More random humor to get you through Hump Day. Enjoy!
Monthly Archives: July 2013
So long silicon: Laser experiments may lead to faster computer chips
Published July 29, 2013
An optical laser pulse (the red streak) shatters the ordered electronic structure (blue) in an insulating sample of magnetite, switching the material to electrically conducting (red) in one trillionth of a second. (Greg Stewart/SLAC)
So long silicon! A small change in the design of a computer chip could soon lead to the creation of smaller, faster and far more powerful computers.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory reported that magnetite, a naturally magnetic mineral — the most magnetic of all the minerals on Earth — was found to have the fastest-possible electrical switching time. Electrical switching, or moving a “switch” from a non-conductive state to a conductive one, is the process that makes our current electrical circuits.
The team of scientists used SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and found that that it takes only 1 trillionth of a second – thousands of time faster than current transistors – to flip the on-off electrical switch in samples of magnetite.
The findings were published July 28 in Nature Materials, a scientific journal.
According to Roopali Kukreja, the lead author of the study and a materials science researcher at Stanford University, this project unveiled the so-called “speed limit” for electrical switching in this material.
Researchers say that when the laser pulse struck the sample, the electronic structure was rearranged into non-conducting “islands” surrounded by electrically conducting regions, hundreds of quadrillionths of a second later.
First, scientists hit the samples with a visible-light laser, fragmenting the material’s electronic structure at an atomic scale, which rearranged it and formed the islands. Following closely by an ultrabright, ultrashort X-ray pulse in adjusted intervals, they measured how long it took for the material to switch from a non-conducting to an electrically conducting state.
The magnetite samples were then cooled to -190 degrees Celsius, locking the molecular changes in place, according to Kukreja. Follow-up studies were conducted on a hybrid material that exhibits ultrafast switching properties at room temperature, making it more commercially viable than magnetite. Future experiments will attempt to identify other compounds and techniques to induce electrical switching, possibly creating superior transistors.
With a global search underway for new materials that go beyond modern semiconductor transistors, the LCLS x-ray could help hone in on processes that occur at the atomic size, according to Hermann Dürr, the principal investigator of the LCLS experiment and senior staff scientist for the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences.
This experiment shows that although magnetite’s magnetic properties have been known for thousands of years, there is a lot that can still be learned, notes Dürr.
These are all pictures and illustrations of what people predicted future vehicles would be like today. To me, beyond the coolness of the pictures, is the analysis of where they went wrong. You see, predicting the future does not usually work, because we are too fixed on how things are right now. For instance, the clothing in the pictures is the most wrong. Men don’t dress nice in suits all the time like they used to. It is a way for futurists such as myself to look at the mistakes in predicting made before and try to avoid them. Society, dress and appearance is likely to change just as much as technology. The pictures also do not reflect a change in urban buildings or lifestyle as technology changes. With that added thought, enjoy!
This is an occasional variant on cute dogs for Monday. Today, dog shaming photos. I have posted these about eight times and these are the last of them I have right now. So, if you have some dog shaming photos, please feel free to send them to my email. Enjoy!
Tennessee Ernie Ford sang the tune, “You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go…I owe my soul to the company store.” You see companies would work you and pay you in scrip. The scrip was good at the company store where you could buy food and other items. The gimmick is that the more you work the more you got into debt. You were basically a slave.
Here is the new song for our generation – “You take fifteen credits and what do you get? More indoctrination and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go…I owe my soul to the federal government.”
So how did this happen? There are three ways colleges get money – tuition, grants, and taxes. Public colleges want to grow just as much as private colleges. To grow means more faculty, nicer campuses, better artwork, libraries and laboratories. At some point, tax support competes against other things. Parents and kids can only spend so much because they only have so much. Enter the student loan era. Have the parents and children go into debt so they can pay money they don’t have. It increased college growth and tuition costs by 400 times the rate of growth of the economy.
Then the federal government looked out and realized that banks were making a profit. The federal government likes to get taxes and not have to compete with the private sector. So in 2010 – in Obamacare – yes the healthcare law, Congress and the President took away the ability of banks to issue student loans and had the federal government do so instead. They said it would be more affordable for the students. In reality, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that there 38 million student loan borrowers in the United States and the total debt load has passed $1.1 trillion. The Project on Student Debt has estimated that 66 percent of graduating college seniors in 2011 had some student loan debt, with an average balance of $26,600.
Bottom line – the federal government took over a program that was making $51 billion in profits each year. That money now goes into the federal coffers. But of course that brought down costs for students right? Of course not, the government bureaucracy always wants more. $51 billion that the greedy banks got is not enough, we need to raise interest rates on loans from 3.4% the greedy banks charged to 8.75% through the federal government. That would have raised “profit” to the federal government to over $131 billion per year so they could spend it on more programs. It would have also helped out colleges who get a piece of that back.
Students protested, so the benevolent Congress brought the rate down to 4% for a few years, with a guarantee it won’t rise over 8.5%. Wow. Now you are supposed to thank them for saving you. There was once a huge differential between earnings of a college graduate and a non-graduate. Now those differentials only exist in key fields. Many technical schools are churning out high paid workers with little or no debt. So the government understands that right?
Of course not. The federal government is using its control over students to force them into fields and areas of its choice. Want to pay off your medical student loans? Ok, be a general practice physician in one of the underserved areas. Or join Americorps or whatever new program we devise. It’s the old company store. Get your education from government, owe your life to government, do what government tells you. Don’t want to play? Then the IRS suddenly gets interested in your delinquent debt and all the tax consequences.
Any time the government tells you they are taking over a chunk of the private sector to protect you from greedy businessman, know what is going to happen next.
Why remain silent if they can just read your mind?
We don’t have a mind reading machine. But what if we one day did? The technique of functional MRI (fMRI), which measures changes in localized brain activity over time, can now be used to infer information regarding who we are thinking about, what we have seen, and the memories we are recalling. As the technology for inferring thought from brain activity continues to improve, the legal questions regarding its potential application in criminal and civil trials are gaining greater attention.
Last year, a Maryland man on trial for murdering his roommate tried to introduce results from an fMRI-based lie detection test to bolster his claim that the death was a suicide. The court ruled (PDF) the test results inadmissible, noting that the “fMRI lie detection method of testing is not yet accepted in the scientific community.” In a decision last year to exclude fMRI lie detection test results submitted by a defendant in a different case, the Sixth Circuit was even more skeptical, writing (PDF) that “there are concerns with not only whether fMRI lie detection of ‘real lies’ has been tested but whether it can be tested.”
So far, concerns regarding reliability have kept thought-inferring brain measurements out of U.S. (but not foreign) courtrooms. But is technology theonly barrier? Or, if more mature, reliable brain scanning methods for detecting truthfulness and reading thoughts are developed in the future, could they be employed not only by defendants hoping to demonstrate innocence but also by prosecutors attempting to establish guilt? Could prosecutors armed with a search warrant compel an unwilling suspect to submit to brain scans aimed at exploring his or her innermost thoughts?
The answer surely ought to be no. But getting to that answer isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. The central constitutional question relates to the Fifth Amendment, which states that “no person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In interpreting the Fifth Amendment, courts have distinguished between testimonial evidence, which is protected from compelled self-incriminating disclosure, and physical evidence, which is not. A suspected bank robber cannot refuse to participate in a lineup or provide fingerprints. But he or she can decline to answer a detective who asks, “Did you rob the bank last week?”
So is the information in a brain scan physical or testimonial? In some respects, it’s a mix of both. As Dov Fox wrote in a 2009 law review article, “Brain imaging is difficult to classify because it promises distinctly testimonial-like information about the content of a person’s mind that is packaged in demonstrably physical-like form, either as blood flows in the case of fMRI, or as brainwaves in the case of EEG.” Fox goes on to conclude that the compelled use of brain imaging techniques would “deprive individuals of control over their thoughts” and be a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
But there is an alternative view as well, under which the Fifth Amendment protects only testimonial communication, leaving the unexpressed thoughts in a suspect’s head potentially open to government discovery, technology permitting. In a recent law review article titled “A Modest Defense of Mind Reading,” Kiel Brennan-Marquez writes that “at least some mind-reading devices almost certainly would not” elicit “communicative acts” by the suspect, “making their use permissible under the Fifth Amendment.” Brennan-Marquez acknowledges that compelled mind-reading would raise privacy concerns, but argues that those should be addressed by the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
That doesn’t seem right. It would make little sense to provide constitutional protection to a suspected bank robber’s refusal to answer a detective’s question if the thoughts preceding the refusal–e.g., “since I’m guilty, I’d better not answer this question”–are left unprotected. Stated another way, the right to remain silent would be meaningless if not accompanied by protection for the thinking required to exercise it.
And if that weren’t enough, concluding that compelled brain scans don’t violate the Fifth Amendment would raise another problem as well: In a future that might include mature mind-reading technology, it would leave the Fourth Amendment as the last barrier protecting our thoughts from unwanted discovery. That, in turn, would raise the possibility that the government could get a search warrant for our thoughts. It’s a chilling prospect, and one that we should hope never comes to pass.
A look at China’s new doughnut-shaped hotel
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
It’s the newest concept building to mark China’s skyline.
Following the opening of the world’s largest building where the sun shines 24/7, and the construction of a five-star ‘groundscaping’ hotel built into a former mine, this hotel has a unique shape all its own: a glowing doughnut.
Officially known as Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort, this 27-story building is located in the city of Huzhou, near Shanghai. Designed by Beijing-born architect Ma Yansong, the hotel appears to give off the appearance of a horseshoe, though the bottom ends are connected by two underground floors.
According to Sheraton’s website, the resort offers 321 spacious guest rooms, including 44 suites and 39 villas, all with private balconies. The opulent lobby has 20,000 Swarovski and European natural crystal lamps on its ceiling which are arranged in a wave-like formation, and the floor is paved with Afghanistan White Jade and Tiger’s Eye Stone from Brazil.
The hotel also features the company’s “Shine Spa for Sheraton,” with facilities including a steam room, saunas, and a hydrotherapy pool in each locker room. For dining options, guests can choose from three restaurants and two lounges for an array of domestic and international food.
Currently in a soft-open phase, the hotel will officially open to the public in October 2013, and rooms are expected to cost about $400 per night.
Fans might’ve managed to save the classic site that served as Uncle Owen’s home on Tatooine, but it sounds like Mother Nature is on the verge of claiming another iconic Star Wars set in the Tunisian desert.
More than $10,000 was raised last year to restore the Lars Homestead that was featured in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
That’s awesome, but it sounds like the bustling sand dunes are now coming for the Tatooine spaceport site also located in the nation’s deserts. The sets that served as the city of Mos Espa inStar Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace are still standing at the moment, but experts predict sand dunes could completely cover the site soon.
The BBC reports that scientists have been using the set as a fixed point to track the sand dunes — since structures aren’t typically built in those areas — and the results show they’re about to get overrun. Without intervention, the site will continue to be covered by sand in the coming years, until the dune eventually passes over.
But in the meantime, it could do a lot of damage to the classic sci-fi set. So c’mon, Star Wars fans, let’s save this one, too!