Wednesday, December 29, 2004

For your inter-holiday enjoyment: Mathematical Humor

(PDF) Pointed out onNot Even Wrong.

I've been telling the hotel fire joke for years. Funny how the physicist always comes out looking the brightest ;)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

NYTimes: Blogs Provide Raw Details From Scene of the Disaster

By JOHN SCHWARTZ, 12/28/2004
"For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs.
The so-called blogosphere, with its personal journals published on the Web, has become best known as a forum for bruising political discussion and media criticism. But the technology proved a ready medium for instant news of the tsunami disaster and for collaboration over ways to help..."

As the amateur radio community ages, their role as emergency communicators from war or natural disaster areas is being taken over in part by bloggers. ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is reporting on current DX efforts. Still, in an area with no infrastructure, running an HF rig on a generator takes much less power and is easier to do than blogging -- especially if you don't have an adequate way to charge your cell or sat phone. HF signals can travel for thousands of miles without a repeater, and the equipment can be handbuilt using spare parts or kits. Commerical sat comms just aren't as practical in many emergency situations.

Thursday, December 23, 2004 Tuneable windows

From Design Engineering 12/16/04
"Secrets that zip across offices through wireless computing networks are all to easy also zip through office windows into the hands of ones competitors.
But now researchers at the University of Warwick have come up with a solution to the problem. They have devised a method of producing tuneable surfaces that can selectively block signals from wireless networks from spilling out of the office."
I've reported on this before but the tunability of this application really makes a huge difference. The other applications were installed in walls and (I think) were just wideband. This is problematic if you want to allow a pager, just not ____, for example.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Searching for Math Equations and Symbols on the Web: Part 3

Part 1, Part 2

No joy on the LaTEX front. J's post on math on the web caused me to smack my forehead and wonder if I had been missing something big. Well, yes and no. First, the way Wikipedia deals with symbols, etc., is actually pleasant. Compare to other methods. So I decided to try the major search engines using the coding used to implement the TeX markup in Wikipedia.

\nabla – found places the word "nabla" appears including the history of the symbol, etc.
\partial – yuck. found partial den tu res, partial-b1rth abo rti ons, Springer, Wiley, and Dekker journals (but just from the titles apparently)
"\nabla" – same as above, but also has this page that has what looks like TeX in the source code.
"\partial" – same yuck.
open tag math close tag \nabla* – (as compared to above and as compared to math nabla) better than without the math - but this is just my trick of specifying domain when doing natural language searching!! It doesn't really get any TeX stuff. It does retrieve other wikis that give instructions for adding formulae.
open tag math close tag\partial – see above. Note, though that this page was generated in LaTeX and converted to HTML - the equations are in fact PNGs but the alt's for the images are the actual LaTeX writing! I tried this in the google image search and it gives me whole page jpgs, not individual equations for the most part. Here's an exception.

So, it looks like you can search for the TeX coding in the images search somewhat successfully if the author used a conversion tool that added the encoding as the ALT for the image.


Very much the same as Google. At first I thought the image thing was working much better, but then I realized that they were all from the same site.

Doesn't index symbols at all
*Note: apparently blogger is trying to interpret the math tag. curious.

Friday, December 03, 2004 Another nanotube yarn

29 Nov 2004
This one claims a lot more than the previous attempt I blogged about. It's an electrically conductive, bullet-proof, temperature adjusting miracle fabric. They use multi-walled tubes, instead of single-tubed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Koders - Source Code Search Engine

Pointed out on Resource Shelf
This is a search engine for code.
Koders makes it easy for software developers to find existing source code that solves many common development problems with our vast index of working source code from a variety of open source projects. In many cases you may find code that solves the exact problem you are working on, and in other cases, you can find an 80% solution - where existing code can be suited to your needs with minor modifications.

Appears to be similar but more complete than what's offered in Safari. I'd be interested in hearing back from somebody who's tried this how well it works.

Update 11/10: Resource Shelf now says where they read about it. The NewsForge article also has a brief interview with Darren Rush, the founder and chief architect.

Friday, November 05, 2004

AZoNano Launch Online Open Access Journal of Nanotechnology

The Online Journal of Nanotechnology is based on a free access publishing model, coupled with what is believed to be a unique development in the field of scientific publishing – the distribution of journal revenue between the authors, peer reviewers and site operators.

The Online Journal of Nanotechnology at will publish high quality articles and papers on all aspects of nanotechnology and related scientific, social and ethical issues. All the contributions will be reviewed by a world class panel of founding editors who are experts in a wide spectrum of nanotechnology science.
Note also that AZoNano now has an RSS news feed. Pointed out by the Institute of Nanotechnology newsletter from November 2004.

Full text ebook: Notes on Molecular Orbital Calculations

Dana Roth of Caltech pointed this out on CHMINF-L
Roberts, John D., 1918-
Notes on molecular orbital calculations / John D. Roberts ; illustrated by the author New York : W. A. Benjamin, 1961
Uncontrolled Keywords: organic chemistry; atomic orbital models; electronic energy levels; bond orders; free-valence indexes; charge distributions; application of group theory to MO determinants; aromaticity; 4n+2 rule; chemical reactivity
The book is in PDF format.

PhysicsWeb: The greatest equations ever

Pointed out by the The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology v3 n23 (November 5, 2004), although I am subscribed to the feed.
by Robert P Crease, October 2004.
This Physics World columnist asked readers to submit nominations for the greatest equations of all time. What he found out is that there were different interpretations of the question and that some of the equations have a deeper political, cultural, or historical context that is perhaps more important than the scientific use.

Blogging will continue to be light

While I prepare for a Conference. Expect more regular posting again after 11/22.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The New York Times:Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective

By Donald G. McNeil Jr. (10/15/04) (free reg. req.)
For the first time, researchers say, a vaccine against malaria has shown that it can save children from infection or death.
The vaccine, tested on thousands of children in Mozambique, was hardly perfect: It protected them from catching the disease only about 30 percent of the time and prevented it from becoming life-threatening only about 58 percent of the time.
But because malaria kills more than a million people a year, 700,000 of them children, even partial protection would be a public health victory. The disease, caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes, is found in 90 countries, and drug-resistant strains are spreading.

Thank goodness. Hopefully this will lead to an even more effective vaccine. I worry, though, that it will be impossible to vaccinate enough children - especially if it has to be repeated several times.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

EEVL Free Trade Pub directory: computers, business and engineering trade publications

Pointed out in the EEVL news feed.
All of the trade pubs here are free to "qualified" subscribers. Some mentioned on the front page are: Biophotonics, Solid State Technology, Photonics Spectra...

Monday, October 11, 2004

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement: Sensor-Rich Feedback Control

(link above for IEEE Xplore subscribers only, I think).
by Rafal Zbikowski. v.7 n3 (Sept 2004):19-26.
The article discusses the insect-like micro air vehicle (MAV). A PBS show recently showed some of these in action. Trying to design a computer like an insect's brain is apparently pretty tricky. According to the author, 98% of the insect's brain neurons are for sensory processing. So imagine all the little tiny sensors necessary, and the little tiny computer that has to take all the inputs and take action while flying.

No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Nanotech Searching Tips

This is a boiled down version of the talk I gave with Susan Fingerman and Carol Brueggemeier at the Greater Washington Nanotech Alliance Fall 2004 Symposium. Thanks go out to all those from the CHMINF-L who provided feedback for the presentation. I announced this talk in an earlier post.

Finding the Vocabulary and the Literature of Nanotechnology

Language Matters

If you try to define nanotechnology, you come up with ≤ 100nm, ≤200nm, several hundred nm, molecular, atomic, macromolecular – it means many things to many people. Although the widespread usage of the term "nanotech" is more recent, we've been heading that way since the 40's and the technology has been evolving over that time period.

Web Searching

In general, in web searching, you are searching through an immense, world-wide collection of file types and formats. There is no spell checking, vocabulary control, language convention, or barrier to publishing. Nevertheless, it can be tremendously valuable in finding research, people, supplies, and everything else nanotech!

  • Jargon is important, your word choice will determine the scientific discipline and sometimes the country the results come from. Use specific words that would be used by a researcher in this subject (maybe one with a different academic background) to describe the specific process. Think also of older, perhaps obsolete terms that might still be in use in other countries.
  • Use the most important terms first, followed by several terms that modify or narrow the search. Use more words instead of less. OR synonyms - all you can think of - to be comprehensive.
  • If the results show that your word has multiple meanings (like bank – place to put money, side of a river or stream) add a very general word that will take you to the domain ex: (bank OR riparian) ex2: bank AND –(money)
  • Look through at least the first 3 pages – the top 10 results may be commercial sites that are better at “search engine optimization” than academic sites.
  • It’s an iterative process: review the first few pages of results, then modify the search and try again.

Finding the Jargon

Other Tips

  • More on synonyms: the internet has no standardized spelling or formula conventions. Search for formulae in Hill order, empirical order, and with abbreviations (ex: Yttrium orthoferrite, YFeO3, FeO3Y; ex2: NZP, NaZr2(PO4)3, “Sodium Zirconium Phosphate”). Use all the variations of the word because there’s no truncation like epitax* (as in Inspec)
  • Nano is seen the same as NaNO by most engines!
  • Spell out processes/techniques – use “molecular beam epitaxy”, not MBE
  • Remember quotes. Quotes are almost universally recognized as signifying a “phrase search” – the words will appear together, only in the order provided. Most web search engines do not have proximity operators that allow you to find the words near each other but in any order.
  • Try dropping the term “nano” from the search for more results and adding it to narrow the search. Compare searching focused ion beam lithography with nanolithography focused ion

Specialized Web Searching

Fee-based Resources

Where do I begin?

All of the following cover nanotech: Compendex, Inspec, IEEE Xplore, CSA databases on materials, environment and aerospace, Web of Science, Chem Abstracts, BIOSIS, PubMed, SPIE DL.

You may be surprised! An article with this title, "Nanosensor for Detection of Glucose”, was found in ... SPIE DL and not in PubMed.

Biologists and chemists should try the engineering literature, engineers should try the biological and medical literature.

What terms do I use?

  • Controlled vocabulary has not kept up with current trends
  • Be careful using popular terminology. ex: Carbon nanotubes stuffed with buckeyballs i.e. “Peapods”
  • Use wildcards to search variant forms. ex: Nano?lithography will find nanolithography, nano-lithography, and nano lithography


See in particular: Virtual Journal of Nanoscale Science and Technology – a weekly compilation of the latest research on nanoscale systems.

See also:
IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology
Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Journal of Nanobiotechnology
Nanostructured Materials
Physical Review A-E
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
Smart Materials and Structures
(and many more)

Community of Science

  • link
  • Search database of 500,000 experts worldwide
  • Search Medline, Federal Register, FedBiz Ops/Commerce Business Daily, Agricola, funded research, and patents
  • Sign up to receive funding alerts

Research and Industry Portals

These sites were selected specifically because they point to or provide literature. Look for the “publications” link or do a site search if available. Some full text, some citations, some abstracts only. These provide many links to other organizations, conference and funding information etc.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

This is the official site for the national monument created after the May 1980 eruption. Scientists are predicting (as much as possible) a new eruption in the next few days. There's a live volcano cam also available at the site, but this eruption should be a lot less to look at than the last one.
The main site pointed out by The NSDL Scout Report for the Physical Sciences v3 n20 (October 1, 2004).

Monday, September 27, 2004 Deadly Nanocarpet

It not only changes color when it encounters different chemical agents, it can kill bacteria. How neat.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Holey Fibers, Batman!

Actual title: Holey Fibers Shed New Light by Chelsea Wald Physical Review Focus 9/20/04
This is actually pretty neat - they've found a way to convert commonly available laser light into some of the wavelengths they hadn't been able to make a laser in. There are some valuable biomed applications, apparently. The primary article is F. Benabid et al., "Ultrahigh Efficiency Laser Wavelength Conversion in a Gas-Filled Hollow Core Photonic Crystal Fiber by Pure Stimulated Rotational Raman Scattering in Molecular Hydrogen" Phys. Rev. Lett. 93 (2004). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.93.123903

Searching for Math Equations and Symbols on the Web: Part 2

Ok, so I talked about searching for math represented on the web using entity and code values (those starting with an & and ending with an ;). What about pages like this one, just mentioned in the new edition of The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology v3 n20 (September 24, 2004)? If you "view source", you'll see that they use .gif files for the math. This particular page uses the word curl several times, but there's no alt for the image, so there's less information for an image search engine to use. Don't even try to search for curl, but if you try grad OR gradient in Google images, on the second page of the results, you'll get someone's handwritten notes. The collection of images in Yahoo seems much smaller - you do get handwritten notes if you enter curl math. If you call the symbol I've been calling grad by it's more generic name "del", you'll actually get a couple of equations, interestingly enough. Google yields a few results with del math. See one interesting one: . AltaVista is apparently still using it's own technology and collection, but the results are not much better.

So, what about the new(er) image searches that analyze the picture itself instead of just the context and alt text? Those that do feature extraction? Can they pick out an integral? or a gradient? The one at Columbia I knew about a while ago is apparently down (websEEk). The one at Penn State by Wang and Li runs only on a practice set of images - and they're from a cd of clip art. (Actually I'm having a hard time finding any of these so I just posted a request to a list for help.) (found via SearchEngineWatch, I don't know if it's content based)
This one does better. If you cut and paste the ∂ or the ∇, it actually comes up with mathematical equations. Now, what if we try ∂x/∂t ? Nothing, but ∂x does yield ∂x . It's a start but I 'm not going to try to narrow the results!

I'll add to this (hopefully) when I find some other engines.

Searching for Math Equations and Symbols on the Web: Part 1

NB: I derive an almost perverse pleasure in torturing search engines. Please also note that I'd like to form this into a paper for publication so I'm calling dibs on my ideas (link, disagree, comment, expand upon ... but please don't copy and republish)

It came to me that I'm sure there are a ton of web pages out there with papers talking about div, curl, grad, summation, integration.... all these things best described by their equations and symbols. Mathematicians frequently solve and prove solutions to equations divorced from the applications of the equations to describe nature. Physicists develop new equations to describe nature and then try to solve them, engineers look up solutions to equations to solve real, immediate, application problems. So, how can physicists, engineers, and librarians search for math stuff on the internet if the writeups and the equations themselves do not use the language of the physical phenomena the equations describe? Or if the equations are not yet named and famous? Or are not recognizable as belonging to the physical phenomena?

You can search in Safari by code snippet and in chemistry databases (like the ChemIDplus from NLM) by substructure. (You can also try the ACM Portal with code snippets, but there's no real way to search the open internet for chemical structures.) That's pretty cool, but what about searching for a particular mathematical formula? In Inspec and MathSci Net, the subject headings are probably the best access points and there are rules for representing symbols (like /sub/ depending sometimes on the vendor) – but this doesn't help if the mathematical formula is not linked to the particular phenomenon you're studying. I discussed in an earlier post how there are various ways to represent math on the web. So, what happens when you search for ∑ or & sum; or & #8721; ? Maybe sum isn't the best choice because normally you'd have an n=a somewhere attached so I'll also search for the partial derivative symbol ∂ and the gradient ∇.
Graphic symbol pasted in – does nothing, not even an error
Name code or entity (starting an & and end with a ; ) – returns mostly tables and posts on how to use MathML or the codes or various things from computer programming. For the partial derivative symbol (∂), Google returns nothing on the code (& #8706;) and returns non-math stuff for the entity with one exception - an improperly created abstract that actually shows the code, not the symbol.

Graphic symbol pasted in – zero results.
Name code or entity – Yahoo ignores the & and the ; and searches for Sum, or part, for the entity and the numbers for the code. You end up with phone numbers, part numbers, etc.

Graphic symbol pasted in – lots of results, it's seeing them all as empty boxes, so it's finding non-romanized language pages.
Name code or entity – Teoma apparently ignores the & and the ; and searches for sum, or part, for the entity and the numbers for the code. Quotes don't help.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

NY Times: Drawing Semiconductor Circuits, One Tiny Line at a Time

by Anne Eisenberg 9/23/04
It's like a nano glue gun. A new way from NRL and Georgia Tech to do nanolithography that uses dip pen technology on the tip of an atomic force microscope. From this article, what's new is that they can turn the writing on and off by heating and cooling the tip and having the "ink" solid at cooler temperatures... you know, like a glue gun. Their full article is Sheehan et al "Nanoscale deposition of solid inks via thermal dip pen nanolithography" Applied Physics Letters v85 n9 (30 Aug 2004): 1589-91.

I'm not quite sure how their version differs from the one described by Bullen et al in "Design, fabrication, and characterization of thermally actuated probe arrays for dip pen nanolithography" Journal of Microelectromechanical Systems v14 n4 (Aug 2004): 264-602

A side note: Inspec has a heading for nanolithography. Cool.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

ChemIDplus, Now Updated With More Information

Pointed out on ResourceShelf.
ChemIDplus is the National Library of Medicine's chemical dictionary. It covers 370,000 chemicals (# from help file, higher than # in press release). It allows property searching, substructure searching, CAS RN searching -- all paid for by US tax dollars, and free to the world. They've recently updated the search and added more chemical property fields.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Industrial Physicist: Scramjets integrate air and space

by Dean Andreadis. (Aug/Sep 04): 24-7.
This is a nice, understandable overview article on scramjets. It discusses the differences between scramjets and ramjets, turbofans, turbojets. Shows the parts of the scramjet. Provides a laundry list of terms.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Call for Assistance/Input/Comments

Two colleagues and I are presenting at the upcoming Greater Washington Nanotechnology Alliance Fall 2004 Special Topics Symposium (agenda not posted as of 9/17/04). Our topic is:
“Finding the Vocabulary and Literature of Nanotechnology.” Basically, the idea is that this is a new and fast moving field that crosses biology, chemistry, physics, etc. The standard databases in these areas have coped in different ways and have added or failed to add indexing to support searching. Also, there are specific methods that are useful to search the internet to find information in these topics. We'll discuss the current state of literature and web searching on scientific (not business, patent, news) nanotech topics.

If you're interested in a related article on this subject, ask your library for Rick Weiss, "Language of Science Lags Behind Nanotech; Burgeoning Field in Need of Universal Way to Describe Creations," Washington Post (May 17, 2004): A07.

If you would like to offer suggestions or preferred strategies on any of these topics, please comment here, link to this post, or e-mail me at cpikas (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll cite you if you like and post some results here.

I'll probably be asking questions of the various listservs, so please pardon any duplication.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

e4engineering: Not a Pretty Picture

9/16/04 (via feed).
This is just the most recent of a ton of recent reports on this security hole. I'm posting here because for the last couple of months or so I've been intrigued by steganography (see overview here: It's conceivable that this hole exists for other browsers/operating systems. Niels Provos is (was?) marketing a product to check jpegs for steganographic content. It seems that the spamfilters kind of need to incorporate this. Maybe they do already?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

PhysicsWeb: Petroleum under pressure

Scientists have made methane through inorganic reactions... and have monitored the reaction in situ through diamond surfaces.
"Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton believes the results are important because they could help answer the question of whether natural gas and petroleum could be created inorganically. 'If the answer turns out to be inorganic, this has huge implications for the ecology and economy of our planet,' says Dyson.
However, Scott is more cautious about his team's results. 'Although I believe the Earth's mantle could contain a significant quantity of even heavier hydrocarbons, I cannot constrain how much of this reaches the Earth's surface, or the extent to which it may augment resources that we exploit commercially,' he told PhysicsWeb. 'I do not want to suggest in any way that these hydrocarbons are likely to represent an untapped energy reserve.'"

New Journal of Physics: Focus on Turbulence

Found via the IOP feed. Should be available free of charge.
One of the foci of the current issue of the New Journal of Physics is Turbulence. It includes about 15 articles now and more will be added. Per the editors, the purpose is to
address ... basic questions in turbulence theory, experiment, computation and modelling, highlighting where progress has been achieved, and where it can be reasonably expected within the next few years.

Monday, September 13, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Students make washing machine talk

9/12/04 by Geoff Adams-Spink (via their RSS feed)
This should have been done long ago. But I trust my washer to keep my secrets.
Update: Ok, I can't help it "we have ways of making you talk"

Free Full-Text Journals in Chemistry

The compiler, Alexander Ragoisha, just reminded us of this resource on [CHMINF-L].
All links and comments had been verified in August 2004. It was a surprise to me that less than ten journals died or closed free access to full texts since August 2003. Moreover, every forth journal of the list has expanded in free cyberspace.

As in the previous year, I plan to add new information to the site twice a month.

The New York Times: Let a Thousand Ideas Flower: China Is a New Hotbed of Research

by Chris Buckley 9/13/04 (free registration req)
Initially, this seems pretty simple: the big funders of research outside of the government are outsourcing their R&D overseas to save money. It is probably more complex and the gains are perhaps not all that they had hoped. First, we may be encouraging this with our more strict immigration policies since 2001 (look at grad student attendance). Second, one person in this article says that the IP concerns and management concerns make it like herding cats.

Still, now that it's not just manufacturing jobs leaving but creative jobs, it's definitely worth being on the radar.

Thursday, September 09, 2004 Researchers Spin Nanotubes Into Fibres

From Design Engineering (found on e4eng feed) 9/9/04
Cool! We're that much closer to our space elevator. Ok, quick review. Carbon nanotubes are really strong but clumpy. They're also brittle. They need to be made into fibers or ribbons to be useful in a somewhat pure form. Looks like researchers from Penn and Rice (a nanotube HQ) have figured out a way to do it. It's similar to the way Kevlar fibers are made. (The original article actually came out in December: V.A. Davis, et al. "Phase Behavior and Rheology of SWNTs in Superacids." Macromolecules v37 n1 (2004): 154-160. DOI: 10.1021/ma0352328.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

IEE Electronics Systems and Software: Filling in the Gaps

by Bill Collis and Anil Kokaram v2 n4 (Aug/Sep 2004): 22-8. (in print, the download is PDF, 884KB).
This is a pretty neat article describing post-production image processing to do "motion interpolation" and "image synthesis." Basically, automated removal of the camera rig from the frames and in-painting to fill in a crowd.
The algorithms described in this paper have been implemented as plug-ins by the authors and are now in widespread use within the post production community. Film credits include The Matrix films, the Harry Potters, Lord of the Rings, and many others, although part of the success of these techniques is that the average viewer is unaware of their use in a film.

Washington Post: Vehicle-Profiling Technology Speeds Up Fast Food

by Charles Sheehan AP 9/8/04 (pointed out via e-mail newsletter, free registration required)
No, not that kind of profiling! This is non-invasive, image processing of feeds from roof cameras pointing at the parking lot. Looks at the size of vehicles and number of vehicles predicts need for more Big Macs.

National Hurricane Center RSS Feeds

This seems like a particularly good example of e-gov and of a government agency using new methods to communicate with the citizenry. Here are the feeds:
Atlantic (English):
Atlantic (Spanish):
Eastern Pacific (English):

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

You want me to ride in what? The Engineer: Inflation set to rocket

8/27/2004 by Helen Knight
"The craft, which resembles a shuttlecock, is being developed with support from ESA as a cheaper alternative to the US Shuttle for transporting cargo from the ISS. It could also be used as an emergency rescue system for crews, the company claims." Re-entering the earth's atmosphere in an inflatable birdie-shaped raft takes a small leap of faith -- but it is light, and less expensive, and can possibly carry more weight.

New Scientist: Radar to scan shuttle for launch debris

"NASA will use ground-based radar imaging to monitor the next space shuttle launch, scheduled for spring 2005, agency officials said on Wednesday. The technology was tested successfully on 3 August, when NASA's Messenger mission to Mercury blasted off from Florida."
It makes sense to use radar. I hope they'll be using other imaging tools, as well. According to this article, cameras will be mounted on the tanks and other places on the shuttle.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

If you need show your math work on the web...

My last post mentioned that there are some complications to using symbols on the web. Those of us who started by hand-coding html will probably recognize what happens when you toss in a greater than sign or ampersand. For the previous post, I looked up the code for the Greek letters on . Jukka Korpela provides a pretty detailed discussion of math and html on his site: .

There's sometimes a difference between the programs you use to calculate and those you use to display on the web. Back in the day, I used MathCad to calculate and display or just the equation editor in Word to add pretty equations to my lab reports and papers. Word made pretty equations (it still does), but it doesn't calculate. It's more for taking your handwritten stuff and putting it into a document everyone can read. I also used Mathematica for diff eq, but as I recall, its input was text only. Very picky, too. At the time, you could print the graph or whatever, then tape or glue it to your lab notebook. Now you can export to a document that you can include as a graphic. There's also a gizmo that lets people calculate within a web page. I would guess Mathlab is in the same category. They're both powerful but ugly. TeX and LaTeX are widely used and accepted by many publications but I believe they are just typesetting deals and need to be converted for the web.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about MathPlayer (free, kind of like Adobe Acrobat Reader is free) and MathML (a mark-up language). MathML is from W3C and it's a mark-up language for math on the web. From what I can tell, you need a plug-in like MathPlayer to see MathML and a tool to write it. While you can pretty much wing HTML, MathML is supposed to be pretty ugly behind the scenes.

Update: I just noticed a book on our new book shelf that's causing flashbacks - it's a new edition of the book I used for Mathematica for diff eq in college. They do have an "input palette" now that's similar to what you get in Word's equation editor. There's also a save as... html, xml, TeX.

Read my review: High - κ Gate Dielectrics

(cross posted with my LIS blog) Pikas, Christina K. "High - κ Gate Dielectrics" E-Streams v.7 no.8 (August 2004). There was a little font problem. The relative dielectric constant (relative permittivity) is either εr or κ as they use in the title of the book. It comes out in various forms of the review as ? , ! , e. Ah the joy of mathematical or Greek symbols on the web.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

AIR tells us how to write science press releases

(pdf) If you're like me you scan through a lot of press releases and scientific news articles that are pretty much embellished press releases. They do start looking alike after a while. The AIR folks have the pattern down so now you, too, can write a science news press release. Absorbing corrosion-causing chemicals

by Pam Frost Gorder 8/24/04
"The new paint is unique because its pigment contains tiny particles of clay that capture the chemicals that cause corrosion. It also releases just the right amount of a corrosion-fighting agent when needed, explained Rudolph Buchheit, professor of materials science and engineering. 'It works kind of like high-tech kitty litter,' he said."
This is pretty cool stuff, at least until they find environmental problems with using cerium like this. It's possible to tell when the cerium is used up by X-ray diffraction so you can tell in advance if the coating has lost is protective qualities. I believe in painting once over dust and twice over rust and that it's easier to talk the junior guy into painting than cleaning....

Monday, August 16, 2004

EurekAlert: British scientists exclude 'maverick' colleagues

Cardiff study shows attitudes differ in UK and Sweden
Scientists in Britain tend to exclude controversial 'maverick' colleagues from their community to ensure they do not gain scientific legitimacy, new research has shown.
A Cardiff University study has found that British scientists' attitudes differ considerably from those of their counterparts in Sweden, when managing dissent.

The research, by Lena Eriksson, a Swedish researcher in the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, has shown that British scientists operated with firm boundaries between 'inside' and 'outside' and believed that controversial scientists needed to be placed outside the community so as to not gain scientific legitimacy.

Swedish scientists were more inclined to ensure that all members 'have their say'. They were more likely to be inclusive, so as not to create adversaries who would threaten the scientific community.
"The image of a scientific establishment attacking and punishing individual researchers with contentious results — such as the MMR vaccine controversy - has done little to inspire public trust in science."

Is the US more like Sweden or Great Britain? In some ways, we're harder on people outside of the mainstream; but, they do seem to be less likely to be discouraged.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Read my review: Communication Patterns of Engineers

(cross posted with my LIS blog) Pikas, Christina K. "Communications Patterns of Engineers" E-Streams v.7 no.7 (July 2004).

BBC NEWS | Health | Prozac 'found in drinking water'

Yes, of course. US EPA's been on this for a while. Turns out that all the hormones we're collectively taking, and anti-depressants, and other drugs flush through somewhat in tact. The treatment plants aren't designed to remove these. This BBC article is concerned with effects on human health, but more importantly, what about all the chilled out fish with hot flashes? What is it doing to oysters and crabs?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

WorldNetDaily: Israeli invention sees through walls

7/2/2004 by Aaron Klein (pointed out by the IEEE Signal Processing Newsletter received via e-mail)
This article discusses using an ultra-wideband radar system to image through a wall. Helpful for rescuers of earthquake victims. Similar to another article IEEE pointed out recently on using terahertz technology for security screening and yielding results like the original Airplane movie (remember what happened when people walked through the x-ray on that movie?). What does this all mean for our ability to hide?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

World Year of Physics/Einstein Year 2005

Did you remember that 1905 was the year that Einstein published 3 groundbreaking papers in Physics? IOP, AIP, APS, and others are all sponsoring activities to commemorate. In fact, they're calling 2005 the World Year of Physics and working to get a UN resolution on it. The two main sites with events, facts, activities are: (primarily US), (British)

Monday, July 26, 2004 : Ship-Sinking Monster Waves Are Widespread -- ESA

(warning: Pop-ups galore)
7/24/04 Found via Topix
"Rogue waves that rise as high as 10-story buildings and can sink large ships are far more common than previously thought, imagery from European Space Agency (ESA) satellites has shown."

This is a little disconcerting. I've spent many a day on the ocean and have never seen a wave like this (even in hurricane sorties, thank goodness). If you read the press release from the ESA you can learn a little more about this. Susanne Lehner from the University of Miami is working this so we'll look out for more from her.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Hawking and Black Holes

Brief background: Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist from Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time among others, contacted the organizers of a conference to submit a paper at the last minute. Why so important? Apparently he now has reversed his theory on black holes and information and lost a bet. In the past he maintained that black holes sucked in everything around them without so much as a thank you. Now he says some of the information about the creation of the black hole actually hangs out near the event horizon and can influence radiation emitted by the black hole. Listen to Sean Carroll and Juan Maldacena discuss it here (real required).

There are plenty of articles on this in the media (like
About Those Fearsome Black Holes? Never Mind by Dennis Overbye, NY Times 7/22/04) and many scientific bloggers have weighed in (here and here)

The problem is that just because Hawking says it doesn't make it a done deal. Physics is rarely revolutionary (or at least as much as people think); instead, it's evolutionary. Good scientists who have carefully studied this subject disagree and it isn't proven -- there are only thought experiments. I do think that it's great that Hawking can generate this much media attention and I look forward to more discussion.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The New York Times > Technology > Circuits > What's Next: For Doctored Photos, a New Flavor of Digital Truth Serum

7/22/04 by Noah Schachtman
Another article discussing issues around doctoring of digital photographs. Dr. Farid, who is cited in this article, had a nice article in New Scientist (v. 179 no. 2411 (9/6/2003): 38, here for Academic Search Premier subscribers) on this same subject. You can read his other academic papers on his Dartmouth site.

An Intuitive Explanation of Bayesian Reasoning

Pointed out on Furl as one of Today's Popular Items
"Bayes' Theorem for the curious and bewildered; an excruciatingly gentle introduction. By Eliezer Yudkowsky"
If you, like me, kind of get Bayesian Reasoning but wonder why everybody's so excited about it... read through this lengthy explanation. Ok, so I'm still not excited but now I remember how to read p(X|A). It's a nice resource either way.

Thursday, July 15, 2004 > Revolutionary Steel

"Scientists at the University of Virginia have announced the discovery of a non-magnetic amorphous material that is three times stronger than conventional steel and has superior anti-corrosion properties." The scientists say it's somewhat brittle right now but they're working on that. Apparently it can be molded and shaped like plastic.
See V. Ponnambalam, S. Joseph Poon, and Gary J. Shiflet. "Fe-based bulk metallic glasses with diameter thickness larger than one centimeter" Journal of Materials Research v19 no5 (May 2004): 1320-1323. (DOI: 10.1557/JMR.2004.0176, PDF for subscribers).

Wednesday, July 14, 2004> High society (engineering of new skyscrapers)

7/9/2004By Christopher Sell
"Once complete, Burj Dubai will claim the title of the world's tallest building. At over 2,000ft it will be almost twice as high as the Empire State Building and over 500ft taller than the current record holder, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But to reach such dizzying heights, unique engineering design challenges have presented themselves." Innovation had a really neat episode on the engineering of new skyscrapers. Most observers won't realize how much these buildings move. You can get sea sick! The article linked above discusses how the engineers for the Dubai building went back to wind tunnels and other standard approaches because the computer models doen't adequately predict the microscale wind turbulence. It also discusses vortex shedding (see Tacoma Narrows Bridge). The article also mentions the materials to be used which are much stiffer than older materials. The Innovation episode also discusses the change in attitude or lack of real change in attitude toward skyscrapers since 2001.
Update:  NYT has a nice article on an exhibit of skyscrapers.  It's more on the art than the engineering but still worth a visit.  (Herbert Muschamp, "Skyscraping Around the Urban World" July 16, 2004, free registration required or contact your library to find out how to get access through their databases) (7/16/04)

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Slate: Science as Metaphor: Where does Brian Greene stand in the pantheon of physicists?

7/6/04 by Amanda Schaffer
"His celebrity can be attributed to a widespread popular appetite for avant-garde science dressed in neat metaphorical packages: The universe is elegant; the cosmos is like a string symphony. Yet there is plenty to be suspicious of in Greene's unself-conscious romanticism—his unnuanced use of terms like elegance and beauty—and his teleological approach to the history of physics. Where, exactly, does he stand in the pantheon of physicists?"
Sean Carroll points out and discusses this article on his blog, Preposterous Universe. He also points to several other people who are commenting on this article.
I have my own opinion. First, a disclaimer: I only have a BS in physics so am not the one to really poke holes in the actual theory. My opinion: The best physics and math is elegant, simple, and yes, beautiful. Mathematics is beautiful. The power to describe the world in terms of equations is amazing. I've tried to explain this to people who got turned off of math and science by high school teachers who couldn't actually explain their subjects. I like Brian Greene and I like what he's trying to do. I think he does a good job of making this information more accessible to the public. For all of you doing government funded research, this is important! Greene also gives some disclaimers and problems of the theory, but maybe he doesn't go far enough. I think he does. I had a middle school age kid come up to me at a public library and ask for a copy of Fabric. I asked him and he read, understood, and enjoyed Elegant and he wants to be a physicist. That's what I'm talking about.
So, to answer the question, where does Brian Greene stand? He's respected in his field. He is respected and liked outside of his field.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004 New twist on fibre optics

by Josh Chamot, 6/2/2004
"By twisting fibre optic strands into helical shapes, researchers have created unique structures that can precisely filter, polarise or scatter light. Compatible with standard fibre optic lines, these hair-like structures may replace bulky components in sensors, gyroscopes and other devices.
While researchers are still probing the unusual properties of the new fibres, tests show the strands impart a chiral, or 'handed,' character to light by polarising photons according to certain physical properties." The author discusses an article originally published in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1097631). This is a pretty cool way to do this plus it's pretty simple... elegant even. For a really nice explanation of how fiber optics work, see the PBS Innovation episode "Light Speed". These scientists use a rectangular internal core, pop it into an oven, and give it a twist. The amount of twist decides if the photons of the same handedness are reflected backward, trapped in the cladding, or escape the cladding into space.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

IEE Communications Engineer: Designing Buildings for the Wireless Age

Apparently this isn't online yet. Full citation: Alan Newbold, "Designing Buildings for the Wireless Age," IEE Communications Engineer v.2 no.3 (Jun/Jul 2004): 18-21.
I mentioned on my other blog about jamming or installing screening material to block mobile phone signals in libraries, theaters, etc. As emergency workers and "essential employees" go to their hiding spaces in buildings outside of the beltway, they have been planning on use mobile phones to maintain communications. Unfortunately, almost all buildings were not designed to take wireless communications into account. If I want to use my cell phone, do I have to go outside to get a signal? Some buildings have been retrofitted with repeaters.

On the other hand, internal wireless data networks can be snooped from across the street.

This articles discusses using frequency selective surfaces (fss) in building design to tackle these problems. Some of these surfaces are films for windows and reflecting material for walls that consists of a pattern of conductors on a dielectric substrate. If the walls have this dielectric substrate, low-pass filters can be installed to allow emergency communications frequencies through. Makes sense, but I wonder how many architects are taking RF into account? Also, what frequency band will we be using in 5 years? - News - Fiber gratings give abrasion alert

Andrew Gillooly has developed a wear sensor that uses a chirped fiber Bragg grating (CFBG). CFBGs have been used for temperature measurement and other sensor applications, but this is an inexpensive way to do wear sensing.The full article is from Measurement Science and Technology (TOC, PDF for subscribers)

Monday, June 21, 2004

Physical Review Focus: The Computer Minds the Commuter

"The model gives virtual drivers the option of cruising cautiously or speeding forward optimistically based on what they think the car ahead is about to do. Previous models haven't accounted for driver psychology in such a direct way. "
Another use of stat. mech. outside of physics: to model traffic. As you see above, this model improves on similar previous models because it doesn't have instantaneous acceleration and also models the "overreaction" of drivers. Does it model the complete jerks on the DC beltway, though? That's what I'd like to know.
Original article: Hyun Keun Lee, Robert Barlovic, Michael Schreckenberg, and Doochul Kim. "Mechanical Restriction Versus Human Overreaction Triggering Congested Traffic States" Phys. Rev. Lett. 92, 238702.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

PhysicsWeb - Nanobulbs make their debut

"...physicists in China have now made a light bulb in which the conventional tungsten filament is replaced by carbon nanotubes. The new design has several advantages over traditional light bulbs and could be available in less than five years (J Wei et al. 2004 Appl. Phys. Lett. 84 4869)."
Finally a real, practical use for carbon nanotubes. These lightbulbs burn brighter with lower applied voltage and will probably last longer. - News - Sensor takes the drag out of flying (June 2004)

"Airspeed measurements are currently made using a number of finger-sized pitot tubes that protrude from the aircraft. They measure airspeed (the speed of the aircraft relative to the surrounding air) by sensing the impact pressure, the difference between static and total pressure. But this well established technology comes at a price. The probes cause drag and with aircraft operating lifetimes estimated at between 20 - 25 years, the associated fuel cost to the airline industry is huge"
It uses doppler shift (like lidar). Unlike other applications, they are trying to increase backscatter. To me, though, SOG (speed over ground) is a little more important and I assume they're using GPS for that. Ships use a pit sword which also creates drag. At the speed they're going, though, perhaps it isn't so important.
(I'm obviously using my new feeds from IOP, thanks guys) - News - Tiny projectors set for 2005 debut (June 2004)

"Pocket-sized projectors being developed by a Finnish company will make their commercial debut next year.
Upstream Engineering of Finland plans to release a pocket-sized color video projector onto the market next year. What's more, Upstream believes it can shrink the product down to the size of a matchbox within three years. These developments could pave the way for miniature projectors to be used in everything from mobile phones to laptop computers. "
Soon we'll have Power Point presentations going from our mobile phones/PDAs/cameras. This is definitely a better way to share information and will save the backs of many presenters.

Monday, June 07, 2004

IOP now has even more feeds

Use this page to find all of the IOP feeds on jobs, features, news, and magazine and journal tables of contents. Sort by category or look at recently updated feeds.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

(Wireless) Sensor Networks

There are sensors in just about everything: from biomedical devices to bridges. The in-style thing right now is Wireless Sensor Networks. After all, if we can all be wireless with tiny little devices, why can't the sensors. An easy way to see how mainstream this is is to scan the shelves of your local science library. The covers of two journals this month feature sensor network article(s):
Communications of the ACM, v47 n6 (June 2004). (link for subscribers)
Scientific American, v290 n6 (June 2004).(free preview, click here if you have Academic Search Premier).
These networks have been enabled by the miniaturization of the sensor and communications technologies, decreased power consumption, increased durability, and decreased cost.
Privacy activists worry that Big Brother will look more like the little computers in Crichton's Prey(Harper Collins, 2002). The "motes" are very simple, how do you guarantee they only tell you what they are sensing, not anyone with a receiver?
(updated to correct typos)

Science Daily: 17th Century Solar Oddity Believed Linked To Global Cooling Is Rare Among Nearby Stars

6/3/04 UC Berkeley-
"For 70 years, from 1645 until 1714, early astronomers reported almost no sunspot activity. The number of sunspots - cooler areas on the sun that appear dark against the brighter surroundings - dropped a thousandfold, according to some estimates. Though activity on the sun ebbs and flows today in an 11-year cycle, it has not been that quiet since. "
Sunspots are pretty important because of the potential impact they have on our climate, space missions, communications satellites, etc. There have been a few recent press releases about sunspots because of the Denver meeting of American Astronomical Society (AAS).
Another interesting one: "Groundbreaking Research To Improve Forecasts Of Sunspot Cycle" Science Daily, 6/1/04.
"Using a new computer model of the Sun, scientists have begun work on a groundbreaking forecast of the next cycle of sunspots. Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) announced new research leading to an improved forecast of cycle 24"

Science -- NetWatch {28 May 2004; 304 (5675)}: Watching the Transit of Venus

This week Science points to several sites that will offer webcasts of the transit of Venus on 8 June. Venus will pass between Earth and the sun. You'll have to get up early, it starts at 1 a.m. Eastern!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Associated Press: Scientists Dig into Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater

6/1/04 (found via Topix)
"CAPE CHARLES, Va. (AP) _ Geologists drilling half a mile below Virginia's Eastern Shore say they have uncovered more signs of a space rock's impact 35 million years ago."
With all the talk of Bedout and Chicxulub, it's good that they're looking at our very own impact crater (the 6th largest in the world). The USGS press release is here. According to a recent workshop proceedings report (PDF, text), they are drilling to study:
  • Crater Structure and Morphology
  • Crater Materials
  • Impact - Postimpact Transition and Postimpact Events
  • Modern Deep Biosphere

Thursday, May 20, 2004

EurekAlert: Geophysicist to speak in Montreal on why the Earth 'wobbles'

"University of Nevada research geophysicist Geoff Blewitt will present his findings on why the Earth wobbles in a lecture, 'GPS as a global sensor of systems Earth,' ...Astronomers have known for more than a century that the earth wobbles in space. Thanks to global positioning system (GPS) technologies, this wobble has been tracked with a precision of a few millimeters over the last decade. Until now, there were good theories as to why this happens, but no one could really prove it. Now, however, Blewitt has an explanation for this mysterious geo-wobble. 'The theory, which my colleagues and I have proven using GPS observations of the Earth, is that it's likely to be caused by the surface matter being redistributed,'' Blewitt said. "
The article: Richard S. Gross, Geoffrey Blewitt, Peter J. Clarke, David Lavallée. "Degree-2 harmonics of the Earth's mass load estimated from GPS and Earth rotation data" GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 31, L07601, doi:10.1029/2004GL019589, 2004 (full text for subscribers)
We tend to think of the earth as just a solid ball making an even, smooth trip around the sun while it rotates on its axis. It's actually a lot more complicated: the earth's center is liquid, the surface weight distribution shifts, the pole precesses and nutates, the earth is actually flattened, the orbit is eccentric... Satellites can observe some of this wierdness and are used to measure it. I learned a lot of this information in my required Celestial Navigation classes but I'm remembering it now because PSIgate just added a record for an MIT OpenCourseWare class on Modern Navigation. Looking at the lecture notes provides a nice review.

New Scientist: Wi-Fi networks can be jammed from PDAs

5/17/04 by Jeff Hecht
"Wi-Fi networks can be jammed using nothing more sophisticated than a PDA and an off-the-shelf wireless networking card, the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team has warned.
Wi-Fi networks are becoming common in workplaces and elsewhere and it was known that they are vulnerable to jamming. It was thought that this would require the use of large, powerful and expensive equipment, but students at the Queensland University of Technology have now proved this wrong."
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, but it is good to be reminded. The article goes on to mention that this susceptibility to jamming is due to the protocol and that smart systems can detect and deny access to jammers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

New Scientist: Micro-sculptures give metal the Velcro touch

"Minuscule shapes sculpted on metal surfaces could have a profound impact in many fields of engineering.
By training intense electron beams on the surface of metals, Bruce Dance and his team have found a way to fashion delicate metal projections that will act like ultra-strong Velcro to form much tougher joints between metals and lightweight composite materials in aircraft and cars."
Anything that lessens the need for the [environmentally] nasty adhesives.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Chemical & Engineering News: NanoFocus

Yet another nanotech website. This one's from ACS (C&EN and Nano Letters). The big news is that there's an RSS feed.
(aside– a funny quote from their site: "WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY? We're not sure yet, but lots of people are very excited about it.")

Washington Post: Language of Science Lags Behind Nanotech

Burgeoning Field in Need of Universal Way to Describe Creations
5/17/04; Page A07; by Rick Weiss
Nanotech inventors assign somewhat arbitrary names to new materials because for the most part there is no established taxonomy. Regular chemistry naming conventions are sometimes inadequate because the materials act differently on a nano level. Regulators and insurers both need to refer to materials with standard names.

EurekAlert: Yale scientist says clues to string theory may be visible in Big Bang aftermath

5/12/04 (from Yale Press Release)
"Critics have disdained string theory as a “philosophy” that cannot be tested. However, the results of Easther and his colleagues suggest that observational evidence supporting string theory may be found in careful measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the first light to emerge after the Big Bang."
Historically math and physics has been developed to explain/model observations. String theory goes past what is observable, or measurable to link quantum mechanics with Newtonian physics. Read Brian Greene's Elegant Universe for more.

Friday, May 14, 2004

EurekAlert: Impact at Bedout: 'Smoking gun' of giant collision that nearly ended life on earth is identified

"Evidence is mounting that 251 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs dominated the Earth, a meteor the size of Mount Everest smashed into what is now northern Australia, heaving rock halfway around the globe, triggering mass volcanic eruptions, and wiping out all but about ten percent of the species on the planet. The 'Great Dying,' as it's called, was by far the most cataclysmic extinction event in Earth's history, yet scientists have been unable to finger a culprit as they have with the dinosaur extinction. A new paper published in Science, however, claims to identify the crater made by that meteor, and it builds upon an ongoing body of evidence by researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), that points the finger for the Great Dying squarely at the heavens. "
This is becoming a recurring theme on this blog (see here, here, and here). Scientist have evidence that impacts of NEOs caused 2 of the 5 known mass extinctions on earth. Luckily for us it seems to happen every few million years. See the article from Science: "Bedout: A Possible End-Permian Impact Crater Offshore of Northwestern Australia" by
L. Becker, R. J. Poreda, A. R. Basu, K. O. Pope, T. M. Harrison, C. Nicholson, R. Iasky. 5/13/04. DOI: 10.1126/science.1093925 (PDF for subscribers right now is here)

Scientists discover secret of dolphin speed

Pointed out by EurekAlerts
"Physicists in Japan have discovered how the surface of a dolphin's skin reduces drag and helps them glide smoothly and quickly through water. These findings could help scientists design faster, energy-efficient boats, ocean liners, and submarines. This research is published in the Institute of Physics journal, Journal of Turbulence."
Hiroshi Nagamine, Kenji Yamahata, Yoshimichi Hagiwara and Ryoichi Matsubara."Turbulence modification by compliant skin and strata-corneas desquamation of a swimming dolphin" J. Turbulence v5 n18 (May 2004). For subscribers here.
Basically, dolphins shed skin very rapidly and it seems that this helps get rid of vortexes that form around the body. Pretty neat, but to construct an equivalent material for a man-made object, it would have to have many layers (like a pad of paper) and the part that sloughs off would have to be environmentally friendly.

NY Times: In a Road That's All Eyes, the Driver Finds an Ally

5/13/04 by Ian Austen
"Now, after perfecting illuminated markers that are embedded in the road surface to guide motorists through bad weather or warn of dangerous conditions, Mr. Dicks's company, Astucia Traffic Management Systems, is going a step further. Its latest creation is an embedded stud equipped with a camera that catches speeders, monitors traffic for criminals or stolen cars and even checks for bald tires on the fly."
Neat miniturization of technology. Generally, though, the Brits are much more accepting of government-run spy cameras in public places than Americans are. The illuminated markers would be very helpful in northern Florida where there are thunderstorms every afternoon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

New Scientist: Computer chip noise may betray code

"The noise emitted by computer chips could help code breakers decipher encrypted messages, according to preliminary research carried out at the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
Adi Shamir and Eran Tromer sampled the high-frequency audio produced by computer central processing units (CPU) ... They discovered that they could distinguish between different cryptographic keys being processed by the chip, according to the frequency of the sound emitted. They also found they could determine the length of a string of characters by measuring the duration of certain sounds."
Very interesting. As fancy as computers are, it all still comes down to the physics of heat, sound, etc.

Monday, May 10, 2004

RedNova News: Is It Possible That Galileo Was Wrong?

"Some modern theories actually suggest that the acceleration of gravity does depend on the material composition of the object in a very subtle way,' says Jim Williams, a physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). If so, the theory of relativity would need re-writing; there would be a revolution in physics."
Uh-oh. Now all those kids in basic mechanics classes can use this on their homework. Is this going to tell them enough to allow them to connect quantum mechanics with Newtonian physics, I doubt it, but it is very interesting.

Washington Post: NASA Weighs Robotic Mission To Aid Hubble

May 10, 2004, Guy Gugliotta, Page A01
"Early this year NASA had all but written off the Hubble Space Telescope, but today a robotic mission to replace worn-out batteries and gyros, and even to install new instruments, suddenly seems so doable that the agency is likely to ask for proposals to do the job in early June. "
It's a very complicated mission, but do-able. All of the public outrage about letting Hubble go sooner than scheduled probably had something to do with this.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The New York Times :The Bionic Running Shoe

5/6/04 By Michel Marriott
"SHOES have long been sensible. Now some are getting smart. Smart enough, that is, to sense their environment electronically, calculate how best to perform in it, and then instantly alter their physical properties to adapt to that environment." The sensors in this shoe aren't so new, but the way it controls the cushioning is pretty neat. Overall this is a very interesting use of the sensors.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Optics Express; Quantum key distribution with 1.25 Gbps clock synchronization

by J. C. Bienfang, A. J. Gross, A. Mink, B. J. Hershman, A. Nakassis, X. Tang, R. Lu, D. H. Su, Charles W Clark, and Carl J. Williams, National Institute of Standards and Technology; E. W. Hagley and Jesse Wen, Acadia Optronics LLC 4/27/04 (pointed out by Science Daily).
According to the ScienceDaily this is 100x faster than previously reported systems. Protecting ships and rigs with polymer armour

By Stuart Nathan
"Microscopic polymer armour could allow researchers to develop effective and environmentally friendly anti-fouling coatings for ships and oil rigs, and prevent rejection of surgical implants."
The traditional coatings for ship hulls have been toxic chemicals (organotin and copper compounds) that kill off anything that tries to live on the hull. (Copper sheathing was used in the Napoleonic era, but that wasn't as effective). There are environmental and safety issues with the painting, resurfacing, and wear. I believe the US has outlawed these coatings in accordance with an IMO Convention. The rush is on to replace these with enzymatic coatings that affect the adhesion of the critters to the hull surfaces, but the enzymes break down fairly quickly. This article discusses a way to protect the enzymes so that the coating is effective for longer.

PhysicsWeb: Beating the diffraction limit

By David R. Smith, May 2004
This overview article discusses the progress made in creating and using materials with negative indexes of refraction. So remember your basic optics, a wave traveling from a vacuum will bend toward the surface when it hits a material with a positive index. A negative index means that it will bend past the normal (>=180 deg). This means that you can have flat lenses and all kinds of neat things. The idea of a material with a negative index was developed in 1968, but it's now do-able because of materials research.
Update: 6/17/04, Contemporary Physics has a nice article by JB Pendry explaining this and reviewing the 200 recent articles (v.45 n.3 (Jun/Jul 04): 191-202.) Subscribers can resolve this doi to get it: 10.1080/00107510410001667434. (If you have it through Ingenta just work your normal magic to have that happen).

Thursday, April 29, 2004 a directory of science feeds

Pointed out by Garrett (who found it here).
This by no means comprehensive, but is a nice list of science-related blogs. It also provides screen shots and information about the blog.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

EurekAlert: High-speed nanotube transistors could lead to better cell phones, faster computers

From ACS Press Release 4/27/04
"Scientists have demonstrated, for the first time, that transistors made from single-walled carbon nanotubes can operate at extremely fast microwave frequencies...The findings, reported in the April issue of Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, add to mounting enthusiasm about nanotechnology's revolutionary potential. 'Since the invention of nanotube transistors, there have been theoretical predictions that they can operate very fast,' says Peter Burke, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Irvine, and lead author of the paper. 'Our work is the first to show that single-walled nanotube transistor devices can indeed function at very high speeds.' "

Trend: Use of Statistical Physics in studying the Internet and other networks

In re: Evolution and Structure of the Internet: A Statistical Physics Approach by Romualdo Pastor-Satorras and Alessandro Vespignani (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
This is one of a series of recent articles applying statistical physics to the internet and network theory. So, asking a question, is this appropriate? There's not enough information on this page to really make a decision. In the past few years statistical physics has been applied to biology and other problems. Some of this has been jumping on the biotech bandwagon and some has been really good work. What do you think?
See also: Marian Boguñá. "Book Review: Evolution of Networks. From Biological Nets to the Internet and WWW. S. N. Dorogovtsev and J. F. F. Mendes, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003." Journal of Statistical Physics v.114 no.5 (March 2004): 1627-1628 (available for subscribers here).

Monday, April 26, 2004

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Nasa optimistic about Hubble fate

4/23/04 by Dr. David Whitehouse
Basically, the article states that NASA's Associate Administrator is considering ideas to use a robot to add power or aiming ability, but not to replace the batteries, repair gyros, or update the optical equipment. I'm intrigued by the term "optimistic." This seems to be very different from other news articles.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

New Scientist: Second gyroscope fails aboard space station

13:05 23 April 04
"The second of four gyroscopes used to keep the International Space Station steady in orbit has failed. If a third gyroscope breaks down - and one has shown signs of suffering from lubrication problems - the crew will have to use rocket thrusters to stabilise the outpost. There is only a limited supply of fuel onboard."
Although this failure is in the controller (the first failure was in the actual gyro), the space shuttle is needed to replace the gyros because of their huge weight. Yet, the shuttles only have a few more missions to go before they're retired. This is another example of the potenial disasterous outcome of the U.S. government failing to plan ahead. They failed to fund proper maintenance and replacement of the shuttle fleet. Hubble will be taken out of service because NASA can't waste a scarce shuttle mission to do maintenance. Even if the money is turned on now, it is too late. All of this takes years to happen (and several administrations). (See also GAO-04-203 (Jan 2004) "Space Shuttle: Further Improvements Needed in NASA’s Modernization Efforts", pointed out on Aerade)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Wired News: Fuel Cells Weigh Anchor

by David Snow 4/22/04
"The company's technology, invented and patented by Schmitman, produces renewable hydrogen from purified seawater or fresh water using an electrolyzer -- which separates hydrogen and oxygen in water -- along with clean-energy power sources such as solar panels and wind generators, already common on sailboats. Regenerative electric drive motors turn the propellers and provide recaptured electricity, much like the braking systems of hybrid cars do, Schmitman said. "
Tired of hearing about the hydrogen economy? Think hydrogen fuel is interesting, but curious about set up of the infrastructure? This article talks about hydrogen fuel cells for marine propulsion. If you really want to be environmentally friendly, hoist your sails. This might be good, however, for Navy ships if all of the details can be worked out and the power generation can be increased.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Waves in Random Media Volume 14, Number 2: Special Section on Foliage Penetration

Courtesy of the IOP feed. This section is free for 6 months, and of course is then for subscribers only. Of particular interest:

  • A survey of ionospheric effects on space-based radar
    Zheng-Wen Xu, Jian Wu and Zhen-Sen Wu
  • Microwave radiometry of forests
    Paolo Pampaloni
  • Scattering from a layer of discrete random medium over a random interface: application to microwave backscattering from forests
    Roger H Lang
  • Target detection beneath foliage using polarimetric synthetic aperture radar interferometry
    S R Cloude, D G Corr and M L Williams
  • Unsupervised constrained radar imaging of low resolution targets
    Andrey Semichaevsky, Markus E Testorf, Robert V McGahan and Michael A Fiddy

IOP: Spiders make best ever Post-it notes

4/19/04 link from IoP's Journal News feed
"Scientists have found that the way spiders stick to ceilings could be the key to making Post-it(tm) notes that dont fall off -- even when they are wet. A team from Germany and Switzerland have made the first detailed examinations of a jumping spider's 'foot' and have discovered that a molecular force sticks the spider to almost anything. The force is so strong that these spiders could carry over 170 times their own body weight while standing on the ceiling. The research is published today (Monday 19 April 2004) in the Institute of Physics journal Smart Materials and Structures"
Pretty cool. Maybe they can make spiderman suits for a reasonable price. Can this be used in construction?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Eurekalert: Scientists size-up, classify meteorite that nearly landed in their backyards

U Chicago 4/14/04 on article written by Simon et al in Meteoritics and Planetary Science (April 2004)
"Witnesses in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri reported seeing the fireball that the meteorite produced as it broke up in the atmosphere, Simon and his colleagues report. Local residents collected hundreds of meteorite fragments totaling approximately 65 pounds from an area extending from Crete in the south to the southern end of Olympia Fields in the north. Located in Chicago's south suburbs, 'This is the most densely populated region to be hit by a meteorite shower in modern times,' the authors write.
One meteorite narrowly missed striking a sleeping Park Forest resident after it burst through the ceiling of a bedroom. The meteorite sliced through some window blinds, cratered the windowsill, then bounced across the room and broke a mirror before coming to rest. "
More things flying from the skies! This one started out weighting 1,980 pounds. What would it do to a planet that doesn't have an atmosphere like ours? (like when we have outposts on Mars, etc)

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Online calculator to figure the NEO impact effects

Pointed out by several online services including Eureka Alert, Science Daily.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Near Earth Objects: We're all gonna die... Or not?

Over the past century or so there have been times when the concern about extinction via collision with a large comet or asteroid has been real and present and other times when it's totally off the radar. In 1993, 1998, 2002, and again today, congress had hearings about the threat and possible scenarios to save the planet. The two movies in the 90's also got people pretty upset (Armageddon and Deep Impact). There are several scenarios for saving the planet, but just about all need a large lag time (like decades). The systems we have now for locating these NEOs do not reliably pick up ones that might wipe out a region. See this NASA site for more details.
My take on this: it's pretty likely that in the next hundred years we're going to be hit with something big enough to do some damage. Even if it lands in the ocean, the resulting waves might take out summer vacation spots. We need to be able to watch these things better and starting planning on how we would react. We also need to look at how they impact the moon, especially if we're going to build an outpost there. Can we catch one and mine it for metals that are becoming more scarce on earth? As always, more money for funding when we're already stretched thin. IMHO.
See: Annex B for a chart on "Impacts and Near Approaches".

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

NY Times: In Math, Computers Don't Lie. Or Do They?

"A leading mathematics journal has finally accepted that one of the longest-standing problems in the field -- the most efficient way to pack oranges -- has been conclusively solved. That is, if you believe a computer."
The crux of the matter is that thorough mathematical proofs are required to justify the claim of solving certain problems. In recent years, these proofs have become so long that computer programs have been written to skip a few steps. Previous published proofs like this have had many errors and problems. This proof is so long, and so tedious, it hasn't been completely checked even after a couple of years so it's been published with disclaimers. Maybe a computer should check the proof? Let's see how this develops.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Digital paper makes device debut

"Sony, Philips and digital paper pioneer E-Ink have announced an electronic book reader that is due to go on sale in Japan in late April for $375 (£204)."
Yea! I've been hearing about electronic paper for a couple of years now. I can't wait until this is actually on the market here (if I can afford it). There are many reasons why this is better than the LCD ebook readers: power consumption, weight, resolution, visibility in bright light...

Pacific Northwest Nat. Lab: Enlisting carbon nanotubes to unmask nerve agents

"Yuehe Lin .. reported.. [a] successful lab test of a disposable OP sensor he fashioned from carbon nanotubes chemically fused to enzymes borrowed from the nervous system-the same enzymes that act as catalysts in neurotransmitters. The 500-nanometer-thick tubes and their bound enzymes finely pepper a 2-by-4 millimeter sensor surface. In the presence of OP, enzyme activity is dampened. The nanotubes, acting as electrodes, sense the inhibition as a muted signal and pass that information to an off-the-shelf electrochemical detector that houses the sensor." This is good but I'm not sure how it would be integrated into a field kit. Also, it's a one-use item, so that might lead to supply issues. Also, in farming areas there might be high enough background levels of OP to create false alarms.

Monday, March 29, 2004

NASA - X-43A Soars on Scramjet Power

3/27/04 (pointed out by Science Daily 3/29/04)

Image above: "A modified Pegasus rocket ignites moments after release from the B-52B, beginning the acceleration of the X-43A over the Pacific Ocean on March 27, 2004. Credit: NASA"

"NASA's second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft flew successfully today, the first time an air-breathing scramjet powered aircraft has flown freely.
The unpiloted vehicle's supersonic combustion ramjet, or scramjet, ignited as planned and operated for the duration of its hydrogen fuel supply. The X-43A reached its test speed of Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound."
"Ramjets operate by subsonic combustion of fuel in a stream of air compressed by the forward speed of the aircraft itself, as opposed to a normal turbojet engine, in which the compressor section (the fan blades) compresses the air. In comparison to turbojets, ramjets have no moving parts. Scramjets (supersonic-combustion ramjets) are ramjet engines in which the airflow through the whole engine remains supersonic. Scramjet technology is challenging because only limited testing can be
performed in ground facilities {right now}. Long duration, full-scale testing requires flight test speeds above Mach 8." (from the photo page linked below)
More pictures are available here.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Sandia National Laboratories: New 'inchworm' actuator allows study of friction at the microscale

"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Creating a tool small enough to measure friction on a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) device is not an easy task. The tool has to be about the width of a human hair.
Yet, researchers at the at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new 'inchworm' actuator instrument that provides detailed information about friction at the microscale.
The main objective of the project was to study the validity of Amonton's Law at the microscale. This law, first stated 300 years ago, says friction force is proportional to normal force (normal means perpendicular to the surfaces). Although it remains a good description of friction today, there are interesting deviations from Amonton's Law, especially at low normal forces, where adhesion between the two surfaces is thought to contribute an extra force. Because of the large surface-to-volume ratio at the microscale, these adhesive forces could cause a strong deviation from Amonton's Law. "
There have been many recent articles on use of MEMs in surgery and in sensors so it is important to know about the effect of friction. There are many articles in Compendex when you search ({MICROELECTROMECHANICAL DEVICES}) WN CV) AND ({FRICTION} WN CV). It stands to reason that there would be more at play than Amonton's Law at that scale.

Brookhaven NL: Bright light yields unusual vibes

"MONTREAL, CANADA -- By bombarding very thin slices of several copper/oxygen compounds, called cuprates, with very bright, short-lived pulses of light, Ivan Bozovic, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, and his collaborators have discovered an unusual property of the materials: After absorbing the light energy, they emit it as long-lived sound waves, as opposed to heat energy. This result may open up a new field of study on cuprates -- materials already used in wireless communications and under investigation for other applications in the electronics industry. "
I wonder if there are any communications applications for this, I suspect so.

Monday, March 22, 2004

New Scientist: Defusing fertiliser may make bomb-building harder

"Now Speciality Fertilizer Products, a company based in Belton, Missouri, is patenting a water-soluble polymer coating for the fertiliser granules that repels fuel oil. The coating dissolves rapidly in soil, so it would not interfere with ammonium nitrate's main function as fertiliser.
If it works and is widely adopted, the treatment could make it harder for terrorists to turn fertiliser-grade ammonium nitrate into bombs, and could also help prevent industrial accidents."
Making a bomb is pretty easy, but this might at least raise the bar a little. Farmers now have to register and are closely monitored for what fertilzers they buy. Maybe some of those rules could be relaxed if this works and becomes widespread.

Friday, March 12, 2004

New Scientist: 100-metre nanotube thread pulled from furnace

19:00 11 March 04
"A thread of carbon nanotubes more than 100 metres long has been pulled from a fiery furnace. The previous record holder was a mere 30 centimetres long.
Carbon nanotubes are stronger than steel and better conductors than copper, but are often just a thousandth of a millimetre in length. By bundling the nanotubes together into much longer fibres, scientists hope to harness their properties on a larger scale. For example, embedding long carbon nanotube threads in plastic would give tougher composites for airplane hulls."
Woo-hoo. Space elevator, here we come! I wonder about bridges, too. ... mooring lines for ships..... hmmm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sandia sensor has potential to help U.S. military eliminate 'friendly fire' during combat

3/10/04 Michael Padilla (Sandia press release found and read via EurekAlert!)
"ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A device to help eliminate friendly fire during military combat has been created by engineers at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories.
Building on more than 10 years of research and development, Sandia engineers have created a radar tag sensor that is mounted on military vehicles and is recognizable to an attack aircraft as a 'friendly.' The device, tracked via aircraft radar, can be used to identify both U.S. and coalition forces during combat to avoid fratricide." Ok, good idea, but... assumes the target/friendly forces tank will be painted by radar prior to being shot at. I'm not sure, but what about laser guided, gps, IR, etc.? The press release goes a step farther and mentions putting this on soldiers... wouldn't it just be cut off POWs and KIAs and redistributed to enemy troops? Also, if each soldier has a radar signature, what will that do for clutter (a large problem already).

ALA | Internet Resources: Gray literature

To blog or to furl... that is the question. I'll do both with this one. This is an article from C &RL News v.65 n.3 (March 2004) by Brian S. Mathews. It's a guide to gray/grey literature sources online. I think I have just about all of these marked in our library's portal but it's a nice article anyway. (thanks Gary and Resource Shelf for the link.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Science News Article | Scientists Get a Computerized Grip on Ear Prints

3/8/04 By Patricia Reaney (courtesy of
"LONDON (Reuters) - Criminals are used to trying to avoid leaving fingerprints at a crime scene. But now British scientists have developed a computerized system that allows them to identify ear prints just as easily." So this is not surprising but it will be difficult to clean all the ink off if you ever get arrested. After all, I'm sure nose prints would also help, and what about trying to catch people who copy their butts on photocopiers? Maybe we should keep butt prints, too? Maybe we should just clone criminals so that we can measure whatever we want on them. Seriously, though. There are already problems in the two ways to do fingerprints (roll and press). A problem with the early DNA tests was using fewer datapoints so the certainty of match was not as high. How do we deal with all this data? Is it practical to measure all points of an arrestee? hmm.

Monday, March 08, 2004

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Science closes in on perfect lens

"New designer materials could eventually lead to 'perfect lenses' for optical devices, able to focus on features smaller than the wavelength of light." These could be pretty useful in replacing x-ray applications with something perhaps a little safer.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

New Scientist: Fighting fire with a steam machine

19:00 03 March 04
"A chance discovery has transformed an engine intended for speedboats into a powerful firefighting tool that douses flames with jets of water mist.
When used for boats, the engine works by injecting steam through a rear-facing, ring-shaped nozzle into a cylindrical chamber. As the steam emerges at three times the speed of sound, it rapidly condenses, generating a shock wave that pulls in water through an intake and expels it from the rear, generating thrust (New Scientist, 29 January 2003)." Cool. I remember in firefighting school that we learned to use a mist to beat back certain kinds of fires and protect firefighters. This would be a really quick way to get a layer of AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) on a class B fire.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Wired News: Underwater Travel Takes Wing

"The U.S. Navy plans to begin testing a prototype for an unmanned underwater glider with a flying-wing design in March, according to the Office of Naval Research, which funds the project. " Cool, makes sense. Maybe schools of these with networked sensors to monitor an entrance or choke point. My problem: "5 nautical mph" -- they're knots! kts.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

e4engineering: New cheaper and quicker microwave imaging for airport security, landmine detection, etc.

From Control & Instrumentation, 02 March 2004, in Machinery & Equipment
"Scientists in the UK are developing a microwave-based technique that can generate high-quality images of hidden objects. The research may lead to the use of microwaves as an alternative to X-rays in airport security checks, building searches, landmine detection and other applications."
As the article says, it isn't that this is a new idea, it's that it could be quicker and cheaper. As we decide that we need to scan everyone everywhere (like at local high schools, etc.) we need to take these things into account. This technology could be a big money maker.

The hole in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico: from thing that killed the Dinosaurs, or 300k years later?

Dinosaur impact theory challenged By Paul Rincon BBC News Online science staff
"The controversy over what killed the dinosaurs may run and run Scientists have cast doubt on the well-established theory that a single, massive asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. New data suggests the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, supposedly created by the collision, predates the extinction of the dinosaurs by about 300,000 years."
BUT... according to scientists on All Things Considered ... the paper isn't well considered, and the author's proof just doesn't prove her point. Read the paper, and see what you think. I guess the controversy isn't solved after all.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Science: Zinc-oxide nanorings circle new applications (via physics web)

Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US have grown nanorings of single-crystal zinc oxide. Since the material is piezoelectric and semiconducting, the nanostructures could have applications in sensors, resonators and transducers (X Kong et al. 2004
Science 303 1348) (pointed out by PhysicsWeb)

Friday, February 27, 2004

New York Times: New U.S. Land Mines to Pose Less Long-Term Danger

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN, February 27, 2004
"The Bush administration plans to announce that, in a step to lessen the dangers of land mines, it will end the use of long-lasting mines in warfare and instead concentrate on mines that go inert within hours or days, an administration official said Thursday....The official said the United States would also make its mines detectable so they can be removed when a conflict is over. But he did not say what would prevent an enemy from detecting them during a conflict."
Hmm. There are some specific situations where landmines are required, and in those situations, I'm not sure that ones that go inactive in "hours or days" will work (like the DMZ in Korea). As for making them detectable, there are quite a few patents on equipment to detect these things; so, anyone could figure out how to find them--specifically, enemy combatants, but probably not villagers or non-combatants.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

New York Times: What's Next: Piercing the Fog With a Tiny Chip

by ANNE EISENBERG, 2/26/04
..."A team of electrical engineers at the California Institute of Technology has shrunk the functions of a radar system into one tiny, intricately designed silicon chip and eight minuscule antennas." The uses the author gives are in cars for warnings when backing up, etc. Argh. Maybe having a car that you can see out of would be helpful! I see many military applications in this.

Books of The Times | 'The Fabric of the Cosmos': The Almost Inconceivable, but Don't Be Intimidated

review by JANET MASLIN, 2/26/04 (although not really a review, more like discussion.)
oh-oh.... can't wait. This came out on the 10th and I'm just hearing about it now? I read the Elegant Universe and liked it. I also saw him (and my old prof from Maryland, Jim Gates) on Nova. I'll get on the list for it right away.

ScienceDaily News Release: A New Step In Spintronics: 'Organic Spin Valves' Shown Feasible For New Electronic Devices

from University of Utah, 2/26/04
"University of Utah physicists have taken an important step toward a new generation of faster, cheaper computers and electronics by building the first "organic spin valves" – electrical switches that integrate two emerging fields of technology: organic semiconductor electronics and spin electronics, or spintronics."
Article has a nice description of what spintronics are an why organic spin valves are better: "organic semiconductors are inexpensive and simpler to make, can be manufactured at lower temperatures with fewer toxic wastes, have electronic properties that can be adjusted, and are flexible so they can be molded to desired shapes."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Aerade: Aerospace and Defence

This is the coolest portal.
"The AERADE portal provides integrated access to key aerospace and defence information sources:
Aerospace and defence resources - quality assessed Internet sites
DEVISE - a special collection of military and defence resources
ESDU Series - abstracts for engineering design data and methods
Internet Aviator - an interactive tutorial.
NewsBrief - aerospace and defence news from Moreover.
ConferenceBrief - a list of forthcoming aerospace and defence conferences and events."
I did a sample search on UAVs and was really impressed with the results. Relevant and authoritative resources. Stuff to trust. I've already furl'ed it. Can't wait to get a chance to try it for/with a customer! Oh, and looks like they have a newsletter, but only quarterly and no feed. I've added their what's new page to WatchThatPage, we'll see how that goes. (pointed out by Shirl Kennedy on The Resource Shelf)

The Engineer: Shedding a new light on earthquake damage

Shedding a new light on earthquake damage
[new optical strain gauge]
"Detecting structural damage caused by earthquakes will be 100 times easier thanks to a new optical strain gauge, according to its US developers [URI]... the new optical gauge uses a waveguide system with coatings of semiconductors, making it up to 100 times more sensitive. "
This is already production-ready. This technology is 1) cheaper 2) more sensitive 3) independent of temperature.

NOVA: Spies That Fly

Aired on PBS 2/24/04
This was a pretty cool program. It provided a history of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and historical information about their uses. It also discussed the evolution from spy planes (like the U-2) to satellite to predator. It also discussed projects in development like Global Hawk and Dragon Eye. What they didn't discuss is multiple UAVs interoperating in a network not ground controlled. I really think this is where science is going. I just ran across UAV Forum. It appears to be a pretty helpful site.