Posts about Google

What is on the Other Side of Earth?

Do you ever wonder what is on the exact opposite side of Earth? This website uses Google Maps to let you see: Antipodes Map. It also makes clear how much of the earth is covered in oceans. The entire continental USA is opposite ocean. Hawaii is opposite Botswana and Namibia. Hong Kong is opposite Argentina. Singapore opposite Ecuador. India, Ireland, Turkey, France and Egypt are among the many countries that opposite oceans. Madrid is opposite New Zealand.

Related: science factsMicrobes Beneath the Sea FloorCool Mechanical Simulation System

Google Server Hardware Design

Ben Jai, Google Server Platform Architect, discusses the Google server hardware design. Google has designed their own servers since the beginning and shared details this week on that design. As we have written previously Google has focused a great deal on improving power efficiency.

Google uncloaks once-secret server

Google’s big surprise: each server has its own 12-volt battery to supply power if there’s a problem with the main source of electricity. The company also revealed for the first time that since 2005, its data centers have been composed of standard shipping containers–each with 1,160 servers and a power consumption that can reach 250 kilowatts.

Efficiency is another financial factor. Large UPSs can reach 92 to 95 percent efficiency, meaning that a large amount of power is squandered. The server-mounted batteries do better, Jai said: “We were able to measure our actual usage to greater than 99.9 percent efficiency.”

Related: Data Center Energy NeedsReduce Computer WasteCost of Powering Your PCCurious Cat Science and Engineering Search

Google Summer of Code 2009

Google Summer of Code is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects. Google funds the program with $4,500 for each student (and pays the mentor organization $500). Google works with several open source, free software, and technology-related groups to identify and fund projects over a three month period.

Since its inception in 2005, the program has provided opportunities for nearly 2500 students, from nearly 100 countries. Through Google Summer of Code, accepted student applicants are paired with a mentor or mentors from the participating projects, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development scenarios and the opportunity for employment in areas related to their academic pursuits. In turn, the participating projects are able to more easily identify and bring in new developers. Best of all, more source code is created and released for the use and benefit of all.

Google funded approximately 400 student projects in 2005, 600 in 2006, 900 in 2007 and 1125 in 2008 and will be funding approximately 1,000 student projects in 2009.

Applying for the program is only allowed from March 23rd through April 3rd. Still a short period of time but in previous years they have only taken them for one week. Organizations hosting students include: Creative Commons, MySQL, Debian, The Electronic Frontier Foundation/The Tor Project, haskell.org, Grameen Foundation USA, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Ruby on Rails, Wikimedia Foundation and WordPress. See the full list of organizations and link to descriptions of the projects each organization offers.

See the externs.com internship directory (another curiouscat.com ltd. site) for more opportunities including those in science and engineering.

Related: Google Summer of Code Projects 2008posts on fellowships and scholarshipsLarry Page on How to Change the Worldcomic on programmersInterview of Steve Wozniak

Eric Schmidt on Google, Education and Economics


Eric Schmidt, March 6th, 2009 interview by Charlie Rose:

  • “From our perspective, I think the YouTube acquisition and the Doubleclick acquisition, which are the two large acquisitions we did last year, and the year before, have been phenomenally successful.”
  • He also mentioned the idea of teachers today creating online hubs of information on educational areas, as well as lesson plans. See our Education Resources for Science and Engineering
  • And Flu Trends
  • “We needed the stimulus package, because the stimulus package had, among other things, $20 billion for science and education funding… Real wealth is created by businesses, not by financial engineering, and by businesses that provide new products that solve new problems.”
  • Why do you assume the best students in the world are going to come to America? “Because they choose to come here right now… That is a brilliant [actually not brilliant at all] strategy take the best people hire them in American universities and then kick them out” It happens. “Its shocking.” It happens. “I know we are fighting against it.” “We America remain, by far the place of choice for education, particularly higher education.
  • Technologists as a group tend to be more analytical, more data driven, more personally liberal (more willing to tolerate the differences among people, more global in their focus… [technologists] as a group believe you can literally change the world from technology.”

Related: Eric Schmidt on Management at GoogleEric Schmidt Podcast on Google Innovation and EntrepreneurshipLarry Page and Sergey Brin InterviewMarissa Mayer Webcast on Google InnovationLarry Page on How to Change the World

Google Aids Green Action

Google has a focus on energy as I have discussed previously. Google has been working to provide a way for people to get information on energy use in their homes that can be used to reduce your energy use.

Power to the people

studies show that access to home energy information results in savings between 5-15% on monthly electricity bills. It may not sound like much, but if half of America’s households cut their energy demand by 10 percent, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off the road.

We’ve been participating in the dialogue in Washington, DC and with public agencies in the U.S. and other parts of the world to advocate for investment in the building of a “smart grid,” to bring our 1950s-era electricity grid into the digital age. Specifically, to provide both consumers and utilities with real-time energy information, homes must be equipped with advanced energy meters called “smart meters.” There are currently about 40 million smart meters in use worldwide, with plans to add another 100 million in the next few years.

Over the last several months, our engineers have developed a software tool called Google PowerMeter, which will show consumers their home energy information almost in real time, right on their computer. Google PowerMeter is not yet available to the public since we’re testing it out with Googlers first.

Related: Electricity SavingsGoogle.org Invests $10 million in Geothermal EnergyGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is Hiring

Read the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 35 Languages

I have added a Google gadget to the right side column of the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog that translates our blog into 35 languages. I have been proving a direct link to 6 languages, so this is a great increase in languages covered.

All that is required to add this capability to your site is add a short bit of javascript from the Google Translate gadget site. And as they add more languages that additional coverage will automatically be reflected on your site.

The usability of the Google translate is excellent, I think. If you are reading the translated page, say in Chinese, and you follow a link to another page on our site it translates that page for you automatically.

I hope you enjoy this new capability.

Related: Funding Google Gadget DevelopmentGoogle Offers $10 Million in Awards for Google Phone DevelopmentMarissa Mayer on Innovation at GoogleIs Google Overpriced?Javascript books

Google Flu Leading Indicator

Google Flu Trends

During the 2007-2008 flu season, an early version of Google Flu Trends was used to share results each week with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC. Across each of the nine surveillance regions of the United States, we were able to accurately estimate current flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.

So why bother with estimates from aggregated search queries? It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly. By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza.

For epidemiologists, this is an exciting development, because early detection of a disease outbreak can reduce the number of people affected. If a new strain of influenza virus emerges under certain conditions, a pandemic could emerge and cause millions of deaths (as happened, for example, in 1918). Our up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and — though we hope never to find out — pandemics.

This is an interesting example of finding new ways to quickly access what is happening in the world. Google must be doing significant amounts of similar things to see how usage patterns can server as a leading indicator.

Related: Study Shows Why the Flu Likes WinterTracking flu trendsReducing the Impact of a Flu PandemicData Deluge Aids Scientists

Google.org Invests $10 million in Geothermal Energy

Google is investing huge sums in renewable energy with the aim of cheaper than coal renewable energy. Google.org (the philanthropic arm of Google) announced $10.25 million in investments in a breakthrough energy technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS).

EGS expands the potential of geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam and hot water. The EGS process, by comparison, replicates these conditions by fracturing hot rock, circulating water through the system, and using the resulting steam to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.

A recent MIT report on EGS estimates that just 2% of the heat below the continental United States between 3 and 10 kilometers, depths within the range of current drilling technology, is more than 2,500 times the country’s total annual energy use.

“EGS could be the ‘killer app’ of the energy world. It has the potential to deliver vast quantities of power 24/7 and be captured nearly anywhere on the planet. And it would be a perfect complement to intermittent sources like solar and wind,” said Dan Reicher, Director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org.

Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative focuses on solar thermal power, advanced wind, EGS and other potential breakthrough technologies. Google has set a goal to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity, enough to power a city the size of San Francisco, in years, not decades.
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Lake Superior vs. Silicon Valley Hot Spots

Nice post from Rich Hoeg – Lake Superior vs. Silicon Valley Hot Spots:

Recently I had the opportunity to visit friends in Silicon Valley. While riding the light rail in Mountain View, I experienced a moment of revelation of how life differs between the shores of Lake Superior and Silicon Valley. Six young men boarded the train … all obviously geeks in their young 30’s … their laptops (all Apples) were already fired up and ready. They proceeded to have a LAN party while riding the light rail on the way to work. Why was this possible?? You need to understand that Google provides free wireless to the entire town on Mountain View. The world is connected … and interacts in different ways … at least in Silicon Valley.

Thus, life is different on the shores of Lake Superior. I am a lone software nerd looking for a wireless hotspot … not a light rail rider with free unlimited access anywhere in my community. Out in Silicon Valley I tried Google’s connection; it worked fine and did not ask for anything beyond my normal Google account.

This is one small example of why Silicon Valley is so successful. To be economically successful, countries need to focus on big things (investing in infrastructure, sensible laws relating to innovation, creating and maintaining good capital markets, investing in science and engineering education, encouraging entrepreneurs, transportation systems…) and the small stuff like this. Silicon Valley continue to be a bright light (as do other places, like Boston) but overall the USA seems to be trailing, not leading, far too often lately.

Related: Engineering the Future EconomyUSA Science Losing GroundDiplomacy and Science ResearchUSA Broadband is Slow. Really Slow.

Gmail Failure

I really liked Gmail. Today Google has blocked me from accessing my email. I do nothing that remotely could be considered suspicious behavior. Yet without any preliminary warnings Gmail just blocked my access to email and provides only the following.

Gmail refuses access to account

While this might not be evil it is extremely bad service. Email users need to trust providers to provide reliable service. To act with integrity, etc.. When instead they take unilateral, immediate action with no significant response one can only draw the conclusion that they are dealing with another Verizon or Comcast or the long litany of companies that cannot be trusted to treat you well or even remotely fairly.

They do provide a form to fill out, which I have done. They responded with the following: “Thanks for your report. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience. For your security, we may temporarily disable access to your account if our system detects abnormal usage. It will take between one minute and 24 hours for you to regain access, depending on the behavior our system detected.”

Not really clear is it? I still have no access. Google’s “mission”: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” How about making clear the information that Google itself says it has detected, this “abnormal usage.” Have they even made that information “accessible and useful.” No they have not. Google choosing to break Gmail access without notice and without explanation and even after questioning still providing no real explanation seems like a very serious threat to users of Gmail. Google seems to believe that breaking access to Gmail is not something they need to even know why they are doing it. I would say a policy that makes Gmail unreliable for users threatens to send users to a provider that does not chose to act in such a way. This seems like a very bad policy on Google’s part.

This is so frustrating, I actually liked gmail. But I guess I will have to look for a reliable provider unless Google can actually provide an explanation of how they will change to actually provide reliable email services.

My account is back now. Maybe it was down for an hour. Which, frankly, if it had been a technical glitch I would have been fine with. That it was a policy decision to break access without notice or explanation I find extremely worrying, however. How am I suppose to trust that they will not do so at any point in the future. If they send me some explanation of this choice to disable my account temporarily, I will update this post.

Related: Good customer service (why is it so rare)Poor Customer Service from Discover CardGoogle Video Customer ServiceGoogle Customer ServiceWhy is Customer Service So Bad?

Larry Page on How to Change the World

photo of larry page
Larry Page on how to change the world

The question is, How many people are working on things that can move the needle on the economy or on people’s quality of life? Look, 40,000 people a year are killed in the U.S. in auto accidents. Who’s going to make that number zero or very, very small? There are people working on it.

In practice that’s not an issue. I’ve told the whole company repeatedly I want people to work on artificial intelligence – so we end up with five people working on it. Guess what? That’s not a major expense. There’s a reason we talk about 70/20/10, where 70% of our resources are spent in our core business and 10% end up in unrelated projects, like energy or whatever. [The other 20% goes to projects adjacent to the core business.] Actually, it’s a struggle to get it to even be 10%. People might think we’re wasting money or whatever. But that’s where all our new stuff has come from.

Solar thermal’s another area we’ve been working on; the numbers there are just astounding. In Southern California or Nevada, on a day with an average amount of sun, you can generate 800 megawatts on one square mile. And 800 megawatts is actually a lot. A nuclear plant is about 2,000 megawatts.

Whose obligation is it to make this kind of change happen? Is it Google’s? The government’s? Stanford’s? Kleiner Perkins’?

I think it’s everybody who cares about making progress in the world. Let’s say there are 10,000 people working on these things. If we make that 100,000, we’ll probably get 10 times the progress.

Posts on Google engineering: Larry Page and Sergey Brin Interview WebcastGoogle Investing Huge Sums in Renewable EnergyMarissa Mayer Webcast Google InnovationHigh-efficiency Power Supplies