David Kirkpatrick

December 31, 2009

New Year’s Eve video fun — “Auld Lang Syne”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:24 pm

Since the poem the song is based on was written by the Scottish bard Robert Burns, it seemed pretty appropriate to offer the traditional New Year’s Eve song on the bagpipes.

Everyone be safe and have fun tonight, and I wish everyone happiness and success in all endeavors in 2010.

Predictions for 2010 from Cato’s David Boaz

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:17 pm

Do go read the entire (reasonably short) post, but here’s Boaz’s very sensible conclusion:

All of which is to explain why you’re not going to find any predictions for 2010 in this post.

Shade for small spaces

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:02 pm

I’ve done a lot of blogging on outdoor living lately, and typically the topic means having access to a reasonably large yard. It takes space to outfit a deck with patio furniture, canopies, large grills and the like. That doesn’t even take into account outdoor living aficionados who go so far as to create fully outfitted and utility equipped outdoor kitchens or outdoor living rooms. I’ve even read about outdoor bedrooms. I guess that’s a solution for someone who likes seeing the stars at night, but doesn’t particularly enjoy roughing it at an actual camp site.

Outdoor living doesn’t have to be overly extensive, or expensive for that matter, to be enjoyable, and it certainly doesn’t require a wide expanse of space either. If you live in an urban environment with limited outdoor real estate, or if your home has a tight spot where you need a bit of shade a half umbrella is the perfect solution. What is a half umbrella you ask? It’s pretty simple — it’s an umbrella, just in half circle form.

Here’s an example:

7-1/2 ft. Half-Canopy Patio Umbrella

As you can see it perfectly solves the issue of not enough space for a full umbrella, but still provides a nice bit of shade for a small grouping of patio furniture. Or maybe outdoor half umbrellas give you shade over a hammock so you can read and relax on the patio no matter how small of footprint you have to work with.

Another use for half umbrellas is to shade a window as an easily moved awning. Outdora has a wide selection of outdoor half umbrellas made from powder-coated aluminum and weatherproof outdoor fabric built for durability. Outdora even offers a custom half umbrella stand that is designed to sit flush against a wall to get your half umbrella perfectly positioned.

(sponsored)

December 29, 2009

Tuesday video — the brutality of Iran’s totalitarian state

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:04 pm

No video fun here. This clip was posted at the Daily Dish and graphically illustrates the brutality and sheer immorality of the current Iranian leadership. The state is using law enforcement vehicles to savagely run over Iranian citizens rising against an increasingly totalitarian state.

Out of this list of security predictions for 2010 …

… from PC World, here’s three I’d like to see come to pass:

* The FBI issues tens of thousands of security letters to get records on individuals without warrants. Congress investigates and is appalled at the FBI’s “underreporting”. The FBI promises to do better (see 2009, and 2008 and 2007….). The 4th amendment continues to erode into meaninglessness.

* Real ID dies a deserved death and is abandoned in 2010. The brain dead idea of better-security-via-universal-ID unfortunately persists despite the enormous number of identity theft victims created by over-reliance on SSN.

* The Transportation Security Administration stops wasting billions of dollars in traveller delays by confiscating water bottles and removing shoes. Instead it focuses on real threats based on rational risk assessment, not security theater based on movie-plots (hat-tip Bruce Schneier). OK, unlikely, but I can dream, can’t I?

(Obviously that last one went out the window with the terrorism attempt over Christmas.)

December 28, 2009

Tech threats v.2010 — scareware and smartphone exploits

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

All the usual suspects — phishing, trojan virii, et.al. — will be around, but the proliferation of smartphones make that device a very enticing target for cybercriminals, and fake anitvirus scareware looks like a growth industry of sorts.

Smartphone security is going to be a major issue, particularly as mobile devices take over sensitive data functions, such as access to personal bank accounts, from larger, and hopefully quite secure, platforms like desktop and laptop computers.

As always, it’s a good idea to take a bit of time to understand the threats out there for any device you use and make sure to implement appropriate security measures for that device. The bad guys aren’t going away, they’re just adapting to the changing technology world.

From the link:

Another accelerating security trend is the wave of criminals selling rogue antivirus software. Fake antivirus software is often called “scareware,” since frightening the PC owner is often part of the scam. Rogue antivirus, which Symantec counts as a top threat going into 2010, is not only thriving, but criminals selling it are starting to display new tricks.

December 27, 2009

The Green Revolution continues in Iran

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:48 pm

The despotic regime in Iran must be feeling the heat. At every opportunity since the stolen election in June unrest has been breaking out across the nation. Today was an expected protest day, coinciding with a holiday honoring the holiest martyr of Shiite Islam and made even more potent after the death of Grand Ayatollah Ali Hossein Montazeri last week. The one-week day of mourning for Montazeri — a major player in the 1979 revolution and open critic of the recent regime crack-down against the Green Revolution protests — fell on this day adding fuel and emotion to the protest fire.

Here’s a link to the New York Times’ protest coverage, and breaking update’s from the NYT blog, the Lede.

From the second link:

Update | 2:49 p.m. My colleague Nazila Fathi has spoken with a doctor working at Najmieh hospital on  Jomhouri street in central Tehran, close to the site of violent clashes on Sunday. The doctor said that the hospital has have treated more than 60 people who were seriously injured and performed 17 operations on people with gunshot wounds. Three of the patients are in critical condition. The doctor also said that members of the security forces have filled the hospital.

Andrew Sullivan has done as much as any blogger in terms of getting the news of protest in Iran out there from the very beginning this summer. Here’s a very salient point on today’s activities:

This has to be seen now as a crippling blow to the coup regime. This vivid demonstration that they simply cannot command the assent of the Iranian people except by brutal, raw, thuggish violence, and that resistance to the regime is clearly stronger, more impassioned and angrier than ever before is their death knell. They have lost any shred of legitimacy – and the Green Revolution is outlasting them in conviction and energy and might.

The significance of this day, Ashura, the day Khomeini regarded as the turning point against the Shah, cannot be under-estimated. Its symbolic power in Shia Islam, its themes of resistance to tyranny to the last drop of blood, its fusion of religious mourning and political revolt: this makes it lethal to the fascist thugs who dropped any pretense of ruling by even tacit consent last June.

December 26, 2009

Just in time for the birthday party …

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:37 pm

‘‘I was like ‘Oh my God! It’s Jesus on a banana!’’

Holy banana

2010 — a look back, a look ahead

The New York Times has an AP article today that looks back at the last ten years and makes a few projections for the next ten covering nine sectors: banking, real estate, retail, health, manufacturing, automobiles, energy, airlines and media/technology.

From the link, here’s what the article predicts for energy:

THE DECADE AHEAD: By 2019, many cars may get 50 miles per gallon or better. Improved gas mileage, rising prices for gasoline and more energy-efficient homes are seen keeping demand for oil and natural gas at moderate levels in the U.S.

Even so, nearly half of the nation’s electricity still will come from coal even with more wind and solar energy sources.

The joys of lounging in a hammock

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:32 pm

Hammocks come in many different types — the old standard rope hammock, fabric hammocks, weave hammocks and even hammock chairs. The common denominator is whatever version of hammock you find yourself in, it’s pretty tough to not relax. There is something about lying or sitting on a hammock that pushes cares and worries just a little farther back in your internal priority list. Maybe it’s the connotation of beaches, islands and vacationing, or the traditional image of hitting the backyard hammock after a long day of yard work, but even the idea of a hammock just feels restful.

Years ago I bought a a bargain rope hammock that become a favorite spot for reading, light writing and just contemplating the universe. It followed me for several moves, always finding a home in the best spot on the patio or deck and ready for use as needed. Eventually that hammock wore out from the elements, age and lots and lots of use. It was very basic, but was proof that sometimes simpler is better. Rope hammocks come in a number of styles and sizes — some big enough for two — and in a wide variety of material including cotton, polyester, nylon, DuraCord, polycord and olefin. A great feature of rope hammocks is the open web of the hammock provides total ventilation to help keep you cool during those hot days — hot days that are coming sooner than you think.

Outdoor living is a very hot topic, and often you’ll hear about a tricked-out outdoor living room or kitchen that basically takes everything that you find indoors and puts it in the backyard. Going back to the simpler is better idea, great outdoor living needs little more than a nice deck, a backyard grill and a couple of outdoor hammocks. I mean really, what else do you need? I’d say nothing.

(sponsored)

December 25, 2009

Xmas video fun — Elvis, “Santa Claus is Back in Town”

Filed under: Arts, et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:23 am

Enjoy …

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:50 am

Wishing all my readers a wonderful holiday season and a great 2010.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=christmas+tree&iid=7355418″ src=”3/1/1/c/Retailers_Hope_For_cd2b.jpg?adImageId=8634897&imageId=7355418″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

December 24, 2009

Introducing the one-molecule transistor

I’ve already introduced the one-atom transistor earlier this month. Now here’s new research offering a transistor created from a single molecule.

The release:

Scientists create world’s first molecular transistor

IMAGE: Engineers adjusted the voltage applied via gold contacts to a benzene molecule, allowing them to raise and lower the molecule’s energy states and demonstrate that it could be used exactly…

Click here for more information.

This release is available in Chinese.

New Haven, Conn.—A group of scientists has succeeded in creating the first transistor made from a single molecule. The team, which includes researchers from Yale University and the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, published their findings in the December 24 issue of the journal Nature.

The team, including Mark Reed, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering & Applied Science at Yale, showed that a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts could behave just like a silicon transistor.

The researchers were able to manipulate the molecule’s different energy states depending on the voltage they applied to it through the contacts. By manipulating the energy states, they were able to control the current passing through the molecule.

“It’s like rolling a ball up and over a hill, where the ball represents electrical current and the height of the hill represents the molecule’s different energy states,” Reed said. “We were able to adjust the height of the hill, allowing current to get through when it was low, and stopping the current when it was high.” In this way, the team was able to use the molecule in much the same way as regular transistors are used.

The work builds on previous research Reed did in the 1990s, which demonstrated that individual molecules could be trapped between electrical contacts. Since then, he and Takhee Lee, a former Yale postdoctoral associate and now a professor at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, developed additional techniques over the years that allowed them to “see” what was happening at the molecular level.

Being able to fabricate the electrical contacts on such small scales, identifying the ideal molecules to use, and figuring out where to place them and how to connect them to the contacts were also key components of the discovery. “There were a lot of technological advances and understanding we built up over many years to make this happen,” Reed said.

There is a lot of interest in using molecules in computer circuits because traditional transistors are not feasible at such small scales. But Reed stressed that this is strictly a scientific breakthrough and that practical applications such as smaller and faster “molecular computers”—if possible at all—are many decades away.

“We’re not about to create the next generation of integrated circuits,” he said. “But after many years of work gearing up to this, we have fulfilled a decade-long quest and shown that molecules can act as transistors.”

###

Other authors of the paper include Hyunwook Song and Yun Hee Jang (Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology); and Youngsang Kim and Heejun Jeong (Hanyang University).

Citation: 10.1038/nature08639

Behavior in virtual worlds

More research into social interaction in a virtual environment. A very interesting field — I’ve blogged about this type of research before — and becoming more important as more people spend higher and higher percentages of time living “virtually” instead of engaging in face-to-face contact.

The release news article:

Understanding interaction in virtual worlds

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 14:33:00 GMT

New cinema blockbuster, Avatar, leapt to the top of box office charts as soon as it came out — a stunning 3D realisation of an alien world. Our fascination with themes of escape to other fantastic places and the thrill of immersion in virtual environments also attracts millions to assume new identities in online virtual worlds.

Now researchers at The University of Nottingham, SRI International in Silicon Valley California, two Canadian universities — Simon Fraser and York — and online games developer Multiverse are to begin a new three-year international project examining online behaviour in virtual gaming environments.

The Virtual Environment Real User Study (Verus) will explore the relationships between the real-world characteristics of gamers and the individual activities and group dynamics of their avatars in online virtual worlds. Investigating how individuals interact within online environments will have many benefits.

Computer generated imagery (CGI) in the movies has made possible unprecedented levels of realism. The imagined other-world setting of Avatar, called Pandora, lived in director James Cameron’s mind for 20 years before CGI could realise his vision — and he also opted for high-definition 3D to involve audiences further.

Cameron, the Oscar-winning director of science-fiction epics like The Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss, sits on the advisory board of one Verus research partner, Multiverse. CGI in movies has developed in tandem with technological advances in computer games development, and some games sales are overtaking movies.

After its launch in November, computer game Modern Warfare 2 became the biggest entertainment product launch in history, yielding sales of $550 million in five days.

Researchers have already been studying virtual world environments, not just to help enhance the entertainment value of online games, but also to increase their effectiveness as tools for teaching and learning, professional training and collaborative work. To date, however, few coordinated investigations of virtual world behaviours and real-world users have been conducted across different cultures.

To address this shortcoming, Verus researchers will recruit volunteers and observe their gaming activity at multiple locations worldwide. The studies will take place in computer laboratories, Internet cafes and other popular gaming environments. In these settings, researchers will interview and track the volunteers as they play online in virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft, as well as in other virtual environments that have been specially designed for the project.

Dr Thomas Chesney, Lecturer in Information Systems at Nottingham University Business School, is co-Principal Investigator with Dr John Murray from Silicon Valley-based SRI International, a leading independent non-profit scientific research institute.

Dr Chesney said: “Virtual world interfaces are likely to increase in popularity and they could even become the main way we access information in the future. SRI has assembled an international team with complementary strengths to study virtual world behaviour and it is an honour to be part of that.

“This project has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of computer mediated communication,” he added.

John Murray PhD, who leads the project at SRI, said: “We have formed a strong, multidisciplinary team of international researchers and organisations with extensive knowledge of behaviours in virtual worlds, as well as in experimental economics, social and behavioural sciences, education research, linguistics, cognitive engineering and artificial intelligence.”

“We anticipate that the study’s findings will significantly enhance SRI’s existing capabilities in the study and use of virtual worlds, especially for our work for clients in the fields of education, simulation and training.”

The research will be carried out in collaboration with other academic colleagues at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and York University in Toronto, Canada. Multiverse, a leading gaming platform developer in California, which will provide specialised virtual environments for the study.

The controlled gaming experiments will take place at Nottingham University Business School in the United Kingdom and at Simon Fraser University and York University in Canada. Research will include human-computer interaction studies, user surveys and questionnaires, on-site participant observations and other ethnographic methods of study.

The team will invite participants to contribute their own perspectives on their avatars (virtual identities) and themselves, and explain how they see and experience the virtual environments in which they play.

Education Professor Suzanne de Castell from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, said: “A small sample will be, initially at least, studied more in depth to see whether using technologies like eye tracking and skin temperature may reveal significant objective physiological correlations between players’ real-world states and virtual-world situations and activities.”

Director of Nottingham University Business School in the UK, Professor Leigh Drake, added: “Our expertise in experimental and behavioural economics, and relating to behaviour in virtual worlds, combined with the additional strengths we will contribute from our role in The University of Nottingham’s Horizon Digital Economy Hub, represents a significant contribution to this project.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Simon Fraser University and York University in Canada, where we already have strong links with faculty at the Schulich School of Business through our research in issues relating to sustainability and business ethics.”

— Ends —

Notes to editors: Nottingham University Business School is one of the UK’s leading centres for management education and ranks among the world’s leading business schools in the 2009 Financial Times and The Economist 2009 Global Top 100 rankings. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 70 per cent of the School’s research was rated as either ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading,’ ranking it 6th in the UK.

The School ranks 1st in the UK, 3rd in Europe and 23rd globally in the Aspen Institute’s Top 100Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking of the world’s most innovative MBA programmes that lead the way in integrating social, environmental, and ethical issues into management education and research.

The Business School has pioneered entrepreneurship teaching and research at Nottingham and the University won the 2008-2009 Times Higher Education ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ award. The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations.

The University of Nottingham provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. It is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

Described by The Times as Britain’s “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. Nottingham has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation, School of Pharmacy).

Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

December 23, 2009

Wall Street rigged the CDO market

Man, it’s easy to make money when you can create a bad investment out of whole cloth then bet against its success while selling it hand-over-fist to your unsuspecting clients. There ought to be some legal action in the form of civil suits from defrauded investors if nothing else.

Wall Street wonders why Main Street holds it in such contempt. Stories like this should make that dynamic easy to see.

From the link (bolded text my emphasis):

Mr. Egol, a Princeton graduate, had risen to prominence inside the bank by creating mortgage-related securities, named Abacus, that were at first intended to protect Goldman from investment losses if the housing market collapsed. As the market soured, Goldman created even more of these securities, enabling it to pocket huge profits.

Goldman’s own clients who bought them, however, were less fortunate.

Pension funds and insurance companies lost billions of dollars on securities that they believed were solid investments, according to former Goldman employees with direct knowledge of the deals who asked not to be identified because they have confidentiality agreements with the firm.

Goldman was not the only firm that peddled these complex securities — known as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s — and then made financial bets against them, called selling short in Wall Street parlance. Others that created similar securities and then bet they would fail, according to Wall Street traders, include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, as well as smaller firms like Tricadia Inc., an investment company whose parent firm was overseen by Lewis A. Sachs, who this year became a special counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

Also from the link:

“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” said Sylvain R. Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”

Got space?

Via KurzweilAI.net — You’ll need a propulsion system to get around those cosmic distances.

Engage the x drive: Ten ways to traverse deep space
New Scientist Space, Dec. 21, 2009

Ion thrusters, magnetoplasma rockets, and fusion rockets are among the proposed new technologies for instellar travel.
Read Original Article>>

Dyeing graphene

I’ve done plenty of blogging on graphene, the world’s thinnest material at a single atom of carbon, and I’ve even posted an actual image of graphene. Now scientists at Northwestern University have found a way to actually dye the material — well, technically the method is more a reverse dyeing — but the result is a great reduction in cost when imaging graphene for certain applications.

From the link:

The useful tool is the dye fluorescein, and Jiaxing Huang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his research group have used the dye to create a new imaging technique to view graphene, a one-atom thick sheet that scientists believe could be used to produce low-cost carbon-based transparent and flexible electronics.

Their results were recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Being the world’s thinnest materials, graphene and its derivatives such as graphene oxide are quite challenging to see. Current imaging methods for graphene materials typically involve expensive and time-consuming techniques. For example,  (AFM), which scans materials with a tiny tip, is frequently used to obtain images of graphene materials. But it is a slow process that can only look at small areas on smooth surfaces.  (SEM), which scans a surface with high-energy electrons, only works if the material is placed in vacuum. Some  methods are available, but they require the use of special substrates, too.

Update: Here’s a press release on this exact topic. Find the full text of the release (plus images) below the fold. (more…)

Digital quantum batteries

Via KurzweilAI.net — This could be revolutionary. Wonder what a realistic time-to-market is for this concept.

A Quantum Leap in Battery Design
Technology Review, Dec. 21, 2009

A “digital quantum battery” concept proposed by a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign could provide orders-of- magnitude-greater energy storage capacity.

The concept calls for billions of nanoscale capacitors and would rely on quantum effects to suppress arcing, which wastes stored power.

The digital part of the concept derives from the fact that each nanovacuum tube would be individually addressable. Because of this, the devices could perhaps be used to store data, too.
Read Original Article>>

A picnic in the wintertime?

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:45 pm

Depending on where you live a picnic right now could be a mighty cold prospect. But not in your imagination. Just picture — you, a loved one and a full picnic basket. Throw in a leisurely walk across a green, flower-filled park, or a gentle hike into a rustic woods before coming into a small clearing. It’s a sun-filled day with nothing more than a very gentle breeze bringing the fragrance of blooming wildflowers to you. After the walk you spread out a sturdy blanket and settle down for quiet repast.

You open your basket, or better yet open your two picnic baskets (keeping the cold and warm provisions apart) to find a bottle of favorite wine, a couple of pints of lightly chilled Belgian ale, a selection of finger sandwiches, fresh fruit that’s already been cut, a small block of aged swiss, several pastries and cold-wrapped bottle of champagne. And a minimal, but essential, selection of utensils, implements and ware. Where to begin? Ah yes, the pastries and champagne of course. Couldn’t let it get too warm, right?

It’s probably cold right now when you’re reading this, but there’s no time like the present to start thinking about outdoor fun, and what better way to welcome in the spring than to be prepared with one of Outdora’s many romantic picnic baskets. Outdora offers literally hundreds of picnic options. Everything from the classic English-style picnic basket for two, to picnic shoulder packs and backpacks, to picnicking kits specially designed for wine and cheese snacking or even for coffee service. You can even find accessories to make your picnicking easier and more fun. Accessories as basic as bar ware and plates to as extensive as picnic games and shelters. Whatever picnic supplies you are looking for, you’re sure to find it at Outdora.

(sponsored)

December 21, 2009

Monday video fun — “Prisencolinensinainciusol”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:40 pm

From the Wikipedia page on the song:

“Prisencolinensinainciusol” is a song composed by Adriano Celentano, and performed by Celentano and Raffaella Carrà. It was first released as a single on November 3, 1972, later also on his album Nostalrock. The lyrics are pure gibberish, intended to sound like American English as heard by a non English-speaker. In an interview, Celentano explains that the song is about “incommunicability” because in modern times people are not able to communicate to each other anymore. He added the only word we need is “prisencolinensinainciusol” which is supposed to stand for “universal love.”

And now, the video:

Health Care reform is coming

Filed under: Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:19 pm

And the form of the reform is taking shape. It’s a major issue in the U.S. and an insanely hot button topic in politics, made even more in modern politics after the defeat of Hillarycare in Clinton’s first term. I’ve stayed largely on the sidelines on heath care reform and have mostly sought as unbiased as possible ideas and opinions. I did think it was a strategic mistake for the GOP to effectively take itself out of the serious sausage-making of the bills and just throwing random poop at the walls to see what resonated as a decent attack line.

I’ve finally read one piece that makes me feel quite a bit better about the legislation that will hit Obama’s desk sometime in the near future, “Testing, Testing” by Atul Gawande in the December 14, 2009, issue of the New Yorker. Gawande is a M.D. and a regular New Yorker contributor and has written on the challenges of receiving and practicing medical care in the current climate. This article is measured, doesn’t really take any of the partisan sides other than to acknowledge something has to be done to change the status quo, and lays out a vision where the current legislation could start an ongoing process of continued improvement in heath care and its administration.

Whichever side of the reform debate you stand on, this article should be a priority read for a glimpse into what could be with the current legislation. It’s not going appease anyone who opposes the bill on either extreme, but it should make anyone who reads the article feel a bit better about the future of medicine in the United States.

In the article Gawande lays out parallels between the agriculture reform efforts of the twentieth century and the current effort at health care reform.

From the link, here’s the concluding graf:

Getting our medical communities, town by town, to improve care and control costs isn’t a task that we’ve asked government to take on before. But we have no choice. At this point, we can’t afford any illusions: the system won’t fix itself, and there’s no piece of legislation that will have all the answers, either. The task will require dedicated and talented people in government agencies and in communities who recognize that the country’s future depends on their sidestepping the ideological battles, encouraging local change, and following the results. But if we’re willing to accept an arduous, messy, and continuous process we can come to grips with a problem even of this immensity. We’ve done it before.

December 14, 2009

Ray Kurzweil on the next ten years

Filed under: Business, Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:02 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Anyone who’s read this blog for any amount of time knows I regularly cover the offerings at KurzweilAI in general and Ray’s thoughts on the future in particular. He’s certainly one of the most prominent futurists out there right now.

Top futurist, Ray Kurzweil, predicts how technology will change humanity by 2020
NY Daily News, Dec. 13, 2009

Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand are among Ray Kurzweil’s forecasts for the coming decade.
Read Original Article>>

Thirty four gigabytes of data

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:56 pm

That’s how much the average American personally consumes each day. Information in the form of data-rich video gets the lions share of blame.

From the link:

An average American digests a whopping 34 gigabytes of information outside of work every day, according to a new study from the University of California, San Diego. The UCSD researchers estimate we each ingest about 100,500 words daily from various forms of media. In all, it’s about 350 percent more data than we were swallowing down just three decades ago.

December 13, 2009

Banks v. homeowners

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:56 pm

I’ve already blogged about what banks are doing to small business, and the overall economy as a result. Here’s more of the same tight-fisted lending practices (with those tight fists wrapped around taxpayer’s money via the various bailouts) geared toward homeowners looking to refinance during this time of ultra low interest rates courtesy of the government.

From the second link:

Mortgage rates in the United States have dropped to their lowest levels since the 1940s, thanks to a trillion-dollar intervention by the federal government. Yet the banks that once handed out home loans freely are imposing such stringent requirements that many homeowners who might want to refinance are effectively locked out.

The scarcity of credit not only hurts homeowners but also has broad economic repercussions at a time when consumer spending and employment are showing modest signs of improvement, hinting at a recovery after two years of recession.

December 12, 2009

Should Tiger be banned by the PGA Tour commissioner?

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:09 pm

Are you kidding me? Hank Gola of the New York Daily News disagrees.

Dumbass.

(Hat tip: Deadspin)

The publishing industry getting greedy

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

The New York Times has an interesting story today on e-books, copyright and backlist titles.

Here’s the key point with this particular publishing issue:

While most traditional publishers have included e-book rights in new author contracts for 15 years, many titles were originally published before e-books were explicitly included in contracts.

And here’s where the publishing houses are getting greedy:

Several publishers who say they retain e-book rights on old contracts are working to amend those agreements to insert digital royalty rates. A spokesman for Simon & Schuster, Adam Rothberg, said the company has amended many old contracts. “Our plan is to publish all our backlist in e-book form,” he said.

Contracts were signed with no idea the concept of a digital book would ever exist. Those contracts are for the rights to publish those books as physical, bound copies of the text. Publishing contracts are very specific on what rights are conferred, even to the point many publishers don’t include international rights to the books they sign for U.S. rights. E-books certainly fall under the category of an entirely new class of rights, not something that can be “ameneded” after the fact and after the author of those books, and signer of the contract, is no longer around to agree to any amendment. If the heirs to the author’s copyright want to take electronic rights elsewhere, they should be free to do so.

If publishers want to include e-books in older contracts, those rights should be separately negotiated, not amended. I hope the courts come down on the side of the artist on this issue.

Traditional publishing is dying an increasingly quick death right now. I wonder why?

Make sure you’re covered …

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:29 pm

… from the elements in your outdoor living space with a patio umbrella. Right now the weather outside may be frightful, but spring is coming sooner than you think and right now is a great time to plan your outdoor living area and decor. The patio umbrella for your outdoor furniture may seem like something of an afterthought — it’s just there to keep the sun and elements away after all — but with options including shape, styling, color and material, the patio umbrella can also become a major design element in your overall decor.

Outdora offers a selection of outdoor umbrellas in a number of styles and looks to suit whatever decorating effect you’re looking for. You can find everything from a basic table umbrella for your patio furniture to large awning umbrellas that cover a large swath of patio or deck real estate. Whatever you are looking for in outdoor shading Outdora’s selection can meet your need.

The background of the simple umbrella is interesting. The design is simple and was most likely an improvement over the shade provided by tree canopies. Umbrella use can be historically traced to cultures spanning the globe and utilizing many different materials. At least some umbrellas in ancient Egypt were made from palm leaves or feathers, ancient Greek women used umbrellas as objects of fashion and one district in the Aztec empire used an umbrella consisting of feathers and gold as an identifying banner similar to the modern flag.

The word “umbrella” itself is derived from the Latin umbra. The Latin comes from the ancient Greek ómbros. Both words mean shadow.

Hit any link in this post to find your outdoor patio umbrella at Outdora. Jack Frost may be keeping you from enjoying your outdoor living space right now, but if you plan ahead you’ll be ready to enjoy the very first days of spring.

(sponsored)

“Hot electrons” and solar cells

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:29 pm

The latest solar breakthrough news.

The release:

Elusive ‘hot’ electrons captured in ultra-thin solar cells

Shrinking cells snares charges in less than one-trillionth of a second

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12/11/2009) – Boston College researchers have observed the “hot electron” effect in a solar cell for the first time and successfully harvested the elusive charges using ultra-thin solar cells, opening a potential avenue to improved solar power efficiency, the authors report in the current online edition of Applied Physics Letters.

When light is captured in solar cells, it generates free electrons in a range of energy states. But in order to snare these charges, the electrons must reach the bottom of the conduction band. The problem has been that these highly energized “hot” electrons lose much of their energy to heat along the way.

Hot electrons have been observed in other devices, such as semiconductors. But their high kinetic energy can cause these electrons, also known as “hot carriers,” to degrade a device. Researchers have long theorized about the benefits of harnessing hot electrons for solar power through so-called “3rd generation” devices.

By using ultrathin solar cells – a film fewer than 30 nanometers thick – the team developed a mechanism able to extract hot electrons in the moments before they cool – effectively opening a new “escape hatch” through which they typically don’t travel, said co-author Michael J. Naughton, the Evelyn J. and Robert A. Ferris Professor of Physics at Boston College.

The team’s success centered on minimizing the environment within which the electrons are able to escape, said Professor of Physics Krzysztof Kempa, lead author of the paper.

Kempa compared the challenge to trying to heat a swimming pool with a pot of boiling water. Drop the pot into the center of the pool and there would be no change in temperature at the edge because the heat would dissipate en route. But drop the pot into a sink filled with cold water and the heat would likely raise the temperature in the smaller area.

“We have shrunk the size of the solar cell by making it thin,” Kempa said. “In doing so, we are bringing these hot electrons closer to the surface, so they can be collected more readily. These electrons have to be captured in less than a picosecond, which is less than one trillionth of a second.”

The ultrathin cells demonstrated overall power conversion efficiency of approximately 3 percent using absorbers one fiftieth as thick as conventional cells. The team attributed the gains to the capture of hot electrons and an accompanying reduction in voltage-sapping heat. The researchers acknowledged the film’s efficiency is limited by the negligible light collection of ultra-thin junctions. However, combining the film with better light-trapping technology – such as nanowire structures – could significantly increase efficiency in an ultra-thin hot electron solar cell technology.

###

In addition to Naughton and Kempa, the research team included Professor of Physics Zhifeng Ren, Research Associate Professor and Laboratory Director Andrzej A. Herczynski, Research Scientist Yantao Gao, doctoral student Timothy Kirkpatrick, and Jakub Rybczynski of Solasta Corp., of Newton MA, which supported the research. Naughton, Kempa and Ren are principals in the clean energy firm as well.

Note to those who fear the coming transhuman future …

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:57 pm

cyborgs already walk amongst us.

From the link:

Technically, you’re already a cyborg. If you keep your cell phone with you most of the time, especially if the earpiece is in place, I think we can call that arrangement an exobrain. Don’t protest that your cellphone isn’t part of your body just because you can leave it in your other pants. If a cyborg can remove its digital eye and leave it on a shelf as a surveillance device, and I think we all agree that it can, then your cellphone qualifies as part of your body. In fact, one of the benefits of being a cyborg is that you can remove and upgrade parts easily. So don’t give me that “It’s not attached to me” argument. You’re already a cyborg. Deal with it.

Your regular brain uses your exobrain to outsource part of its memory, and perform other functions, such as GPS navigation, or searching the Internet. If you’re anything like me, your exobrain is with you 24-hours a day. It’s my only telephone device, and I even sleep next to it because it’s my alarm clock.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

December 11, 2009

Americans richer — on paper

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:58 pm

As far as this goes, it’s good news. It’s also a nice reminder that a lot of personal economic woes are purely paper losses (and then gains when things start rebounding like right now.) Not to understate the real pain being felt out there, but when the media starts tossing gigantic numbers around it’s always a good idea to keep a little perspective.

From the first link:

Americans got wealthier for a second straight quarter in the fall, thanks to gains in stock investments and home values.

Net worth — the value of assets such as homes, bank accounts and investments, minus debts like mortgages and credit cards — rose 5% from the second quarter to $53.4 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.

Yet even with that gain, Americans’ net worth remains far below the revised peak of $64.5 trillion reached before the recession began. That underscores the vast loss of wealth over the past two years. Net worth would need to rise an additional 21% just to return to its pre-recession peak.

And many analysts don’t expect a repeat of the strong second- and third-quarter gains anytime soon. That’s why Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Economy.com, thinks household wealth won’t match its pre-recession peak until about 2012.

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