Have you ever been dragged around ancient archaeological sites under a boiling-hot sun? If you grew up in Greece or—like me—in Italy, then you definitely have childhood memories of "ruin indigestion."
Enter Rome Reborn 1.0. Now you don't have to brave the blazing summer sun and trudge around endless fallen columns and past armless statues to see what ancient civilization once wrought: An international team of academics from Europe and the United States has digitally reconstructed imperial Rome as it appeared in A.D. 320. The team behind the project, a 10-year joint effort by the University of Virginia, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and the Italy's Politecnico di Milano, claims their reconstruction is "the biggest, most complete simulation of an historic city ever created."
Indeed, the model Rome seems very impressive. And as an Italian, I'm proud to note that my country provided not only its famous archaeologists and classicists, but also its best computer engineers. Gabriele Guidi of INDACO Lab at the Italian Politecnico di Milano—ScienceDaily reports—fairly bubbles with ambition:
The project was an enormous technical challenge, and now that we have successfully met it, we can easily start building up a library of other city models in museums around the world."
With its abundance of cultural heritage sites, Italy is the ideal place for further developing this branch of 3D modeling. And for Italy's universities, often castigated by The Economist, Rome Reborn 1.0 is a good chance to redeem their reputation.
The scourge of counterfeit drugs in the global marketplace is nothing new. As Passport noted in February, the World Health Organization estimates that a quarter of all drug packets on the streets of developing countries are fake. Such medicines are responsible for the deaths of 300,000 people each year in China alone (pdf).
But now there's even more bad news. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)—called the "most promising technology for electronic track and trace across the drug supply chain" by the Food and Drug Administration—may not be so promising after all.
CSO, a publication dealing with private security issues, recently published a piece dispelling the five big myths surround RFID technology and its ability to prevent and mitigate drug counterfeiting operations. Given that big pharma companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Purdue Pharma and Pfizer have adopted RFID for a number of their products, this is important news. A quick summary:
- Myth 1: RFID tags are anti-counterfeiting devices. Why not? Their primary function is as an inventory tracking device—not a security one. They are simply a "record of a drug's journey through the supply chain."
- Myth 2: RFID technology is necessary to track the movement of legitimate drugs. Why not? The "two-way communication" part of RFID tracking, which is the most crucial component of protecting distribution, is still unreliable. This means that often-unreliable 2-D barcodes are often as the principal means of identifying the drugs instead.
- Myth 3: RFID technology can be used to mark pills, tablets and elixirs themselves. Why not? Only the packaging gets marked, not the drugs themselves. And many drugs are repackaged on their journey from producer to market, creating easily exploitable loopholes for the savvy counterfeiter. As the Chief Security Officer of Novartis explains, "We have had experience with counterfeit product in genuine packaging, and genuine product in counterfeit packaging.... The packaging isn't what's important."
- Myth 4: RFID technology will let consumers verify that they have purchased legitimate products. Why not? The tension between privacy and security is still too strong. So far, it seems as if the RFID tags are disabled before they reach the hands of consumers.
- Myth 5: The pharmaceutical industry is this close to widespread RFID adoption. Why not? It's costly to switch to a new system—especially one whose benefits are still unclear.
RFID may still offer some hope for effectively monitoring drug supply and distribution, but it's not a panacea for addressing counterfeiting by any means. Tackling fake drugs will require greater international cooperation and information exchange between supply channels, and better efforts to crack down on counterfeiters by policing agencies. Until then, parents will continue to face the risk of unwittingly poisoning their own children.
The scientific and policy communities in Washington and elsewhere are acting as though NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's now notorious interview with NPR yesterday morning was the first time his logic has seemed a bit goofy. Come on, people. The symptoms have been around for years. Here's Griffin in 2005, just a few months after taking office, rationalizing spending hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars to fund the building of space camps on the Moon and Mars:
Now, you know, in the sense that a chicken is just an egg's way of laying another egg, one of our purposes is to survive and thrive and spread humankind. I think that's worth doing. There will be another mass-extinction event. If we humans want to survive for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we must ultimately populate other planets....
I'm talking about that one day, I don't know when that day is, but there will be more human beings who live off the Earth than on it. We may well have people living on the moon. We may have people living on the moons of Jupiter and other planets. We may have people making habitats on asteroids....
And here's the best part:
To me it's important because I like the United States, and because I know -- I don't know the date -- but I know that humans will colonize the solar system and one day go beyond. And it is important for me that humans who carry -- I'll characterize it as Western values -- are there with them. You know, I think we know the kind of society we would get if you, for example, carry Soviet values. That means you want a gulag on Mars. Is that what you're looking for?
It's worth remembering that Griffin was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in April of 2005. So not one U.S. senator voted against his nomination. Why are his views on global warming just coming to light now?
China has developed first-strike cyberwarfare capabilities, according to an annual Pentagon report (pdf) on the status of the country's military:
The PLA has established information warfare units to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics and measures to protect friendly computer systems and networks. In 2005, the PLA began to incorporate offensive CNO [computer network operations] into its exercises, primarily in first strikes against enemy networks.
Experts say that the emphasis on first-strike capabilities represents a shift in Beijing's cyberwar thinking. As recently as two years ago, the PLA was focused on defensive technologies that would allow it to deter attack, thanks in part to the fact that the country was primarily running off-the-shelf, Western software. "Now there's no mention of that," says University of New Hampshire cyberwar expert Andrew MacPherson. "[M]uch more of the discussion is about first-strike capabilities."
Tensions with Taiwan might explain the change in Chinese strategy. Theories have been floating for years that taking down Taiwan's technological infrastructure would be a key element to any Chinese military campaign against the island and its American allies. And the Pentagon's report makes this point:
A limited military campaign could include computer network attacks against Taiwan’s political, military, and economic infrastructure to undermine the Taiwan population’s confidence in its leadership.
MacPherson goes even further, suggesting that, if backed into a corner, China may try to take down the Internet writ large: "Maybe [China] would be willing to unplug from the Internet if they saw the advantage to their side was great" by launching a virus assault on a global scale. It seems an unlikely scenario, but scary none the less.
Has China's Communist Party reversed its position on Internet cafes? Beijing has been notoriously suspicious of the country's 120,000 Internet cafes for years, and has staged high profile crackdowns on many. Just two months ago, the government announced a moratorium on the opening of new Internet cafes for one year.
Today, however, a party official seemed to signal that the current policy is hopeless. Zhang Xiaoliang, chief of the Communist Youth League Central Committee's rights protection division, said that access to the Internet is—wait for it—a right. Well, sort of. Here's what Zhang said today:
A healthy environment and healthy online content should be offered to all kids [...] You can't stop kids using Internet cafes just because they are poorly managed."
Of course, it has to be the right kind of Internet, which is, presumably, a highly censored Internet. Still, beginning Friday, China's Law on the Protection of Minors will declare:
Nonprofit Internet service infrastructures within communities shall be free or offered at a discounted price, as well as provide a safe and healthy online service for minors."
So all kids should not only have access to the Internet, but it should be free or at least very inexpensive. I guess it's a start.
When you think of expanding waistlines, the first people you think about probably aren't the Japanese (unless, of course, you're picturing a sumo wrestler). Nevertheless, obesity is becoming a growing problem in a country known for a traditional low-fat diet of fish and rice. Last year, Japan's Health Ministry estimated that more than half of men and about 20 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 70 are at risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms associated with obesity, high cholesterol, and risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Now a group of public health insurance officials in Osaka are trying a new way of combat in the battle of the bulge. Dieters can use their cell phones to take photos of meals they're about to eat, and then send the photos to a health expert who can then evaluate the meal for calorie count and nutrition. According to Yukata Kimura, a doctor who's worked on a similar prgoram:
''Patients used to fill out meal logs, but people tend to forget things or underestimate their portions. Photographing meals and e-mailing them in is easier and gets more accurate results.''
The only drawback is that it can take three days for the results to get back. Still, better late than never.
Reporting on the Russia-Burma nuclear deal Christine covered yesterday has been somewhat inconsistent, so I'd like to clarify some details for Passport readers.
First, it is unclear what sort of uranium fuel the facility will require. Some reports say 20 percent enriched; others say under 20 percent (civilian reactors generally use 3-5 percent). Since any level of enrichment above 20 percent is usable in a weapon, this is a crucial distinction.
Second, the size of the reactor doesn't matter if Burma wants a uranium bomb—it could only serve to justify purchases of highly enriched uranium. IAEA safeguards and Russian controls on the fuel supply will be the real barriers to a Burmese nuclear weapons program.
One thing to keep in mind: Talks over the reactor are "only preliminary." As Christine said: Watch closely.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – One of the world's largest and least studied freshwater turtles has been found in Cambodia's Mekong River, raising hopes that the threatened species can be saved from extinction.
Scientists from Conservation International (CI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, and the Cambodian Turtle Conservation Team captured and released an 11-kilogram (24.2-pound) female Cantor's giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) during a survey in March.
Thanks to the nice people at Conservation International for allowing us to use this very cool photograph.
You've heard of the $100 laptop. Meet the $30 stove/refrigerator/generator combo.
Scientists from a consortium of UK universities have come up with a novel solution for food storage and preparation in developing countries. Using thermoacoustic technology, the team of scientists is developing a device that acts as a refrigerator, cooker, and power generator at the same time, and is powered by biomass fuels such as wood that are locally available. Led by Paul Riley at the University of Nottingham, the SCORE (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity) project has been granted $4 million to develop the device.
So how exactly does it work? Riley explains:
[B]urning wood heats a gas-filled pipe at one end. The gas moves from the hot part, where it expands, to the cold part, where it contracts. The pipe then resonates rather like an organ pipe."
The acoustic pressure waves this creates are then harnessed to produce electricity, so SCORE doesn't need an external electricity source.
For the two billion people in the world who still use open fires as their primary cooking method, this is potentially great news. And considering that 93 percent of the energy generated by these fires is wasted, and the smoke can lead to serious health problems, the device also provides environmental and health benefits. Riley hopes that the stove will be commercially available within four years, adding, "We are hoping to build a million a year after year five - that's the aspiration - and the price target we've set ourselves is between 15 and 20 pounds ($30-40) per unit." He also hopes that ultimately the technology will be accessible enough for the devices to be produced cheaply by local populations.
Fishermen in the southern Indian state of Kerala used to have to throw their fish catches back into the sea whenever there was an oversupply of fish and they couldn't sell them at their local beach markets. What a waste of a scarce resource. Since 1997 though, mobile phones have made Kerala fish markets more efficient and boosted profits while lowering fish prices for consumers, as quantitatively documented in an article by Robert Jensen to appear in the Quarterly Journal of Economics this August.
With mobile phones, fishermen can now call around to several markets along the coast to see which is offering the highest price. Previously, no fishers traveled beyond their home markets to sell fish. It took a lot of time—and fuel—to go from market to market, looking for the best price, and markets are only open for a couple of hours. Over the course of Jensen's study, the percent of fishermen who sold their catches beyond their home markets jumped from zero to about 35 percent. Their profits also rose 8 percent, while fish prices dropped 4 percent. And, by the end of the study, no fish were being dumped back in the sea—down from a 5 to 8 percent waste rate at the beginning.
Phones promote economic growth, and this study proves there's nothing fishy about that.
The following proposal was put before Google shareholders at their annual meeting held yesterday. The motion was voted down out of fears that adopting an anti-censorship policy would effectively shut down Google's business in China.
- The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
- The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
- Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
- Users should be informed about the company’s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
- The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.
- Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
David Drummond, senior vice president for corporate development at Google, explained to PC World that "this proposal would prevent us from operating Google.cn." So we can assume that at least one of the proposed rules is being broken by Google right now.
I hope the story doesn't end here. The six-point list would make an excellent addition to the code of conduct of any business that operates online. If businesses don't want to adopt it internally, a grassroots campaign could pressure them to do so. For instance, an index that ranks how well the top 100 online companies comply with these anti-censorship measures could shed some interesting light on who's selling out freedom of speech to make a profit. The resulting harsh spotlight might force a few companies to clean up their acts. More coverage at Slashdot.
(Full disclosure: Apparently, I'm a sellout, too. I own a handful of Google shares. But I'm disappointed that these measures were not adopted.)
A German research team has created software to reassemble 45 million pages of shredded documents from East Germany's communist State Security Service, the Stasi. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Stasi agents began destroying the documents into 600 million pieces. The shredding machines got overloaded, so they resorted to tearing them by hand. (Just think of all the paper cuts.)
The software works like a human putting together a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are scanned. Next, the digital images are analyzed and grouped by color, shape, handwriting, typeface, and other characteristics. Then similar pieces are put together. The main difference? Speed. It took 24 people 12 years to reassemble 323 sacks of paper. The software is expected to finish the remaining 16,000 sacks in about five years.
If the software fails, here's a backup: Iranian carpet weavers. During the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, they reconstructed shredded documents by hand—it wasn't much of a challenge for people who could tie 400 knots per square inch.
Almost everyone agrees that having sex with children is wrong and should be illegal. But what about sex with virtual online children? Second Life, an online virtual world in which people live out a "second life" as a cybercharacter, is working with German police to identify members who pay for sex with virtual children. A German news program's investigative report discovered "age play" groups that center on abuse of cyberchildren. An investigator also found a group that trades both virtual and real images of child pornography.
Creepy. It raises the question of whether, in the United States, virtual child pornography is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech. One of the primary reasons for prohibiting traditional child pornography—as stated in Supreme Court rulings—is that its creation intrinsically involves the abuse of children. But the production of virtual child porn doesn't necessarily require the abuse of real children.
Google Earth is fast becoming a tool of choice for looking at big problems like genocide in Darfur. The latest innovative use of the 3-D mapping software? Tracking bird flu.
Researchers led by Daniel Janies, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State University, used Google Earth to create a color-coded "evolutionary tree" of the avian flu virus (H5N1) over a 10-year time period. They published their findings in the latest issue of Systemic Biology, a bimonthly journal. By showing the data in new ways, the mapping tool could help other researchers and public health officials develop better strategies to fight the virus. (If you've seen the latest episodes of the television show Heroes, it looks somewhat like Hiro Nakamura's map of the past. But in this case, the map's colors refer to different types of hosts for the H5N1 virus.)
Did you think Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop stretched the limits of economic practicality? Then you might have hard time wrapping your head around this one: The government of India wants to produce a $10 laptop. The amazing part is that they are, apparently, on their way to achieving that goal despite some early skepticism.
Including labor, the current cost of producing one of these laptops is only $47, but the Times of India reports that the government expects costs to come down due to the massive potential demand from a billion Indians.
The Indian government is keeping the technical details of their laptop a secret, so the chances of the project succeeding are still unknown. India is not exactly known for its technical manufacturing prowess. But even a viable $50 Indian laptop could pose a serious challenge to Negroponte's machine, the costs of which have already ballooned to $175 per unit. It's unclear, though, whether the Indian government would make the technology available beyond its domestic market.
Back in January, Passport posted on a scary Defense Department report that warned of Canadian coins that had been transformed into tracking devices. It turns out the whole things was a big misunderstanding:
An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind a U.S. Defense Department false espionage warning earlier this year about mysterious coin-like objects with radio frequency transmitters.
The harmless "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors traveling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them.
The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nanotechnology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.
Yes, U.S. defense officials were spooked by Canadian lucre bearing an unusual floral design. Moreover, their fears were transmitted pretty much uncritically to the rest of the defense establishment. And the whole thing could have been cleared up by turning to the nearest friend from north of the border and simply asking, "What's this coin thingy, eh?"
Pop psychologists and canine aficionados theorize that you can tell a lot about a person by the kind of dog they own. And there's a corollary to this theorem: that people with similar taste in dogs make great couples.
Now, it just got easier for dog owners to meet and, perhaps, to fall in love. The aptly-named SNIF Labs—Social Networking in Fur, that is—is finally set to begin beta-testing a hotly anticipated new product that turns dogs into walking personal ads.
When two dogs wearing [SNIF's special radio-enabled] tags come within range of each other, the tags start to swap dog and even owner information. Once owners are back home and using the company's social-networking service, they can trade information about their dogs and themselves online.
"Social networking" is the concept that powers smash website successes like MySpace and Facebook. (There's even one called Dogster.) But this new tool strikes me as having a far greater potential for abuse if it isn't implemented very carefully. The company says it has enacted numerous technological safeguards in order to allay privacy fears, such as that SNIF tags would enable stalkers or identity thieves. But, of course, it won't be long before unscrupulous spammers figure out a way to exploit this new technology for their own ends. It'll be interesting to see how they do it.
A new study of the walking pace in 32 cities around the world has found that Singapore is the "fastest" city, with people taking 10.55 seconds on average to walk 60 feet. Copenhagen followed at 10.82 seconds, while Madrid came in third at 10.89 seconds. Surprisingly, New Yorkers only came in eighth with an average speed of 12 seconds across 60 feet, and London pedestrians didn't even make the top ten.
People all over the world have been walking an average of around ten percent faster than a decade ago, when the pace of city walkers was last measured, the study found. Does this mean that people are fitter and healthier on average? Definitely not, according to Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hartfordshire, which conducted the study along with the British Council. Wiseman explains:
At one level, walking quickly is good, but if it's a way of life - if you're doing it simply to get from A to B as quickly as possible - then it goes with a whole load of other behaviours which are not quite so good for you ... not eating properly, exercising or seeing friends and family. It can lead to all kinds of things, especially heart attacks."
Given that heart disease follows closely behind cancer as the leading cause of death in Singapore, is by far the leading cause of death in Denmark, and is a close second again in Spain, it may be time for walkers in those countries to start slowing down and smelling the roses.
Does culture explain why Indians don't blog more? Earlier this year, I read an article in the Jan. 22 edition of Red Herring magazine about the dearth of Indian bloggers. At one point the article says:
Blogger Shard Sharma believes blogging has not taken off in India because of cultural inhibitors. He says Indians grow up to be reticent adults because all their school lives they are told to keep their opinions to themselves.
I disagreed. I couldn't help but think of Amartya Sen's book, The Argumentative Indian. But the theory that culture can influence a country's blogging patterns is intriguing, so I decided to do some research about why Indians don't blog more.
I contacted experts in India and read as much as I could on blogging in the subcontinent. Four reasons emerged that accounted for why Indians weren't expressing themselves online more.
1. Lack of computers and broadband access. Obviously, if people don't have computers and high-quality Internet access, they can't blog.
2. Illiteracy. Obviously, if people can't read and write, they can't blog.
3. Freedom of speech. Compared to China, Indians have more freedom of speech. In China, the Internet may be one of the few places where people can genuinely express themselves. Indians, on the other hand, have many other alternatives.
4. Cultural inhibitors. I'm sensitive to the fact that it's very taboo to blame anything on culture. However, an executive at Ibibo, an Indian blog-hosting company that is offering cash prizes to get Indians to blog more, said there is a perception in India that blogging is for people with "superior writing skills." VeerChand Bothra, who's with Indian blog portal BlogStreet.com, said that Indians prefer not to discuss their private lives, but they enjoy talking about politics, cricket, the economy, films, religion, society, and globalization.
So, perhaps, just perhaps, culture could be part of the explanation. I posited the "superior writing skills" hypothesis in the latest edition of FP, and I've appreciated the attention my short piece has received. (More after the jump)
As Carolyn noted back in February, bees are mysteriously vanishing across the United States and, more recently, in Europe. Many news outlets (and even Fidel Castro) have already weighed in on this, but scientists are still baffled about the causes of the Great Bee Die-Off of 2007, a.k.a. "Colony Collapse Disorder," as the phenomenon has come to be known. So far, 27 states have been affected (the following map shows only 25, but it's slightly dated):
I've been tracking the various theories being floated out there to explain CCD, and they are certainly interesting. To stay up to date on CCD, be sure to check in with Penn State University's Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, which seems to be at the center of research efforts.
So far, they've ruled out:
Instead, they're concentrating their efforts on the following broad areas:
They've chosen not to investigate—but haven't ruled out—genetically modified crops and mobile phones as potential causes, noting that "cell phone service is not available in some areas where affected commercial apiaries are located in the west."
As today's Times story notes, researchers at Columbia University have their own theory: that some kind of "bee AIDS" is devastating the honeybees' immune systems. And there's another possibility: The French government banned a pesticide named imidacloprid for causing "mad bee disease" in the 1990s. One Penn State researcher calls the chemical "the number-one suspect" among the pesticides being studied. Stay tuned.
|$3.7 billion||Amount of money Microsoft has committed to spending on technology and investment in China over the next 5 years [link]|
|421 meters||Height of the largest Windows Vista ad bought by Microsoft, projected on the side of the Jin Mao tower in Shanghai [link]|
|$295||Price for a basic, legal copy of Microsoft Vista in China [link]|
|$1.30 to $4.00||Price of a pirated copy of Microsoft Vista on the street in China [link]|
|244||Number of genuine copies of Microsoft Vista sold in China in the first two weeks after its launch [link]|
|86%||Percentage of software on Chinese computers that is pirated [link]|
|70%||Percentage of software on Chinese government computers that is pirated [link]|
|$3.8 billion||Estimated software losses to piracy in China in 2005 [link]|
Back on March 27th, we highlighted the fact that shortages of processed uranium have been driving the price of nuclear fuel to near-record levels in recent months. Now, The Washington Times reports that the price of uranium has jumped another 19 percent in just the last two weeks.
It hasn't been the best week for the nuclear industry. The Washington Post reports:
More than 500 security guards at the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly plant walked off the job just after midnight yesterday to protest what they said is a steep deterioration in job and retirement security since the government changed fitness standards for weapons-plant guards in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The contractor at the plant, BWXT Pantex in Carson County, Tex., replaced the striking guards with a contingency force that it says will secure the plant's weapons, nuclear materials and explosives as long as necessary.
"Contingency force?" That's reassuring. I guess it sounds better than "second string" or "substitute."
Pakistan has been exporting Islamic militants to Afghanistan for many years. Now it's exporting bizarre conspiracy theories. For several days, the rumor that cell phone calls from unknown numbers can cause instant death has been circulating in parts of Pakistan. It appears that the craze has jumped the border:
Worried Afghans switched off their mobile phones and warned their friends and family to do the same, as rumors spread of a deadly virus that could be contracted by answering calls from "strange numbers."
A few too many copies of The Ring may be to blame.
No doubt the U.S. State Department hopes the controversial new e-passports that FP wrote about in The Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006 will go down more smoothly with a spoonful of patriotism.
That may be why the design of the new travel documents features less-than-subtle U.S. imagery, with famous quotes interspersed with icons from the country's founding era like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and even—in a move that privacy advocates will find particularly galling—a scan of the heading from the famous preamble to the Constitution on the signature page. But look at it this way: At last, ordinary U.S. citizens can imagine what it was like to be one of the founding fathers.
(Hat tip: Kottke)
If "Green" is the next Red White and Blue, then Texas and California have an early lead in the race to redecorate. The American Wind Energy Association just released its 2006 status report, which includes a ranking of U.S. states by how much wind energy they generate. Last year, 2,400 new megawatts (MW) of wind energy came online in the United States. The 34 wind energy-producing states churn out a total of 11,603 MW. (For reference, the Three Mile Island Nuclear power plant is rated at 816 MW.)
The top five states for wind energy are:
These states are moving aggressively on wind, but I'm disappointed to see that North Dakota, which ranks as highest in wind-energy potential, still lags at number 14 (although that may be due to change soon). See the full list, as well as the 16 states with no wind power after the jump.
InformationWeek reported today that hourly wages of IT professionals have hit their highest levels since 2001. A study of wage levels found that the average hourly wage of IT workers rose 5.5 percent from the first quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2007. Technical consultants are riding highest, pulling down an average of $83.72 per hour.
So what's behind the sudden jump in wages? "There's an unprecedented customer demand and not enough people," says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yoh, the IT staffing firm that conducted the study.
But it's not only in the United States that demand for quality professionals in the IT field is beginning to outstrip supply, pushing up the price of labor. The salaries of IT workers from Central Europe to India to China have been rising—often by double-digits—every year. In India, around 1.3 million people applied to Infosys, India's IT behemoth, yet fewer than 2 percent were actually employable. The same is true for engineering, where only around one quarter of the 400,000 new engineers produced every year in India are ready to enter the real "job world." Could it be only a matter of time before outsourcing starts to look less than lucrative?
Tono, a rural village in Japan that lacks an obstetrician, has adopted a creative strategy for helping pregnant women: using cellphones to transmit real-time data to doctors some 40 miles away. When the doctors determine that the woman is ready to deliver, the woman leaves for the nearest city with a maternity ward. But cellphones aren't just helping high-tech Japan with its critical shortage of obstetricians, they're also set to fundamentally transform medical access in the developing world.
In February, the U.S. government and a number of companies in the mobile phone industry launched Phones-for-Health, a $10 million initiative to improve health systems in the developing world. The public-private partnership aims to harness the impressive cellphone penetration rates in developing countries to bolster health initiatives. Health workers in the field will carry cellphones containing an application that lets them enter health data on patients, which they then send to a central database. There, it can be analyzed and mapped by the system and made immediately available to health officials on the Internet. As Paul Meyer, chairman of Voxiva, the company that has designed the underlying software, explains,
Health workers will also be able to use the system to order medicine, send alerts, download treatment guidelines, training materials and access other appropriate information ... Managers at the regional and national level can access information in real-time via a Web-based database."
Eventually, cellphones could even be used to store individuals' medical records, including x-rays and 3-D medical scan graphics. This technology is just coming to the United States, but hopefully it will only be a matter of time before people in poorer areas can use it to access, record and clarify their own medical histories where hospitals and clinics do not.
Here's a bizarre science experiment: Researchers at the U.K.'s Birmingham University are fitting 50 wild penguins with heart monitors to measure the effects of climate change on their habits:
The 'guinea pig' penguins live on the Crozet Islands, in the southern Indian Ocean, about 1,500 miles north of the Antarctic.
The monitors record each penguin's heart rate, location, the surrounding pressure and hence water depth, and the temperature at the back of its throat, telling the scientists when it has swallowed a cold fish.
The birds, famously awkward and ungainly on land, are released back into the wild to go on their usual diving expeditions and caught again a few months later when they return to land to breed.
The scientists expect to find that the flightless birds are swimming and waddling further afield to find food. They'll compare these results to data from the control group, ten penguins that were run through their paces on treadmills while their vital stats were recorded.
So, what does a penguin on a treadmill look like? Click on the video below to find out:(Hat tip: Neatorama)
In what might be overcompensation for lacking any sea ports, the state of New Mexico is moving ahead enthusiastically with plans to build a spaceport that would be used for, among other things, space tourism. Yesterday, voters in the port's home of Dona Ana County approved a designated tax to fund the project's construction. If everything remains on track, the first tourists could be blasting off in 2009.
British mogul and media hound Richard Branson is behind the venture; his Virgin Galactic plans to charge upwards of $200,000 for those who want to boldly go where no poor man has gone before. That fee would only get you into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, however. Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari set the standard for space tourists last year by ponying up $20 million for a more extensive voyage to the final frontier. So we're still a far cry from the future dramatized in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There's been no word yet from the Transportation Security Administration on precisely how many ounces of fluid will be permissible on space flights, although they are probably working on instructions on what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency lunar landing.
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But you can keep your scientists, engineers, and other skilled workers, cause we don't want 'em!"
That's what I imagine Emma Lazarus would write if she were composing lines for "The New Colossus" today. Her famous sonnet, originally written in 1883 and engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty, has welcomed new immigrants from afar for over a century. But now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is putting the kibosh on H-1B visas. The agency began accepting applications on Monday for the coveted temporary visas—which are designated for foreign workers with hi-tech or other specialized skills—for the 2008 fiscal year, which starts on October 1. By mid-afternoon, it had already received 150,000 petitions. Now the government is saying that it won't accept any more requests. Congress caps the number of H-1B visas at 65,000 per year, plus an additional 20,000 for workers who have an advanced degree from an American university. The government is going to use a computer program (undoubtedly developed by some people who were in the country on H-1B visas) to conduct a lottery of eligible applicants. Tech companies are crying foul. One-third of Microsoft's U.S.-based employees are in the country on H-1B visas. The rate is similar at other hi-tech companies, where foreign expertise is highly valued. Accordingly, executives at tech companies are lobbying Congress to raise the caps.
In the meantime, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate last week that would curtail the use of H-1B visas by companies, requiring them to make greater efforts to hire American workers. That's all nice and good in theory, but let's face reality. There simply aren't enough qualified Americans with the necessary engineering skills. As Robert Hoffman, vice president at Oracle, says:
Our broken visa policies for highly educated foreign professionals are not only counterproductive, they are anticompetitive and detrimental to America's long-term economic competitiveness."
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