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Nuclear Power Ready for U.S. Comeback?

Americans may be ready to embrace the nuclear genie again. According to an insightful news analysis by the BBC Online today, as many as 30 applications to build new nuclear reactors in the U.S. are in the works. A generation after the sensational Three Mile Island accident at a nuclear facility in Pennsylvania, many Americans have evolved in their opinions of nuclear power sufficiently that these applications may result in a spate of new fission-based electrical generation plants.

The BBC article notes that concerns about dependence on fossil fuels from overseas suppliers and the impact of their use on the environment are leading many in the U.S. to reconsider the issue of nuclear power, which was hailed a half century ago as the key to a future of limitless energy production.

The article states that the first application to build a new nuclear reactor (actually two) in almost three decades was filed last month for a facility in southern Texas. Four more applications are expected in the next two months and a dozen more are anticipated in the next year, according to statements from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). If granted the first new nuclear operation could go online by 2015.

What's driving the renewed interest in the potential of Mr. Atom? The BBC identifies five key factors:

  • The introduction of a new fast-track combined construction and operation permit, making new reactors easier and cheaper to build;

  • A tax credit, introduced in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, of 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 6000 megawatts generated by nuclear plants;

  • Risk insurance adding up to US$2 billion for the first six plants to be built, protecting companies against the cost of delays in construction;

  • Multi-billion-dollar loan guarantees; and

  • A likelihood that the cost of emitting carbon dioxide will rise as the battle against climate change intensifies.

Yet, the sting of nuclear's failures in the past and the very real concerns over its safety in the future have its detractors up in arms again at the federal government's renewed passion for the resource -- especially in the form of lucrative subsidies.

"It is absolutely not a clean energy source," Tyson Slocum, director of energy policy for the public interest group Public Citizen told the BBC. "Does it produce less greenhouse gas emissions than coal or gas? Yes. But it produces waste potentially more problematic not only from the mining aspect but from the high-level radioactive waste that a commercial nuclear reactor is going to produce."

Slocum added, "If you had a program like this for wind and solar, wind and solar would be the biggest energy sources in the next 20 years."

For now, though, the rehabilitation of the nuclear genie is almost complete. We will all now have to witness, once again, whether its promises can ever be matched by its performance.

[Editor's Note: We discussed some of these issues in a blog item over a year ago, "Twenty Years After Chernobyl".]

NASA Reveals New Close-ups of Jupiter

The U.S. space agency yesterday released still images and movies of the biggest planet in the solar system. Coinciding with a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Orlando, Fla., the images from the New Horizons spacecraft represent the most detailed look ever at Jupiter and its moons. The opportunity to use the planet's enormous gravity well as a slingshot to propel New Horizons on a path toward Pluto and the distant objects of our planetary system rewarded scientists with the clearest, most detailed images to date, according to a public statement from NASA.

"The Jupiter encounter was successful beyond our wildest dreams," said Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission. "Not only did it prove our spacecraft and put it on course to reach Pluto in 2015, it was a chance for us to take sophisticated instruments to places in the Jovian system where other spacecraft could not go. It returned important data that adds tremendously to our understanding of the solar system's largest planet and its moons, rings and atmosphere."

Equipped with the latest imaging and sensor technology, New Horizons made more than 700 separate observations of the Jovian system during its fly-by from January through June of this year. These resulted in several new discoveries that researchers will be poring over for years to come. According to NASA, New Horizons delivered evidence of: lightning near the planet's poles, the life cycle of fresh ammonia clouds, boulder-size clumps speeding through the planet's faint rings, the structure inside volcanic eruptions on its moon Io, and the path of charged particles traversing the previously unexplored length of Jupiter's long, magnetic tail.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons is now approximately halfway between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, more than 743 million miles from Earth.

To learn more about the latest data from Jupiter, please visit the New Horizons site on the Web.

The best engineering school in the United States?

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Well, of course thereâ''s MIT and Stanford and Caltech and all the others. But if the criteria is the studentsâ'' learning experienceâ''the type of classes they take, the skills theyâ''re taught, their level of happinessâ''at the top of my list is the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

What? Never heard of Olin?

Olin is a small engineering school in Needham, Mass., just outside Boston. It officially opened just five years ago but its reputation has been growing at a fast pace. I wrote a long article about it (â''The Olin Experimentâ'') in the May 2006 issue of Spectrum and the New York Times Magazine recently ran a nice story on Olin (â''Re-engineering Engineeringâ'') in their special college education issue.

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

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

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My editorâ''s initial idea was to send me â''undercoverâ'' to the school, where I would pass myself off as a student â''to get the full experience.â'' Alright, that didnâ''t go as planned. The school is small (304 freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors compared with, for example, MITâ''s 4000 undergrads), and Iâ''d be unmasked in about 35 seconds.

But in any event, my three trips to the campus, dozens of interviews, and several hours sitting in classes, labs, and at the cafeteria proved a lot of fun. I even spent a night at Olinâ''s dorm (with approval of the school, which ran a criminal background check on me, their policy whenever a non-student is staying in the residence hall).

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

Theyâ''re â''a pretty happy bunch,â'' as Jessica Townsend, a mechanical engineering professor, told me when I visited. Thatâ''s not to say the students donâ''t work hard. Tons of homework, all-nighters finishing projects, and, yes, lectures on differential equationsâ''as I witnessed myself, the Olin engineer has to go through all that just as in good engineering schools.

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When I wrote my story, Olin was just graduating its first class. One of the challenges I faced was assessing the schoolâ''s level of success. Some experts said the great faculty, students, curriculum, installations wouldnâ''t mean much if the Olin engineer wasnâ''t a good engineer. But how do you find out whether they are good? And whatâ''s a â''good engineerâ'' anyway?

I kind of tried to answer those questions in my article, but again, the schoolâ''s first graduates were just receiving their diplomas. The New York Times Magazine article, by science reporter John Schwartz, brought some additional information on those issues.

First, the article reports that Olin received accreditation last December. Second, the Harvard Macy Institute, a program affiliated with the Harvard Medical School, did a case study of Olin, and the article quotes the studyâ''s author, Constance M. Bowe, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, as saying that, â''The issues that the Olin case portrayed were very relevant for the kind of problems weâ''re trying to encourage people to confrontâ'' in medicine. (The Times doesnâ''t mention it, but I recall there were some other case studies being prepared by other folks at MIT and other placesâ''Iâ''ll check on that and report back.)

Finally, the Times reports that â''Olin has already garnered an impressive amount of attention in the college guides. A Kaplan/Newsweek â''How to Get Into Collegeâ'' guide called Olin one of â''the new Ivies.â'' The Princeton Review says Olin â''may well be the most dynamic undergraduate institution in the country.â'' â'' New ivy, uh? Now thatâ''s a compliment.

But what I liked most in the Times article was the mention that Olin, in addition to creativity, teamwork, and entrepreneurship, is stressing â'¿ courage. Yes, courage. â''I donâ''t see how you can make a positive difference in the world,â'' Richard K. Miller, Olinâ''s president, told Schwartz, â''if youâ''re not motivated to take a tough stand and do the right thing.â'' Hereâ''s my favorite part:

That message [to have courage to question things and push back] gets hammered home in the classroom, according to Benjamin Linder, an assistant professor of design and mechanical engineering. His classes have an art-school feel: students, dressed in T-shirts and jeans, shorts or pajama bottoms, are up and down and walking around the room, clustering around their projects and discussing them, cutting blue foam with a hot-wire cutter to make models. Linder told me he pushes his students not to just follow instructions. â''Engineering,â'' he says, â''has traditionally been focused on doing it right, but not on whatâ''s the right thing to do.â'' That means designing products that are environmentally friendly and that respond to the needs of the people using them and not just to what the purchasing department wants. He urges his students to be more than team players. The goal, Linder said with utter earnestness, was to teach fledgling engineers â''how to be bold.â''

That might be it. Something more engineering schools should be teaching students these days. How to be bold.

Physics Nobel Prize Awarded for Hard Drive Breakthrough

from reporter Saswato R. Das:

Two physicists who discovered an effect that forever changed how humans would store electronic data â'' a discovery that enabled the now ubiquitous Apple iPod â'' have been awarded this yearâ''s Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academyâ''s decision to give scienceâ''s highest honor to Albert Fert of France and Peter Grÿnberg of Germany is acknowledgement of how the discovery of giant magnetoresistance, made independently by the two scientists in 1988, has revolutionized magnetic storage, making it possible to put vast amounts of data on tiny storage devices.

GMR (as giant magnetoresistance is referred to) is a physical effect that causes huge changes in electrical resistance when the magnetic field is changed ever so slightly. Harnessing it for hard drives has made possible media players that fit in the palm of oneâ''s hand yet contain thousands of songs.

â''It is thanks to this technology that it has been possible to miniaturize hard disks so radically in recent years,â'' said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in the statement that announced the award.

Fert and Grÿnberg will share the prize, endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel a little more than a century ago, and now worth about $1.5 million. The prize is awarded every year by the King of Sweden in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of Nobelâ''s death.

GMR was a chance discovery, and both Fert in France and Grÿnberg in Germany stumbled on it separately in 1988. As long as a century and a half ago, the British physicist Lord Kelvin observed that the electrical properties of pieces of iron change when placed in a magnetic field. This is ordinary magnetoresistanceâ''it is caused by the interaction of the magnetic field with the atoms in the pieces of iron.

Fert and Grunberg noticed that when they placed thin layers of magnetic materials such as iron and chromium separated by a thin layer of non-magnetic material in a magnetic field, they saw a very dramatic increase in magnetoresistance in the outer magnetic layers, much larger than what anyone had observed previously. The phenomenon came to be known as giant magnetoresistance.

It is an effect caused by a quantum property of the electrons in the two outer magnetic layers. Metals have a lot of free electrons, and electrons possess a quantum property called spin. If the spins in the magnetic layers are all pointing in the same direction, electrons having the same spin can pass through it easily. But electrons with opposite spins will get scattered.

Perturb one of the layers with a magnetic field, as would happen when reading a bit from a hard disk, and now all electrons trying to pass through are scatteredâ''the resistance jumps.

What was a laboratory curiosity evident only at very cold temperatures was harnessed to make better disk drives by Stuart Parkin of IBM, who realized that GMR had great potential. In a disk drive, information is stored digitally in the form of tiny magnetized domains. The more densely one can pack the domains, and the more sensitive they are, the better and smaller a disk drive one gets. Parkin and colleagues at IBM set about finding materials that were better suited to building commercial disk drives. In less than a decade, the first GMR-based disk drive was on the market. The result is that today information can be packed much more tightly than ever before. Hand in hand with Mooreâ''s law, GMR-disk drives have enabled electronic miniaturization as never before.

GMR disk drives in practice have very thin layers of the different magnetic and non magnetic materials. In fact, the layers are so thin that they are sometimes a few atoms across and measured in nanometers (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or one-hundred thousanth the thickness of a human hair). Thus, â''GMR can also be considered one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology,â'' said the Nobel committee in its statement, labeling the physics prize this year as a nanotechnology prize.

GMR is also a key effect to the emerging research area of spintronics, which aims to build circuits based on electron spin. Fert has been an actively researching spintronics. His recent research, published in IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices (May 2007), has to do with developing a semiconductor-based spin transistor.

Letâ¿¿s Promote Nanotechnology Entrepreneurs by Taxing them out of Business or out of the Country

In that wonderful mixed-up world of governments trying to support business development (presumably to grow the greater economy) and at the same time maintain tax revenues, the UK government has just unleashed a classic.

Over at TNTLog, which has first-hand knowledge of the subject being that itâ''s London based, they are decrying the recent announcement by the UK government to raise the capital gains tax (CGT) on businesses from 10% to 18% by April 2008.

It was all well intentioned to be sure. More than likely they were aiming at imposing this tax increase on large private equity firms that buy a company for half-a-billion dollars and then sell it two years later for $2 billion.

While that was likely the design, the large private equity firms the tax increase is targeted for will likely find different ways of structuring deals so that they donâ''t feel the effects. And for those small entrepreneurs who built up a business and have an opportunity to sell it and make their fortuneâ'¿well, they are on the short end of the stick.

They will need to wait to see if they can double the price of the sale to make up for the doubling of the tax increase. Or, more likely, sell at a discounted price before April 2008 to the private equity companies for which the tax was intended.

Meanwhile the UK government through its Trade and Investment arm is running a conference to highlight all the wonderful nanotech companies that have been developed in the Kingdom. Luckily the conference is this November, just before all the companies either pack up their bags and move out of the country or get sold off to disappear into the nether world of â''reorganizationâ''.

And where are all the nanotech industry associations that have popped all over the UK that are supposed to be supporting these small companies while this bit of legislation promises to decimate the few companies that exist? Why theyâ''re working out new codes of ethics for these companies.

The Nanotech Potion: The Cure for the Internet Bubble Blues

We all remember when the Internet bubble burst. If not, hereâ''s a quick reminder. Internet-related companies that had billion-dollar valuations on the stock market based on virtually no revenues started to smack up against reality in March of 2000, and then became a complete mess for investors and the general economy by 2001.

This was hard on investors and the companies, many of which closed their doors and others that are still trying to recover.

But perhaps it was hardest on the pundit community, a collection of investment tip gurus, Internet industry magazines and other assorted peddlers of so-called wisdom on where the real money could be made on the Internet.

But 2001 was a fortuitous year for the Internet economy to come crashing down because it coincided with the creation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and talk of a $1 trillion market by 2015.

To be sure investors started to see sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads with the prospect of somewhere to make their next million, but investors are a wary lotâ''itâ''s money after all.

The real group that took off with this idea of nanotech investing was the pundit community, still reeling from the loss of the best cash cow they ever had. Only this time they came equipped with a new name and a whole new vocabulary. â''Revolutionaryâ'' and â''a new industrial revolutionâ'' and a whole lexicon of hyperbole that would get those investors just afraid and greedy enough to give it a shot.

This community from small to large even went so far as to establish â''nanotechnology indexesâ'' (Merrill Lynch Nanotechnology Index, PowerShares Lux Nanotech, Global Crown Capital Nanotechnology Index, Nanotechnology.com Small Technology Index), which present a weird assortment of small companies with no revenues to industrial leaders from other markets, like Toyota, as representing the "nanotechnology industry".

But alas, there has been no quick buck to be made in nanotechnology (it hasnâ''t even enjoyed the bubble of the Internet with its accompanying huge IPOs). Just yesterday I received a bitter e-mail (the contents can be found on the senderâ''s blog) outlining how disappointing nanotech investing has been, accompanied with claims that this is what they warned against all along despite authoring a book prophetically entitled "Nanotech Fortunes".

No, investing in nanotech has been an unhappy game: withdrawn IPOs, publicly traded â''high flyersâ'' suddenly losing 80% of their market value, and private companies tied up in usually fruitless quests to find financing.

Of course, the companies making stuff with nanotech have chugged along quite nicely. But they were doing that before the term â''nanotechâ'' came along, you can include most of the worldâ''s large chemical companies on that list.

The big disappointment from all of this has been for the pundit community. But they are resilient and flexible lot. They just take on a new incarnation: CleanTech investing, or whatever may be the idea du jour.

Nobel Prize Committee Calls GMR â¿¿Nanotechnologyâ¿¿

Nanotechnology has received the imprimatur to say that the materials phenomenon known as giant magnetoresistance (GMR) is one of its first applications from none other than the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

GMR â''can be considered one of the first real applications of the promising field of nanotechnology,â'' says the Nobel citation that awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics to Albert Fert of Université Paris-Sud in France and Peter Grÿnberg of Forschungszentrum Jÿlich in Germany for their independent co-discovery of GMR back in 1988.

Beyond this being a boost to the field of nanotechnology (basically nanotechnology is now attributed with the technology that makes it possible to read data on todayâ''s hard disk drives), it represents one of the most astonishingly fast developments of the discovery of a physical phenomenon to a commercial product.

From the weird world of quantum physics a quantum mechanical effect is discovered and in the span of less than 10 years it makes possible the extremely large hard disk drives we currently enjoy in our computers.

Much of the credit for that feat should go to Stuart Parkin at IBMâ''s Almaden Research Center. He did much of the work that took GMR from a material phenomenon to a practical device for the electronics industry.

I am not sure how the Nobel Prize committee chooses their winners, but this seems an odd omission not to have included Parkin in the prize.

But this doesnâ''t seem to have affected Parkin in the slightest. He is right back at it by proposing a novel memory device that uses nanowires that could â''reinventâ'' memory.

Remember eighth grade? Want to go back?

For most people, middle school didnâ''t exactly represent the best years of their lives. But for the folks at RE-SEED, middle school is prime time to capture a childâ''s interest in engineering and science. All it takes is a few good engineers and scientists willing to get back into an eighth grade classroom.

RE-SEED, or Retirees Enhancing Science Education through Experiments and Demonstrations, began with a program working out of Northeastern University in 1991, expanding to include engineers and scientists in Decatur, Alabama; Palo Alto California; Denver, Colorado; Montgomery County, Maryland; Biddeford, Maine; Charlottesville and Fairfax County, Virginia; and Greenville, South Carolina. Itâ''s supported by the IEEE Life Member Foundation, and a handful of corporate and nonprofit sponsors. Silicon Valley engineers have been participating for about a decade.

IEEE Member Steve Fields, a former engineer with National Semiconductor who is now vice president of business development for Vasucorp, brought his engineering skills last year to Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto. At first, he says, he simply helped solve problems for the teacher; he changed batteries in timers, he ran to the store for replacement flints for propane lighters, he passed out papers. Even passing out papers, he says, felt good, because it was an opportunity to contribute. Once the students felt comfortable enough with him to ask questions, he could do more.

â''We were studying the periodic chart,â'' he says. â''When we got to silicon, a kid asked why this is called Silicon Valley, given thereâ''s no sand here. I told them about when I came here in the 60s, and how the semiconductor industry grew, and how a chip is made. I drew a transistor on the board, and talked about chemistry and etching. A regular teacher couldnâ''t do that.â''

When the students got to talking about uranium, Fields taught another brief lesson. â''This was about the time that the Russian spy was poisoned, we talked about that. And a kid asked how you create an atomic bomb, I told them enough so they could understand how an atomic bomb works.â''

Fields focused, in particular, on encouraging the girls to jump in. â''A couple of the girls were interested, you could see it in their faces, but were afraid to ask questions. I would go over to one of them and say, â''Whatâ''s on your mind?â'' And sheâ''d ask a question, and then Iâ''d see the sparkle in her eye when she really got it.â''

Being a RESEED volunteer requires making a weekly commitment for the school year and attending a training class. Silicon Valley RESEED volunteers are scheduled to be trained in late November. Theyâ''ve got 31 recruits so far for the 2007-2008 school year but are looking for more. It is not too late to go back to middle school.

For those interested in working with the program, contact Peter K. Mueller, RE-SEED coordinator, pklausmATmac.com

iPod, iPod, Pants on Fire

Talk about lighting a fire under your behind. An Atlanta TV news outlet reported over the weekend that a man working at the city's international airport was shaken up when his iPod Nano caught fire in his pants. According to station WSB, airport employee Danny Williams didn't realize anything was amiss until he saw flames lapping up at him.

"So I look down and I see flames coming up to my chest," Williams told a reporter. "I'm still kind of freaked out that after only a year and a half my iPod caught fire in my pocket."

Williams, of Douglasville, Ga., said he was lucky that a glossy piece of paper in his pocket separated the faulty music player from his skin when the overheated device set his clothing ablaze. Williams was not injured in the incident, which seems to have been caused by a defective lithium-ion battery. Reports of Li-ion batteries erupting in flames have been reported widely over the last few years (see "Bad, Bad Batteries from our August 2006 issue).

Williams, who works at an airport kiosk, told WSB that he was also lucky that airport security personnel were not in the vicinity when the accident happened. "If TSA had come by and seen me smoking, they could have honestly thought I was a terrorist," Williams commented.

Naturally, his mother took a disapproving view of the entire affair. "It could have happened when we were sleeping, it could have happened when he was driving and the outcome could have been much worse," Elaine Williams told the station.

Apple refused to comment on the incident, according to WSB. The station reports, however, that Apple has agreed to exchange the damaged Nano for a new model at no extra charge. Apparently, though, it did not discuss the matter of Williams' burned pants.

That's corporate citizenship.

CEATEC Japan Day 4: DoCoMo making progress with Super 3G

From our Japan correspondent John Boyd:

While cell phone users in the United States may just be starting to explore 3G mobile phone services, their Japanese counterparts are veterans and have for some time been making good use of sophisticated applications such as ones that turn their mobiles into convenient wallet phone to make electronic cash purchases and credit card payments. So whatâ''s the next big thing, they ask?

If NTT DoCoMo, Japanâ''s biggest cell phone network operator, has its way, the answer is Super 3G, a major upgrade for UMTS, a widely used third generation cell phone technology. DoCoMo has taken on something of a leading role in promoting Super 3G inside the 3G Partnership Project (3GPP) a consortium of wireless operators and vendors, including Vodafone, Lucent, Motorola, and Nokia, working to create global specifications for 3G technologies. Essentially, Super 3G is targeting a useable download transmission speed of around 100 Mbps, with an uplink speed of 50 Mbps, and reaching much higher peak speeds in both cases.

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At CEATEC DoCoMo gave its first public demonstration of the technology that is still under development and which is not expected to be deployed until 2010. Taking up a major chunk of DoCoMoâ''s large pavilion, the Super 3G demo consists of a streaming server supplying video content to a prototype Base Station developed by Fujitsu. The base station is capable of a peak download transmission speed of around 900 Mbps using multiple input multiple output (MIMO): a technology that multiplexes different data streams using multiple antennas for transmitting and receiving on the same frequency.

The Base Station is connected by wireless to what DoCoMo calls a Mobile Station, a large cabinet full of electronic components that one day will be whittled way down in size and morphed into a Super 3G handset. However, this was the only segment in the system to actually use wireless connectivity, everything else being wired for the demonstration.

Still, the result was impressive, with DoCoMo achieving a steady download data throughput of 200 Mbps over a bandwidth of only 20 MHz using a 4 x4 MIMO arrangement (four transmitting and four receiving antennas) while control latency between idle and active states was just 100 milliseconds.

To show what a throughput of 200 Mbps (300 Mbps at peak) can do, DoCoMo streamed the data into twelve separate channels and displayed the results on twelve monitors. Nine of these displayed separate videos in H.264 format for a combined capacity of 25 Mbps, while the other three monitors displayed videos in the MPEG2 format for a combined 185 Mbps, with the total throughput reaching approximately 200 Mbps. Simultaneously, a video conference set-up employing the uplink mode was used to transmit live video of the attendees viewing the demonstration at a transmission rate of about 25 Mbps.

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Super 3G represents a break with the current 3G infrastructure, so it will require a new round of heavy investment before it can be deployed. Thatâ''s the bad news. The good news is that the same infrastructure can be used for future 4G systems. As a DoCoMo staffer said, â''We see Super 3G as being a bridge to 4G.â'' And one that Japanese users no doubt will be the first to step across.

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