David Kirkpatrick

August 31, 2010

Why is the “Obama is a Muslim” meme persistent?

Here comes the science …

The release:

Why Americans believe Obama is a Muslim

Published: Aug. 31, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. — There’s something beyond plain old ignorance that motivates Americans to believe President Obama is a Muslim, according to a first-of-its-kind study of smear campaigns led by a Michigan State University psychologist.

The research by Spee Kosloff and colleagues suggests people are most likely to accept such falsehoods, both consciously and unconsciously, when subtle clues remind them of ways in which Obama is different from them, whether because of race, social class or other ideological differences.

These judgments, Kosloff argues, are irrational. He also suggests they are fueled by an “irresponsible” media culture that allows political pundits and “talking heads” to perpetuate the lies.

“Careless or biased media outlets are largely responsible for the propagation of these falsehoods, which catch on like wildfire,” said Kosloff, visiting assistant professor of psychology. “And then social differences can motivate acceptance of these lies.”

A Pew Research Center poll in August 2010 found that 18 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim – up from 11 percent in March 2009 – even though he’s a practicing Christian. Kosloff noted that the poll was conducted before Obama’s recent comments supporting the right for Muslims to build a mosque near New York’s Ground Zero.

Kosloff and colleagues launched their study prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, as the candidates were being bombarded with smear campaigns. It’s the first comprehensive experimental study of the psychological factors that motivate Americans to believe the lies. The findings are published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In four separate experiments (three before the election and one after), the researchers looked at both conscious and unconscious acceptance of political smears by mostly white, non-Muslim college students. For the conscious trials, the participants were shown false blog reports arguing that Obama is a Muslim or a socialist or that John McCain is senile. The unconscious trials involved gauging how rapidly subjects could identify smear-relevant words such as “Muslim” or “turban” after Obama’s name was presented subliminally.

Among the results:

• On average, participants who supported McCain said there is a 56 percent likelihood Obama is a Muslim. But when they were asked to fill out a demographic card asking for their own race, the likelihood jumped to 77 percent. Kosloff said this shows that simply thinking about a social category that differentiated participants from Obama was enough to get them to believe the smear.

• Participants undecided about the candidates said there is a 43 percent chance McCain is senile – a number that increased to 73 percent when they simply listed their own age on a card.

• Undecided participants said there is a 25 percent chance Obama is a socialist – a number that jumped to 62 percent when they considered race. “Even though being a socialist has nothing to do with race,” Kosloff said, “irrationally they tied the two together.”

Kosloff said the increase in belief that Obama is Muslim likely reflects a growing disenchantment with his presidency – a sense that people feel Obama is not on their side.

“When people are unsatisfied with the president – whether it’s the way he’s handling the economy, health care or Afghanistan – our research suggests that this only fuels their readiness to accept untrue rumors,” Kosloff said.

“As his job rating goes down, suggesting that people feel like he’s not ideologically on their side, we see an increase in this irrational belief that he’s a Muslim,” he added. “Unfortunately, in America, many people dislike Muslims so they’ll label Obama as Muslim when they feel different from him.”

The study was done with researchers from the University of Arizona, the University of British Columbia and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

Bank lending important to small business

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:37 pm

Much more important than expected in terms of financing small business. The total credit freeze when the financial crisis hit hurt everyone, but the ongoing credit crunch on small businesses and entrepreneurs may be a fairly big piece of the slow economic recovery puzzle.

From the link:

Small businesses are more sensitive to the contraction of bank lending than previously thought, and the conventional wisdom about how small businesses finance themselves may be hogwash, according to a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The paper, “The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms,” found that newly created firms rely heavily on “outside” debt financing, such as owner-backed loans, business bank loans, and business credit lines. The average amount of bank financing is seven times greater than the average amount of
“insider”-financed debt — money from family members and personal networks of the owner. Those groups were previously thought to be the primary providers of fuel for start-ups.

RIP — Oxford English Dictionary, print edition

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 pm

This rest-in-peace notice is a bit premature because the Oxford University Press hasn’t officially announced the demise of the printed OED, but it does heavily prognosticate by the time the third edition is ready for print it’s likely to be an online-only affair. I still sort of regret passing up buying a reduced price second edition of the OED back a few years ago.

From the link:

By the time the lexicographers behind the century-old Oxford English Dictionary finish revising and updating its third edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

“At present we are experiencing increasing demand for the online product,” a statement from the publisher said. “However, a print version will certainly be considered if there is sufficient demand at the time of publication.”

Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, told The Sunday Times in an interview he didn’t think the newest edition will be printed. “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year,” he said.

Google and Arcade Fire showcase HTML5

Filed under: Arts, Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:10 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — The link down there with “Chrome Experiment” as an anchor text is broken, try this instead to check out the interactive video.

From the first  link:

Google Shows Off Chrome, HTML5 With Interactive Music “Experience”

August 31, 2010

Source: ReadWriteWeb, Aug 30, 2010

Google has released its latest “Chrome Experiment” in the form of a music video “experience” that shows off the power of tools like HTML5 and Google products like Chrome, Maps and Street View, using real-time graphics rendering and real-world imagery pulled from Google Maps satellite and Street View imagery from your own home town.

[+]

Opens up an exciting new media form. Highly recommended. – Ed.

Read original article

August 30, 2010

Flying robots with hands …

pretty cool tech, actually.

From the link:

A robotic hand attached to a small helicopter can successfully and autonomously grip objects while the helicopter is hovering, as demonstrated by a group at Yale University led by Aaron Dollar, one of this year’s TR35s.

The helicopter hand, dubbed the Yale Aerial Manipulator, could be used in spots that are difficult for ground robots to get to, such as high or roughly terrained places. It could also be used to pick up bombs or packages, or even as a form of delivery, moving packages in urban environments where trucks would have a hard time, suggests Paul Pounds, first author of the work.

Hit the link for video of the Yale Aerial Manipulator in action.

Job market, other indicators weak — double dip recession on the horizon?

Looks like not if the Fed can help it. This is likely to be a week full of not so good economic news, and if that scenario comes to pass there’ll be a lot of talk about a “double dip” recession.  And make no mistake, the talk will be justified. I’m not sure what fiscal tools Bernanke has left in the box, but there seems to be agreement that he’ll go more chainsaw and less scalpel to avoid a double-dipper. I guess we’ll see …

From the link:

With little support in Congress for a renewed burst of government spending, the burden of rescuing a lagging recovery falls upon the nation’s central bank. The Fed already has kept its benchmark lending rate near zero for almost two years, and has tried to further loosen credit via unusual asset purchases, known as “quantitative easing.” In a speech Friday, Bernanke said the Fed would take additional “unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.”

He told an audience of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that the Fed could spur growth by:

•Expanding its $2 trillion balance sheet with additional purchases of long-term securities.

•Announcing plans to keep its benchmark interest rate near zero for “a longer period than is currently priced into the markets.”

•Or reducing the minuscule interest banks earn on deposits with the central bank.

Bernanke said the Fed must balance the benefits of employing unconventional monetary policy tools against their costs. Overly aggressive action could raise doubts that the Fed would be able to unwind its extraordinary assistance once the economy recovers.

Public relations no-nos — impersonating consumers

PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.

(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)

And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.

From the first link way up there in the first sentence:

US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.

The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the .

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

August 29, 2010

The size of Beck’s rally on the Mall

More from today’s Playbook, here’s two sources with two fairly different sets of numbers:

–CBS News commissioned aerial photos and put the crowd at 87,000:“AirPhotosLive.com based the attendance on aerial pictures it took over the rally, which stretched from in front of the Lincoln Memorial along the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument. … AirPhotosLive.com gave its estimate a margin of error of 9,000, meaning between 78,000 and 96,000 people attended the rally. The photos used to make the estimate were taken at noon Saturday, which is when the company estimated was the rally’s high point.”

–Beck has his own photos, telling Chris Wallace: “We’ll have aerial photography here shortly on the numbers, but I can tell you that it was in the hundreds of thousands. … [L]et’s be on the low end, 300,000, and it may be as it may be as high as 650,000. But there were hundreds of thousands.”

The housing market continues to suffer

And the White House is prepping to announce new initiatives to keep homeowners in their houses and forestall a new spate of foreclosures. The real-world effects of this recession are still ongoing, regardless what direction any economic indicators may point, and the help Main Street is getting from DC feels like a trickle here, a trickle there. So much for the “summer of recovery.”

From the link:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan revealed to CNN Friday that the Obama administration plans next week to unveil two new initiatives to deal with the crumbling housing market, and he left the door open to also reviving the expired $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that had been propping up the industry.

“We’re going to be rolling out an FHA refinancing effort to help borrowers who are under water in their homes get above water,” Donovan said in an exclusive interview taped for CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley” on Sunday. “And second, we’re launching an emergency homeowners’ loan program for unemployed borrowers to be able to stay in their homes.”

The swift action being pushed by President Obama’s housing chief come in response to awful news in the housing industry this week, starting with Tuesday’s revelation that existing home sales hit their lowest level in over a decade, declining by over 27 percent during the month.

Update: this comes from today’s Playbook — brunch edition:

An administration official e-mails: “These are not new. He said ‘launching’ because they are previously introduced, but have not yet hit the market. The FHA short refi program was announced in March, and will launch in early September. The emergency homeowner emergency loan program, which was included in the Frank-Dodd bill (HUD put out in a release and conf. call two weeks ago), will be launched in October.”

August 28, 2010

Congress may pass emergency bill to restart stem cell research

And it can’t happen a day too soon. Allowing theocrats to hijack scientific and medical research only puts the United States that much more under the gun of losing dominance  in fields that will — will, not might — have a major influence on human life and the global marketplace in the very near future.

The release:

Congressman, CSHL president urge quick action to reverse judicial embryonic stem cell research ban

A federal judge’s decision ‘sets back’ vital work and handcuffs American science

Cold Spring Harbor, NY – Against a backdrop of some of the world’s most sophisticated biological research labs, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) this morning issued a challenge to his colleagues in Congress: immediately upon their return from summer recess, he urged, they should pass legislation that would reverse a recent Federal court decision that has brought embryonic stem cell research in the U.S. to a screeching halt.

Rep. Israel was seconded in his plea by Dr. Bruce Stillman, a renowned cancer researcher and President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which hosted the Congressman’s announcement to the press this morning. Also lending vocal support was Brooke Ellison, a stem cell research advocate and instructor at Stony Brook University, who, since a car accident in 1990, has been a quadriplegic.

Rep. Israel said the Aug. 23 decision by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, “sets back research, sets back patients, and sets back jobs,” on Long Island and across the nation. The decision, which prevents federally funded research from being conducted on any embryonic stem cells derived from human embryos, “has not only rolled back the Obama policy on stem cells, but has actually rolled back the Bush policy,” Israel noted.

The Congressman said he regards the legal appeals process too slow, given the gravity of the matter. “I don’t think we should wait for an appeal,” he said. “We’ve got to act, and act fast.” Congress has twice in the past decade passed bills giving the go-ahead for embryonic stem cell research. “The Judge said Congress created the policy, and only Congress can revisit it. Well, I want to take him up on that. When we return to Washington on Sept. 14, the House, as one of its first priorities, should re-pass the very legislation that it has passed twice before.” If passed by the Senate, such a bill would be almost certain to receive a presidential signature, thus ending any ambiguity about the will of Congress, Israel said.

President Stillman of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory praised Rep. Israel for taking a strong position on the issue and calling for an immediate remedy. “To the scientific community,” Dr. Stillman said, “this judicial decision was an absolute shock. Embryonic stem cells have been studied since the 1980s, and now the work has been forced to a complete stop. The judge’s decision reverses the policies of two presidents, goes far beyond the debate that we’ve seen in this country, and sets a standard that is unique in the world. This is now the only country in the world where you cannot do embryonic stem cell research.”

Dr. Stillman said he believed that bringing the matter before Congress once more “will not only clarify the situation,” but will provide Congress with a golden opportunity “to make a strong statement to the people of this country and to patients like Brooke Ellison, who are counting on steady progress in stem cell research.” The prior passage by Congress of two bills enabling research with embryonic stem cells is evidence of the strong public support that exists for this type of research, Stillman said.

Brooke Ellison, who spoke from her wheelchair, said that “stem cell research has been used as a political see-saw,” subject to the uncertainties of the political process. “But this is not a political, judicial or ideological issue,” she said. “It’s a human issue. One that speaks to the very core of what it means to show basic human compassion.”

Dr. Stillman said that while most work involving stem cells at CSHL was not embryonic stem cell research, any labs in which embryonic cells are used will now be subject to the National Institutes of Health’s recent interpretation of Judge Lamberth’s ruling. He said there was still some ambiguity about whether the interpretation will hold up under inevitable challenge. But the point, Dr. Stillman emphasized, is that science cannot properly proceed and the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells cannot be discovered — by researchers working in America — unless research is permitted to proceed in unfettered fashion.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is a private, not-for-profit research and education institution at the forefront of efforts in molecular biology and genetics to generate knowledge that will yield better diagnostics and treatments for cancer, neurological diseases and other major causes of human suffering. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu.

Cool space image — Orcus Patera

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:58 pm

Orcus Patera is a crater on Mars with an unusual elongated shape:

From the link:

Orcus Patera is an enigmatic elliptical depression near Mars’s equator, in the eastern hemisphere of the planet. Located between the volcanoes of Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons, its formation remains a mystery.

Often overlooked, this well-defined depression extends approximately 380 km by 140 km in a NNE–SSW direction. It has a rim that rises up to 1800 m above the surrounding plains, while the floor of the depression lies 400–600 m below the surroundings.

Hit this link for a much larger version of the image.

August 27, 2010

SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project at TEDxSMU

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. The initial exhibition of the digitally created artwork occurred back in May at the Rapid 2010 trade show. Now the exhibit moves to Dallas for the TEDxSMU event on September 14, 2010.

From the link:

September 14, 2010 | TEDxSMU Rapid Artists Salon + Exhibit Opening

TEDxSMU is partnering with SculptCAD’s Rapid Artists program for the opening of the first art exhibit of its kind. Fourteen Dallas artists have diverged from their typical mediums to learn to sculpt using digital sculpting programs, and the final renderings of their creations were subsequently produced using ground-breaking 3D printing processes in materials from bronze to plastic.

On September 14, the exhibit will open at One Arts Plaza with an evening event co-produced by TEDxSMU and SculptCAD. Please join us to see the exhibit and hear TEDxTalks from several of the artists involved with the project and visit with the artists one-on-one about the pieces and their inspiration.

Click here for more on the Rapid Artist Project.

Tuesday, September 14
6:00-8:00pm | presentations at 6:30
One Arts Plaza Lobby
1722 Routh Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Tickets: $15 in advance / $20 the week of or at the door (pending availability)

Head below the fold for the official release on this event plus images of artwork from the project. (more…)

Oil spill news

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

Came across two interesting news items on oil spills. One is on a technology developed by MIT researchers on cleaning up surface oil after a spill and the second involves the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and how microbes may be cleaning at least the oil in deep water plumes.

From the second link:

Microbes may become the heroes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by gobbling up oil more rapidly than anyone expected. Now some experts suggest we ought to artificially stimulate such microbes in stricken marshland areas to aid their cleanup.

Evidence published this week shows that deep-water microbes in the Gulf may be rapidly chewing up BP’s spilled crude. This could sway federal authorities to use petroleum-digesting microbes or fertilizer additives that can stimulate naturally occurring bacteria for future spills. Such measures were originally rejected for the BP spill.

From the first link, the story on MIT’s oil spill clean-up tech comes from KurzweilAI.net:

MIT researchers unveil autonomous oil-absorbing robot

August 27, 2010 by Editor

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic prototype that could autonomously navigate the surface of the ocean to collect surface oil and process it on site.

The system, called Seaswarm, is a fleet of vehicles that may make cleaning up future oil spills both less expensive and more efficient than current skimming methods.

The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, previously featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused.

The Seaswarm robot, which is 16 feet long and seven feet wide, uses two square meters of solar panels for self-propulsion. With just 100 watts, the equivalent of one household light bulb, it could potentially clean continuously for weeks.

Using swarm behavior, the units will use wireless communication and GPS and manage their coordinates and ensure an even distribution over a spill site. By detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward, a single vehicle could clean an entire site autonomously or engage other vehicles for faster cleaning.

MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots would be able to clean a spill the size of the gulf in one month. The team has future plans to enter their design into the X-Prize’s $1 million oil-cleanup competition. The award is given to the team that can most efficiently collect surface oil with the highest recovery rate.

By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Video: Senseable City Lab

More info: MIT news

US military hacked in 2008

Hacked by a compromised USB thumb drive. Just goes to show you can worry all day about technical threats and software backdoors and plain old network hacking, but all those assets out in the wild — people’s heads with sensitive passwords, unattended laptops, USB drives, et al. — can be hard to lock down and are usually the easiest way into a network.

From the link:

It was a USB drive loaded with malware.

That’s how U.S. defense networks were compromised in 2008, according to U.S Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, who today offered the first official confirmation of a data breach that led to restrictions on the use of removable USB drives in the military.

In an article written for Foreign Affairs magazine, Lynn said the breach occurred when a single USB drive containing malicious code was inserted into a laptop computer at a U.S. base in the Middle East. The malware, placed on the drive by a foreign intelligence agency, was uploaded to a network run by the U.S. Central Command.

The malware then spread — undetected — on both classified and unclassified systems, essentially establishing a “digital beachhead” from which data could be transferred to servers outside the U.S, “It was a network administrator’s worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary,” Lynn wrote.

Here’s additional coverage of this story.

Update 8/30/10: And even more coverage. Looks like the actual threat was very low-level and involved the W32.SillyFDC worm.

From the department of, “no duh” …

… Fox News is a shill for GOP talking points. And that statement isn’t really fair to Fox News because in many ways it’s giving some measure of marching orders to the current Republican Party.

Either way you want to slice that one up, this chart is only the most recent “exhibit A” in the lack of balance (and fairness as far as it goes) in Fox News coverage of issues involving or affecting the GOP:

Mehlmanmention

What this chart refers to is Ken Mehlman, campaign manager of Bush 43’s 2004 successful reelection and subsequent chair of the Republican National Committee, recently announced he is gay. This announcement makes him one of, if not the, highest ranking members of the Republican Party to publicly come out as homosexual.

Although he is being given solid support by party leaders and insiders, this announcement can’t jibe well with the current GOP brand. The party as a whole is fighting the issue of gay marriage tooth-and-nail right now, and the christianist religious right leg of the party considers homosexuality an abomination deserving of nothing less than annihilation.

So what’s Fox News to do? Interview current party chair Michael Steele who said, “His announcement, often a very difficult decision which is only compounded when done on the public stage, reaffirms for me why we are friends and why I respect him personally and professionally.” Or maybe talk to his old boss, George W. Bush, who has also been supportive. Or how about the many GOP insiders in DC and around the country who have no truck with Mehlman’s declaration (or Dick Cheney’s daughter, or any other gay Republicans for that matter.)

No, instead of reporting on this bit of news involving the GOP — you know, the balance part of “fair and balanced” — Fox News just pretends Mehlman’s announcement didn’t happen and spends zero airtime on his coming out statement.

This type of selective reporting does a grave disservice to the Fox News viewers who get no input into the world of U.S. politics outside of the right wing echo chamber. There’s a lot of those people out there, and Fox News execs know it. I even bet some of these people will hear about Mehlman’s homosexuality and claim it’s a plot by socialist “lame-stream” media to sully his image since it can’t be true — Fox News didn’t report on it.

The one-sided reporting from Fox News is bad for the current GOP, bad for United States politics and in the end bad for democracy in America.

Here’s conservative pundit, former Bush 43 speechwriter and administration member; and current GOP apostate and mob-declared RINO, David Frum on the party making the mistake of grabbing a tiger by the tail, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox.”

August 26, 2010

Out of control taxation, New York State-style

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:17 pm

There really isn’t anything to add to this Wall Street Journal story other than WTF?

From the link:

State tax officials, under orders from cash-strapped Albany to ramp up their audit and compliance efforts, have begun to enforce one of the more obscure distinctions within the state’s sales tax law.

In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn’t subject to sales tax. But the tax does apply to “sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings),” according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. And if the bagel is eaten in the store, even if it’s never been touched by a knife, it’s also taxed.

The Printed Blog Bloggers Network

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:51 pm

I’m pleased to announce this blog is now part of The Printed Blog Bloggers Network. This means some of my posts will be available in the new weekly print subscription magazine. Hit the link up there to subscribe and actually get to hold some of the best of the blogosphere in your hands.

Be sure to follow The Printed Blog at Twitter here twitter.com/theprintedblog, and like The Printed Blog at Facebook here facebook.com/theprintedblog.

Dry water

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:47 am

You know, all you have to do is just add water. Oh, wait …

Seriously, here’s the release:

‘Dry water’ could make a big splash commercially

This release is also available in Chinese on EurekAlert! Chinese.

IMAGE: Powdered material called “dry water ” could provide a new way to store carbon dioxide in an effort to fight global warming.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 25, 2010 — An unusual substance known as “dry water,” which resembles powdered sugar, could provide a new way to absorb and store carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The powder shows bright promise for a number of other uses, they said. It may, for instance, be a greener, more energy-efficient way of jumpstarting the chemical reactions used to make hundreds of consumer products. Dry water also could provide a safer way to store and transport potentially harmful industrial materials.

“There’s nothing else quite like it,” said Ben Carter, Ph.D., researcher for study leader Professor Andrew Cooper. “Hopefully, we may see ‘dry water’ making waves in the future.”

Carter explained that the substance became known as “dry water” because it consists of 95 percent water and yet is a dry powder. Each powder particle contains a water droplet surrounded by modified silica, the stuff that makes up ordinary beach sand. The silica coating prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid. The result is a fine powder that can slurp up gases, which chemically combine with the water molecules to form what chemists term a hydrate.

Dry water was discovered in 1968 and got attention for its potential use in cosmetics. Scientists at the University of Hull, U.K. rediscovered it in 2006 in order to study its structure, and Cooper’s group at the University of Liverpool has since expanded its range of potential applications.

One of the most recent involves using dry water as a storage material for gases, including carbon dioxide. In laboratory-scale research, Cooper and co-workers found that dry water absorbed over three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time. This ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide gas as a hydrate could make it useful in helping to reduce global warming, the scientists suggested.

Cooper and colleagues demonstrated in previous studies that dry water is also useful for storing methane, a component of natural gas, and may help expand its use as a future energy source. In particular, they hope that engineers can use the powder to collect and transport stranded deposits of natural gas. This also exists on the ocean floor in the form of gas hydrates, a form of frozen methane also known as the “ice that burns.” The powder could also provide a safer, more convenient way to store methane fuel for use in vehicles powered by natural gas. “A great deal of work remains to be done before we could reach that stage,” Carter added.

In another potential new application, the scientists also showed that dry water is a promising means to speed up catalyzed reactions between hydrogen gas and maleic acid to produce succinic acid, a feedstock or raw material widely used to make drugs, food ingredients, and other consumer products. Manufacturers usually have to stir these substances together to get them to react. By developing dry water particles that contain maleic acid, Cooper and colleagues showed that they could speed up the acid’s reaction with hydrogen without any stirring, resulting in a greener, more energy-efficient process.

“If you can remove the need to stir your reactions, then potentially you’re making considerable energy savings,” Carter said.

Prof. Cooper’s team describes an additional new application in which dry water technology shows promise for storing liquids, particularly emulsions. Emulsions are mixtures of two or more unblendable liquids, such as the oil and water mixture in mayonnaise. The scientists showed that they could transform a simple emulsion into a dry powder that is similar to dry water. The resulting powder could make it safer and easier for manufacturers to store and transport potentially harmful liquids.

Carter noted that he and his colleagues are seeking commercial or academic collaboration to further develop the dry water technology. The U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Center for Materials Discovery provided funding and technical support for this study.

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The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Cool nanotech image — microneedles

Cool to look, even more cool when put into practice. Microneedles can deliver quantum dots into skin and should lead to new diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions such as skin cancer.

And now, the image:

Hollow microneedles open the door to new techniques for diagnosing and treating a variety of medical conditions, including skin cancer. Image reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

For more on microneedles, here’s the full release.

Makin’ phone calls with Gmail

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:58 am

Gmail gets deeper into telephony with the ability to make calls to landlines and cell phones.

From the link:

Google is shaping Gmail into the ultimate communications hub. Today, the companyannounced that United States users will be able to make and receive calls within Gmail, providing they install the company’s voice and video plug-in.

Users could already call and video chat with other Gmail users, but the new features allow them to call landlines and cellphones. Google says that calls to phones within the U.S. and Canada will be free for at least the rest of the year, and calls to many other countries will cost 2 cents a minute.

August 25, 2010

More economic gloom …

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:33 pm

… home sales at lowest point since 1995.

Quantum entanglement and free will

A little more closely related than you might think.

From the link:

In practical terms, this means that there can be no shared information between the random number generators that determine the parameters of the experiments to be made, and the particles to be measured.

But the same also holds true for the experimenters themselves. It means there can be no information shared between them and the particles to be measured either. In other words, they must have completely free will.

In fact, if an experimenter lacks even a single bit of free will then quantum mechanics can be explained in terms of hidden variables. Conversely, if we accept the veracity of quantum mechanics, then we are able to place a bound on the nature of free will.

That’s an interesting way of stating the problem of entanglement and suggests a number of promising, related conundrums: what of systems that are partially entangled and others in which more than two particle become entangled.

Free will never looked so fascinating.

Making nano-brushes even smaller

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:52 am

Now this is a nanotech development that can lead to real-world applications.

From the link:

In their latest series of experiments, Duke University engineers have developed a novel approach to synthesize these nano-brushes, which could improve their versatility in the future. These polymer brushes are currently being used in biologic sensors and microscopic devices, such as microcantilevers, and they will play an important role in the future drive to miniaturization, the researchers said.

Nano-brushes are typically made of  grown on flat surfaces with strands of the molecules growing up and out from a surface, much like hairs on a brush. Polymers are large man-made molecules ubiquitous in the manufacture of everyday products.

An atomic force microscopy topographic image of the nano-brushes. The relative heights of the brushes can be tailored by changing the substrate and initiators. Credit: Stefan Zauscher, Pratt School of Engineering

The downside of all those digital devices

Via KurzweilAI.net — They eat into our downtime.

From the link:

Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

August 25, 2010

Source: New York Times, Aug 24, 2010

When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

Read original article

August 24, 2010

Summer reading — Andrew Vachss

Filed under: Arts, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:52 pm

After three books this past week I’m once again reminded why Andrew Vachss is one of my favorite authors. Now that list is very long and varied, but Vachss is pretty high on my list for brilliant writing, great characters, deft plotting and just fun reading. If you’ve never read anything of his I recommend starting with the beginning of the Burke series, “Flood.” If you’re familiar with his work, but haven’t checked out anything outside the Burke books go for “Two Trains Running.”

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Tuesday video fun — Roger Federer’s ball control

Filed under: et.al., Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:07 pm

Tennis ball control, that is.

Enjoy …

Fed must reveal details of bailout

Filed under: Business, Politics — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:38 pm

Bloomberg News won in court to require the Federal Reserve to disclose the nuts and bolts of the financial bailout when the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York turned down an appeal of Fed court loss in March. I’m with Bloomberg on this. Public money was used and there’s no conceivable reason why the public should be kept in the dark on the who’s and how muches went into the bailout. If some businesses (or the government) get embarrassed, so be it. And if financial institutions didn’t want make any business details public, they shouldn’t have taken any public money. That public thing ought to be a two-way street. Looks like the New York Appeals Court agrees.

From the link:

The full U.S. Court of Appeals in New York has refused to review a March decision by three of its judges requiring the Fed to release records of the $2 trillion in emergency loans it extended to banks and other institutions beginning in 2008.

From Bloomberg:

Unless the court stays its decision, the Fed will have seven days to disclose the documents. In the event of a stay, the central bank and the Clearing House Association LLC, an organization of 20 commercial banks that joined the Fed in defense of the lawsuit, will have 90 days to petition the Supreme Court to consider their appeal. The Clearing House has already said it will ask the high court to rule on the case.

A Fed spokesman said the central bank was “considering our options.”

Bloomberg sued the Fed in November 2008, arguing that the public has the right to know the names of the banks that borrowed from the agency, the amounts of the loans and what kind of collateral was posted.

Readability

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:34 pm

No, no the kind of readability that describes a well-turned phrase, but instead a JavaScript you put in your bookmarks (ideally a bookmark bar for ease of use) that turns a jumbled web page into a simple, clean interface to the main content on that site. You can even ratchet up the font size to make reading easier on the eyes if need be.

I use Readability regularly and heartily recommend this free online tool. Next time you’re faced with a page full of ads, menus, tables and who knows what else, you’ll be happy a clean, easy-to-read page is mere click of a bookmark away. Readability is an arc90 laboratory experiment.

From the link:

Readability™ is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.

This is where tablet e-readers can really shine

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:39 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — Textbooks!

From the link:

Replacing a Pile of Textbooks With an iPad

August 24, 2010

Source: New York Times — Aug 23, 2010

A new company called Inkling hopes to break the standard textbook model and help textbooks enter the interactive age by letting students share and comment on the texts and interact with fellow students, using an iPad.

Other features include interactive graphics within a book and the ability to search text, change the size of the type, purchase individual chapters of books, highlight text for others to see, and take pop quizzes directly within the app.

Photo: Inkling

Read original article

August 23, 2010

200x fuel cell efficiency boost

The idea of a personalized energy system is very attractive. Talk about being able to go off the grid …

The release:

200-fold boost in fuel cell efficiency advances ‘personalized energy systems’

IMAGE: A new catalyst could help speed development of inexpensive home-brewed solar energy systems for powering homes and plug-in cars during the day (left) and for producing electricity from a fuel…

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 23, 2010 — The era of personalized energy systems — in which individual homes and small businesses produce their own energy for heating, cooling and powering cars — took another step toward reality today as scientists reported discovery of a powerful new catalyst that is a key element in such a system. They described the advance, which could help free homes and businesses from dependence on the electric company and the corner gasoline station, at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held here this week.

“Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” said study leader Daniel Nocera, Ph.D. “We’re working toward development of ‘personalized’ energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed inexpensively. There certainly are major obstacles to be overcome — existing fuel cells and solar cells must be improved, for instance. Nevertheless, one can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic system.”

Such a system would consist of rooftop solar energy panels to produce electricity for heating, cooking, lighting, and to charge the batteries on the homeowners’ electric cars. Surplus electricity would go to an “electrolyzer,” a device that breaks down ordinary water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. Both would be stored in tanks. In the dark of night, when the solar panels cease production, the system would shift gears, feeding the stored hydrogen and oxygen into a fuel cell that produces electricity (and clean drinking water as a byproduct). Such a system would produce clean electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even when the sun isn’t shining.

Nocera’s report focused on the electrolyzer, which needs catalysts — materials that jumpstart chemical reactions like the ones that break water up into hydrogen and oxygen. He is with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Good catalysts already are available for the part of the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. Lacking, however, have been inexpensive, long-lasting catalysts for the production of oxygen. The new catalyst fills that gap and boosts oxygen production by 200-fold. It eliminates the need for expensive platinum catalysts and potentially toxic chemicals used in making them.

The new catalyst has been licensed to Sun Catalytix, which envisions developing safe, super-efficient versions of the electrolyzer, suitable for homes and small businesses, within two years.

The National Science Foundation and the Chesonis Family Foundation provided funding for this study. Nocera did the research with post-doctoral researcher Mircea Dinca and doctoral candidate Yogesh Surendranath. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency has recently awarded the team with a grant, which it plans to use to search for related compounds that can further increase the efficiency of its electrolyzer technology. The team hopes that nickel-borate belongs to a family of compounds that can be optimized for super-efficient, long-term energy storage technologies.

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The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Update 9/2/10 — Someone really likes this story because here’s a follow-up release from yesterday.

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