro-investor legislation in the past 25 years is deeply disturbing,” said Arthur Levitt, a Democrat who was chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission under former President Clinton. “Anyone who votes for this will bear the investors’ mark of Cain.”

Those who favored the amendment saw it differently. They were simply out to help small businesses, which would be burdened by having to report on whether they maintained acceptable financial controls, and to have auditors check on whether those controls worked.

There are other threats to Sarbanes-Oxley as well.

November 22, 2009

Beautiful space image — Centaurus A

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:17 am

Amazing

This image of the central parts of Centaurus A reveals the parallelogram-shaped remains of a smaller galaxy that was gulped down about 200 to 700 million years ago. The image is based on data collected with the SOFI instrument on ESO’s New Technology Telescope at La Silla. The original image, obtained by observing in the near-infrared through three different filters (J, H and K) was specially processed to look through the dust, providing a clear view of the centre. The field of view is about 4 x 4 arcminutes.

Getting closer to quantum computing

The latest in quantum computing news:

UCSB physicists move 1 step closer to quantum computing

IMAGE: This is David Awschalom from the University of California — Santa Barbara.

Click here for more information.

 

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Physicists at UC Santa Barbara have made an important advance in electrically controlling quantum states of electrons, a step that could help in the development of quantum computing. The work is published online today on the Science Express Web site.

The researchers have demonstrated the ability to electrically manipulate, at gigahertz rates, the quantum states of electrons trapped on individual defects in diamond crystals. This could aid in the development of quantum computers that could use electron spins to perform computations at unprecedented speed.

Using electromagnetic waveguides on diamond-based chips, the researchers were able to generate magnetic fields large enough to change the quantum state of an atomic-scale defect in less than one billionth of a second. The microwave techniques used in the experiment are analogous to those that underlie magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.

The key achievement in the current work is that it gives a new perspective on how such resonant manipulation can be performed. “We set out to see if there is a practical limit to how fast we can manipulate these quantum states in diamond,” said lead author Greg Fuchs, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB. “Eventually, we reached the point where the standard assumptions of magnetic resonance no longer hold, but to our surprise we found that we actually gained an increase in operation speed by breaking the conventional assumptions.”

While these results are unlikely to change MRI technology, they do offer hope for the nascent field of quantum computing. In this field, individual quantum states take on the role that transistors perform in classical computing.

IMAGE: This is postdoctoral researcher Greg Fuchs in the lab of UCSB’s Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation.

Click here for more information.

 

“From an information technology standpoint, there is still a lot to learn about controlling quantum systems,” said David Awschalom, principal investigator and professor of physics, electrical and computer engineering at UCSB. “Still, it’s exciting to stand back and realize that we can already electrically control the quantum state of just a few atoms at gigahertz rates –– speeds comparable to what you might find in your computer at home.”

 

 

 

 

###

The work was performed at UCSB’s Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation, directed by Awschalom. Co-authors on the paper include David. M. Toyli and F. Joseph Heremans, both of UCSB. Slava V. Dobrovitski of Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University contributed to the paper.

The search engine as teacher

Who’d a thunk it?!?

The release:

Search engines are source of learning

Search engine use is not just part of our daily routines; it is also becoming part of our learning process, according to Penn State researchers.

The researchers sought to discover the cognitive processes underlying searching. They examined the search habits of 72 participants while conducting a total of 426 searching tasks. They found that search engines are primarily used for fact checking users’ own internal knowledge, meaning that they are part of the learning process rather than simply a source for information. They also found that people’s learning styles can affect how they use search engines.

“Our results suggest the view of Web searchers having simple information needs may be incorrect,” said Jim Jansen, associate professor of information sciences and technology. “Instead, we discovered that users applied simple searching expressions to support their higher-level information needs.”

Jansen said the results of this study provide useful information about how search engine use has evolved over the past decade and clues about how to design better search engines to address users’ learning needs in the future. He and Brian Smith, associate professor information sciences and technology and Danielle Booth, former Penn State student, published their findings in the November issue of Information Processing and Management.

“If we can incorporate cognitive, affective and situational aspects of a person, there is the potential to really move search performance forward,” Jansen said. “At its core, we are getting to the motivational elements of search.”

###

National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded this research.

November 21, 2009

Media figures are truly taking over the GOP

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

This isn’t going to end well for the Republican Party.

From the link:

Pundits have used their media stages to encourage political action before, but people like Mr. Beck and Mr. Hannity are taking on outsize roles now, political experts and conservative commentators say. One reason, they say, is the weakened state of the Republican Party.

The media figures’ roles may exacerbate the ideological feuds that are already roiling the party. For the diffuse tea party movement that taps into anti-government sentiments, “the media guys are the closest things we even have to a leader,” said Adam Brandon, the vice president for communications at FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group.

These efforts are reminiscent of the Contract With America pledge made by conservatives during the 1994 elections, though some Republicans who are uncomfortable with media personalities taking on new political roles note that that effort originated with lawmakers.

Carbon nanotube supercapacitors

Flawed carbon nanotubes may lead to supercapacitors.

From the link:

Most people would like to be able to charge their cell phones and other personal electronics quickly and not too often. A recent discovery made by UC San Diego engineers could lead to carbon nanotube-based supercapacitors that could do just this.

In recent research, published in , Prabhakar Bandaru, a professor in the UCSD Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, along with graduate student Mark Hoefer, have found that artificially introduced defects in nanotubes can aid the development of supercapacitors.

“While batteries have large , they take a long time to charge; while electrostatic capacitors can charge quickly but typically have limited capacity. However, supercapacitors/electrochemical capacitors incorporate the advantages of both,” Bandaru said.

Of course I mostly ran this post just to add to the excuse for running this awesome image of a carbon nanotube. Earlier this week I featured an incredible image of graphene. We’re getting some just simply amazing looks into the atomic world right now. And it’ll only get better.

Carbon nanotubes could serve as supercapacitor electrodes with enhanced charge and energy storage capacity (inset: a magnified view of a single carbon nanotube).

Credit: UC San Diego

Mobile phones and driving just don’t mix

Even “hands-free” cell phone use. I’ve written on this exact topic for an insurance website and cited the same studies referenced in this article. I’m not even going to comment on the inanity of doing any sort of texting while driving — sending or receiving — but anyone who has ever spoken on a cell phone when driving (a group that includes pretty much anyone who has access to a car and a mobile phone) knows there were times that you lost total awareness of something happening on the road around you, be it a traffic signal, a missed exit, a near miss on a lane change, or something else. The kicker to all the studies is research has very conclusively proven it doesn’t matter if the cell phone use is hand-held or hands-free, it is simply more dangerous — much more dangerous — than driving sans mobile device.

From the second link:

Studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, show that drivers are four times more likely to have an accident if they are talking on the phone — hands-free or not — while driving.

The reason, researchers say, is that drivers often become engrossed in their conversation, rather than focusing on driving, even if their hands are on the wheel. “Once a conversation begins, we don’t see a difference between hand-held and hands-free,” says Adrian Lund, president of the institute.

And from the first link, the pull quotes I chose for this web content created for an insurance aggregator client:

How dangerous is mixing driving with cell phone use?

The quick answer is pretty dangerous. The National Safety Commission released the results of a number of studies showing distractions, particularly cell phone use while driving, cause many accidents.

Here are two excerpts from the NSC alert:

“A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that almost 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds before the event. While the study looked at all different types of driver distractions, it listed use of wireless communication devices (cell phones and PDAs) as the most common form of driver distraction”

And,

“An earlier University of Utah study showed that a 20 year old driver on a cell phone had the same reaction time as a 70 year old. Regardless of age, drivers on cell phones were 18% slower in stepping on the brakes, and 17% slower in regaining their speed after braking. They also kept a greater following distance and slower speed than drivers who were not using cell phones, which contributes to congestion on the roadways.”

Based on these statistics a number of states have banned cell phone use that isn’t hands-free when driving, many more cities and towns have passed similar bans and new cell phone related ordinances are being enacted on a regular basis. The studies into the safety of cell phone use find there is little difference in the distractions created by hands-free or hand-held conversations when driving. It goes without requiring emphasis that texting while driving is very distracting and dangerous.

About those Goldman Sachs bonuses

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

Here’s an interesting bit of number crunching:

Strangely we haven’t heard much recently about impending gigantic Goldman bonuses. Once the issue hits the news radar again, I hope to see some detailed analyses of how, exactly, Goldman made its recent record profits.

At the link below you will find an analysis of Goldman’s prop trading numbers for 2008 (not a good year), using the public records of its charitable Goldman Sachs Foundation. Thanks to a reader for sending this. I don’t know how reliable this method is — it all depends on whether GSF’s records reflect the firm’s overall trading pattern.

And now the nut from the above-mentioned analysis:

… Yet what is obvious no matter how the data set is sliced and diced, is that the firm was bleeding money across virtually all prop-traded groups in 2008. Is it any wonder that the firm’s only source of revenue is courtesy of i) the near-vertical treasury curve (thank you taxpayers) and ii) the ability to demand usurious margins on Fixed Income and other products from clients trading in bulk who have no other middleman choices.

November 20, 2009

The medibots are coming

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

Via KurzweilAI.net — This is a concept that combines a lot of elements — excitement, concern, fear, hope and quite a bit of creepy.

Medibots: The world’s smallest surgeons
New Scientist Health, Nov. 20, 2009

Advances in robotics could revolutionize healthcare, pushing the limits of what surgeons can achieve, from worm-inspired capsules to crawl through your gut, and systems swallowed in pieces that assemble themselves inside the body, to surgical robots that will soon be ready to embark on a fantastic voyage through our bodies, homing in on the part that’s ailing and fixing it from the inside.

Swimming camera capsule (The Royal College of Surgeons / Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna)

 

Read Original Article>>

Google’s Chrome OS is out

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:32 pm

Here’s a quick report from Technology Review. I’m not convinced naming the operating system to match the browser is that great an idea. I see confusion amongst the casual user. I’m guessing that’s what Google is shooting for, but I don’t see any real advantage there. Both products need marketing — marketing to separate groups — to gain any real traction, and I can’t imagine any level of confusion among users is going to help those efforts.

From the link:

Google gave the first demonstration of its Chrome operating system today, at the same time opening the source code to the public. The company highlighted features that have grown out of what vice president of product management Sundar Pichai called “a fundamentally different model of computing.” Unlike other operating systems, which merely incorporate the Internet, Chrome is completely focused on it.

The Chrome OS is based so aggressively on the Internet that devices running it will not even have hard drives, Pichai said, emphasizing that “every app is a Web app.” All data will be stored in the cloud, and every application will be accessed through the Chrome browser. Because of this, he added, users will never have to install software or manage updates on the device.

The user interface closely resembles the Chrome browser. When the user opens applications, they appear as tabbed windows across the top of the screen. Users can stick their favorite applications to the desktop with one click, creating permanent tabs for them.

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