David Kirkpatrick

October 28, 2010

Want to know where some of those missing jobs are?

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:56 pm

A great place to start looking is corporate balance sheets.

From the link:

US companies are hoarding almost $1 trillion in cash but are unlikely to spend on expanding their business and hiring new employees due to continuing uncertainty about the strength of the economy, Moody’s Investors Service said on Tuesday.

As the economy stabilizes companies are also more likely to spend on share repurchases and mergers and acquisitions, Moody’s (MCO: 26.60 ,-0.54 ,-1.99%) added.

Companies cut costs, reduced investment in plants and equipment and downsized operations in order to boost cash holdings during the recession.

As the corporate bond market reopened many companies also boosted cash levels by selling debt and refinancing near-term debt maturities.

Nonfinancial U.S. companies are sitting on $943 billion of cash and short-term investments, as of mid-year 2010, compared with $775 billion at the end of 2008, Moody’s said.

This would be enough to cover a year’s worth of capital spending and dividends and still have $121 billion left over, it said.

However, “we believe companies are looking for greater certainty about the economy and signs of a permanent increase in sales before they let go of their cash hoards, which they suffered so much to build,” Moody’s said in a report.

“Given low demand and capacity utilization within certain industries, companies are wary of investing their cash in new capacity and adding workers, thereby doing little to abbreviate the jobless recovery,” it added.

 

 

October 26, 2010

World’s largest solar installation coming to California

Via KurzweilAI.net — That’s some serious solar capacity.

US approves world’s biggest solar energy project in California

October 26, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. Department of Interior approved on Monday a permit for Solar Millennium, LLC to build the largest solar energy project in the world — four  plants at the cost of one billion dollars each — in southern California.

The project is expected to generate up to 1,000 Megawatts of energy, enough electricity to annually power more than 300,000 single-family homes, more than doubling the solar electricity production capacity of the U.S.

Once constructed, the Blythe facility will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly one million short tons per year, or the equivalent of removing more than 145,000 cars from the road. Additionally, because the facility is “dry-cooled,” it will use 90 percent less water than a traditional “wet-cooled” solar facility of this size. The Blythe facility will also help California take a major step toward achieving its goal of having one third of the state’s power come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

The entire Blythe Solar Power Project will generate a total of more than 7,500 jobs, including 1,000 direct jobs during the construction period, and thousands of additional indirect jobs in the community and throughout the supply chain. When the 1,000 MW facility is fully operational it will create more than 220 permanent jobs.

Adapted from materials provided by Solar Millennium, LLC.

 

 

 

We’re getting pretty close to “angry mob”

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:51 am

When political civility breaks down to the point middle-age adult men are physically assaulting a woman (and assaulting in a fairly cowardly way if you ask me), we have a serious polity problem on our hands. All the rage and anger of certain media factions has clearly whipped up something beyond normal political passions in parts of the electorate. This has happened in many places and many times in history and it’s never pretty.

Here’s more about the video.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

Update — More on this incident from Rand Paul’s camp.

From the update link:

“The Paul for Senate campaign is extremely disappointed in, and condemns the actions of a supporter last night outside the KET debate,” the statement reads. “Whatever the perceived provocation, any level of aggression or violence is deplorable, and will not be tolerated by our campaign. The Paul campaign has disassociated itself from the volunteer who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.”

Update II — The courage and couth challenged perpetrator in the video has been IDed — Tim Profitt, a volunteer campaign coordinator for Kentucky GOP Senate nominee Rand Paul. Paul has ended Profitt’s volunteer status and banned him from campaign events.

Update III (10/27/10) — And sometimes the stupid just dig in deeper

From the Update III link:

Tim Profitt — the former Rand Paul volunteer who stomped on the head of a MoveOn activist — told told local CBS station WKYT that he wants an apology from the woman he stomped and that she started the whole thing.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Profitt said. “I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you.”

“She’s a professional at what she does,” Profitt added, “and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing.”

 

October 25, 2010

Mobile broadband spectrum about to become scarce

Good thing the FCC is already down the road toward using satellite spectrum for land-based broadband. Right now looks like major spectrum shortages may be close as four years away.

From the second link:

Mobile data traffic in the U.S. will be 35 times higher in 2014 than it was in 2009, leading to a massive wireless spectrum shortage if the government fails to make more available, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said in a paper released Thursday.

While the paper may not get the projections exactly right, the U.S. government needs to act fast to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband, John Leibovitz, deputy chief of the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, said during a spectrum summit at the FCC.

“From where we sit, the numbers that we’re putting out are a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if,'” Leibovitz said. “The demand trends are so strong, the growth is so incredible, that just overrides most of the other considerations in the analysis in the near term.”

The FCC and Congress need to move forward with plans to release more spectrum for mobile broadband, including incentives for television stations to give up their unused spectrum, added FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up,” he said. “If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to run into a wall — a spectrum crunch — that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.”

 

One terabit optical ethernet

Coming to a point-of-presence near you in the near future.

From the link:

Researchers with the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center (TOEC) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) are aiming for 1 Terabit Ethernet over optical fiber — 1 trillion bits per second — by 2015 and 100 Terabit Ethernet by 2020. Partnering with TOEC as founding industry affiliates are Google Inc., Verizon, Intel, Agilent Technologiesand Rockwell Collins Inc.

Ethernet is constantly evolving, but soon — in as little as five years, according to some estimates — it won’t be able to keep up with the speed and bandwidth required for applications like video and cloud computing, and distributed data storage. “Based on current traffic growth, it’s clear that 1 Terabit per second trunks will be needed in the near future,” says Stuart Elby, Vice President of Network Architecture for Verizon.

Current Ethernet technologies can’t be pushed much past 100 Gigabits per second — the speed that’s beginning to be implemented now — mainly because of the amount of power needed to run and cool the required systems, says Daniel Blumenthal, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB and Director of TOEC. Large data centers can consume as much power as a small city. New generations of Ethernet need to be much more energy-efficient and cost-effective, or the power problem will limit Ethernet development, crippling the growth of key U.S. industries and technologies.

 

October 23, 2010

Book recommendation — “And Another Thing …” by Eoin Colfer

This is book six of three — Douglas Adams originally conceived The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as a trilogy, and then promptly went on to write two more books. Before his death he expressed a desire to write a sixth book in the series since he felt Mostly Harmless, the fifth book, ended on a fairly bleak note (no spoilers here, but I agree, although there’s nothing wrong with bleakness sometimes).

Sadly Adams died before writing the sixth book. A couple of years ago Eoin Colfer was commissioned to write the sixth book, And Another Thing… , with Adams’ widow, Jane Belson.

I reread the series this year and approached the sixth book with trepidation. I’m very wary about a new author taking up someone’s milieu in any context other than a homage. A new book in the actual series? Rarely works — see: Herbert, Brian. After finishing the novel, I have to say it’s a great read. It’s fun and it’s a worthy addition to the Hitchhiker world. If you’ve shared some of my reservations about this novel, I say give it an honest shot, and if you’ve never read any of the six, then get yourself a copy of book one — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — and start reading.

October 22, 2010

Cool nanotech image — graphene transistors

Filed under: et.al., Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:34 am

The article connected to the image is pretty good, too.

Triple transistor: Single graphene transistors like this one can be made to operate in three modes and perform functions that usually require multiple transistors in a circuit.
Credit: Alexander Balandin

Also from the link:

Researchers have already made blisteringly fast graphene transistors. Now they’ve used graphene to make a transistor that can be switched between three different modes of operation, which in conventional circuits must be performed by three separate transistors. These configurable transistors could lead to more compact chips for sending and receiving wireless signals.

Chips that use fewer transistors while maintaining all the same functions could be less expensive, use less energy, and free up room inside portable electronics like smart phones, where space is tight. The new graphene transistor is an analog device, of the type that’s used for wireless communications in Bluetooth headsets and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

 

October 21, 2010

Latest Beige Book still bland …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:48 pm

… but hints at Fed action to come.

From the link:

Economic growth continued at a sluggish pace over the past few weeks, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday, supporting views that the Fed might take action to spur the economy at its next policy meeting.

In its latest snapshot of regional economic conditions, the Fed reported some bright spots in manufacturing, travel, tourism and auto sales, but still saw weakness in the housing market.

The report, known as the Beige Book, summarized economic conditions in the central bank’s 12 districts across the nation. It will help set the tone for the Fed policy meeting set to take place Nov. 2-3. Investors are widely expecting an announcement of another round of asset purchases.

“The lack of meaningful improvements leaves investors anticipating additional action by the Federal Reserve to reinvigorate the economy in November,” said Kathy Lien, director of currency research for GFT, in a research note.

“If the Fed was worried about the recovery in September, they will remain worried in November as there was no major pickup in economic activity,” Lien said.

 

The latest moon facts from NASA

Pretty interesting facts at that …

The release very hot from the inbox:

NASA Missions Uncover the Moon’s Buried Treasures

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The missions found evidence that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle. Scientists also confirmed the water was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places. The results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

“NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This major undertaking is the one of many steps NASA has taken to better understand our solar system, its resources, and its origin, evolution, and future.”

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon’s Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years. As the plume traveled nearly 10 miles above the rim of Cabeus, instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO made observations of the crater and debris and vapor clouds. After the impacts, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vacuum of space.

“Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume, suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows.”

Volatiles are compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. The suite of LCROSS and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver.

Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

LRO’s Diviner instrument gathered data on water concentration and temperature measurements, and LRO’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector mapped the distribution of hydrogen. This combined data led the science team to conclude the water is not uniformly distributed within the shadowed cold traps, but rather is in pockets, which may also lie outside the shadowed regions.

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called “cold grain chemistry” is taking place. Scientists also theorize this process could take as long as hundreds of thousands of years and may occur on other frigid, airless bodies, such as asteroids; the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, including Europa and Enceladus; Mars’ moons; interstellar dust grains floating around other stars and the polar regions of Mercury.

“The observations by the suite of LRO and LCROSS instruments demonstrate the moon has a complex environment that experiences intriguing chemical processes,” said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This knowledge can open doors to new areas of research and exploration.”

By understanding the processes and environments that determine where water ice will be, how water was delivered to the moon and its active water cycle, future mission planners might be better able to determine which locations will have easily-accessible water. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won’t have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel.

LCROSS launched with LRO aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009, and used the Centaur upper stage rocket to create the debris plume. The research was funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at the agency’s headquarters. LCROSS was managed by Ames and built by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif. LRO was built and is managed by Goddard.

For more information about LCROSS, a complete list of the papers and their authors, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/lcross

For more information about the LRO mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/lro

SOURCE  NASA

Photo:http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
Photo:http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
NASA

Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

October 20, 2010

Update on the rare earth mineral/China issue

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:34 pm

I blogged about this topic a couple of times last month, and now it looks like the issue is already coming to North American shores. Not exactly sure what China is up to here, but it is very serious economic saber-rattling, and in a media world full of manufactured bogeymen, this is an issue to actually be concerned about.

From the third (and final) link:

Last month, the New York Times reported that the Chinese government clamped down on its exports of rare earth metals, which are used in the manufacture of all kinds of electronics, to Japan. Now, it appears that a similar thing is happening with Western countries like the United States, the Times reports, though Chinese officials deny it.

The Chinese action, involving rare earth minerals that are crucial to manufacturing many advanced products, seems certain to further intensify already rising trade and currency tensions with the West. Until recently, China typically sought quick and quiet accommodations on trade issues.

But the interruption in rare earth supplies is the latest sign from Beijing that Chinese leaders are willing to use their growing economic muscle. “The embargo is expanding” beyond Japan, said one of the three rare earth industry officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity for fear of business retaliation by Chinese authorities.

They said Chinese customs officials imposed the broader restrictions on Monday morning, hours after a top Chinese official summoned international news media Sunday night to denounce United States trade actions.

As we said last time, the mechanics of any rare earth metal embargo is important to manufacturers and suppliers, but hard to pin down. What’s important, policy-wise, is that we could have a domestic rare earth metal industry in the United States, but we have refused to support it in the belief that the market would always deliver what we needed from low-cost Chinese suppliers.

 

Fresh drinking water through solar power

This has the potential to be a real game changer. Among all the other problems out there, one very pervasive issue that gets intermittent lip service is potable, or the lack thereof, water. A portable desalination device could save lives in a variety of situations.

From the link:

The portable system could also be used in remote areas where supplying energy and clean water can be logistically complex and expensive, such as desert locations or farms and small villages in developing countries.

Led by Steven Dubowsky, a professor in both the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and graduate students Amy Bilton and Leah Kelley, the group built a small prototype of the system last spring to test algorithms they had developed to run it. They have since demonstrated that the prototype is capable of producing 80 gallons of water a day in a variety of weather conditions. They estimate that a larger version of the unit, which would cost about $8,000 to construct, could provide about 1,000 gallons of water per day. Dubowsky and his students also estimate that one C-130 cargo airplane could transport two dozen desalination units — enough to provide water for 10,000 people.

The team presented a paper reporting preliminary results about its prototype system last week at the EuroMed 2010-Desalination for Clean Water and Energy Conference.

October 19, 2010

Facebook ads are effective

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:58 pm

Not surprising at all. Ad buyers have an immense amount of control over how much is spent and targeting, and with all the user-provided information Facebook can seriously drill down and find an audience for any campaign.

From the link:

Chances are that at least one or two will be targeted to the activities and interests you post on Facebook, or the city you live in, your gender, or even your relationship status. These little ads are typically purchased through Facebook’s “self service” system, which enables small- and big-time advertisers to create an ad in minutes to lure specific demographic groups with a few lines of text and a graphic or photo.

Rather suddenly, these little come-ons have turned into the leading source of Facebook’s revenue. My estimates, as an analyst at eMarketer, the New York-based market research firm, show that self-service ads account for at least half of Facebook’s total ad revenue, projected to be $1.3 billion this year. That’s way more business than anyone could have expected, given that there are no upfront charges to placing these ads and that Facebook only earns revenue when viewers click on them or when a certain threshold of impressions is reached.

 

Mass producing graphene

News from the University of Houston:

University of Houston professor taking next step with graphene research

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics went to the two scientists who first isolated graphene, one-atom-thick crystals of graphite. Now, a researcher with the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering is trying to develop a method to mass-produce this revolutionary material.

Graphene has several properties that make it different from literally everything else on Earth: it is the first two-dimensional material ever developed; the world’s thinnest and strongest material; the best conductor of heat ever found; a far better conductor of electricity than copper; it is virtually transparent; and is so dense that no gas can pass through it. These properties make graphene a game changer for everything from energy storage devices to flat device displays.

Most importantly, perhaps, is graphene’s potential as a replacement for silicon in computer chips. The properties of graphene would enable the historical growth in computing power to continue for decades to come.

To realize these benefits, though, a way to create plentiful, defect-free graphene must be developed. Qingkai Yu, an assistant research professor with the college’s department of electrical and computer engineering and the university’s Center for Advanced Materials, is developing methods to mass-produce such high-quality graphene.

Yu is using a technology known as chemical vapor deposition. During this process, he heats methane to around 1000 degrees Celsius, breaking the gas down into its building blocks of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The carbon atoms then attach to a metallic surface to form graphene.

“This approach could produce cheap, high-quality graphene on a large scale,” Yu said.

Yu first demonstrated the viability of chemical vapor deposition for graphene creation two years ago in a paper in the journal Applied Physics Letters. He has since continued working to perfect this method.

Yu’s initial research would often result in several layers of graphene stacked together on a nickel surface. He subsequently discovered the effectiveness of copper for graphene creation. Copper has since been adopted by graphene researchers worldwide.

Yu’s work is not finished. The single layers of graphene he is now able to create are formed out of multiple graphene crystals that join together as they grow. The places where these crystals combine, known as the grain boundaries, are defects that limit the usefulness of graphene, particularly as a replacement for silicon-based computer chips.

Yu is attempting to create large layers of graphene that form out of a single crystal.

“You can imagine how important this sort of graphene is,” said Yu. “Semiconductors became a multibillion-dollar industry based on single-crystal silicon and graphene is called the post-silicon-era material. So single-crystal graphene is the Holy Grail for the next age of semiconductors.”

 

###

Yu is conducting his research in collaboration with UH Ph.D. students Wei Wu and Zhihua Su as well as postdoctoral researcher Zhihong Liu. These efforts have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, SEMATECH and the UH Center for Advanced Materials.

 

October 18, 2010

DARPA’s shooting for the stars

Literally.

From the link:

NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA.

“You heard it here,” said Worden at “Long Conversation,” a Long Now Foundation event in San Francisco. “We also hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund,” he added.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” he explained. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden was in fact fired by President George W. Bush, he also revealed.)

But these ambitious projects will need whole new concepts for propulsion, Worden advised. “NASA needs to build a true starship, probably using electric propulsion, probably also using solar energy and nuclear energy.

Microwave thermal propulsion (Kevin Parker)

 

October 16, 2010

DVD recommendation: Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:28 am

If you are an anime fan this is worth checking out. If you are a Ghost in the Shell fan it’s a must-see. And if you think you will never like animation for adults, this isn’t a bad place to test the premise. The story is solid and certainly stands alone for those not familiar with the GitS world. Animated or live-action this is solid cyberpunk science fiction and the visuals are simply amazing. This film even manages to blend hand-drawn and computer generated animation fairly deftly.

Head to Amazon to find Ghost in the Shell 2 – Innocence in DVD and Blu-ray formats.

Cool nanotech image — graphene

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:12 am

Actually the accompanying article is pretty cool, too, so do take the time to check it out.

But now, the image …

This image of a single suspended sheet of graphene taken with the TEAM 0.5, at Berkeley Lab’s National Center for Electron Microscopy shows individual carbon atoms (yellow) on the honeycomb lattice.

Also from the link:

In the current study, the team made graphene nanoribbons using a nanowire mask-based fabrication technique. By measuring the conductance fluctuation, or ‘noise’ of electrons in graphene nanoribbons, the researchers directly probed the effect of quantum confinement in these structures. Their findings map the electronic band structure of these graphene nanoribbons using a robust electrical probing method. This method can be further applied to a wide array of nanoscale materials, including graphene-based electronic devices.

“It amazes us to observe such a clear correlation between the noise and the band structure of these graphene nanomaterials,” says lead author Guangyu Xu, a physicist at University of California, Los Angeles. “This work adds strong support to the quasi-one-dimensional subband formation in graphene nanoribbons, in which our method turns out to be much more robust than conductance measurement.”

One more bit from the link, from the intro actually:

In last week’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences lauded graphene’s “exceptional properties that originate from the remarkable world of quantum physics.” If it weren’t hot enough before, this atomically thin sheet of carbon is now officially in the global spotlight.

So expect to hear a lot more about graphene in the coming months. Of course if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve been getting a pretty steady (aside from the last month of light blogging) diet of graphene since almost day one (since February 2008 to be exact).

October 13, 2010

3M is improving solar panels

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:34 am

This sounds like a pretty significant breakthrough.

From the link:

For years solar companies have wanted to make lightweight, flexible panels that are cheap to ship and easy to install (by unrolling them over large areas). But they’ve been held up by a lack of good and affordable glass substitutes.

Now 3M thinks it’s found a solution. This week the company unveiled a plastic film that it says can rival glass in its ability to protect the active materials in solar cells from the elements and save money for manufacturers and their customers.

The protective film is a multilayer, fluoropolymer-based sheet that can replace glass as the protective front cover of solar panels, says Derek DeScioli, business development manager for 3M’s renewable energy division. Manufacturers laminate the sheets onto the solar panels to seal them tight and shield them from moisture and other weather elements that can be deadly to the solar cells inside.

Solar protection: This polymer film seals out water far better than other plastics—it can protect solar panels for decades.
Credit: 3M

 

October 11, 2010

Congrats to Sully

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:33 am

Many thanks and congratulations to Andrew Sullivan for reaching ten years blogging at his Daily Dish. It’s simply one of the best, and most honest, political (and, of course, more) blogs out there. He wears his heart on his sleeve most of the time and every once in a while can make a fairly harsh snap judgement on any number of topics, but one thing Sullivan has always done is remain intellectually curious and open. As he himself has put it more than once, you can watch him change his mindset on topics in real-time over weeks and months of blog posts. The Daily Dish has long been a daily read for me, and I doubt that changes anytime soon.

October 8, 2010

Watch out for Facebook’s “groups” overhaul

Filed under: Business, et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:56 am

Once again Facebook creates a PR headache for itself with the changes to Facebook groups. You just might find yourself part of a group you don’t really want to be a member of …

From the link:

That was followed by general confusion, with some reporting that Facebook’s new feature could be used to unilaterally add anyone to a group.

But that isn’t the case. The groups feature now lets users automatically add existing friends to groups, but they can’t do this with people they don’t know.

How did Zuckerberg get added to NAMBLA then? That’s all down to tech blogger Arrington. “I typed in his name and hit enter,’ Arrington wrote on TechCrunch. “He’s my Facebook friend, I therefore have the right to add him.”

Arrington added that “as soon as Zuckerberg unsubscribed I lost the ability to add him to any further groups at all, another protection against spamming and pranks.”

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed that group members can only add their friends to the group. “If you have a friend that is adding you to groups you do not want to belong to, or they are behaving in a way that bothers you, you can tell them to stop doing it, block them or remove them as a friend — and they will no longer ever have the ability to add you to any group,” she wrote in an e-mail. “If you don’t trust someone to look out for you when making these types of decisions on the site, we’d suggest that you shouldn’t be friends on Facebook.”

 

October 2, 2010

The Geological Society of America goes 3D

I think the title says it all …

The release:

GSA Press Release – October 2010 Geosphere Highlights

Boulder, CO, USA – This month’s themed issue, “Advances in 3D imaging and analysis of geomaterials,” edited by Guilherme A.R. Gualda, Don R. Baker, and Margherita Polacci, features papers from the 2009 AGU Joint Assembly session “Advances in 3-D Imaging and Analysis of Rocks and Other Earth Materials.” Studies include 3-D imaging and analysis techniques for Wild 2 comet material returned from the NASA Stardust mission and the first 3-D X-ray scans of crystals from the Dry Valleys, Antarctica.

Keywords: Voxels, microtomography, fractures, NASA Stardust Mission, Wild 2, aerogel, Dry Valleys, Antarctica, geophysics, microearthquakes, Mexico, zircon dating, database, InSAR.

Highlights are provided below. Review abstracts for this issue at http://geosphere.gsapubs.org/.

Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, gsaservice@geosociety.org .

***************
Introduction: Advances in 3D imaging and analysis of geomaterials
Guilherme A.R. Gualda, Vanderbilt University, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Station B #35-1805, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA

Excerpt: Beginning in the 1970s, the availability of computers led to the development of procedures for computer-assisted acquisition and reconstruction of 3-D tomographic data, in particular using X-rays. X-ray tomography is now a mature technique that is used routinely. It has been applied to a wide array of geomaterials, from rocks to fossils to diverse experimental charges, to name a few. The ability to create 3-D maps with millions to billions of volume elements (voxels) created the challenge of processing and analyzing such large amounts of data. While qualitative observations in 3-D yield significant insights into the nature of geomaterials and geological processes, it is in the pursuit of quantitative data that 3-D imaging shows its greatest potential. The continued improvements in computer capabilities have led to ever more sophisticated procedures for 3D image analysis. The papers in this issue encompass a wide range of topics, from applications of established techniques to a variety of materials, the development of new imaging techniques, and the description of improved imaging and analysis techniques.

**********
3D imaging of volcano gravitational deformation by computerized X-ray micro-tomography
M. Kervyn et al., Dept. of Geology and Soil Science, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Volcanoes are known to be unstable constructs that can deform gravitationally when they build upon weak sedimentary layers. The structures and velocity of deformation depend on the volcano loading and the properties of the underlying layers. These processes can be studied with scaled laboratory experiments in which volcanoes are simulated by a mixture of sand and plaster. Silicone is used to simulate the weak underlying layers. This team from Belgium and France, lead by M. Kervyn of Ghen University, presents the results of imaging such experiments with X-rays. The micro-tomography technology used in imaging these experiments enables the virtual re-construction of the 3-D shape of the deformed experiment. Virtual cross-sections through the experiment provide a new way to characterize the faults and fissures forming within the experimental volcano during its deformation. Results from a range of experiments with different geometrical characteristics provide a better understanding of the impact of such gravitational deformation, currently recorded at several well-known volcanoes on Earth (e.g. Etna, Kilauea), on the construct’s structure at depth and its potential zones of weakness.

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Three-dimensional measurement of fractures in heterogeneous materials using high-resolution X-ray computed tomography
Richard A. Ketcham et al., Dept. of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geosciences, 1 University Station C1100, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712-0254, USA

When present, fractures tend to dominate fluid flow though rock bodies, and characterizing fracture networks is necessary for understanding these flow regimes. Specialized CAT scanning has long been an important tool in imaging fractures in 3-D in rock samples. However, a number of factors have reduced the fidelity of such data, including the natural heterogeneity of real rocks and the limited resolution of CAT scanning. Richard A. Ketcham of The University of Texas at Austin and colleagues present new, general methods for overcoming these problems and extracting the best-quality information possible concerning fracture aperture, roughness, and orientation, even in highly heterogeneous rocks. The methods are also general enough that they can be applied to similar situations, such as measuring mineral veins. This work was funded in part by U.S. National Science Foundation grants EAR-0113480 and EAR-0439806.

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Laser scanning confocal microscopy of comet material in aerogel
Michael Greenberg and Denton S. Ebel, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, USA

The NASA Stardust mission returned extraterrestrial material from the comet Wild 2 — the first solid sample-return mission since the Apollo era. Particles from the tail of Wild 2 were captured in aerogel, low-density, translucent, silica foam at a relative velocity of 6.1 km per second. Upon impact into the aerogel, particles from the tail of the comet were fragmented, melted, and ablated, creating cavities, or tracks — each of which is unique to the original particle before capture. Michael Greenberg and Denton S. Ebel of the American Museum of Natural History present nondestructive 3-D imaging and analysis techniques for comet material returned from the NASA Stardust mission. The methods described in this paper represent the highest resolution 3-D images of Stardust material to date. The procedures described here will easily extend to other translucent samples in the geosciences.

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Quantum dots may lead to ultraefficient solar cells

This sounds promising.

From the link (emphasis mine):

Although researchers have steadily increased the amount of electricity that solar cells can produce, they face fundamental limits because of the physics involved in converting photons to electrons in semiconductor materials. Now researchers at the University of Wyoming have demonstrated that by using novel nanomaterials called quantum dots, it might be possible to exceed those limits and produce ultraefficient solar cells.

The theoretical limitation of solar cells has to do with the widely varying amounts of energy from photons in sunlight. The amount varies depending on the color of the light. No matter how energetic the incoming photons are, however, solar cells can only convert one photon into one electron with a given amount of energy. Any extra energy is lost as heat. Scientists have hypothesized that quantum dots, because of their unusual electronic properties, could convert some of this extra energy into electrons. They’ve calculated that this approach could increase the theoretical maximum efficiency of solar cells by about 50 percent.

Solar dots: A micrograph shows lead-sulfide quantum dots, each about five nanometers across, coating an electrode of titanium dioxide.
Credit: Science

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