Scrap Computer Chips Reclaimed as Solar Cells

Posted on October 30, 2007  Comments (1)

IBM Pioneers Process to Turn Waste into Solar Energy

The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers — thin discs of silicon material used to imprint patterns that make finished semiconductor chips for computers, mobile phones, video games, and other consumer electronics — to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels. The new process was recently awarded the “2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award” from The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR).

The new wafer reclamation process produces monitor wafers from scrap product wafers – generating an overall energy savings of up to 90% because repurposing scrap means that IBM no longer has to procure the usual volume of net new wafers to meet manufacturing needs. When monitors wafers reach end of life they are sold to the solar industry. Depending on how a specific solar cell manufacturer chooses to process a batch of reclaimed wafers – they could save between 30 – 90% of the energy that they would have needed if they’d used a new silicon material source.

The Simplest Universal Turing Machine Is Proved

Posted on October 30, 2007  Comments (0)

The Prize Is Won; The Simplest Universal Turing Machine Is Proved:

And so as part of commemorating the fifth anniversary of A New Kind of Science on May 14 this year, we announced a $25,000 prize for determining whether or not that Turing machine is in fact universal. I had no idea how long it would take before the prize was won. A month? A year? A decade? A century? Perhaps the question was even formally undecidable (say from the usual axioms of mathematics).

But today I am thrilled to be able to announce that after only five months the prize is won–and we have answer: the Turing machine is in fact universal! Alex Smith–a 20-year-old undergraduate from Birmingham, UK–has produced a 40-page proof.

Vaughan Pratt Standford CS professor, disputes the proofs validity.

Related: Poincaré Conjecture1=2: A ProofDonald Knuth, Computer Scientist248-dimension Math Puzzle

Uruguay buys first $100 laptops

Posted on October 30, 2007  Comments (0)

Uruguay buys first $100 laptops

The first official order for the so-called “$100 laptop” has been placed by the government of Uruguay. The South American country has bought 100,000 of the machines for schoolchildren aged six to 12. A further 300,000 may be purchased to provide a machine for every child in the country by 2009.

OLPC aims to sell the laptop for $100 or less. However, over the last year, the machine’s price has steadily increased and now costs $188 (£93). Governments were initially offered the green and white machines in lots of 250,000. However, this has since changed and there are now a variety of ways that the laptops are sold or distributed. For example, from 12 November, members of the public can buy a machine for themselves as well as one for a child in a developing country. The Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1) programme will initially distribute laptops to Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Haiti.

Related: Make the World Better$100 Laptop Update

PhD Student Speeds up Broadband by 200 times

Posted on October 29, 2007  Comments (3)

John Papandriopoulos

Local whiz speeds up broadband by 200 times:

A Melbourne PhD student has developed technology to make broadband internet up to 200 times faster without having to install expensive fibre optic cables.

Harnessing the potential power of telephone lines and DSL broadband, the technology will deliver internet speeds up to 250 megabits per second, compared with current typical speeds of between one and 20 megabits per second. Dr John Papandriopoulos, who has patent applications for the technology being processed in the US and Australia, won one of Melbourne University’s top academic prizes yesterday, a Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in the PhD.

It sure seems like many of these breakthroughs never actually make it into my life. It would be nice if this one did. On the research page of his web site he uses the under-utilized blink tag 🙂 He also has a some nice explanations on his site:

Our technology, developed as part of my Ph.D. thesis work with advisor A/Prof. Jamie Evans, aims to manage this crosstalk interference, consequently allowing telecommunication providers to maximize the data-rates of their networks. We can do this dynamically, and adaptively, to try and get the “best compromise” of interference between neighboring lines to maximize performance. In research circles, this is known as “Dynamic Spectrum Management” (DSM).

Practice First, Theory Later

Posted on October 29, 2007  Comments (0)

The best engineering school in the United States?

What makes Olin special – and what puts it at the top of my “Engineering Schools I Wished I Had Gone To” list—is its “practice first, theory later” approach. Olin was designed to make students plunge into hands-on engineering projects on day one. “Instead of theory-heavy lectures, segregated disciplines, and individual efforts,” I wrote in that article, “Olin champions design exercises, interdisciplinary studies, and teamwork.”

Experts say a deep reform of engineering education in the United States is long overdue. We need a new type of engineer trained to face today’s challenges, not those of post World War II, when many curricula were created. Could this new engineer be … the Olin engineer? That’s what I set out to find out when my editors assigned me the story on Olin.

What I found during my reporting, and what I tried to convey in the article, is that Olin is like no other engineering school I’d ever visited. Pretty much everything about it is unique. The installations are brand new, the faculty is young and motivated, the curriculum innovative. Professors don’t have to worry about tenure, students don’t have to worry about tuition. The students I met were bright, ambitious, outspoken, and diverse in their interests and personalities. They all want to lead, succeed, excel. They behave almost like MBA students training to be CEOs except they’re dressed in pajamas programming robots. For outsiders, it can be an overwhelming experience to meet a classroom full of Olin engineers.

Related: Improving Engineering EducationThe Engineer That Made Your Cat a PhotographerRe-engineering Engineering EducationOn Novelty in Engineering Education

Most Powerful Anti-matter Beam Yet

Posted on October 29, 2007  Comments (1)

NC State Nuclear Reactor Program Celebrates Scientific Breakthrough

Success was two years in the making – the positron project began in 2005 as a collaboration between NC State, the University of Michigan and Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. “The idea here is that if we create this intense beam of antimatter electrons – the complete opposite of the electron, basically – we can then use them in investigating and understanding the new types of materials being used in many applications,” Hawari said.

Now that the intense beam has been generated, members of NC State’s nuclear engineering program and their collaborators will turn their focus to developing instrumentation such as antimatter spectrometers and potentially long-discussed antimatter microscopes, which would allow for a much more detailed look into materials at the atomic level.

NC State Nuclear Reactor Generates Record Low-Energy Positron Beam

Once the stuff of science fiction, these anti-matter, or positron, beams have a multitude of uses in nanoscience and materials engineering because of the positron’s ability to gravitate toward and trap in defects or pores in a material at sizes as small as a single atom. Positrons are used to detect damage from radiation in nuclear reactors and are impacting the emerging field of nanoengineered materials where nanometer-sized voids control properties such as dielectric constant in microelectronic devices and hydrogen storage in fuel cells.

An intense positron beam means that researchers will have better measurements of a material’s porosity, especially in high-tech thin film applications where traditional techniques falter. This beam will be used in Positron Annihilation Lifetime Spectrometry (PALS) and Doppler Broadening Spectrometry (DBS). Hawari also believes that other positron analysis techniques will become possible. While the spectrometers are not yet built, they are on the books for completion next year.

The World at the End of Time

Posted on October 28, 2007  Comments (0)

I finished reading the World at the End of Time by Frederik Pohl recently. I really enjoyed the story which involves lifeforms that live inside stars and human space travel. One of the star dwellers set in place a plan to send a few stars away. A human settlement was dragged along as their planet was sent along with their sun on a journey away from the rest of the universe. I really enjoyed it.

A few other science fiction books I have enjoyed: Ender’s GameA Canticle for LeibowitzFoundationCalculating GodThe Diamond AgeDoomsday BookAmerican Gods

Related: Hugo and Nebula Award WinnersScience BooksProof (the movie)The most important science books

The Importance of Science Education

Posted on October 28, 2007  Comments (7)

The Science Education Myth by Vivek Wadhwa:

The authors of the report, the Urban Institute’s Hal Salzman and Georgetown University professor Lindsay Lowell, show that math, science, and reading test scores at the primary and secondary level have increased over the past two decades, and U.S. students are now close to the top of international rankings. Perhaps just as surprising, the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.

The study certainly sounds interesting. I can’t find it (update Vivek Wadhwa provided the link – which will work Monday, also see his comment below), but found an article (which wasn’t easy) by the authors of the report: The Real Technology Challenge. The main point of the article, The Real Technology Challenge, seems to be that the USA should focus on globalization (and focus on educating scientists and engineers to work in a global world).

As I have said before I disagree with those that believe the USA is producing more science and engineering graduates than the market demands. Smart leaders know the huge positive impacts of a large, well educated science and engineering workforce.

Countries that succeed in producing more quality graduates while creating the best economic environment to take advantage of technology innovation (follow this link – it is one of the most important posts about what makes silicon valley so powerful a force at doing just that) are going to benefit greatly. My guess is the USA will be one of those countries; not by reducing the focus on science and engineering education but by increasing it. If not, other countries will, and the USA will suffer economically. The USA also needs to continue to push the economic and entrepreneurship advantages – doing that well is very difficult to achieve and the USA maintains a stronger advantage in that realm – but I will be very surprised if other countries don’t continue to make gains in this area. Even so doing so is much more challenging than just improving education (which is difficult itself just not nearly as difficult) and the USA can continue to benefit from this combination with the right policies.

Related: Economic Strength Through Technology LeadershipHouse Testimony on Engineering EducationFilling the Engineering GapBest Research University Rankings (2007)Most IT Jobs Ever in USA TodayUSA Under-counting Engineering GraduatesScience, Engineering and the Future of the American EconomyS&P 500 CEOs – Again Engineering Graduates LeadHighest Paid Graduates: Engineers

Plumpynut – Food Savior

Posted on October 27, 2007  Comments (0)

A Life Saver Called “Plumpynut”

Every year, malnutrition kills five million children — that’s one child every six seconds. But now, the Nobel Prize-winning relief group “Doctors Without Borders” says it finally has something that can save millions of these children. It’s cheap, easy to make and even easier to use. What is this miraculous cure? As CNN’s Anderson Cooper reports, it’s a ready-to-eat, vitamin-enriched concoction called “Plumpynut,” an unusual name for a food that may just be the most important advance ever to cure and prevent malnutrition.

“It’s a revolution in nutritional affairs,” says Dr. Milton Tectonidis, the chief nutritionist for Doctors Without Borders. “Now we have something. It is like an essential medicine. In three weeks, we can cure a kid that is looked like they’re half dead. We can cure them just like an antibiotic. It’s just, boom! It’s a spectacular response,” Dr. Tectonidis says.

Plumpynut is a remarkably simple concoction: it is basically made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it. The formula was developed by a nutritionist. It doesn’t need refrigeration, water, or cooking; mothers simply squeeze out the paste. Many children can even feed themselves. Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

Related: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.Improve the WorldAppropriate TechnologySafe Water Through PlayScientists and Engineers Without Borders

Primary Science Education in California

Posted on October 26, 2007  Comments (0)

Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley Science Survey:

California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, is home to much US innovation in science and technology. Recent national reports have illuminated the importance of science education in the elementary grades and described concerns for US leadership in science,1 the importance of fostering interest in science early in life,2 and issues with promoting high quality science instruction in the elementary grades,3 nationally,4 and in California.5

At the same time, this region produces inadequate achievement results among its students. Results of the 2005 National Assessment of Education Progress 4th grade science test indicate that California ranked 2nd lowest of all states on eighth grade science achievement, only above Mississippi. During spring 2007, results on the 5th grade California Standards Test (CST) in Science indicate that only 37% of California students and approximately 46% of Bay Area students scored proficient or above6. This means that even in the Bay Area, over half the 5th graders are failing to reach proficiency in science.

Eighty percent (80%) of K–5th grade multiple-subject teachers who are responsible for teaching science in their classrooms reported spending 60 minutes or less per week on science, with 16% of teachers spending no time at all on science.

Related: The Future is EngineeringImproving Elementary Science EducationPurdue Graduate Fellows Teach Middle School Sciencek-12 Science Education Podcast

Scientists Denounce Global Warming Report ‘Edits’

Posted on October 25, 2007  Comments (2)

Scientists Denounce Global Warming Report ‘Edits’:

The original, unedited testimony presented to Congress by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and obtained by ABC News was 14 pages long, but the White House Office of Management and Budget edited the final version down to a mere six pages.

Scientists and public health organizations called the move “frustrating,” “terrible” and “appalling.” The edits essentially deleted all sections that referred to climate change as a public health concern — including the risks of increased food-borne and waterborne diseases, worsening extreme weather events, worsening air pollution and the effect of heat stress on humans.

“Dr. Gerberding is the lead of the premiere public health agency in the U.S.,” said Kim Knowlton, a science fellow on global warming and health at the National Resources Defense Council in New York. “It’s shocking that she was not allowed to say in a public discussion some of these vital details.

Political reasons for modifying testimony are not amazing. But when political edits to science testimony are too large you can really open up some questions about what is driving testimony. And those questions should be asked. Lets not allow science to be hidden and not allow the public to hear what the scientists working for us have to say – let the debate be open and public.

Related: The A to Z Guide to Political Interference in ScienceDiplomacy and Science Research