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Nanotech-enabled Batteries To Constitute A New US Auto Industry

We now have Howard Lovy, former editor of Small Times, writing for two blogs. His own supposedly more provocative Nanobot blog and now back again at Small Times.

If his recent entry on the state of battery technology for automobiles on the new Small Times blog is supposed to be a more restrained version of his Nanobot blog, then he will be forced to incite riots on his old blog just to keep up. I hope he can keep it up.

I liked this bit in particular, when discussing the automotive industryâ''s heel dragging when it came to electric-powered automobiles:

It's not that innovation is lacking. Some of the leading research into nanotech-enabled lithium-ion batteries is being done right in my hometown [Detroit]. But only now has it dawned on the federal and state governments to push that innovation forward through financial aid and tax breaks. And only now have U.S. battery companies realized that they can combine some of their efforts to bring those innovations from the lab to the marketplace.

Late and late.

Whether companies developed around supplying nano-enabled batteries can resurrect the US auto industry is debatable. However, there is little doubt that instruments need to be developed and supported to encourage innovation rather than maintaining the status quo.

With Obama making an oath to â''restore science to its rightful placeâ'', one could hope that means it will be taken a bit more seriously, and will be allowed to push innovation and economic growth. Then maybe Mr. Lovy will see his beloved Detroit enjoy a renaissance.

Hope for the Future: The Smart Grid Is Just What Obama Calls For

In his inauguration speech today, Pres. Barack Obama noted, "the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."

He could not be clearer that the United States needs to become more energy efficient. And in his first formal address as president, he called upon the American people to find a way to employ their legendary inventiveness to create technologies to solve this and other major problems facing the nation.

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology wonders to raise health-care quality and lower its cost," Obama insisted. "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

Fortunately, one of the promising technologies that the new president is counting on is not too far away: using the latest in computers and communications tools to transmit and distribute energy more efficiently. This burgeoning engineering movement has been dubbed "the smart grid."

The ideas behind it were presented recently at the Renewable Energy Finance Forum West (Reff West) conference in Seattle, 27-28 October 2008. In a conference session, leading energy experts discussed breakthroughs that are bringing the promises of the smart grid closer to reality. The full session was recorded and a complete online video is also now available for public viewing.

Produced by the IEEE Power and Energy Society and ScienCentral Inc., the Reff West video describes the smart grid and how its scale will reduce our carbon footprint through energy efficiency and the integration of renewable sources of energy in coming decades.

It makes for must-see viewing by those who have committed themselves to taking up the challenge laid down by the new American president this afternoon.

As the history of the United States has shown, this country has repeatedly dug itself out of its own holes by inspiration and perspiration, using technology of its own making to create a more prosperous and equitable world.

So that's one call to action from the incoming president that we should all answer as best we can in the years ahead.

Intel Slashes Prices on Its Microprocessor Lineup

Intel Corp. will cut prices across the board on its stable of computer chips, from Pentium to Core 2 Quad processors, to reduce inventory on hand in the wake of the global economic slump.

Last week, Intel announced its annual financial results, reporting revenue in 2008 of US $37.6 billion, down 2 percent from 2007.

"The economy and the industry are in the process of resetting to a new baseline from which growth will resume," Intel CEO Paul Otellini wrote in the statement. "While the environment is uncertain, our fundamental business strategies are more focused than ever."

According to numerous press accounts, the world's largest chipmaker will slash prices on its existing wholesale stock to make way for its next-generation Nehalem line of 45-nanometer hi-k metal gate silicon technology.

The price cuts span the range from low-end laptop to high-end server chips. For example:

  • Celeron Dual-core E1400 processors reduced 19 percent to $43.

  • Pentium Dual-core E5300 processors reduced 14 percent to $74.

  • Core 2 Duo E7400 processors reduced 15 percent to $113.

  • Xeon X3370 processors reduced 40 percent to $316.

  • Core 2 Quad Q9650 processors reduced 40 percent to $316.

A news item from PC Magazine today concludes that the big news lies in the price cuts in the Core 2 Quad line. "The prices not only dropped the Core 2 Quad into a more competitive position with AMD, but also shook up Intel's price-performance hierarchy," the magazine noted.

Now, its up to the personal computer sector to revive interests in its flagging products with dramatic discounts to attract consumers again.

What Does Obamaâ¿¿s Inauguration Bode for Nanotechnology?

With tomorrowâ''s inauguration anticipated by the US like a child waiting for Christmas morning, just about every area of government is wondering how a new president and administration might impact it.

The area of nanotechnology is no different. On the one hand, we have Andrew Maynardâ''s 2020 blog making a rather hopeful reference to the Obama administration last week when discussing public engagement. And today, we have the somewhat more jaundiced view of TNTLog that makes a not at all promising comparison between the hopes for the Blair administration when it came to nanotech and the rather different reality.

To compound the reasonable skepticism that one may have on how much difference a president can make in propelling scientific development, there is no doubt that Obama is facing one of the most challenging landscapes for an incoming president. It is likely his ability to address some of the finer points of science investment will hardly be at the top of his list of priorities.

However, as TNTLog rightly points out, science is the engine of innovation and innovation in turn drives economic growth. Nonetheless this little truism will be hard to keep in focus when there will be such strident cries for government funds to bail out one industry after another.

The truth is that the Obama administration wonâ''t really need to drive legislation for nanotech, when the Democratic-led Congress already has already introduced a new nanotechnology bill. It has all the requisite sound and fury when addressing environmental, health and safety concerns, and the dollars still seem to be there.

A new question that the legislators ought to take into account as the bill works its way through Congress is how can it better ensure that the R&D funding will lead to economic impact. It still doesnâ''t seem clear to many that the far more difficult task is transferring research results into commercial products.

NASA Administrator Resigns in Address to Agency Employees

The chief of the U.S. space agency said today he will step down next week to make way for a new hire to be selected by the incoming Obama administration to take his place.

In a televised address to all NASA's facilities, Administrator Michael Griffin thanked the agency's 300 000 employees for their contributions over his four-year term to getting the space shuttle program running smoothly again after the calamitous failure of the Columbia orbiter in 2003, which brought the program to a halt. Pres. George W. Bush named Griffin, a veteran aerospace engineer, to the post in April 2005 to head the space shuttle recovery effort and to supervise the planning for NASA's future objectives in space as outlined in the president's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration.

Griffin today said that the professionals at NASA had a duty to support the next administrator as diligently as they had supported him, according to a published account online from the Associated Press.

"NASA will look great whether we're asked to return to the moon and establish a permanent presence there and go to Mars, as I think we ought to be asked to do, or whether we're asked to carry out some other task," Griffin stated. "If you can't support the agenda, then the proper thing to do is to leave," he added. "There are many different things that you could do with a $17.5 billion NASA civil space program. But what we can't do is squabble and fight."

President-elect Obama has not yet named a candidate to replace Griffin, but press speculation has circled around retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration, who served as an advisor to the new president on military matters in the past.

The outgoing administrator told agency employees that he considered getting the shuttle program up and running after the Columbia disaster to be his greatest accomplishment.

"Nothing â'' nothing in the world â'' is harder than picking yourself up after a cataclysm like that and moving forward, and we've done it," he said.

Griffin, 59, was NASA's 11th administrator over its 50-year history. He is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the International Academy of Astronautics.

Obama's inauguration, the 1969 Vietnam Moratorium march, portable toilets, and IEEE: connecting the dots

All eyes on Tuesday will be on Obamaâ''s inauguration. And the inauguration parade. Behind the scenes at the parade, in charge of making sure the logistics go off without a hitch, is the parade director, 30-year-old Peter Gage. Heâ''ll decide where the president will walkâ''and will make sure there are enough portable toilets.

Step back to a critical Washington parade 40 years agoâ''the 1969 Vietnam moratorium. Behind the scenes, in charge of the logistics for the 500,000 person march and, indeed, worrying about the toilets, was John Gage, Peter Gageâ''s father. These days, John Gage, an IEEE member, is with Kleiner Perkins venture capital, targeting the problem of global warming, after spending much of his career at Sun Microsystems (IEEE Spectrum profiled his dream job with Sun here.) Organizing the 1969 march, he told Spectrum, was basically an engineering job. â''Itâ''s not hard,â'' he says, "but it involves toilets, you know, you have to have water. You have to have places for lost kids. You have to cap the meters so the cars wonâ''t parkâ''just simple organizational things.â''

Like his father, Peter Gage thinks like an engineer. Take a look at his breakdown of the parade logistics, including 8000 police officers, 120,000 metro passengers per hour, and 112 new light bulbs along the parade route, and 4100 portable toilets.

And yes, proud father John will be on the scene.

Nanotechnology Making Inroads into Water Applications

When you get past the economic crisis, then the energy crisis, and then the Global Warming crisis, there is one rather large crisis that gets ignored: the water crisis.

Nanotechnology has been offering for some time solutions and promises of even greater capabilities in the future when it comes to addressing the issue of clean drinking water. Moving these technologies to industrial scale has remained largely elusive, but there appears to be an increasing amount of research in applying nanotechnology to water applications, which could start to show dividends.

In further evidence that there appears to be a critical mass of research in how nanotechnology can address the water purification issue, Philip Ball in an article for the New Scientist chronicles the history and latest developments of how carbon nanotubes are being used to filter out harmful ions from water, thereby making desalination more efficient.

According to the article, in further research it could be possible for the technology to lead to the capability of separating mixtures of hydrocarbon gases, filtering CO2 from a power plant chimney, or even extracting the gas directly from the air.

The latter bit should excite those environmentalists who are more alarmed at the plight of the polar due to global warming than they are at those who don't have access to clean drinking water.

NASA reporting presence of methane on Mars, reigniting talk of Martian life

Methane is one of the byproducts of life. Methane on Mars may be biological or geological. The methane was found alongside water vapor. This is a very interesting discovery and will reignite talk of life on Mars.

NASA made the announcement at a Washington D.C. press conference today at 2:00 p.m.Look for huge coverage in the news.

What NASA scientists have found are large plumes of methane. The gas was found in spectroscopic studies using large telescopes over seven years.

A cometary collision could have produced it, but no evidence of large collisions are seen. Geologic activity (volcanism) usually produces other gases, which are not seen. Biological organisms produce methane. NASA scientists are saying it is hard to say what is causing methane on Mars.

Methane on Mars may also make terraforming somewhat easier as methane is a greenhouse gas.

CES 2009: First Hardware Switch for Booting Multiple Operating Systems

This product gets my vote for most awesomely geeky gadget at CES:

For my personal use, I have no need for the device; one partitioned drive works fine for me. But I can see Ken's switch catching on, even if it's for niche applications. And he already has a product that solves his own problems. So far, he's self-financed the whole development himself, and he's still working on bringing down the manufacturing price. So what do you think? Would you find this device useful?


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