David Kirkpatrick

November 24, 2010

Holiday air travel food for thought

Not only is the TSA a ridiculous bureaucratic mess that isn’t making anyone any safer at airports or in the skies, plus it’s now turned into an organization demanding organized “legal” molestation. It’s also very possibly damaging your health if you want to avoid the unwanted groping.

From the link:

As millions of U.S. travelers get ready for the busiest flying day of the year, scientists still can’t agree over whether the dose of radiation delivered by so-called backscatter machines is significantly higher than the government says. This is despite months of public debate between the White House, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and independent scientists.

Full-body scanners have been installed at many U.S. airports. The machines use either low-energy, millimeter wavelength radiation, which is harmless, or X-rays, which can potentially be hazardous. X-rays can ionize atoms or molecules, which can lead to cancerous changes in cells. Even if the government has significantly underestimated the dose of radiation delivered by an X-ray scanner, it is likely to be relatively small.

And more:

In April, four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a public letter to the White House warning that the government may have underestimated the dosage of ionizing radiation delivered to a person’s skin from a backscatter machine by one or two orders of magnitude. The scientists, who have expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, oncology, and X-ray crystallography, pointed out that the government’s estimate was based on radiation exposure for the entire body. During scanning, the majority of radiation will be focused on the surface of the body, meaning a more concentrated dose of radiation is delivered to the skin.

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November 18, 2010

Rare earth mineral news

I’ve blogged about this more than once, but if you need the ultra-quick version — China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

We know the U.S. and Australia, among other countries, have rare earth element resources. Now that we know just how rare earth rich the U.S. is, it’s time to seriously ramp up domestic production and get off the cheap Chinese teat.

From the fourth (and last) link:

Approximately 13 million metric tons of rare earth elements (REE) exist within known deposits in the United States, according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of these elements by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report describes significant deposits of REE in 14 states, with the largest known REE deposits at Mountain Pass, Calif.; Bokan Mountain, Alaska; and the Bear Lodge Mountains, Wyo. The Mountain Pass mine produced REE until it closed in 2002. Additional states with known REE deposits include Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“This is the first detailed assessment of rare earth elements for the entire nation, describing deposits throughout the United States,” commented USGS Director Marcia McNutt, Ph.D. “It will be very important, both to policy-makers and industry, and it reinforces the value of our efforts to maintain accurate, independent information on our nation’s natural resources. Although many of these deposits have yet to be proven, at recent domestic consumption rates of about 10,000 metric tons annually, the US deposits have the potential to meet our needs for years to come.”

REE are a group of 16 metallic elements with similar properties and structures that are essential in the manufacture of a diverse and expanding array of high-technology applications. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth’s crust, but because of their geochemical properties, they are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

Mobile advertising is about to boom

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:30 pm

Ready, or not, here it comes to the tune of an expected one billion-plus buys next year. This Technology Review post on the subject is interesting, but one quote stood out to me:

Can you name some brands whose mobile advertising has been very engaging and useful for the user?

One of my favorite campaigns recently was one that was run by Dunkin’ Donuts, where they were releasing a new iced latte product to the market. When the user went to the screen, the screen frosted over, very much like the frost on the side of a glass for your iced latte, and then with your finger you wiped the frost off the screen.

This was art that was reproducing the experience that people have in the real world, and it brings a real joy to people.

If you can combine the engaging nature of the medium together with that joy, together with the message that ties directly with this product you’re offering, that’s very powerful for the advertiser.

I have the feeling one person’s joy is another person’s total pain-in-the-ass with this campaign.

 

November 17, 2010

The erosion of personal privacy continues

Filed under: Business, Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:41 am

And a to a very large extent, the violated are willfully doing it to themselves. I really wonder, do most people have no idea what data mining is and what it can do given a substantial amount of personal information? Maybe the boy-wonder CEOs of Google and Facebook are right, and most people just don’t care.

From the link:

In this cell-phone-centric age, your friends might learn that you’ve gone to see a movie when you arrive at the theater and check in on Facebook or Foursquare. But that’s probably too late to function as anything more than a boast. An iPhone app called Blaze Mobile Wallet tells them the instant you book a ticket in advance, giving them time to respond and meet you there.

When users pay for a reservation using the app, which debits funds from a prepaid account, a Facebook post lets friends know all the details: film, theater, and show time. “It makes it more likely that friends will join them at the movie,” says Michelle Fisher, CEO of Blaze Mobile, one of a slew of companies exploring how cell phones that act as wallets can encourage new connections between friends—and between businesses and their customers.

 

November 16, 2010

Metamaterials and artificial black holes

Yeah, I know I’m way off the blogging pace these days — just very busy. But, I couldn’t let this release go past.

The release, warm from the inbox:

Artificial Black Holes Made with Metamaterials

Design for Manmade Light Trapping Device Could Help Harvest Light for Solar Cells.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — While our direct knowledge of black holes in the universe is limited to what we can observe from thousands or millions of light years away, a team of Chinese physicists has proposed a simple way to design an artificial electromagnetic (EM) black hole in the laboratory.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO)

In the Journal of Applied Physics, Huanyang Chen at Soochow University and colleagues have presented a design of an artificial EM black hole designed using five types of composite isotropic materials, layered so that their transverse magnetic modes capture EM waves to which the object is subjected. The artificial EM black hole does not let EM waves escape, analogous to a black hole trapping light. In this case, the trapped EM waves are in the microwave region of the spectrum.

The so-called metamaterials used in the experiment are artificially engineered materials designed to have unusual properties not seen in nature. Metamaterials have also been used in studies of invisibility cloaking and negative-refraction superlenses. The group suggests the same method might be adaptable to higher frequencies, even those of visible light.

“Development of artificial black holes would enable us to measure how incident light is absorbed when passing through them,” says Chen. “They can also be applied to harvesting light in a solar-cell system.”

The article, “A simple design of an artificial electromagnetic black hole” by Wanli Lu, JunFeng Jin, Zhifang Lin, and Huanyang Chen appears in the Journal of Applied Physics. See: http://link.aip.org/link/japiau/v108/i6/p064517/s1

ABOUT Journal of Applied Physics

Journal of Applied Physics is the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) archival journal for significant new results in applied physics; content is published online daily, collected into two online and printed issues per month (24 issues per year). The journal publishes articles that emphasize understanding of the physics underlying modern technology, but distinguished from technology on the one side and pure physics on the other. See: http://jap.aip.org/

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

SOURCE  American Institute of Physics

Photo:http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
Photo:http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100714/AIPLOGO
http://photoarchive.ap.org/
American Institute of Physics

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

November 12, 2010

Adventures in bad writing

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:43 pm

Hate to pick on an otherwise fine article, but this really stuck out: “For security reasons, never leave your laptop unsecured.”

And for daily nutrition reasons, always take in daily nutrition.

Makes you wonder where the editor was at Forbes that day.

Robots with an, ahem, personal touch

Probably got you with the title. Here’s news from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

From the link:

A robot known as “Cody” successfully wiped away blue candy from a test user’s legs and arms without being too forceful, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (led by assistant professor Charlie Kemp) reported at the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference last month.

November 5, 2010

Creating terrorists — here comes the science …

Looks like “taking the fight” to the terrorists on their turf to keep them from coming here is a fairly flawed strategy. Studies on phase transition show that action only serves to create many more terrorists than would ordinarily be running around as bad actors (and not in the emoting sense.)

From the link:

Feedback loops are interesting because they lead to nonlinear behavior, where the ordinary intuitive rules of cause and effect no longer apply. So a small increase in one type of behavior can lead to a massive increase in another. In the language of physics, a phase transition occurs.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in August’s model. They show that for various parameters in their model, a small increase in the removal rate of active radicals generates a massive increase in passive supporters, providing an almost limitless pool from which to recruit more active radicals.

What this model describes, of course, is the cycle of violence that occurs in so many of the world’s trouble spots.

That has profound implications for governments contemplating military intervention that is likely to cause “collateral damage.” If you replace the term “active radical” with “terrorist” then a clear prediction of this model is that military intervention creates the conditions in which terrorism flourishes.

They say that this feedback loop can halted only if the removal of terrorists can be achieved without the attendant radicalizing side effects. As August and colleagues put it: “if this happened practically without casualties, fatalities, applying torture or committing terroristic acts against the local population.”

This is an interesting approach. It clearly shows that public opinion and behavior can change dramatically in ways that are difficult to predict.

 

November 4, 2010

Transparent solar panels?

A very real possibility. This sounds like very promising technology.

The release:

Transparent Conductive Material Could Lead to Power-Generating Windows

Combines elements for light harvesting and electric charge transport over large, transparent areas

November 3, 2010

conjugated polymer honeycombClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Top: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).

“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” said lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

Furthermore, the material remains largely transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

Mircea CotletClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Mircea Cotlet, Ranjith Krishna Pai, and Zhihua Xu (seated at the microscope).

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-author Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN.

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

The scientists fabricated the honeycomb thin films by creating a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a thin layer of the polymer/fullerene blend solution. These water droplets self-assembled into large arrays within the polymer solution. As the solvent completely evaporates, the polymer forms a hexagonal honeycomb pattern over a large area.

“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” Xu said.

The scientists verified the uniformity of the honeycomb structure with various scanning probe and electron microscopy techniques, and tested the optical properties and charge generation at various parts of the honeycomb structure (edges, centers, and nodes where individual cells connect) using time-resolved confocal fluorescence microscopy.

The scientists also found that the degree of polymer packing was determined by the rate of solvent evaporation, which in turn determines the rate of charge transport through the material.

“The slower the solvent evaporates, the more tightly packed the polymer, and the better the charge transport,” Cotlet said.

“Our work provides a deeper understanding of the optical properties of the honeycomb structure. The next step will be to use these honeycomb thin films to fabricate transparent and flexible organic solar cells and other devices,” he said.

The research was supported at Los Alamos by the DOE Office of Science. The work was also carried out in part at the CFN and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility. The Brookhaven team included Mircea Cotlet, Zhihua Xu, and Ranjith Krishna Pai. Collaborators from Los Alamos include Hsing-Lin Wang and Hsinhan Tsai, who are both users of the CFN facilities at Brookhaven, Andrew Dattelbaum from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility, and project leader Andrew Shreve of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility are two of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

 

GOP establishment v. Tea Party movement

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

Not hard to predict, and now it begins …

From today’s Playbook:

RECRIMINATIONS: WHY REPUBLICANS DON’T CONTROL THE SENATE -Jonathan Martin and Manu Raju: “With tea party-backed candidates going down in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada, depriving Republicans of what would have been a 50-50 Senate, a bloc of prominent senators and operatives said party purists like Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had foolishly pushed nominees too conservative to win … Movement conservatives pointed the finger right back at the establishment, accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of squandering millions on a California race that wasn’t close … ‘Candidates matter,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). ‘It was a good night for Republicans but it could have been a better one. We left some on the table. … If you think what happened in Delaware is “a win” for the Republican Party, then we don’t have a snowball’s chance to win the White House. … If you think Delaware was a wake-up call for Republicans, then we have shot at doing well for a long time.’

“Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott put it plainly: ‘We did not nominate our strongest candidates.’ Had Republicans run Castle in Delaware and establishment favorites Sue Lowden in Nevada and Jane Norton in Colorado, Lott said, … ‘we would have won and been sitting at 50.’ … Another high-profile senator [placed] the blame … at the feet of Graham’s South Carolina colleague, DeMint. … ‘It’s like you’re on the five-yard line ready to score and the quarterback calls the play and some member of your team tackles one of your members and keeps you from scoring. … We came tantalizingly close to a majority … I’m completely mystified by it.”http://bit.ly/br1xoW

Update 11/5/10 — Peggy Noonan piles on.

November 3, 2010

A 3D printed car?

Filed under: Business, et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:57 pm

Yes.

From the link:

The Urbee — an electric/liquid-fuel hybrid that will get the equivalent of over 200 mpg on the highway and 100 MPG in the city — is the first prototype car ever to have its entire body 3D printed, according to a Stratasys press release.

All exterior components — including the glass panel prototypes — were created using Dimension 3D Printers and Fortus 3D Production Systems, using fused deposition modeling (FDM), an additive rapid prototyping process in which a plastic filament is liquefied and extruded to form layers of a model.

 

November 2, 2010

Cool nanotech image — growing nanowires

Cool image and interesting process

nanotechnology image
In the growth of sapphire nanowires using the vapor-liquid-solid method, scientists have observed that a facet at the liquid-solid interface alternately grows and shrinks, which promotes nanowire growth. These images are from the video below. Image credit: Sang Ho Oh, et al.

From the link:

Nanowires can be grown in many ways, but one of the lesser-understood growth processes is vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth. In VLS, a vapor adsorbs onto a liquid droplet, and the droplet transports the vapor and deposits it as a crystal at a liquid-solid interface. As the process repeats, a nanowire is built one crystal at a time. One advantage of the VLS process is that it allows scientists to control the nanowire’s growth in terms of size, shape, orientation, and composition, although this requires understanding the growth mechanisms on the atomic scale. In a new study, scientists have investigated the steps involved in VLS growth, and have observed a new oscillatory behavior that could lead to better controlled nanowire growth.

Hit the link for a video of the process.

Is Apple about to acquire Facebook?

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:03 pm

As crazy as it sounds, this is more than simple idle speculation.

From the link:

Last month, Apple CEO Steve Jobs hinted that a big acquisition is in the works—that is, Apple might tap into its $50 billion war chest. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around $50 billion ever since.

Also from the link; not quite a smoking gun, but it does give you something to think about:

The more intriguing acquisition target is Facebook. Jobs is probably kicking himself for not thinking up social networking. He fancies himself a cultural revolutionist wielding technology, and that’s exactly what Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have become for this next generation.

Jobs and Zuckerberg had been spotted enjoying a stroll in an obscure park near Palo Alto shortly before Jobs suggested a major acquisition may be in the works. This bit of news, reported by the Los Angeles Times, set off a whirlwind of speculation that Facebook was the target.

Need an explanation …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:18 am

… for today’s electoral outcome? Here you go.

From the link:

The number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country, at 75 percent, is higher than it has been on the eve of any midterm election since the question was first asked in the mid-1970s, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that the economy remains, by far, the top issue on the minds of Americans. Fifty-two percent of people questioned say the economy’s the most important issue facing the country.

“That’s more than the deficit, education, health care, terrorism, energy, illegal immigration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “No other issue was named as the country’s top problem by more than 8 percent.”

The economy has been the issue most on the mind of Americans in CNN polling since the end of 2007.

 

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).

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