Posts about Google

Leslie Lamport Receives 2013 ACM Turing Award

Leslie Lamport, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, has been named as the recipient of the 2013 ACM A.M. Turing Award for imposing clear, well-defined coherence on the seemingly chaotic behavior of distributed computing systems, in which several autonomous computers communicate with each other by passing messages. He devised important algorithms and developed formal modeling and verification protocols that improve the quality of real distributed systems. These contributions have resulted in improved correctness, performance, and reliability of computer systems.

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) announced that the funding level for the ACM Turing Award is now $1,000,000 (to be provided by Google). The new amount is four times its previous level. It seems to me the 14th of November 2014 is a bit late to announce the 2013 award winner, but for an extra $750,000 I would gladly wait a year (or a decade for that matter).

The new award level brings the computer science award to the level of Nobel Prizes and the Fields medal.

Leslie Lamport’s 1978 paper, “Time, Clocks, and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System,” one of the most cited in the history of computer science.

Read more about the work of Leslie Lamport.

Related: Barbara Liskov wins Turing Award (2009)Donald Knuth, Computer Scientist (2006)Google 2006 Anita Borg Scholarship2008 Draper Prize for Engineering

Self Driving Cars Have Huge Potential for Benefit to Society

Self-driving cars was something that seemed very far-fetched when I first read Google was seriously investing in pursuing that idea as a commercially viable product (Google’s Self Driving Car – 2010 post). I quickly became convinced they were right. I still think it is questionable if they will succeed (the political issues may well be even more difficult than technical ones). But the chances of success seem reasonable and the investment in research could provide a huge payoff.

Google’s self driving cars have driven 700,000 miles without an accident already; which is amazing. Warren Buffett stated that “self-driving cars are a real threat to the car insurance business” (His company owns the GIECO car insurance company) at the 2014 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha.

There are some people, stressing that this is not ready for mass market use. They are right. But, I think it is funny to see people thinking that a very early stage huge innovation in transportation not being ready today is a reasonable criticism. I am amazed that this huge innovation may actually be available before 2020. That would be incredible.

Certainly even then it will have limitations. And certainly there will be accidents. The current transportation system with humans driving cars has thosands of accidents a day and tens of thousands of deaths a year in the USA alone every year. Every year 1.2 million people die worldwide in traffic-related incidents, and over 90% of those accidents are due to human error.

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Loon – Balloon Enabled Internet

Project Loon, from Google:

The Internet is one of the most transformative technologies of our lifetimes. But for 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach.

We believe that it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below. It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters.

Google testing out this system now in New Zealand. If they can get it to work they plan to use ballons to provide wireless internet access to hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people that don’t have access now. These ballons would float about 20 km above earth in the stratosphere (so well above where commercial airline traffic) and they are really working somewhat like to satellites.

Though ballons are much cheaper to put in place than satellites they also offer significant problems as they get blow around by wind (which is why they haven’t been used before and why Google is going to experiment to see if they can get it to work). The ballons will use solar power and be controlled by a mission control to move into different wind zones to position themselves.


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Largest Google Summer of Code Ever

Google summer of code allows college students to work on open source software projects during the summer and get a $5,000 stipend from Google.

Google Summer of Code 2012 by the Numbers

This 8th year of Google Summer of Code is the largest yet. More mentoring organizations received more applications from more students than ever before. We received a record number of applications – 6685 – from 4258 students from 98 countries to work with the 180 selected mentoring organizations.

We also accepted more students this year: 1,212 from 69 countries. This year India supplied the largest number of students, 227.

USA has 172 students, Germany 72, Russia 56 and China 45. This year set the highest percentage of women (self identified) yet. Guess what percentage. If you guessed 8.3% you are right.

Projects from the following organizations/software projects are included this year: Apache Software Foundation, Debian Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation/The Tor Project, GIMP, haskell.org, The JRuby Project, OpenStreetMap, Python Software Foundation, R project for statistical computing, Twitter, Wikimedia Foundation.

Google provides a stipend of 5,000 USD to the student and $500 to the mentoring organization. That puts Google’s support at over $6,500,000 this year.

Related: Google Summer of Code is Accepting Applications (2011)Google Summer of Code 2009Google Summer of Code 2007

Google Lets Servers Stay Hot, Saving Air Conditioning Costs

The electricity to run huge server farms is enormous. One of the significant cost is air conditioning to cool down the server rooms.

Too Hot for Humans, But Google Servers Keep Humming

Google’s data center in Belgium, which was the company’s first facility to rely entirely upon fresh air for cooling, instead of energy-hungry chillers.

For the vast majority of the year, the climate in Belgium is cool enough that this design works with no problems. When it gets hot in Belgium, the temperature inside Google’s data center warms beyond the facility’s desired operating range

During these periods, the temperature inside the data center can rise above 95 degrees.

“We’ve had very few excursion hours, and they don’t last long, so we let the site run right through them. We ask our employees to go in and do office work. It’s too warm for people, but the machines do just fine.”

Google’s experience is the latest affirmation that servers are much tougher than we think. Many data centers feel like meat lockers, as servers are maintained in cool environments to offset the heat thrown off by components inside the chassis. Typical temperature ranges in data centers often range from 68 and 72 degrees.

In recent years, rising power bills have prompted data center managers to try and reduce the amount of power used in cooling systems.

The temperatures in Fahrenheit obviously. I was surprised that the servers don’t seem to need to be chilled to perform well.

Related: Saving Energy with Smart SoftwareNew Server Uses 75% Less Power and Space

Science Matters

Google is a company that values science. The Google magazine, Think Quarterly, has an interesting interview with Professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN: The Light Fantastic. He discusses, among other things the recent experimental results that seemed to indicate neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light:

“The world is moving so quickly that people are asking for answers when we don’t have the question yet,” Professor Heuer admits. Even worse, in this economic climate, “They are asking, ‘Why do we need science? We should take care of our immediate problems first.’ But if people in past decades had thought that way, we wouldn’t have the society we have today. Everything depends on science – this is what we need to communicate to people. I think it’s working because the general public is realizing not just how fascinating science can be, but what can come out of science in terms of knowledge and, at some stage, the betterment of society.”

The answer, perhaps, lies in rediscovering the roots of science – in using the FTL [Faster than Light] breakthrough to go back to the future. “I want to encourage the interest of artists in our work,” the professor reveals. “After all, at the very beginning, art and science started as the same thing. Bring them back together and the public might say, ‘Oh, this is how you can see science.’ Once people start talking about it, you have progress in understanding and accepting it.”

Related: Larry Page on How to Change the World (2008)Science Serving Society, Speech Australian Minister for InnovationEnergy Secretary Steve Chu and Google CEO Speak On Funding Science Research

Great Projects From First Google Science Fair Finalists

15 finalists (from 3 different age groups – 13-14 years old, 15-16 and 17-18) were selected. 11 finalists were from the USA and 1 each from Singapore, Canada, India and South Africa. These examples of what can be done with imagination, effort and a scientific mindset is great.

The grand prize winner, Shree Boseer’s project:

Each year, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with ovariancancer – the 5th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States. One of the most common drugs usedin ovarian cancer chemotherapy is cisplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy treatment. While the drug affects ordinary cells, the significantly higher replication frequency of cancer cells causes cisplatin to have a greater impact in malignant cells. However, cancer cells often develop resistance to cisplatin, rendering the treatment ineffective. To improve the efficiency of cisplatin treatment, this research sought to determine whether AMP kinase, an energy protein of cell, plays a role in the development of cisplatin resistance. Studies with various techniques showed a significant difference on cell death caused by cisplatin insensitive and resistant ovarian cancer cells when AMPK was inhibited,suggesting that AMPK plays a role in the development of resistance. This work,in addition to offering a new treatment regime, also furthers our understanding of ovarian cancer and cancers in general.

This is a great project and the experience for the students is wonderful. Still I do think the prizes should be much larger given all the large corporations involved. Get involved with the next Google Science fair.

Google Science Fair 2011 Projects semi finalistsIntel Science and Engineering Fair 2009 WebcastsHats off to the winners of the inaugural Google Science FairPresident Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and Engineering
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Google Science Fair 2011 Projects

The Google Science Fair selected 60 semi-finalists in 3 groups (age 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18). The 60 global semi finalists will then be narrowed down by our judging panel to 15 global finalists who will be announced later in May.

The 15 global finalists will be flown to Google HQ in California, USA for our celebratory Science Fair event and finalist judging round will take place on 11 July 2011. These finalists will be expected to present their projects before a panel of acclaimed scientists including Nobel Laureates, tech visionaries and household names.

Sailboats using canting keels are among the world’s fastest ocean-going vessels; however, there are inherent problems. Canting sailboats require the addition of canards or dagger boards to replace the loss of the primary underwater lifting surface, adding significant complexity. The second and more important issue is that the cantilevered weight of the ballast bulb at the end of the keel generates tremendous loads on the vessel. The objective of this research was to test a concept to make sailboats even faster and safer than the current designs. To test the concept, this researcher built a remote control functional model fitted for both canting and hydrodynamic keels. The results showed that the hydrodynamic keel out performs the canting keel both upwind and downwind.

The Grand Prize winner plus one parent or guardian per winner will win an amazing 10 day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions. Traveling aboard the National Geographic Endeavour the winner will visit Darwin’s living laboratory and experience up-close encounters with unique species such as flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, and domed giant tortoises. They also win a $50,000 scholarship, split equally between team members should a team win this prize. This scholarship is intended to be used towards the finalists’ further education.

The 2 age group winners that are not selected as the grand prize winner will win $25,000 scholarships.

You can vote on your favorite projects and help select the people’s choice winner that will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Related: 11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsPresident Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and EngineeringScience Fair Project on Bacterial Growth on Packaged Salads

Google Invests $168 million in Largest Solar Tower Power Project

Google is investing in a new solar tower power project located in California that will generate 392 gross MW of clean, solar energy. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road. Google has now invested $250 million in clean energy.

Investing in the world’s largest solar power tower plant

works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. The solar receiver generates steam, which then spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity. Power towers are very efficient because all those mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature (up to 1000 degrees F).

Several large solar projects are in the works in the sunny Southwest (and around the globe), but Ivanpah will be the first solar power tower system of this scale. The Ivanpah Power Tower will be approximately 450 feet tall and will use 173,000 heliostats, each with two mirrors.

The Department of energy is also providing financing for this project. The project is 10 times larger than the largest solar photovoltaic project in California.

Related: Google Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is HiringGoogle.org Invests $10 million in Geothermal EnergyGoogle’s Energy InterestsMolten Salt Solar Reactor Approved by CaliforniaSolar Tower Power GenerationFinding Huge Sources of Energy Without Increasing Carbon Dioxide Output

Google Art Project – View Art from the Hermitage, the Met…

Google Art Project lets you view art from the Hermitage, Van Gogh Museum, the Met, Tate Britain, National Gallery and more museums around the world. The site lets you navigate the museum (similar to Google street view) and zoom in for very close looks at the the works of art.

close up of the Face of Venus, Birth of Venus by Botticelli

The image above is a close up view of the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. In the lower right of the image you can see the portion of the painting that this view is zoomed into.

You can create your own artwork collects, which is a cute feature. Unfortunately it is tied to the still incredibly broken Google ideas on social Internet applications. I find it amazing that a company that does so many things so well, can have such continuously bad ideas about social applications.

Related: Van Gogh Painted Perfect TurbulenceGet Your Own Science ArtMetropolitan Museum of Art photosMuseum of Modern Art photosArt of Science 2006

Google Summer of Code is Accepting Application Now

Google Summer of Code 2011 is accepting applications. This is a great initiative I have highlighted previously: Google Summer of Code 2009, Google Summer of Code 2008. The deadline for applications is April 8th.

Google Summer of Code is a program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source projects. The program has brought together over 4,500 students with over 300 open source projects, to create millions of lines of code. Participants (including students and mentors) have represented over 85 countries. The program, which kicked off in 2005, is now in its seventh year.

Participating organizations include: R Project for Statistical Computing, Debian Project, WordPress and the Marine Biological Laboratory. (9 of the 175 participating organizations list Ruby as part of their project :-).

For 2010 the effort had a budget of $5,000,000 and accepted 1026 students partnering with 150 Open Source organizations. This year they plan on 1,150 – 1,200 student positions. For 2007 they had 6,200 applications and 7,000 in 2008. I don’t see any data on applicants for 2009.

As for the application it should include the following: your project proposal, why you’d like to execute on this particular project, and the reason you’re the best individual to do so. Your proposal should also include details of your academic, industry, and/or open source development experience, and other details as you see fit. An explanation of your development methodology is a good idea, as well.

Related: Engineering Majors Hold 8 of Top 10 Highest Paid MajorsHow To Become A Software Engineer/Programmerposts from my management blog on software development

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