|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
ST tackles alternative solar cells
: "The Franco-Italian semiconductor manufacturer ST Microelectronics (ST)
is developing alternative materials to make cheaper solar cells. ... The ST researchers are following two alternative approaches. The first is based on a so-called Graetzel cell (a device invented by Michael Graetzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1990), which uses a method similar in principle to photosynthesis. In the Graetzel cell, an organic dye absorbs light, while a nanoporous metal oxide layer transports electrons. Holes are transported in the reverse direction by a liquid electrolyte. Coffa says that ST is looking to replace these liquid electrolytes with a conductive polymer. "This could lead to further reductions in the cost per Watt, which is the key to making solar energy commercially viable," he said. The second idea that the ST researchers are working on is to use a mixture of fullerene and a copper-based organic compound sandwiched between the cell's two electrodes." More info on the ST site
. Also, a CNN article
quotes targets of $0.20 per watt. 11:24:08 AM
: "The Google Viewer displays the pages found as a result of your Google search as a continuous scrolling slide show." Neat - check out the results from 'cgnet services'
. 9:43:40 AM
Blog back and forth:
Interesting criticism and rebuttal about Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, with intelligent that clarify the issues. 9:10:19 AM
Monday, September 29, 2003
Rabo India plans $30m renewable energy fund: "Rabo India Finance, a 100% subsidiary of Rabobank Nederland, is setting up a $30m private equity fund dedicated to financing renewable energy projects in the country. The ‘Renewable Energy Equity Fund’ is still in the process of mobilising funds from domestic and global investors before formally launching the fund in March ’04." 12:24:49 PM
Second Life: Your World. Your Imagination.
Interesting looking 3D space with DIY avatars. "Linden Lab is a privately-held company established to develop Second Life, an extraordinary new form of shared 3D entertainment." 11:35:43 AM
XSLT Filter for IIS
: "XSLTFilter is an ISAPI filter that performs XSL Transformations on XML, xHTML and HTML. It is designed primarily for use with Active Server Pages (ASP) on Internet Information Server (IIS). .. Using an XSLT filter is a sort of half-way point in the separation of presentation from logic. Most web applications mix presentation and logic together. ASP-based sites seem to be as or more prone to this than other web application frameworks. Upgrading and standardizing the presentation of a web application is often difficult and time-consuming. By using an XSLT filter at the output stage, some extra separation and modularization can be achieved. It also allows complete separation of presentation and logic if one wishes, but does not force an immediate move to that paradigm." 11:30:20 AM
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Agency Belittles Information Given by Iraq Defectors
: "An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement. In addition, several Iraqi defectors introduced to American intelligence agents by the exile organization and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program, the officials said. The arrangement [was] paid for with taxpayer funds supplied to the exile group under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998.." 11:37:12 PM
The Level of Discourse Continues to Slide
: Presentations as obfuscators: "The independent board that investigated the Columbia disaster devoted an entire page of its final report last month to Mr. Tufte's [critique of a PowerPoint briefing]. The board wrote that "it is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide
and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation." In fact, the board said: "During its investigation, the board was surprised to receive similar presentation slides from NASA officials in place of technical reports. The board views the endemic use of PowerPoint briefing slides instead of technical papers as an illustration of the problematic methods of technical communication at NASA."" 9:39:59 AM
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Quovix : Interesting custom software development company of 10 software managers with a stable of over 400 freelancers around the world. "We contract on a project-by-project basis to meet your software development needs. Because of our unique approach of recruiting and employing software developers around the world, we can offer you the benefits of offshore development (cost savings and access to technical talent) without the biggest risks (communication and cultural barriers). We guarantee delivery. A midwest team with offshore savings." They offer a free download of a collaboration package, an area in which they have a specialized code base.
A short note from 2001 says more on how they work: "How do you harness a workforce of 455 coders, most of whom you've never met? "Simple," says Marty Morrow, CEO of the two-year-old startup. "I focus on the three phases of virtual-product development: water, slush, and ice." The water stage occurs when Quovix lands an assignment. Morrow's team posts the project to Quovix's Web site, where developers click in with feedback. "Hundreds of people provide input and ideas," says Morrow. If Quovix wins the contract, it enters the slush stage. "We define the project down to a gnat's eyelash and put it out for more feedback. Then we put a price tag on the project, and we run a reverse auction. The person with the most experience and lowest bid wins." Once the project is awarded, it enters the ice stage. This is when the work gets done. "We have tighter control over the developers in our community than most companies have over staff developers who are sitting 20 feet away," says Morrow. "We run daily test patterns on their work, and we know within a day if we've got a problem." 10:25:46 AM
Friday, September 26, 2003
Renewable Energy News | $300 Million Federal Solar Energy Deployment
: "Congressional Conferees debating current energy legislation released draft legislative language that would authorize a new program to install 20,000 solar energy systems in Federal Buildings by the year 2010. .. In the draft language, released this week, Congressional Conferees included authorization for US$300 million over five years to establish a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy program for the procurement and installation of solar electric systems in new and existing public buildings. " (This is authorization, not yet appropriation, so there would be more hurdles to cross even if passes.) 5:33:17 PM
WorldWater Inaugurates Solar Municipal Water System in Cebu, Philippines
: "WorldWater the Municipality of Ronda, Cebu, Philippines, will inaugurate the world's first solar powered, prepaid municipal water distribution system on September 27 in Ronda. Former Philippines President Fidel V. Ramos will be the keynote speaker. Ronda is located on the southwest coast of Cebu, an island in the middle group of the Philippine archipelago.
For the first time, a municipal water distribution system utilizes smart card technology as a financing solution for community water production and to remove problems associated with the payment collection process. The Ronda system uses WorldWater's proprietary AquaCard(TM) (Smart Card) debit card system, which operates directly with WorldWater's AquaMeter(TM) solar pumping stations throughout the community. The project was made possible by a commercial loan from the Philippine National Bank (PNB), and required no special subsidies or grants. " 5:23:10 PM
No electricity? Use a wind-up phone charger
: "Japan's Fuso Rikaseihin Co. Ltd, which makes the charger. Priced at $42, the hand-held generator is quite noisy and not cheap, although it comes with a built-in flashlight. It can be used with phones from Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and NTT Docomo. " 5 minutes of winding gives 20 mins of talk time. Motorola came out with its own winder earlier this year. 5:18:45 PM
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Our True Enemies by Ralph Peters: "From North Africa through Arabia's sands to Kashmir, those with whom we do business, upon whom we rely for advice and assurances of stability, with whom we have dinner and play golf - these are the very creatures who have stolen everything they could steal from their own people, who have ravaged educational systems, looted treasuries, corrupted institutions, tortured and murdered populist opponents and turned once-promising states into financial and moral basket cases.
Until the recent war against Saddam's regime, we never stood up for freedom in the Arab world. We have consistently tolerated or supported those who said the right things to us, who signed the oil contracts, who promised to keep things quiet - and who made a mockery of every value our nation professes. Our reward? Terror. But the truth is that we should be astonished that there is so little anti-American terrorism, given how long, how dishonestly and how virulently our supposed friends preached their theology of blame to local audiences..
Why isn't there a serious bipartisan outcry to expose Saudi misdeeds? Why do we get nothing but pro forma, made-for-the-microphone complaints from both sides of the aisle? Because both political parties are horrified at the thought of the Saudis revealing what they know about us, about the sweetheart deals, the retainers-for-nothing, the inflated contracts and the appalling shabbiness of politicians, businessmen and lobbyists willing to look away from human suffering, injustice and the deepest roots of terror in exchange for a game of tennis with Prince Bandar.
We have unleashed a great wave of change in the Middle East. But we will never make decisive progress against terror until we address the underlying causes - and stop supporting the smiling thieves who rob their own people then ask us out to lunch." 4:21:48 PM
Cover Story: â01CThe Shah Always Fallsâ01D - February/March 2003
: "A soldier-historian looks at how the world has changed in the past decade and finds that America is both hostage to history and likely to be saved by it An Interview With Ralph Peters by Fredric Smoler." Great reading. Many good ideas, too many to blog right now... 4:15:00 PM
Press slants Iraq news: Members=The Hill.com=: "Journalists are giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq, a bipartisan congressional group that has just returned from a three-day House Armed Services Committee visit to assess stabilization efforts and the condition of U.S. troops said. .. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) said: “We were all like-minded in our conversations, not robotic at all, but we saw the real progress that is being made, that we are not at all mired.”
Wilson, once a print reporter, strongly criticized the balance of his former profession’s story selection. “Sure, show the bloody side, but get away from this police-blotter mindset. There’s much more going on, ” he said. “Just on Friday, I heard a CBS radio report on the three deaths and then they had this analysis that just bordered on the hysterical,” Wilson said. Adding, “CBS got it exactly wrong, the media portrayed it as an act of sophistication and a regrouping of Saddam’s forces, when in fact, it’s an indication of disorganization and desperation.”
Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) explained that the longer he was in Iraq, the more skeptical he became of his previous assumptions. Some of the media reports led him to believe that “it was Vietnam revisited,” he said. But he said there was “a disconnect between the reporting and the reality." Other Democrats were quoted with similar assessments. 4:02:48 PM
Nanoscale iron as environmental cleanser: "An ultrafine, "nanoscale" powder made from iron, one of the most abundant metals on Earth, is turning out to be a remarkably effective tool for cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater--a trillion-dollar problem that encompasses more than 1000 still-untreated Superfund sites in the United States, some 150,000 underground storage tank releases, and a staggering number of landfills, abandoned mines, and industrial sites.
Iron's cleansing power stems from the simple fact that it rusts, or oxidizes, explains [Lehigh University environmental engineer Wei-xian]Zhang. Ordinarily, of course, the only result is the familiar patina of brick-red iron oxide. But when metallic iron oxidizes in the presence of contaminants such as trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, dioxins, or PCBs, he says, these organic molecules get caught up in the reactions and broken down into simple carbon compounds that are far less toxic. Likewise with dangerous heavy metals..
[N]anoscale iron particles are some 10 to 1000 times more reactive than conventional iron powders, because their smaller size collectively gives them a much larger surface area, and they can be suspended in a slurry and pumped straight into the heart of a contaminated site like an industrial-scale hypodermic injection. Once there, the particles will flow along with the groundwater to work their decontamination magic in place--a vastly cheaper proposition than digging out the soil..
Laboratory and field tests have confirmed that treatment with nanoscale iron particles can drastically lower contaminant levels around the injection well within a day or two, and will all but eliminate them within a few weeks--reducing them so far that the formerly polluted site will now meet federal groundwater quality standards. The tests also show that the nanoscale iron will remain active in the soil for 6 to 8 weeks, says Zhang, or until what's left of it dissolves in the groundwater. And after that, of course, it will be essentially undetectable against the much higher background of naturally occurring iron.
Finally, says Zhang, the cost of the nanoscale iron treatments is not nearly as big a barrier as it was in 1995, when he and his colleagues first developed a chemical route for making the particles. Then the nanoscale iron cost about $500 a kilogram; now, it's more like $40 to $50 per kilogram. (Decontaminating an area of about 100 square meters using a single injection well requires 11.2 kilograms.) Zhang is currently forming a company to mass-produce the nanoscale iron particles. " Contact: (610)-758-5318, email@example.com. 11:28:47 AM
Today I wrote my thoughts on trends in photovoltaic cell prices. My gut estimate is for grid-competitive PV products selling into some markets in 2007, and being mass marketable in 2011. 11:04:57 AM
Progress at Nanosys with nanorods:
"To keep the rods properly aligned inside a solar cell so that they absorb solar energy consistently, he and his research team make them in the shape of branching nanocrystals that they call tetrapods. "Imagine a pyramid with all four sides exposed,â01D Alivisatos says. "We can grow rods out of each face of that pyramid. The result looks like a jack, from the children's game. It' a semiconductor that will always stand up on a surface, and should perform more efficiently." 9:24:18 AM
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Grants support renewable energy: "USDA is giving just over $2 million in grant money to fund rural renewable energy projects and energy efficiency improvements across the Sunbelt... Nationwide, a total of $21.2 million in grants was approved for 113 projects in 24 states .. Grant funds can be used to pay up to 25 percent of the cost for eligible projects, which include those that either derive energy from a wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal source, or hydrogen derived from biomass or water using wind, solar or geothermal energy sources." 4:34:30 PM
Sunlight Energy Company
: "an emerging new type of solar collector - The solar dish. The dish tracks the sun with curved glass mirrors and concentrates intense sunlight onto the flux capacitor at the focus to make hot water, steam, electricity, and hydrogen fuel... The solar dish is unique in that it is the most cost efficient solar collector in the world. It is designed to be made with off-the-shelf materials, unskilled indigenous labor, and common hand tools. The 360 pound solar dish has a producer cost of about $1,000, delivers the energy equivalent of 10 barrels of oil per year, energy that costs less than a penny per kilowatt hour. " Design info
also available. Apparently relies on a $50 "Black copper coil receiver" for the conversion of heat to electricity; wonder how that works... 4:32:03 PM
An overview of Solar Photovoltaic in Bangladesh
: Reviews market size and channel issues, in light of WB/GEF programs. Interesting note on how NGOs can participate in GEF subsidies and have access to capital, putting them at a decisive advantage over the private sector today. 3:26:20 PM
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Galapagos Marine Solar Energy
: "A recent oil spill dumped thousands of gallons of fuel into the fragile waters [off the Galapagos] .. One recent example of a trend toward renewable energy on the islands is a new 18-person Catamaran designed for eco-tourism and that was retrofitted with 20 Shell Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, two Xantrex SW 4048J inverter/chargers for on-board power. The father and son team of Guillermo and Alejandro Botta led a group of craftsmen from Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the construction of the solar-powered catamaran, a first for Ecuador's naval industry. The vessel is used to ferry tourists through the Galapagos Islands and includes a dive platform for scuba diving.
Because the Archipell sails in a highly-sensitive ecosystem, the team decided to build it using a fiberglass hull and solar powered electric motors. The increased weight of a steel hull would have put additional strain on the solar-powered motors as well. Twenty solar panels placed across the roof charge a bank of batteries and are connected to the Xantrex inverters which in turn supply electricity to operate the vessel. The company said construction of the solar-powered ship has been described as a milestone for Ecuador's shipbuilding industry." 12:27:29 PM
Luxeon: Line of high-output LEDs from San Jose-based Lumileds. "Luxeon™ Star Power Light Sources are the world's brightest LEDs offering up to 120 lumens per single source and available in a variety of configurations. Power and superb lumen maintenance, far exceeding other standard and high-flux LEDs..
- Very long operating life (up to100k hours)
- Available in White, Green, Blue, Royal Blue, Cyan, Red, Red-Orange and Amber
- More Energy Efficient than Incandescent and most Halogen lamps
- Low voltage DC operated
- Cool beam, safe to the touch
- Instant light (less than 100 ns turn-on time)
- Fully dimmable
Solar Electric systems
: Sells packages for solar power and many LED lights, including a $10 replacement bulb for incandescent flashlights 9:05:11 AM
Monday, September 22, 2003
Whale Communications e-Gap Webmail for MS Exchange
: "The e-Gap® Webmail Appliance provides a secure front end to Microsoft® Exchange (5.5, 2000 and 2003) enabling Outlook® Web Access from any browser anywhere in the world. As an application specific "SSL VPN," it is a cost-effective, rapidly deployable alternative to traditional VPNs. e-Gap Webmail protects against IIS vulnerabilities like Code Red and even unknown future exploits. There's no need to open dangerous holes in your firewall. The e-Gap Webmail Appliance also overlays strong authentication like RSA SecurID® Authentication and provides additional security features such as a patent-pending "secure log-off." Installation is quick and non-intrusive, requiring no intervention with production Exchange servers or firewalls. In addition to OWA access, support is available for secure remote access to the native Microsoft Outlook Client. 10:01:01 PM
SSL for remote access
: A "benefit of installing the SSL-based appliance is that Virtua has given its 3,000 employees who access e-mail remotely the ability to use the full Microsoft Outlook rather than the more limited Outlook Web client. .. By virtue of Netilla's gear, Virtua has avoided using IP Security (IPSec
) VPNs and the inherent hassles of distributing client software to remote machines." 9:56:56 PM
Caught in the Iraqi Dramatics: "The people at [international diplomatic] conferences tended to be paranoiaphiliacs. They believed there was a secret conspiracy running the world, but they were in favor of it because they thought they were it. .. Far from mastering events, the poor souls who attended summits found history moving in unfathomable directions. .. I realized I didn't really believe in foreign policy. Most problems are domestic policy to the people who matter most. ..
It's time to acknowledge that the reconstruction of Iraq is too important to be left to the foreign policy types, who are trained to think too abstractly to grapple with the problems that matter. The good things that are happening in Iraq are taking place far below the level of grand strategy. On Sunday, 18 bankers and civil servants from 11 central and Eastern European countries came to Iraq to describe the lessons they had learned in moving from tyranny to democracy. Every day, U.N. humanitarian workers, far removed from the marble halls of the Security Council, risk their lives to feed and clothe Iraqis. Every day, U.S. military officers spend millions of dollars building schools and tackling neighborhood issues. That's the work that gives Iraqis hope. Seventy percent of Iraqis expect their lives to improve over the next five years, and two-thirds want coalition forces to stay for at least a year, according to a recent Zogby poll.
Over the long term, we need to create an apolitical reservist force, made up of of businesspeople, administrators and police officers who have concrete experience in moving societies from dictatorship to democracy. In the meantime, we need to focus on serving the Iraqis first, second and last. We don't need to get caught up in a distracting round of lofty debates among the world's Walter Mitty Metternichs, who treat the Iraqi people as pawns in their great game-power struggles." 7:45:04 PM
Saturday, September 20, 2003
: "What Is Mason? Mason is a powerful Perl-based web site development and delivery engine. With Mason you can embed Perl code in your HTML and construct pages from shared, reusable components. Mason solves the common problems of site development: caching, debugging, templating, maintaining development and production sites, and more. Mason is 100% free and open source. " There's an OReilly book
, which includes a web-accessible chapter on Bricolage, a content management system
based in Mason. 11:49:02 PM
Friday, September 19, 2003
Small Home System
: "Sharp Corporation announces the introduction of a pair of Small Home System (SHS) photovoltaic (PV) power generating systems that make it simple and easy to get AC and DC power from sunlight. Aimed at regions of Asia, the Middle East and Africa where grid-supplied electricity is unavailable, these small-scale systems consist of a 'photovoltaic module,' a 'charger/inverter unit,' a 'battery' and 'connecting cables' in a single sales package, and will be available in early November of 2003." Useful details provided. 3:24:57 PM
KYOCERA and SELF in Nigeria: "Kyocera Solar recently supplied solar products and technical support for a unique rural electrification project designed to pump water and power homes, schools, clinics, mosques and local micro-enterprises in Nigeria. Three agriculture-based villages with a population of about 8,000 are now enjoying solar electricity. The project is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Government of Jigawa State in Nigeria. Management and on-site assistance are supplied by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a non-profit organization with extensive experience in developing village electrification. SELF projects are typically in villages far from an electric grid and with little prospect of grid connection in the foreseeable future. .. Kyocera Solar Inc. will supply 13 different system configurations based on affordability and application requirements. " 2:17:36 PM
Thursday, September 18, 2003
US vs British empires:
A speech making "the case that compared with the great British empire of a century ago the United States has much in common. It is in many ways a natural descendant of that empire. It resembles [and exceeds] it in at least three distinct ways.. [But it has] three distinct weaknesses by comparison with the British Empire. I am going to suggest it has three imperial deficits, which may explain why despite its vastly greater wealth, than Britain of a century ago, despite indeed its vastly greater military power, the United States finds it remarkably difficult to impose its will on relatively poor, and indeed quite technologically backwards societies. This, I am going to suggest to you, is the answer to the great puzzle of why such a vastly wealthy country has indeed been a relatively unsuccessful empire to date. " Long, but quite informative. 11:11:45 PM
6 Degrees Confirmed:
"More than 60,000 people from 166 different countries took part in the experiment. Participants were assigned one of 18 target people. They were asked to contact that person by sending email to people they already knew and considered potentially "closer" to the target. The targets were chosen at random and included a professor from America, an Australian policeman and a veterinarian from Norway.
The researchers found that it in most cases it took between five and seven emails to contact the target. " 3:28:08 PM
ADB project on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Sustainable Development in the Pacific
was approved on 28 April 2003. The project is aimed at disseminating information on renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency specially on the demand side, developing 5-6 demonstration programs (including maintenance plans), and designing financing schemes and implementation mechanisms in the low-income Pacific Island countries and East Timor to assist promotion of renewable energy resources in a reliable and sustained manner as well as increase the efficiency of energy use. 3:16:49 PM
Bangladesh renewables project funded by ADB
: "Recently, the Asian Development Bank launched the "Promotion of Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Abatement (PREGA)" Project. A National Implementation Committee (NIC) has been formed under the Power Ministry to carry out the tasks of PREGA, the sources said." PREGA
planned to be active in 15 countries in Asia, between 2001 and 2004. 3:14:12 PM
Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Climate Change - REACH - ADB.org
: "ADB's Technical Assistance program on climate change includes capacity building activities on generic climate change issues and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) with emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency, carbon sequestration, and adaptation." A number of specific funds and projects are included. 3:14:06 PM
: "The Rainbow project is an open source initiative to build a comprehensive content management system using Microsoft's ASP.NET and C# technology. A VB version is also available. Rainbow, available today in 14 languages, allows content authoring to be safely delegated to role-based team members who need little or no knowlege of HTML. Rainbow optionally supports a two-step approval-publish process. 45 plug-in modules are now included in the standard release, including support for an e-store, XML news feeds, Flash, Maps, Newsletter, Surveys, Forums, Document Management, Custom Lists, and more." It is offered by hosting organizations in Italy, Australia, and elsewhere. 2:21:46 PM
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Beacon Power demonstrates new inverter and software: "The Smart Power M5 is a high performance 5-kilowatt inverter for grid-connected solar power applications. It incorporates a range of components in one compact, integrated system, including inverter, charge controller with maximum power point tracking, switchgear, and battery back-up capability. Even in the event of a grid outage, the M5 will continue to operate as uninterruptible power system (UPS), providing photovoltaic (or battery) power to critical loads. Traditional grid-tied inverters do not function when primary power fails. .. Beacon will also demonstrate its new Smart Power Monitor PC-based software that monitors, analyzes and reports the performance of an M5-based solar power system. Users can observe and record key system performance parameters, including solar power output (real-time and accumulated), power exported to the grid (for net metering applications), and battery charging and discharging functions. " 12:58:31 PM
Twelve Major US Corporations and WRI Announce Corporate Green Power Purchases: "The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the 12 members of its Green Power Market Development Group today announced 97 megawatts (MW) of groundbreaking green power deals. The purchases include the largest corporate fuel cell and renewable energy certificate deals in the United States. The Green Power Market Development Group (The Green Power Group) is a unique commercial and industrial partnership dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. Its members are Alcoa Inc, Cargill Dow LLC, Delphi Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, General Motors, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Kinko's, Pitney Bowes, and Staples" 12:55:06 PM
Women top the world: "Women have overtaken men at every level of education in developed countries around the world. And girls are now more confident of getting better-paid, professional jobs than their flagging male counterparts. International education figures, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, show a consistent picture of women achieving better results than men.
"The success of girls is a complete reversal of what would have been expected a generation ago, said Andreas Schleicher, head of analysis at the OECD's education directorate. "In most OECD countries young women are now more likely than young men to obtain first degrees from university-level institutions," it said. "Only in three countries -- Japan, Switzerland and Turkey -- is the proportion of young men obtaining first degrees significantly higher than that of young women."
According to the OECD, in 1990 men still had higher graduation rates than women in half the countries surveyed. Today females make up on average more than two-thirds of graduates in the humanities, arts, education and health. But they make up less than a third in mathematics and computer science and less than a quarter in engineering. At the age of 15, girls were better readers than boys in every one of the 43 countries that took part in a 2000 study. In about half the countries boys were ahead on mathematical literacy, but the differences here were smaller. ..
Mr Schleicher said there were signs that boys were more susceptible to being put off education by disruptions in their home environment. They seemed less able to overcome obstacles, whether peer group pressure or a lack of family support." 9:52:21 AM
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Yahoo! News in RSS
: "Yahoo! News is now offering the following feeds in the RSS format. The feeds are free of charge to use for individuals and non-profit organizations for non-commercial use. " 14 RSS feeds so far, like World, Business, Sports, and Most Emailed, Most Viewed, Highest Rated. 12:56:56 PM
Bikinis in Saudi Arabia: info-anarchy as cultural imperialism: "Information anarchy is just the latest variant of West Coast libertarianism, defending 'free speech' at all costs, refusing controls over the net because it goes against the US model of freedom, and unable to allow that government can be a force for good. I didn't like that model when it came out of Wired magazine in the early 1990s, or the Open Source zealots later in the decade. I won't accept it from the p2p advocates now.
Siva says that "this issue is not about bikinis in Saudi Arabia", but of course it is. It is about the ability of a government to assert appropriate authority over online activity, whether it is in breach of copyright law or against public standards of morality. Pushing for information anarchy is just another way of endorsing US cultural imperialism, with its stress on US values and free trade. When cultural floodgates are opened -- and abandoning any possibility of regulating the net in favour of p2p-induced anarchy would open them -- then US culture comes to dominate. Look at the film industry or the games market. Siva, though he would deny it, is promoting the interests of the US government he claims to distrust, because he has not realised that the values that underpin file sharing and Napster are those of the unrestrained free market.." 12:49:14 PM
Opening up the BBC archive: "Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives. Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet. The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes, Mr Dyke added. " More interpretation from a blogger: "While the commercial companies fret over the dangers of P2P and zero-cost replication, the BBC has realised that this is its greatest opportunity. Not to beat commercial media concerns, but to finally stop mimicking them. It's heartening to see how quickly the BBC spotted this. From the first informal conversations at the lowest levels, to the acceptance by the most cynical realists at the top of the corporation, it took just 18 months for the BBC to get it. Compare that to the tardiness of the supposedly fast-thinking commercial companies. .. There are some big questions. Sorting out the contractual issues with anything but completely internally produced content will be difficult. There are artist's residuals (payments made to actors for repeat showings of their work), external commercial content, and international rights to consider." 11:03:11 AM
Update on MIT Everyware (Sept 2003): "MIT announced to the world in April 2001 that it would be posting the content of some 2,000 classes on the Web.. MIT would make everything, from video lectures and class notes to tests and course outlines, available to any joker with a browser. .. here was the pinnacle of technology and science education ready to give it away. Not the degrees, which now cost about $41,000 a year, but the content. No registration required. .. The idea quickly attracted outside funding. The William and Flora Hewlett and the Andrew W. Mellon foundations ponied up a total of $11 million for the first two-year phase. .. [This year OpenCourseWare has] 500 courses, offerings like Nuclear Engineering Course 22.312: Engineering of Nuclear Reactors, and Political Science 17.251: Congress and the American Political System. The school expects to add the remaining 1,500 courses over the next three years. ..
One of the most popular offerings turned out to be Laboratory in Software Engineering, aka 6.170, a tough requirement for electrical engineering and computer science majors. Lam Vi Quoc, a fourth-year student at Vietnam's Natural Sciences University, relied on 6.170 lectures to supplement a software lab he was taking, and Evan Hoff, a software developer in Nashville, followed the course to improve his coding skills. In Karachi, Pakistan, a group of 100 students and professionals met weekly to study 6.170. In Kansas City, five members of the Greater Kansas City Java Professionals Association gathered monthly to take the course. In Mauritius, a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, Priya Durshini Thaunoo used 6.170 to prepare for a master's degree program at the University of Mauritius. Saman Zarandioon, an Iranian refugee living in Vienna, studied it to continue an education that was stalled by the Iranian government. And software developer Rahul Thadani in Birmingham, Alabama, took it to sharpen his skills. ..
In addition to students, the material appeals to countless educators at other universities. Zhivko Nedev, a computer science professor at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, turns to 6.170 material to help him prepare lectures for his programming course. "It is the best thing I have ever seen in computer science," he says. Ludmila Matiash, at the Kyiv Mohyla Business School in Ukraine, draws on OpenCourseWare to design educational and training programs. Kathy Mann, manager of the biology lab at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, uses Biology 7.012: Introduction to Biology to teach students how to create lab reports and record information from science experiments. "It's really well done," she says. "Why reinvent the wheel?" The Fulbright Economic Teaching Program at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City makes its own content available online to any interested learners - and indicates on its site that it is taking a cue from OpenCourseWare. ..
MIT is working hard on other ways to extend OpenCourseWare's reach. In January, Universia, a Madrid-based consortium of universities, approached MIT about translating the material into Spanish and Portuguese. MIT signed a deal to authorize and vet the translations, and the first 25 courses will be available this month. The university has received similar requests from the Middle East, Ukraine, and Mongolia, but it won't forge any more official partnerships until it sees how the Universia deal goes.
Ultimately, MIT officials know, OpenCourseWare's success depends on the emergence of online communities to support individual courses. Margulies says MIT is eager to find third parties to create tools that would enable learners or educators to easily organize and manage discussion groups using OpenCourseWare content. "We'd like to see self-managed OpenCourseWare communities," says Margulies. "Our vision is to have this open source software on the site, as well as information that helps people build a learning community, whether it's in Namibia, Thailand, wherever." 10:18:33 AM
Monday, September 15, 2003
Invention for Sustainable Development
: "The Lemelson Foundation Invention for Sustainable Development Program fosters and unleashes human creativity and invention to meet basic human needs and build sustainable livelihoods for the world's poor people. " Advisory board members include Ashok Gadgil. 5:46:29 PM
Economist update on Nanosys nanorod solar cells:
"Japan's leading maker of building materials, Matsushita Electric Works in Osaka. MEW, which is famous for its resin moulding and processing technology, has joined forces with Nanosys, a start-up co-founded by Dr Alivisatos in Palo Alto, California. The partners plan to develop nanorod composite cells for the construction materials industry in Asia. Nanosys and MEW (a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial, the world's largest consumer electronics maker) hope to release commercial versions of the new solar cells by 2007.
The plan is to incorporate the composite solar cells into decorative roofing tiles or sidings, says Stephen Empedocles, a co-founder and director of business development at Nanosys. .. Dr Alivisatos thinks that if he can get the nanorods to point in a single direction, rather than randomly, he can boost the composite's energy efficiency. If that can be increased to 10%, Nanosys will have the basics for producing solar cells that are easy to work with and cheap to make. In June, the National Science Foundation awarded Nanosys a research grant worth $850,000 to develop the nanocomposite solar cell further. " 4:39:24 PM
More light than heat
: "What is needed is a glass that lets in light but keeps out stifling heat. Such glasses exist but are generally considered a luxury .. One version consists of a thin layer of silver sandwiched between plates of ordinary glass.
Writing in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters, Stefan Schelm and Geoff Smith of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, suggest a handy solution to the problem. The window they have developed consists of a sheet of plastic, rather than silver, sandwiched between plates of glass. The plastic, a standard polyvinyl butyral laminate is doped with nanoparticles of lanthanum hexaboride. This substance was chosen because it absorbs infra-red radiation but very little visible light. Because infra-red wavelengths carry the bulk of the heat, this allows the plastic layer to filter out most of the heat.
The nanoparticles do not even have to be particularly pure. Any contaminants created during production are so small, and fortunately transparent, as not to matter. The doped plastic transmits only 5% of the infra-red light, even when the concentration of nanoparticles is as low as 0.02%. The only side-effect is that the glass has a very slight blue-green tinge. .. Mr Schelm did not just happen upon lanthanum hexaboride, but chose it after modelling how conducting nanoparticles absorb light. By adjusting the size of the nanoparticles, or perhaps choosing a slightly different material, Mr Schelm may eventually get rid of the blue-green tinge." I wonder if this can be combined with concentrators and high-efficiency PVs -- like from spectrolabs, yielding >25% up to 400 suns -- to make PVs pay? 4:33:56 PM
Grid MP Global Service Statistics
: United Devices public grid used for Smallpox, Anthrax, and Cancer research, with 1m computers registered but apparently about 100k active (currently about 250 processor-years of computing per day). United Devices offers programs for organizations
to build grids out of their computer networks and offer them to other customers (as Gateway has done). 4:13:34 PM
Fabricates MEMS on demand from CAD drawings with 3 week turnaround. 3:22:59 PM
Decision tree of different media available for communicating today, and when to use each. 10:23:39 AM
Test bed for the Internet: "The Internet has spawned a smaller clone of itself called PlanetLab, which has been designed as the new virtual test bed for the next generation of Web-based applications. This global virtual laboratory imitates our usage of the World Wide Web to develop new business tools, computer programs and weapons against worms and viruses. The project sponsored by Intel Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., as well as many universities, is currently running on more than 160 machines at 65 sites worldwide... Anyone who wants to use PlanetLab for developing code simply has to donate a computer -- known as a node -- to the network, thus increasing its capability. " 10:20:32 AM
Bin Laden's hideout in wilds of Pakistan:
Good map of Waziristan, with this comment: "President Pervez Musharraf, has survived at least three assassination attempts since he threw his support behind the US-led war on terror in September 2001" 8:16:48 AM
In search of technology, Army turns to moths, sponges, biotechs
"Two Bay Area biotech companies have been enlisted in a $50 million effort by the U.S. Army to create new types of sensors, electronics and information technology by unlocking some of nature's mysteries. The Army Research Office awarded a five-year grant to a partnership of three research universities to launch the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies. The University of California, Santa Barbara, will lead the partnership with collaboration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology. .. "It's a bit of an unusual take on biotech in that it focuses on material science and information science, not specifically on health care where I think most people think biotechnology impacts their lives," said David Tirrell, Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies program coordinator for the Caltech campus. "It requires an unusual combination of skills, which is why not a lot of people are doing this." " 12:28:59 AM
There's progress in Baghdad but...
: "The visitor returning to Baghdad after three months' absence cannot fail to be struck by improvements in the Iraqi capital's life. But there is always a "but."" 12:20:09 AM
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Gateway Snags First Grid Customer, May 2003: "Gateway has signed on the American Diabetes Association as the first customer for its Grid computing service.
The ADA will use Gateway's Processing On Demand solution, backed by United Device's Grid MP Alliance platform, to accelerate diabetes research. The platform will run software to help the ADA analyze clinical programs and treatments, develop clinical practice guidelines, study the efficiency of care processes, set priorities and plan diabetes research. .. By using the Gateway solution, the ADA says it has already experienced a dramatic improvement in the time it takes to process a component of diabetes related research - from 48 hours down to one hour .. For more information, visit http://gateway.com/work/services/pod.shtml or www.ud.com/alliance."
Further details at Gateway Grid Used in Diabetes Research :"For example, researchers can plug in data involving patients with high blood pressure and diabetes, and then run various scenarios through the application to determine the benefits or disadvantages of administering disparate levels of medicine, Kahn said. They could find out the impact on patients, inventory, hospital costs and doctors fees, he said. .. On a single system, it would take 100 hours to run each scenario through the application, he said. Using Gateway's grid, that has been cut down to 30 minutes, and Kahn said he expects to get it below five minutes .. " 8:08:08 AM
Gateway Sells Processing by the Gigahertz Hour
: Update on Grid gateway: "you can literally buy Gateway PCs by the clock cycle at the rate of 15¢ for an hour of one gigahertz' worth of computing power. To use the horsepower of one thousand 2.4 GHz PCs, you would pay $360 an hour. .. When a customer submits a job to GPOD, Gateway's engineers first validate the program, and then schedule it for execution. The grid server takes the job, partitions it into many small pieces that can be executed independently, and distributes them to the individual PCs in the grid network. The PCs execute the small jobs and return the results to the grid server. The server then compiles the results into the final solution to be presented to the customer. No special modification to the source code is needed, but you need to port the application to the grid environment by writing a "wrapper" using the United Devices SDK. For customers who want a completely transparent solution, Gateway can provide the application porting service as well. " 8:03:23 AM
Friday, September 12, 2003
Wearing Out and Adding Up: Buried costs of the occupation: "Army officials say they will need more than $16 billion to repair and replace worn and expended military hardware and reconstitute a force that has been exhausted by simultaneous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "reset" involves more than 50,000 wheeled and tracked vehicles, every aviation system deployed in the Middle East and 300 different computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
"The dollar cost still slaps you in the eye," the Army official said. Of the president's $86.6 billion request for the coming fiscal year, only $3.3 billion is earmarked for that "reset," congressional sources said, meaning that the expenditures will be stretched out for years to come. That $3.3 billion is a small part of the $65.5 billion that would go to the Defense Department; the other $21.1 billion would go for reconstruction. Almost half of the defense money, $32.3 billion, would be used for fuel, food and other costs of combat and occupation, while $18.5 billion is being requested for reserve and National Guard salaries and other personnel costs..
The escalation has infuriated some members of Congress and their staffs, who say that many of the costs should have been anticipated.. "There's widespread concern that the Department of Defense just hadn't thought through this thing adequately," said James W. Dyer, the Republican staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, who attributed supply problems to "very poor planning." ..
The White House also wants $300 million for about 60,000 three-piece body-armor suits, so Army commanders can issue flak jackets to virtually every soldier in Iraq. "Here's a blinding flash of the obvious," one Army official said. "There is no front line out there." " 10:59:31 PM
Bill Weinman · AMTP -- a replacement for SMTP: "This is the home of the AMTP protocol. AMTP is being designed as a possible replacement for SMTP, with security features designed to reduce the impact of Unsolicited Bulk Email (UBE) and the cost of running mail servers. " The A stands for Authenticated, so you know the true source of every email. More spam filtering info from Paul Graham:
: Thomas Bray's blog, on hacking and related topics. 5:00:35 PM
Ditch the Road Map. Just Get There, Already: Provocative idea. "The current Israeli-Palestinian peace process relies on a step-by-step approach, which is destined to fail. Moreover, its goal is final status negotiations, which are unlikely to succeed.
Enough with the small steps. Enough negotiating. Years of intermittent talks between Israelis and Palestinians have produced a good notion of what a settlement acceptable to both sides must look like. The challenge is to get there before the onset of a catastrophic chain of events. .. It is time for a fresh approach that leaps directly to a final deal, presented without further negotiations, backed by a U.S.-led international mandate, and submitted for approval via popular referenda among the Israeli and Palestinian people. This is the best and most realistic way forward. " 4:46:35 PM
Cringely: Massive identity theft is a crime waiting to happen:
"What I produced in that hour was all the information required to steal the identities of 300,000 people, most of whom would be considered to have high financial (if not emotional or artistic) net worth. If I was a real criminal I could use this data over a period of 4-6 weeks to apply for online credit cards and bank accounts, to order credit reports that list where the victims do their banking so I could loot those accounts, too. Before anyone would notice I could grab that Secret Service [average] of $217,000 per victim for a total take of $65 billion, which certainly beats my day job. This sort of crime is eventually going to happen. If I can do it just about anyone can do it. The take probably won't be $65 billion, but it will be in the multiple billions." 8:56:17 AM
Thursday, September 11, 2003
East or west, Indian start-ups are still the best "
Konarka says it will enter the market with a photovoltaic cell in late 2004 that will generate solar power at about $2 per watt. "If we can get below $1 per watt, we can change the industry," predicted Konarka chairman Howard Berke." 11:08:23 PM
Sandia Nanocrystal Research Unraveling Nature's Secrets: ""Biominerals" is the term the team uses to describe complex natural materials that are composed of simple minerals, such as calcium, but that are organized in complex three-dimensional nanostructures. The team's first thrust was to uncover the mechanisms by which such complex crystals are induced into growing at selected sites. For instance, the biominerals in both macroscopic seashells and microscopic diatoms are synthesized in nature when the organism extracts dissolved ions of calcium and silicate from ocean water and uses proteins to reorganize them into nanostructures. "We've found that nature uses protein molecules to precisely control the orientation and morphology of biominerals. As a result, these materials are much stronger than normal man-made versions," said Voigt. .. 10:12:29 PM
Using computer models, the team designed simple experiments using organic molecules that bind to crystals, thereby directing and controlling their growth. By proving the concept in that way, Liu's team embarked on the long journey toward understanding how nature directs organic growth and translating that into a set of general rules guiding the manufacturing of atomically perfect nanomaterials. Currently the team is codifying its findings into a set of laboratory tools for controlling the delivery, diffusion and transport of the chemical "species" in its aqueous reaction chambers. The team plans to leverage Sandia's microfluidic platforms to provide a precise mechanism for altering the parameters of its experiments. The team predicts that its findings will result in manufacturing methodologies that are environmentally benign but that enable superior nanoparticles, nanowires and complexly nanostructured films. "
Bacteria-powered battery:"in the October Nature Biotechnology, [UM Amherst researchers] Swades Chaudhuri and Derek Lovley report that the bacterium Rhodoferax ferrireducens can turn simple sugars, found in everything from straw to fruit, directly into electricity. "You can harvest enough electricity to power a cell phone battery for about four days from a sugar cube," Lovley says. "A cup of sugar contains enough power to light a 60-watt light bulb for about 17 hours." ..
The bacteria were found in sediments at Oyster Bay, Va. They use some of the energy from the sugars to live and usually pass the rest off to nearby iron atoms in the iron-rich, oxygen-poor bay sediments they live in. The researchers discovered a way to dupe the bacteria into passing those electrons onto an electrode instead, producing an electrical current." 9:56:48 PM
Booze to Fuel Gadget Batteries: St Louis University researchers create an alchohol-powered fuel cell using enzymes. "The team behind the new battery has produced a constant current from its biofuel cell that is still going strong after two months. .. Prior experiments have used methanol, another type of alcohol, as fuel. The Saint Louis team chose ethanol. "A big advantage is that ethanol is not toxic like methanol, so it is easier to deal with," said team leader and assistant professor of chemistry Shelley Minteer. ..
"The enzymes we use are called dehydrogenase," Akers said. "We chose these because they strip protons from alcohol, and this is the reaction we need to get electricity." Enzymes are not alive like cells or bacteria, but they have to be active for the biofuel cell to work. Keeping the sensitive catalysts active has caused problems in the past. "Enzymes are fairly fragile and can be denatured if there are any changes in temperature or in the pH level (acidity or alkalinity)," Minteer said. .. Minteer and her team overcame this conundrum by coating the biofuel cell's electrodes with a polymer that contains tailored micelles, or pores, which provide an ideal microenvironment for the enzymes to thrive. ..
Minteer said the team is working on ways to increase their biofuel cell's power density. Currently the team's battery can produce 2 milliwatts of power per effective square centimeter. The average cell phone requires 500 milliwatts to operate. The team is also looking at ways to produce a battery designed to fit today's portables that can also produce the necessary power output. "It's like a radiator in car," Akers said. "It's folded, and all those ridges and folds give it a high surface area so the effective surface area becomes tremendously huge. You can do this on a micro scale so that the effective surface area of the electrodes is enormous. This is what we are doing in the designing process."
Akers is confident the team will have a working prototype in a year, and that the finished product will hit store shelves a year later. " 9:53:47 PM
: Grid computing at home for climate change: "The climateprediction.net experiment has been developed to allow a state-of-the-art climate prediction model to be run on home/ school/ work computers. By getting data from thousands of climate models, we will generate the world's largest climate prediction experiment" 9:30:20 PM
New technique for organic solar cells
: "researchers have pursued organic photovoltaic films for many years, but have been plagued with problems of efficiency, said [Princeton researcher] Forrest. The first organic solar cell, developed in 1986, was 1 percent efficient -- that is, it converted only 1 percent of the available light energy into electrical energy. "And that number stood for about 15 years," said Forrest.
Forrest and colleagues recently broke that barrier by changing the organic compounds used to make their solar cells, yielding devices with efficiencies of more than 3 percent. The most recent advance reported in Nature involves a new method for forming the organic film, which increased the efficiency by 50 percent. Researchers in Forrest's lab are now planning to combine the new materials and techniques. Doing so could yield at least 5 percent efficiency, which would make the technology attractive to commercial manufacturers. With further commercial development, organic solar devices would be viable in the marketplace with 5 to 10 percent efficiency, the researchers estimated. "We think we have pathway for using this and other tricks to get to 10 percent reasonably quickly," Forrest said. By comparison, conventional silicon chip-based solar cells are about 24 percent efficient. "Organic solar cells will be cheaper to make, so in the end the cost of a watt of electricity will be lower than that of conventional materials," said Peumans.
The technique the researchers discovered also opens new areas of materials science that could be applied to other types of technology, the researchers said. Solar cells are made of two types of materials sandwiched together, one that gives up electrons and another that attracts them, allowing a flow of electricity. The Princeton researchers figured out how to make those two materials mesh together like interlocking fingers so there is more opportunity for the electrons to transfer. The key to this advance was to apply a metal cap to the film of material as it is being made. The cap allowed the surface of the material to stay smooth and uniform while the internal microstructure changed and meshed together, which was an unexpected result, said Forrest. The researchers then developed a mathematical model to explain the behavior, which will likely prove useful in creating other micromaterials, Forrest said." 3:07:32 PM
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
SolarOne Products and Consulting
: "Solar Dynamics announced today the availability of an integrated water purification package for its Harvester mobile solar generator. Each unit is capable of purifying 300 to 1,400 gallons of water per day at a cost of under ½ a cent per gallon, generated solely by the power of the sun. The package can deliver drinking water sufficient for the basic daily needs of 150 to 700 people, whether in response to emergency situations, humanitarian relief efforts, peacekeeping endeavors or micro-enterprise development. A purification package was recently shipped to Sweet Unity Farms in Bara, Tanzania, where it will purify the river water for over 50 families." Other products
include small panels for battery rechargng, a personal portable system, and the Harvester module for adaptation to remote site needs. 9:44:09 PM
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Monday, September 08, 2003
Solar Energy ICT Project in Nigeria:
"The Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Turner Isoun, has said that the federal government has developed solar energy pilot project in Bayelsa State. The pilot solar energy project he said was developed to supplement the unsteady power supply to improve performance of Information Communication Technology (ICT)development in Nigeria. The move, the minister said, was the beginning of vigorous efforts channelled towards strengthening solar energy which is needed to support ICT equipment throughout the country, adding that more states will soon be provided with solar energy and ICT facilities." 12:10:37 PM
ABCNEWS.com : Hunt for Osama Bin Laden Narrowed to 40 Square Miles: "The hunt for Osama bin Laden has been narrowed to a 40-square-mile section of the Waziristan region of Pakistan, senior U.S. officials told ABCNEWS. ..
Protected by local gunmen, an ABCNEWS producer, who we won't name due to safety reasons, was able to move through the hostile Waziristan area undetected this summer. Local residents showed ABCNEWS the mountain homes of known al Qaeda operatives, graffiti praising the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who is also believed to be hiding in northern Waziristan, and the marketplaces and bazaars where authorities believe that bin Laden and his entourage could get its supplies. ..
At least eight people were murdered in the town of Angoor Ada, in broad daylight, on the suspicion they were informing the U.S. of bin Laden's whereabouts, according to locals. As a result, locals are tightlipped about al Qaeda's presence. Locals also told ABCNEWS that one tribe has been known to kill their own relatives for helping Americans with development and infrastructure work on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border. .. even the Pakistanis have a hard time operating there. By treaty with the Wazir tribe, they are not allowed further than 100 yards on either side of the road..
US Special forces in Afghanistan are not as specialized as they once were, [CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince] Cannistraro told ABCNEWS. .. "If you've drawn off many if not all of your Arabic language resources and sent them off to Iraq you're shorthanded in terms of dealing with intelligence collection problem of fixing bin Laden's location," said Cannistraro. "So there are fewer resources to deal with in trying to basically find and capture, the principal leader of a terrorist organization that's killing Americans." "
In the Sept 2003 Harpers, there's an interesting "Letter from Waziristan" with recent travel by a female journalist there. "Anyone with white skin is Angrez -- English. But Angrez, American, and CIA are interchangeable. There is only one thing worse: NGO. The tribespeople believe that nongovernmental organizations are the most insidious aliens because they're out to change the Pashtun way of life." 11:04:43 AM
Iraq WMD: Inventory Errors?: "Some [missing weapons] may represent miscounts, they say, and some may stem from Iraqi underlings' efforts to satisfy the boss by exaggerating reports on arms output in the 1980s. "Under that sort of regime, you don't admit you got it wrong," said Ron G. Manley of Britain, a former chief UN adviser on chemical weapons... On the search for weapons of mass destruction, Manley said his encounters with Iraqi scientists in the 1990s convinced him that at times, when told to produce "X amount" of something, "they wrote down what their superiors wanted to hear instead of the reality," Manley said. Producing VX nerve agent, for example, is a difficult process, he said.
Former UN inspector Scott Ritter, an American, said he, too, was sure Iraq's "WMD" accounts were at times overstated. "There was so much pressure put on scientists to produce world-class systems, they would exaggerate their reports back to authorities," he said. ..
U.S. defense analyst Carl Conetta said it was always a "fragile assumption" to expect Iraq to provide a highly detailed, fully consistent and well documented account of all its weapons work. No military can do that, he wrote in a report on the Iraq inspections. A U.S. audit last year, for example, found the Pentagon had lost track of more than 1 million chemical-biological protective suits, said Conetta, of Mass.-based Project on Defense Alternatives, a private think tank. In perhaps the most striking example, U.S. government auditors found in 1994 that almost 3 tons of plutonium, enough for hundreds of nuclear bombs, had "vanished" from U.S. stocks because of discrepancies between "book inventory" and "physical inventory." 10:32:18 AM
Sunday, September 07, 2003
Wired 10.12: Supermicrobe Man
: Brief interview with Venter: "At the beach, a milliliter of surface water will typically contain 1 million bacteria and 10 million viruses. Think about that next time you fall off your surfboard and take a big swallow of seawater. In different parts of the ocean it varies. We're going to start the experiment with the Sargasso Sea [in the North Atlantic]. The Sargasso is nutrient-poor, so the number of species there and the density of life is much lower. Later, we plan to test whether we can take all the DNA from one of Yellowstone's volcanic pools and work out what's in there.
It would have been inconceivable to [do this for] most scientists even five years ago; they would have said it's impossible in terms of the processing power. Now, we think the Sargasso Sea experiment of sequencing every organism in the ocean will take about a week.
We're building an extremely large, state-of-the-art sequencing center with a higher capacity than anything existing today. It will ultimately be capable of more than 100 million sequences a year. Keep in mind that 26 million gave us the human genome. We're going to be trying some new technologies that might allow us to get information on maybe 10,000 genomes an hour in the microbial world." 10:22:39 PM
Genome pioneer sets sights on Sargasso Sea: Craig Venter aims to sequence every bug in entire ecosystem.: "The Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), which Venter heads, has already begun sequencing every microbe in the Sargasso Sea, a region of the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and the West Indies that is bounded by ocean currents. ..
The microbes' genes will also reveal how they make their living - what chemicals they feed off and produce, for example. Other studies of ocean bacteria have found new ways to turn sunlight into energy. Such research might bring about new technologies. .. One of the stated goals of the IBEA, a non-profit organization based in Rockville, Maryland, which was founded by Venter in April last year, is to develop sustainable energy sources, such as a microbe that produces hydrogen. The institute is also working on biological tools to mitigate global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The IBEA team has filtered seawater from different depths and sites, and sequenced the microbes collected en masse. The researchers are using the shotgun sequencing method - breaking the genome into small segments and assembling the fragments with computers. The sequence shards will need to be parcelled out into many different organisms. It's like trying to assemble thousands of individual jigsaws from a single box containing millions of pieces. ..Venter believes that the technique could be applied anywhere from the air to the human gut. "Based on the data we already have, we're predicting that this will become the number-one way for characterizing the environment," he says." 10:14:00 PM
Friday, September 05, 2003
Gunman Wounds 3 at Iraq Mosque
: "Early Thursday at the Kadhimiya mosque, which is in a large Shiite district of Baghdad, a strange series of events unfolded. A car drove to the front of the mosque and shots were fired. Then Iraqi guards at the mosque caught two men trying to smuggle a grenade inside, witnesses said.
As Iraqi police wrestled the suspects into a squad car, someone fired shots from a nearby building. Later, Shiite vigilantes roaming the perimeter of the mosque seized two men, an Iraqi and an Egyptian, carrying pistols and forged passports with Syrian exit stamps.
"None of these people were Shiites," said Ali Saheb, the chief mosque guard. "We think some Sunnis are trying to upset us and get us to fight. That way, the Americans would not be able to control Iraq at all." 10:27:35 PM
Friedman: 52 to 48
: On an Arab satellite TV talent show "the Jordanian singer won through a vote over the Internet. 4.5 million people voted. People went wild in the streets till the early hours of the morning. ... The Arab basement can change!'' Rami Khouri, editor of The Beirut Daily Star, echoed that theme: ``This was a fascinating example of how the power of technology - in this case satellite television, Internet and cellphones - can tap sentiments and prompt people to action.'' But what was even more striking, Mr. Khouri said, was the Jordanian singer's victory margin. She won by only 52 to 48 percent in a region where presidents always win by ``99 percent.'' ..
In the Arab world, where few can speak freely, let alone vote, satellite TV is becoming a virtual Democracy Wall. ``They're the only opening, so people try to push as much through them as they can,'' said Marwan Bishara, a politics lecturer at the American University of Paris.
Technology, though, still can't trump two huge impedients to Arab democracy. One is the lack of institutions to ensure a peaceful rotation of power. ``In too many countries there is still a tradition of rule or die - either my group or tribe is in power or it's exposed to great danger, so you must never give up power,'' noted Michael Mandelbaum, author of ``The Ideas That Conquered the World.''
The other is that so many Arab economies are dominated by state oil revenues and state companies, with private enterprise very weak. Therefore, holding onto or being close to power are the only pathways to wealth. Control power, control wealth. ``It will be very hard to install lasting democracy in this region,'' Mr. Mandelbaum added, ``without institutions and economic reforms that guarantee that there is life after power and wealth without power.''
So yes, culture and historical legacies matter, but so, too, do new ideas and technologies.. " 10:13:07 PM
A 'Tale of Two Cities': Bridging the Digital Divide: Speech in India by president and CEO of Philips promotes Bottom of the Pyramid markets: "Let us see how widening access to technology for these people – by far the largest “new growth market” in human history – will in turn affect developed markets and perhaps solve some of the problems we face there. ..
A good example is the “Health Truck” developed by Philips and now in use in Argentina. In order to meet the health needs of impoverished areas of Argentina we provided a state of the art diagnostic clinic on wheels providing free CT scans that tours rural Argentina. This initiative brings advanced medical diagnosis to thousands of patients who would otherwise have no access to such benefits.
In the field of connectivity and consumer electronics, let me tell you about another initiative specifically designed to bring the urban poor of shantytowns and even more isolated rural areas into the digital community. Almost three billion people in these situations – many of them illiterate -- need to be able to communicate with family, employers and friends even though fixed line or wireless phones are way beyond their economic reach. Our solution is called “Voices in your Hand.” This project is already being tested in Recife, Brazil .. Using modified existing MP3 players that support voice recording and playback and carry a text free user interface, people can listen to personalised webcasts of audio information offline in their homes, talk back and use voice email. Then they visit a public utility point to link their sets to the Internet via USB. It’s not real-time or on-line, but remember you can buy 40 units for 40 families for the price of even the cheapest PC.
The availability of clean, safe drinking water is identified by the World Bank as the largest single factor affecting the health, wealth, and possibly the peace of humanity. .. it’s possible to have affordable, effective, small-scale water treatment at the astonishingly low cost of 10 US cents per villager per year using the Ultra Violet Waterworks (UVW) technology. The secret is to combine solar power, direct current and UV purification on a decentralised basis. Philips has all these technologies. Already, UVW systems are being tested around the world and one Indian organisation -- Ashok Gadgil – has shown the potential. ..
For those less wealthy, the model based around service rather than ownership is highly important whenever huge numbers of people require access to technology – not the device itself. In fact it’s probable that a ‘pay per use’ basis for technology will become just as common as “owning the box” and this will be the future business model for our industry.
A perfect example is the successful program of internet kiosks for rural areas here in India: it’s not necessary to own a computer to stay in touch. Likewise hospitals here in India (such as the facilities at and near Hyderabad and at Bangalore) have shown they are able to utilise diagnostic equipment such as CT scanners at very high rates, which make their use financially viable. .. Another important area in emerging markets is distance learning. .. Half of all households in India – that’s 100 million families - -do not yet have access to radio. We are already the largest suppliers of branded radios in the country. But if Philips could develop a radio that could be marketed for around R$s 200 – that’s around US$5 – we could enable huge numbers of people. " 12:03:14 PM
FBI Wants 4 Men for Questioning About Terrorism: "The FBI had been seeking information about all four -- two Saudis, a Moroccan and a Tunisian -- for months.. None of the four are believed to be in the United States.
The men being sought are Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, 28, a Saudi native with ties to South Florida; Karim El Mejjati, 35, a Moroccan who holds a French passport and last entered the United States between 1997 and 1999; Zubayr Al-Rimi, 29, a Saudi; and Abderraouf Jdey, 38, a Tunisian who may have a Canadian passport.
Officials have previously described El Shukrijumah as a possible al-Qaida operational planner similar to Mohamed Atta, a key organizer of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Jdey, who obtained Canadian citizenship in 1995, was among five men who left suicide messages on videotapes recovered in Afghanistan at the home of Mohammed Atef ..
The bulletin comes as the FBI raises concerns that terrorists might try to poison food or water supplies, and senior bureau officials say that al-Qaida is determined to attack Americans at home .. The FBI's latest weekly bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies cautions terrorists might use two naturally occurring toxins -- nicotine and solanine -- to poison U.S. food or water supplies. Nicotine is found in tobacco plants and solanine in potatoes that are old or have been exposed to sunlight for a long time.
The bulletin, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, says that terrorist manuals and documents recovered at al-Qaida sites in Afghanistan contain references to use of both substances as poisons.
The FBI said there are no known uses of either toxin by al-Qaida or other Islamic extremist groups, and there is no intelligence indicating such an attack is imminent. But the bulletin noted a Michigan man pleaded guilty in May to lacing 250 pounds of ground beef with an insecticide containing nicotine, sickening 92 people, in an attempt to get a supermarket co-worker in trouble. " 11:38:09 AM
Lost jobs aren't coming back:
"A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute, the think tank of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., suggests why. When a firm ships a $60-an-hour software job to a $6-an-hour code writer in India, the most obvious benefit goes to the Indian. But, the McKinsey study reports, the U.S. economy receives at least two-thirds of the benefit from offshore outsourcing, compared with the third gained by the lower-wage countries receiving the jobs.
American firms and consumers enjoy reduced costs. Larger profits can be reinvested in more innovative businesses at home. New and expanding subcontractors abroad create new markets for U.S. products. And, at least theoretically, displaced U.S. workers will find new jobs in more dynamic industries.
Forrester Research Inc., a trend-analysis firm, has predicted that 3.3 million U.S. jobs will be shipped overseas by 2015, adding that those jobs are not just assembly-line work but increasingly are white-collar positions. About 200,000 service-sector jobs will be lost each year over the next decade, Forrester predicts." 11:29:40 AM
U.S. Employers Shed 93,000 Jobs in August:
" .. the total job loss since January to almost 600,000.. In the second quarter, gains in productivity, the amount of goods and services produced for each hour worked, rose at a 6.8 percent annual rate in the non-farm business portion of the economy. That burst of efficiency came as production rose at a 4.4 percent annual rate, the number of hours worked fell at a 2.3 percent rate and the cost of labor for each unit of production fell at a 2.8 percent rate.
Production is rising even faster this quarter than last, according to many forecasters, while today's report showed that hours worked fell faster in July and August than they did in the April-June period. That combination points to another huge gain in productivity..." 11:21:38 AM
Thursday, September 04, 2003
A Slap on the Wrist
: "Jakarta Justice: The Bush administration may have been disappointed at the light sentence handed down to Muslim cleric and suspected Indonesian terrorist leader Abu Bakar Bashir on Tuesday in Jakarta, but to anyone familiar with Indonesia the verdict came as little surprise..." 9:00:11 AM
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
City of Berkeley Converts Fleet to 100 Percent Biodiesel
: "The City of Berkeley will celebrate a milestone on June 24, 2003 at the City's Biodiesel Vehicle Exhibit recognizing Berkeley's conversion to 100% Biodiesel diesel vehicles. The conversion has been in place for the last six months and is now planned for the long term. To the best of its knowledge, Berkeley is the first city of its size in the country to convert to 100% Biodiesel for virtually an entire fleet. " (180 diesel vehicles) 12:01:22 PM
New Solar-Powered Window System
: "The Dynamic Shading Window System (
DSWS) is made of clear plastic panels that fit in between two panes of glass. On each panel are dozens of small, pyramid-shaped units, or modules, made from semi- translucent focusing plastic lenses, that track the motion of the sun. Sensors, embedded in the walls or the roof, ensure that the units are always facing the sun to capture all incoming rays while at the same time deflecting harsh, unwanted rays from a building's interior. Each unit holds a miniaturized photovoltaic (PV), or solar-cell, device used to collect light and heat that is then transferred into useable energy to run the motors, also embedded in the building's interior walls. The remaining energy is used for heat, air conditioning, and artificial lighting. The surplus energy can be directly and automatically distributed through wires inside a building's walls, or can be stored in a group of batteries, for later use." 11:54:24 AM
Bin Laden bio-attack
?: "Osama bin Laden held a "terror summit" in Afghanistan to outline plans to use biological weapons in his next "unbelievable" attacks, according to Taliban sources quoted by Newsweek magazine on Sunday. .. "His priority is to use biological weapons," the source told the magazine, claiming the al-Qaeda network already had such arms but now was addressing how to transport and disperse them. .. "The plan was reported delayed and revised after the March capture of al-Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan," Newsweek reported. " 8:59:07 AM
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Aftermath Essay -- June 2, 2003
: Provocative NewsHour essay on America in Iraq: "Somewhere on the desert tonight, I am certain of it, a young American soldier is momentarily entranced by some aspect of the world he has entered to convert. The music or the spices, the colors, the voices, the eyes. He will return home himself converted, because he has experienced an intimacy by which I mean he has eaten, he has looked, he has breathed.
Even as Washington plans to reconfigure the desert, the Middle East draws ever closer to the average American. Islam is now so much a part of the American imagination and the American landscape, it will be impossible hence forward for participants at a congressional prayer meeting not to name Islam along with Christianity or Judaism, for Islam is now a major faith of the American people.
And American college students who could not put their fingers on the capital of North Dakota, nevertheless are already able to distinguish the Kurdish north of Iraq from the Shiite south. The victor is always surprised. Who in France could have foretold that a result of French imperial ambitions in North Africa would be an Arabic Marseilles? " 7:49:15 PM