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Planning to develop an iPhone app and quit your day job? Stanford will help you for free.


Fridayâ''s New York Times repeated the oft-toldâ''and in this case trueâ''story of Ethan Nicholas, who developed a killer iphone app, iShoot, made $800,000 in five months, and quit his job at Sun Microsystems to work on iphone apps full time. He followed in the footsteps of Steve Demeter, who reported that he made $250,000 in two months with Trism, a color-matching puzzle.

While the vast majority of iPhone apps will make their developers pocket change at best, not life-changing millions, you have to think that these success stories will inspire more than a few of the tech savvy to head to their basements/garages/home offices/dining room tables and try to be the next Nicholas or Demeter.

And Stanford University has decided to help. The school just started posting videos of its popular 10-week course, iPhone Application Programming, online for free at Stanfordâ''s iTunes U. Videos will go up two days after each live class.

For Best Nanotechnology Video, the Winner Is...

I am afraid thereâ''s not that much suspense. Itâ''s just as I predicted two months ago. The winner of the American Chemical Societyâ''s competition for describing nanotech went to "The Nano Song" (, a warm-hearted, muppet-style video.

Since I already posted the winning video last February, I thought I would post the runner-up: â''Nanotechnology Brings us Delicious New Solar Cellsâ''. Those crazy, wacky kids at Notre Dame. Enjoy. By the way, this is the directorâ''s cut.

Nanomaterials Turning Us into Cyborgs? Whatever Next?

I have to confess one of my favorite past times is reading a mainstream journalist mangling a story on nanotechnology.

But in this example the journalist did a yeomanâ''s job only messing up the requisite definition slightly â''used to develop materials that are 100 nanometers or smallerâ''. Yeah, almost right, I think if you add the idea of materials with features below 100 nanometers it wouldnâ''t have sounded so odd to me.

Who really sounded odd to me was the nanotechnology expert who was visiting the beat reporterâ''s hometown, Akhlesh Lakhtakia.

Lakhatia, a professor with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Pennsylvania State University, wanted to express measured concern about the adverse affects of nanotechnology and referred to the oft-mentioned idea of a nanoparticle breaching the blood brain barrier.

This idea led him to the rather odd conclusion if this were to happen: â''And I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of cyborgs we will become then."

I guess this constitutes Lakhatia trying to avoid being an alarmist. But then again maybe the reporter misconstrued what he said as we have demonstrated to us recently.

GM's P.U.M.A.: Fleet Captain Pike meets Paul Blart, Mall Cop



In general, it's a bad thing when every blogger has the same first reaction to your new "personal mobility pod."

Captain Pike's Chair


Star Trek action figure tableau including Fleet Captain Christopher Pike, whose run-in with fictional delta radiation left him paralyzed, mute, badly scarred, and confined to a wheelchair at Starbase 11.

G.M. and Segway have teamed up to breathe new life into the Segway personal transporter, rescuing it from the mall cop ghetto it now inhabits in the public imagination.

The P.U.M.A., short for Personal Urban Mobility Transport, is "not really being introduced," according to the New York Times Bits blog, "except as a bit of blue-sky thinking about better ways to move around crowded urban areas than driving an automobile." It's being shown this week at the New York International Auto Show.

Commenters at BoingBoing, ever in rare form, immediately noted the unfortunate resemblance to the Star Trek character Capt. Christopher Pike, who was injured in a radiation incident and who consequently suffers from Locked-In Syndrome, and must spend the rest of his days zipping around in a little black box that communicates "yes" and "no" in binary monotones.



The P.U.M.A.'s communication system is much upgraded, featuring, according to the New York Times, all the benefits of GM's OnStar system (which I have never used and am therefore unqualified to assess). You can also have direct vehicle to vehicle communication, which I imagine is much like push-to-talk walkie talkie cell phone technology.

The P.U.M.A.'s lithium-ion batteries give it a top speed of 35 mph, and enough juice for a 35-mile range.

I'll get one when, like Pike's chair, they can be operated by brain machine interface.

US Taking a New Direction in Defense?

Many defense analysts I interviewed for my Novermber 2008 Spectrum story, â''Whatâ''s Wrong With Weaponâ''s Acquisitionsâ'' felt that the US Department of Defense had missed a golden opportunity to reform its acquisition processes in the early 1990s after the Cold War had ended and the first Gulf War had been won.

Apparently, the current US fiscal crisis has created another â''opportunity to truly reform the way we do businessâ'' that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is loath to waste.

Yesterday, Sec. Gates announced a new FY 2010 defense budget which he says was â''crafted to reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment. If approved, these recommendations will profoundly reform how this department does business.â''

Gates announced nearly 20 major defense program and policy changes, including among other things the cancellation of the $13 billion Presidential helicopter program and the $26 billion transformational satellite program, the production end of both the F-22 fighter and C-17 transport aircraft, an accelerated procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and an increase in the number of littoral combat ships (LCS) being bought.

You can read the transcript of his press conference yesterday for all the details.

In addition, Sec. Gates, promises to, â''reform how and what we buy; meaning a fundamental overhaul of our approach to procurement, acquisition and contracting.â'' As part of that reform he promises that DoD will now â''stop programs that significantly exceed their budget or which spend limited tax dollars to buy more capability than the nation needs. Our conventional modernization goals should be tied to the actual and prospective capabilities of known future adversaries, not by what might be technologically feasible for a potential adversary given unlimited time and resources.â''

In general, I think these are good decisions. However, whether they will stick is another matter. Already, members of Congress from districts where the cuts are going to be made are criticizing his proposed actions. Gates acknowledges that his decisions are controversial, but hopes â''that the members of Congress will rise above parochial interests and consider what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole.â''

I wish him luck with that.

Finally, if you really take an objective look at what Sec. Gates has proposed in the FY 2010 budget, it is a fairly modest reallocation of resources. The F-22 and C-17 were scheduled for production termination anyway, the current Presidential helicopter program was canceled but a new helo program will be started in its place, the LCS is still going to cost more per ship than originally advertised, etc., etc. In fact, the vast majority of defense acquisition programs remain untouched.

And as far as acquisition reform is concerned, having to promise to kill programs that significantly exceed their budgets should have been standard policy decades ago. To have to term it a fundamental acquisition reform just goes to show how fouled up defense acquisition has really become.

Tracking the Digital TV Transition

digtv120-thumb.gifSince 17 Februaryâ''s date certain for analog TV shutdown became date uncertain and then 12 June, the digital TV transition has dropped from newspaper headlines. But things have indeed been happening.

For one, some 750 stations around the U.S. have already killed their analog signals; thatâ''s a good chunk of the nationâ''s 1759 broadcast stations. Continuing dual analog and digital broadcasts costs moneyâ''simply powering the additional transmitter costs something like ten thousand dollars a month; thatâ''s a lot for a small station in tough economic times. Most of these are non-network stations in small markets, but not all. In San Diego, for example, the shutdown included the ABC, CBS, and Fox affiliates. Major networks also went dark in Santa Barbara, Calif., Madison, Wisc., and Providence, R.I. The call centers reported that most people having trouble getting digital broadcasts were elderly, some simply didnâ''t know how to work the converter boxes, but some would need to repoint their antennas (wonder how that went on Madisonâ''s icy roofs) and others would need new antennas.

The FCC has released an online tool that will help viewers figure out, based on their zip code, what stations they are likely to be able to receive. This doesnâ''t take into account local obstacles like big trees or tall buildings, but it does look at some terrain factors and can help you figure out if you have a least a chance of getting the new digital signal. If you do, you can then plug your zip code into the tool at; and select a group of stations you can receive (I had a choice between stations to the north and stations to the south; south is closer, but north has more channels); this tool will tell you how far you are from the transmitters. That's something that's useful to know if you go antenna-shopping; you'll need to weed through selections by range. (I just ordered a new, extra-long-range antenna from Amazon; still pursuing my quest to get more than two digital channels before the shutdown).

In terms of good news from the digital transition, thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the stimulus bill), the converter coupon program has cleared its waiting list and is continuing to process new applications. It has also changed the rule that if you order two coupons and they expired youâ''re out of luck; you are now allowed to reapply. As of April 1, just over 55 million coupons were requested, over 54 million were mailed, and nearly 27 million were redeemed. There is no word on how many of the people who purchased converter boxes have attempted to hook up those boxes, how many were successful and are happily watching digital televison, or how many former broadcast television viewers simply gave up. Iâ''d like to seem some real independent research conducted on this transition; call center reports donâ''t tell you much.

For more of Spectrum's coverage of the digital transition, see Special Report: The Day Analog TV Dies.

North Korean Satellite Enters "Subaquatic Orbit"

Despite reports from Pyongyang its communications satellite is alive and well in orbit and transmitting â''data and patriotic songs," there's no North Korean satellite in space. (At best, according to Arms Control Wonk, "the highly unique North Korean satellite has entered subaquatic orbit in the Pacific Ocean"). But over at Danger Room, former Jane's Defence Weekly reporter Nathan Hodge interrupts the snorts of derision with a cold dose of reality.

For starters, the Taepodong-2 missile managed to successfully drop its first stage, which landed in the Sea of Japan. That's an improvement over a 2006 test, in which the missile disintegrated less than a minute after launch.

Worse yet:

Kim Tae-woo, an analyst at South Korea's state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, told the Associated Press the launch would also yield strategic dividends for North Korea, because it potentially raises the stakes in stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

Recap: According to the U.S. Northern Command, North Korea launched its Taepo Dong 2 missile at 10:30 p.m. EDT Saturday which passed over the Sea of Japan/East Sea and the nation of Japan.

â''Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan/East Sea. The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean,â'' Northcom reported. â''No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan.â''

Japan, South Korea and the United States had considered Pyongyangâ''s planned launch to be a thinly disguised test of missile that could in theory reach Alaska or Hawaii (upside: more foreign relations experience for Palin). For weeks, the lead-up to the launch had excited rubberneckers wondering whether President Obama would have the intestinal fortitude to shoot down a North Korean rocket. North Korea threatened to attack "major targets" in Japan should Tokyo attempt to shoot down the satellite. No word on what Kim Jong Il threatened to do to the U.S. should there be interference from that corner of the world.

But Hodge says the news isn't all bad:

The launch also seems to have offered the defense industry its last best hope against serious cuts to the Missile Defense Agency's budget. Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Association, told DANGER ROOM the test would have "clear implications" for the Department of Defense fiscal year 2010 budget that will be released later today. While Ellison said the industry was bracing for sweeping, top-line cuts to missile defense programs -- as high as $2 billion -- but this weekend's events may soften the blow.

See? Every silver cloud has a dark lining. Or something.

Mobile Phones Need Nanotechnology for...I Choose Better Batteries

Ughâ'¿I just read an interview with the Executive Vice President of the new markets group at Nokia and was distressed to discover that there doesnâ''t seem to be a clear understanding of what good nanotechnology is for mobile phones.

Last year Nokia and Cambridge University were crowing about a cartoon they made about what could be done when you combine plastic electronics with mobile phone technologies: A Dick-Tracy-like watch/cell phone.

Okay, it was good marketing for both Cambridge and Nokia, but I would be hard pressed to believe that any of the researchers at either outfit earnestly believed they were going to start developing that right away. It was just M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G.

But apparently the memo didnâ''t get down the guy in charge of new markets at Nokia because in the interview he was asked about the â''Morphâ'' phone and the role of nanotechnology, and he kept on about the importance of flexible displays.

Really? Thatâ''s what customers are clamoring about â''I want a flexible display, so I can wrap my phone around my wrist.â''

May I humbly suggest that this was the perfect opportunity to explain that â''Morphâ'' was not a research avenue they were devoting a lot of attention to, but nanotechnology could provide huge benefits in improving the lifespan of batteries of mobile phones. But instead we got the importance of flexible displays and keeping grease off them.

If someone were to ask me which would you prefer a phone that you only needed to charge once a month or one that was grease-resistant, I am going for the improved battery life. Whoâ''s with me?

Obama Calls for Global Cooperation on Reducing Nuclear Weapons

In response to a threatening rocket launch by North Korea, U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday called for deep cuts in the world's nuclear arsenals. On a visit to Prague to strengthen the NATO alliance, the American leader told a crowd of 20 000 that the focus of his remarks to them concerned "the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century."


In his speech, Obama said that, even though the Cold War had ended, the dangers of a nuclear weapon falling into the wrong hands and being used in anger were just as great as ever. But he emphasized that the people of the world should not fall into a fatalistic mindset in which they come to believe that nothing can be done about the spread of nuclear arms.


"This fatalism is a deadly adversary," Obama told the crowd. "For if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable."


He noted that the United States, as the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in anger, had a moral responsibility to lead a fight against the proliferation of such weapons and reduce the number of those that exist in the future, with a long-term goal of eliminating them entirely.

"First, the United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons," Obama pledged. "To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same."


The U.S. president then outlined his initiative:




To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia this year. President Medvedev and I began this process in London, and will seek a new agreement by the end of this year that is legally binding, and sufficiently bold. This will set the stage for further cuts, and we will seek to include all nuclear weapons states in this endeavor.



To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.



And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons. If we are serious about stopping the spread of these weapons, then we should put an end to the dedicated production of weapons grade materials that create them.



Second, together, we will strengthen the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.

The basic bargain is sound: countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.



And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. No approach will succeed if it is based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance opportunity for all people.



We go forward with no illusions. Some will break the rules, but that is why we need a structure in place that ensures that when any nation does, they will face consequences. This morning, we were reminded again why we need a new and more rigorous approach to address this threat. North Korea broke the rules once more by testing a rocket that could be used for a long-range missile.



This provocation underscores the need for action â¿¿ not just this afternoon at the UN Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons. Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response. North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. And all nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime.



Iran has yet to build a nuclear weapon. And my administration will seek engagement with Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect, and we will present a clear choice. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations, politically and economically. We will support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections. That is a path that the Islamic Republic can take. Or the government can choose increased isolation, international pressure, and a potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase insecurity for all.



Let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we intend to go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe at this time will be removed.



Finally, we must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon. This is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. One terrorist with a nuclear weapon could unleash massive destruction. al-Qaida has said that it seeks a bomb. And we know that there is unsecured nuclear material across the globe. To protect our people, we must act with a sense of purpose without delay.



Today, I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, and pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials.



We must also build on our efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt this dangerous trade. Because this threat will be lasting, we should come together to turn efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into durable international institutions. And we should start by having a Global Summit on Nuclear Security that the United States will host within the next year.




"I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda," Obama concluded. "But that is why the voices for peace and progress must be raised together."

European Parliament Committee Diverges from Commission on Nanotech

In a stunning move the European Parliamentâ''s Environment Committee has adopted the principle of â''no data, no marketâ'' regarding nanotechnology.

The committee has essentially embraced the ideas emanating from a report by Swedish Green Member of Parliament (MEP), Carl Schlyter, which additionally calls for products containing nanotechnology already on the market to be withdrawn until safety assessments are made.

Whether the Parliament Committee really wants to extend controls to pulling products off the shelves is yet to be clearly known, but in any case the Environment Committee has taken quite a different position from that of the Commission, which has said that nanomaterials are in principle covered by current legislation and regulations.

European NGOs are, of course, ecstatic over this perceived victory. That is certainly to be expected since they have done a good job at upending some new companies and new productsâ''taking on big, bad industry in their minds and winningâ''without really having to pay much of a personal price. The number of products enabled by nanomaterials is small enough that they wonâ''t really need to sacrifice some of their favorite products. Well done.

They might have second thoughts, however, if the definition of what a nanomaterial is gets out of their hands and someone starts including any GMR material as a nanomaterial. They may have to have their iPods taken from themâ''for their own safety, of course.


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