|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
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