Tag Archives: Tech

Google Internet Service May Actually Bring U.S. Up to Speed

Google-internet-service-may-actually-bring-u-s-up-to-speed-90b420412c

Google’s effort to install a blazingly fast, gigabit-per-second fiber Internet service in the two-state metropolis of Kansas City — a speed 100 times faster than the national average — is a radical new business direction for the company, and perhaps provides an unorthodox model for how to rewire parts of the United States.

At one level, the project reflects Google’s desire to keep developing new businesses by giving people ultrafast speeds and then offering experimental services like Google TV. But if Google’s business model for actually getting fiber built pans out, it may usher in a new era for privately built broadband.

Compared to many countries, the United States has slow and patchy Internet service. While a few areas enjoy very fast service, overall the United States ranks 24th worldwide in speed, with consumers receiving an average of 11.6-megabits-per-second download speeds.

An affordable service that is nearly two orders of magnitude faster began in one neighborhood in Kansas City last Tuesday.

In planning the deployment, Google carved the metropolis into 202 neighborhoods, and asked interested residents and businesses to pay $10 to pre-register for the service. Once a critical mass did so — ranging from 5-25% per neighborhood (Google calls them fiberhoods), depending on the population density — Google went ahead with the street-level installation. If people reneged on their pledge to subscribe, they’d lose the $10.

The actual service is a bargain compared to many services that provide much slower speeds. Google’s gigabit Internet service is priced at $70 per month. When bundled with TV, the price rises to $120 — and Google is certainly pushing that additional service. Users subscribing for a TV service get a two-terabyte storage box for recorded shows and a Nexus 7 Android tablet to use as a remote control. (As a budget alternative, Internet at five megabits per second is available for a one-time fee of $300.)

While some people who preregistered have expressed irritation at having to wait in line, so far it seems to be working, says Jenna Wandres, a spokeswoman for Google Fiber. “We’re pleased with how many people in Hanover Heights have fiber,” she says, referring to the neighborhood that got the service on Tuesday.

Some industry veterans have expressed skepticism that Google can make the installation economics work, with some saying that it can cost between $850 and $1,250 per customer to get fiber installed— far more than the one-time fee of $300 that Google is charging for basic service.

While Google won’t disclose any numbers about costs or numbers of subscribers, Wandres insists that the strategy is economical. “This is not a beta program or an experiment. Efficiency is a huge focus for us as we build out Kansas City. And efficiency can cut costs,” she says.

The entry of superfast Internet may aid local entrepreneurship. An effort called Homes for Hackers is trying to get Kansas City homeowners with Google Fiber service to give free rooms to developers for three months, and a collection of local startups is betting the service will attract new companies.

W. Russell Neuman, professor of media technology at the University of Michigan, says Google’s effort is certainly novel, but that it is an open question whether it could change the economics of Internet service overnight. “Laying fiber is so far out of the scope of what Google normally does. But does Google know something that Verizon doesn’t know?” He says.

Major telecoms like AT&T and Verizon are taking a different path. They’ve focused on upgrading service in areas that they are already providing with wireline DSL service. Verizon has built out a fiber optic network over the past eight years — a $23 billion investment that has made the new service, called FiOS, available to 18 million U.S. households. And then it went about trying to sell the service plans. “Our business model does not call for FiOS to be built out into areas where we have not historically provided wireline service,” says Bill Kula, a Verizon spokesman.

The approach of those two giants has made high-speed Internet available to millions. (In Verizon’s case, the company generally charges $99 per month with a two-year contract for service of up to 300 megabits per second for downloads and 65 megabits per second for uploads). But it hasn’t extended the reach of the network. “Google Fiber is the most niche community approach that has been taken to date, but it remains to be seen how sustainable that approach is,” Kula says. “The question also is whether there will be a consumer demand and need for such speeds.”

Another route to juicing Internet speeds to gigabit-per-second levels is government investment. Chattanooga, Tenn., received such a boost when the local power utility got a $111 million U.S. Department of Energy grant as part of federal stimulus efforts that built out the city’s smart grid.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/19/google-fiber-us-internet/

How to Detect Apps Leaking Your Data

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One reason that smartphones and smartphone apps are so useful is that they can integrate intimately with our personal lives. But that also puts our personal data at risk.

A new service called Mobilescope hopes to change that by letting a smartphone user examine all the data that apps transfer, and alerting him when sensitive information, such as his name or email address, is transferred.

“It’s a platform-agnostic interception tool that you can use on your Android, iOS, Blackberry, or Windows device,” says Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher who created Mobilescope with fellow researchers David Campbell and Aldo Cortesi.

Their first proof-of-concept won a prize for the best app created during a privacy-focused programming contest, or codeathon, organized by the Wall Street Journal in April this year; the trio has now polished it enough to open a beta trial period. Access is steadily being rolled out to the “couple of thousand” people that have already signed up, says Soltani.

Once a person has signed up for the service, Mobilescope is accessed through a website, not as an app installed onto a device. A user can use the site to see logs of the data transferred by the apps on their device. They can also specify “canaries,” pieces of sensitive information such as a phone number, email or name that trigger an alert if they are sent out by an app.

Mobilescope can catch apps doing things such as copying a person’s address book to a remote server, as Path and several other mobile apps were found to do earlier this year. Soltani says the service is intended to level the playing field between mobile apps and the people that use them by arming users with more information about what those apps do.

As became clear when several popular apps were caught quietly copying contact data from users earlier this year, neither Apple’s nor Google’s mobile operating systems currently offer people much insight into or control of what apps are sharing.

(MIT Technology Review)

“Our focus is making really simple the process of interception,” says Soltani. “If you’re not an advanced user, you can still get at this data using Mobilescope.”

When a person signs up for Mobilescope, a configuration file is sent to his device. Once installed, this file causes all future Internet traffic to be routed through a Mobilescope server so that it can analyze the data that comes and goes to the device and its apps.

That arrangement is possible thanks to the way that smartphones are designed to be compatible with VPNs, or virtual private networks — encrypted communications that some businesses use to keep corporate data private. That design doesn’t add much delay to a person’s connection, says Soltani, in part because users are connected with a server as geographically close to them as possible.

Mobilescope can even examine data that is sent over the most common types of secure connection used by apps, similar to those used by banking websites, by intercepting the certificates involved. The service cannot decrypt other data, but Soltani says that few apps bother to use encryption. Data collected by Mobilescope is discarded after each session of use, and is only ever stored on a person’s own device.

Soltani says he doesn’t imagine Mobilescope will have the mass appeal of something like Angry Birds, but he hopes it will encourage journalists, activists, and ordinary smartphone owners to look into what apps do, and will help put more pressure on app developers to respect privacy.

“Added transparency for everyone — app developers, users, regulators — will help the whole mobile ecosystem.”

An earlier version of Mobilescope gave users the power to send fake data to certain apps, for example sending a spoof location. “We had to pull that out because the ecosystem is not ready for it,” says Soltani, who says this broke some apps, sometimes in ways that could harm other users. A separate project does make that tactic available to Android users willing to use a modified version of their operating system.

(MIT Technology Review)

In April, Xuxian Jiang, an associate professor at North Carolina State University, published a study showing that the ad systems included in many Android apps endanger users’ privacy. Around half of these systems monitor a user’s GPS location, and some also collect call logs and other sensitive data.

Jiang, who has uncovered other security and privacy flaws with mobile apps, said Mobilescope will be an “interesting” new tool for keeping tabs on apps. However, he adds that it can’t be guaranteed to catch everything, and says mobile privacy can only be improved with greater transparency from developers, improved privacy statements, and action from the creators of mobile operating systems.

“[We] need of mechanisms for users to actually control apps’ access to various personal information,” he says.

Justin Brookman, who directs consumer privacy activity at the Center for Democracy and Technology, says this will require changes to the law, which currently simply encourages companies to write very broad privacy policies to avoid the penalties for writing false ones.

“Detailed disclosures are actually deterred by the law,” he says. The CDT is attempting to get legislation introduced that instead requires companies to explicitly tell consumers what’s happening to their data, and to provide them with more control over it.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/10/detect-apps-leaking-data/

The selfie stick has taken over CES 2015

Selfie-sticks

A selfie stick sighting in Las Vegas.
Image: Mashable, Tyler Tronson

If 2014 was the year of the selfie stick, then CES 2015 may be the event where the product hits peak saturation. This year’s International CES is still in its infancy, yet many people are already overwhelmed by them.

When it comes to the selfie stick, you’re either in the camp that loves them:

Or you’re in the camp that despises them, and despises the people who use them:

But no matter what you do, if you’re at CES 2015, there’s a great chance you’ll probably leave town with a selfie stick in tow:

Want to Run Code on the ISS? There’s a Competition For That

Want-to-run-code-on-the-iss-there-s-a-competition-for-that-74eea3c833

Any high school-aged coders with a love for space and NASA out there? Read on.

Zero Robotics, a robotics programming competition set up through MIT, is entering its fourth year — and there’s still a day left to register.

Here’s how it works: Students can sign up in teams for free on the website. Over the course of the semester, they compete head-to-head with other teams in writing programs — sort of situational, scenario-based challenges. Gradually, the challenges get more difficult. Then, after several phases, finalists are selected to compete in running code for the International Space Station (ISS) — which is broadcast live by an astronaut on board the ISS.

Since 2009, the competition has allowed participants to compete in a series of coding challenges through an online platform.

“There’s a whole ranking system that tells them how well they’re doing as they’re going through it,” said Jake Katz, co-founder of the competition and research assistant in the Space Stations laboratory at MIT. “And throughout the course of the season, the game gets slightly more complex. They start out in two dimensions and then they will soon, around Oct. 5, be going into 3-D competition — then we add some additional challenges towards the end.”

The original kick off for this year’s competition was on Sept. 8. But, Katz said, there’s still a day left to register.

“There have been people participating so far, and are already off and running with it, but it’s still possible to join in and make a submission for the first phase,” he said. “We have 75 teams so far, and that’s just from the U.S.”

There are an additional 43 teams from 19 other countries, he said.

The competition is sponsored by NASA, DARPA, TopCoder, Aurora Flight Sciences, CASIS and MIT. TopCoder, a programming company, designed the platform the games are played on.

“In 2009, when we started, we had just two teams competing against each other,” Katz said. “Just two years later, we had about 100 teams from all over sign up.”

Check out the promotional video below:

What kind of code would you write to run on board the ISS? Let us know in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/zero-robotics-mit/

Scorpion Protein Illuminates Brain Tumors for Surgeons

Glowing-scorpion

Jim Olson, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was reviewing with his colleagues the case of a 17-year-old girl several years ago who had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor. An MRI scan revealed a thumb-size piece of tumor left behind. In the operating room, the tumor tissue had looked just like healthy brain tissue. During the review meeting, the hospitals’ chief of neurosurgery turned to Olson and said: “Jim, you have to come up with a way to light these cells up.”

So Olson and a neurosurgical resident started searching for a way to highlight cancer cells in the operating room. Eventually, they came across a report of a scorpion toxin that binds to brain tumors but not healthy cells. By linking a synthetic version of this protein to a molecule that glows in near-infrared light, the researchers think they may have found what they call “tumor paint.”

In their very first test, the pair injected the compound into the tail vein of a mouse whose body harbored a transplanted human tumor. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, the tumor started to glow, bright and distinct from the rest of the mouse,” says Olson.

A Seattle company called Blaze Bioscience has licensed the technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Olson says human trials will begin late in 2013.

The scorpion toxin is special not only because it binds to tumor cells, but because it can cross the blood-brain barrier—a cellular and molecular fortification that lines blood vessels in the brain and prevents most compounds from entering.

“Usually, peptides don’t get into the brain unless they bind to something specific that carries it in there,” says Harald Sontheimer, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who first identified the neurological potential of the scorpion protein.

Although derived from venom, the toxin seems to be safe. A biotech company started by Sontheimer showed in early clinical trials that a version of the scorpion toxin tagged with radioactive iodine was safe in patients. However, the company closed before late-stage testing of the iodine-tagged compound, which is now owned by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai.

The tumor paint developed by Olson may also light up cancer outside of the brain. Animal studies suggest it could also demarcate prostate, colon, breast, and other tumors. The potential the compound has to save healthy brain tissue and improve patients’ lives is told in a short film called Bringing Light, which is in the running for the Sundance Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Furryscaly

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/12/17/scorpion-protein-brain-tumor/

How to Double the Power of Solar Panels

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In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering, a startup in Woburn, Mass., is developing a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells.

That’s a long-term project, but meanwhile the company is about to start selling a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells. Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

Right now most solar-panel manufacturers aren’t building new factories because the market for their product is glutted. But if market conditions improve and manufacturers do start building, they’ll be able to introduce larger changes to production lines. In that case the Bandgap technology could make it possible to change solar cells more significantly.

For example, by increasing light absorption, it could allow manufacturers to use far thinner wafers of silicon, reducing the largest part of a solar cell’s cost. It could also enable manufacturers to use copper wires instead of more expensive silver wires to collect charge from the solar panels.

These changes could lead to solar panels that convert more than 20% of the energy in sunlight into electricity (compared with about 15% for most solar cells now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install, says Richard Chleboski, Bandgap’s CEO. (Solar installations cost a few dollars per watt now, depending on their size and type.) Over the operating lifetime of the system, costs would come to $0.06-0.10 per kilowatt-hour.

That’s still higher than the current cost of natural-gas power in the United States, which is about $0.04 per kilowatt-hour. But it’s low enough to secure solar power a substantial market in many parts of the world where energy costs can be higher, or in certain niche markets in the United States.

Meanwhile, Bandgap is pursuing technology that could someday improve efficiency enough to allow solar power to compete widely with fossil fuels. Double the efficiency of solar cells without greatly increasing manufacturing costs, and you substantially lower the cost per watt of solar panels and halve the cost of installation — currently the biggest expense in solar power — by making it possible to get the same amount of power out of half as many cells.

Both the cells Bandgap is about to introduce and the cells it hopes to produce in the long term are based on the idea of minimizing the energy loss that typically occurs when light passes through a solar cell unabsorbed or when certain wavelengths of light are absorbed but don’t have enough energy to dislodge electrons to create electricity. (That energy is wasted as heat.) In a conventional solar cell, at least two-thirds of the energy in sunlight is wasted — usually much more.

The company’s existing technology makes use of the fact that when light encounters the nanowires, it’s refracted in a way that causes it to bounce around in the solar cell rather than simply moving through it or bouncing off it. That increases its chances of being absorbed.

But what Bandgap ultimately wants to do is to change the way light is converted to electricity inside the cell. If the nanowires can be made uniformly enough, and if they can be formed in such a way that their atoms line up along certain planes, the tiny structures could change the electronic properties of silicon.

These changes could allow solar cells to generate electricity from low-energy light that normally produces only heat, says Marcie Black, the company’s founder and chief technology officer. It does this in part by providing a way to combine energy from more than one photon of low-energy light.

The technology could take many years to develop. For one thing, it requires very precise control over the properties of each of millions of nanowires. Also, the techniques needed to make the solar cells might not be cheap or reliable enough to produce them on a large scale. But such solar cells could theoretically convert 60% of the energy in sunlight into electricity. That will be hard to achieve in practice, so the company is aiming at a more modest 38% efficiency, which is still more than twice that of typical silicon solar cells made now.

Researchers are taking several other approaches to producing very high-efficiency solar cells, such as using quantum dots or combining several kinds of materials.

The nanowire technology could be simpler, however. “In theory, the approach has many potential advantages, but you’ve got to get it to work,” says Andrew Norman, a senior researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Bandgap hasn’t yet built solar cells using the approach it hopes to pursue in the long term, but it’s made indirect measurements showing that its nanowires can change the electronic properties of silicon. “This is still in the research phase,” Black says. “We’re being very honest with investors — there’s still a lot of work to do.”

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/17/double-power-solar-panels/

Find Out Which Reporter Walks the Walk at CES 2014

CES-Day-5

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless you’re wearing a device that tracks your every step.

As the major players in the tech industry debuted new products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas this week, the Mashable team was there on the ground to bring you a firsthand look at the gadgets and speakers that generated buzz.

The jam-packed event tested our reporters mentally, and the spread-out venue tested their fitness levels as they briskly walked to and from the wealth of events. With so much to see and write about, they needed to cover ground faster than winter storm Hercules.

That’s why, for the second year in a row, we presented the Mashable staff with a challenge: Who could log the most activity at CES?

To most accurately measure our reporters’ speed and stamina, we provided them each with a Nike+ FuelBand SE. The activity-logging wristband tracked our reporters’ steps taken and measured their daily activity in “fuel points.”

Last year, Evan Engel finished in first place. This year, however, it was Nina Frazier-Hansen who finished with both the most steps taken (48,344) and fuelpoints (17,423), making her our clear winner of CES 2014. Congratulations, Nina!

Editor’s Note: Evan Engel was not able to log data on Sunday due to travel complications, and Samantha Murphy lost some data on Monday due to technical difficulties.

Who’s going to win the Nike+ Fuelband CES Challenge?

Image: Mashable, Jeff Petriello

Tiny Satellite Will Grow Mold in Orbit

Dictyostelium-discoideum

University students in Japan are building a slime mold-housing micro-satellite that will orbit the Earth and send back photos of the microorganisms’ growth. The small satellite will transmit the pictures to Earth using amateur radio.

The Microbial Observation Satellite, TeikyoSat-3, is a project of Teikyo University and is a small satellite project of the Space System Society at the university’s Utsunomiya campus.

TeikyoSat-3 weighs 44 pounds (20 kilograms) and is designed to study the impact of space radiation and the microgravity environment on a mold called Dictyostelium discoideum. This species of soil-living amoeba belongs to the phylum Mycetozoa and is often given the less-than-highbrow biological label of “slime mold.”

TeikyoSat-3 is slated for launch on Japan’s H-IIA booster in Japanese Fiscal Year 2013, and will ride along with the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) main satellite, officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) public affairs department told SPACE.com.

JAXA and NASA collaborated on the development of the GPM spacecraft as part of an international network of satellites that provide next-generation global observations of rain and snow.

Amateur Satellites and Biology

TeikyoSat-3 is one of several small satellites set to piggyback on a launch scheduled for January 2014, said Hirotoshi Kubota, professor of a special mission, faculty of science and engineering at Teikyo University. “This satellite is now in the process of testing of [the] engineering model,” he told SPACE.com via email.

The TeikyoSat-3 group proposal stated, “Our micro satellite, TeikyoSat-3, takes a picture of the growth process of the slime mold, Dictyostelium discoideum, in space, and then downlinks the pictures to the ground station. We’ll release the pictures on our website to the public and radio amateurs. We expect the public and radio amateurs to promote their interest of the amateur satellites and biology.”

A ground station at the Teikyo University Utsunomiya campus will keep in contact with TeikyoSat-3. The plan is to actively make details about the tiny satellite available to the public in order to enable radio amateurs to receive images of slime mold directly from the spacecraft.

In building TeikyoSat-3, the university students are plotting out a low-cost “pharmacological mission,” one that makes use of microscope and miniature-camera technology. The students will also have to control the temperature on board the satellite to ensure an environment within which the slime mold can live.

Life of its Own

The value of studying microbial creatures in space has taken on a life of its own over the years.

During its 15 years of space travel, which ended when it deorbited in March 2001, Russia’s Mir space station was found to house colonies of organisms. They were found alive and well — growing on rubber gaskets around windows, space suit hardware and cable insulation and tubing.

Officials from NASA’s Human Research Program plan to gather and analyze biological samples to better investigate the International Space Station’s “microbiome” — the ever-changing microbial environment that can be found on the Earth-orbiting facility and its crew members.

Carrying out this work within the hectic environment of space is expected to give researchers data about whether alterations in the crew’s microbiome are harmful to human health.

Bio-Burden

China isn’t exempt from the bio-burden of protecting human space travelers, either.

Researchers have eyed the “Heavenly Palace” that is China’s Tiangong-1 space module as a microbial haven, too.

Despite an air purifier that cleans the module’s air and the astronauts’ practice of wiping away dust with wet tissues before leaving, there could be unknown risks, said Wang Xiang, chief commander of the space lab system. Microbes can pose a hazard to astronaut health, he told China Daily.

Wang said that mold was not only found on surfaces aboard Russia’s Mir Space Station; it has also been seen on the International Space Station. He spotlighted one “moldie oldie” report stating that fungus grew in cosmonauts’ ears during a mission on the former Soviet Union’s Salyut space station.

Mold also presents a threat to space module components, Wang said. “It is a subject we will keep studying until China builds its own space station,” he said.

Image: Freie Universität Berlin

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/19/space-mold/

Heat-Sensitive Telescope Could Find Aliens

Exoplanet

We might be able find aliens using the heat their civilizations give off, astronomers say, but it will take a megatelescope to do the job. The development of such a telescope is in the works.

The telescope — called Colossus — would be a massive 250-foot (77-meter) telescope, which is more than double the aperture of any telescope yet constructed.

To keep costs down, the proposed $1 billion telescope would use thin mirror technology and few large aperture mirror segments to build Colossus. The sensitivity of the scope could be enough to spot cities or other signs of aliens for planets as far as 60 to 70 light-years from Earth, its backers said.

“If we had an investor come and say, ‘Look, here are the resources you need,’ we could have the telescope built within five years,” said Jeff Kuhn, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy, who is on the proposal team.

Building on Dyson Spheres

In searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, astronomers generally focus on seeking out beamed signals from other civilizations. In four decades of searching, nothing definitive has been found. There were, however, a few interesting moments, such as the so-called “Wow!” signal heard in 1977 that was never repeated.

There are limitations with that method, however. Perhaps the aliens might not send out signals themselves. Maybe they broadcast in channels we wouldn’t think of using. Moreover, humans should be cautious about sending out signals and alerting more advanced civilizations to their presence, as Stephen Hawking has said.

This is where Colossus can shine, Kuhn said. The telescope is a passive receiver that allows astronomers to seek out extraterrestrials without alerting them to the search.

Kuhn’s team builds on a concept first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in the 1960s. Humans can capture only a fraction of the energy sent out by the sun, but a more advanced civilization would want to grab as much as possible.

Dyson suggested an extraterrestrial civilization would surround their star with a structure — now known as a “Dyson sphere” — that would capture the energy needed and then bleed the rest off into space.

From Earth, a star that is faint optically but very strong in the infrared could be an indication of such a sphere, Dyson mused. Kuhn’s team, rather than focusing on stars, is instead looking at the surfaces of alien planets.

“Similarly, an exoplanet that was optically dark, but thermally bright, would be evidence of extraterrestrial civilization,” Kuhn said.

Seeking the Heat

To date, there are few images obtained of exoplanets; they are only faintly visible, and their parent stars tend to overwhelm their radiated light. That’s why such a large mirror is needed to peer at them, Kuhn explained.

“The biggest telescopes that we’re likely to see in the next 100 years or so will not be able to directly image cities or organized structures on the planet,” he said. Still, he added, local heat sources could be visible.

“We do that by using the fact that the planet has to rotate, and that civilization is clustered either by the formation of continents or the use of land, which is agrarian versus organized into population centers. The assumption we make is that civilizations will cluster their heat use. It won’t be uniform; they distribute it.”

Volcanoes and other natural features also produce heat, Kuhn said, but astronomers would probe heat sources in at least two different wavelengths to obtain the temperature. Natural features are likely to be far above the background heat of the planet. Those heat sources that are slightly above the planet’s natural radiation are more likely to be signs of civilization, he said.

The method does have limitations, he added.

“It is possible to be confused on a planet which is perpetually cloud-covered, and we wouldn’t be able to detect a signal on a planet where somehow the alien society managed to uniformly distribute itself around the planet so it isn’t clustered,” Kuhn said.

There’s no firm location yet for the telescope, but Kuhn suggested it could be built in the San Pedro Martir mountainous area of Baja California in Mexico, close to the location of one partner in the project: the National University of Mexico in Ensenada.

6 Patents Pending

Kuhn’s team is seeking funding from private funders, and will perhaps obtain money from patents as well. The scientists submitted six patent applications relating to optical technologies associated with the telescope design.

“We are not in competition with the astronomy projects,” he said when asked about obtaining federal science or NASA funding for the effort. “This is entirely private funding that we have been supported by.”

The team, however, is open to partnerships with other institutions. One possibility could be the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute itself, but the organization prefers to focus on radio telescopes right now, Kuhn said.

The notion was first thought up by Caisey Harlingten, an entrepreneur and amateur astronomer who sought two years ago to find a team capable of building the telescope, Kuhn said. The group includes a member with experience building Hawaii’s Keck and Suburu telescopes — David Halliday, founder of Canadian-based Dynamic Structures Inc.

Other partners in the project include Germany’s Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics, the National University of Mexico in Ensenada, Tohoku University in Japan, the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, the University of Lyon in France and Harlingten’s company, Innovative Optics.

An overview concept of the project was recently published in Astronomy magazine. The group is now creating a more detailed design and seeking funding. No start date has been set yet for construction.

Image courtesy of Flickr, NASA Blueshift

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/07/alien-heat-telescope/

Intel’s Tiny Wi-Fi Chip Could Have a Big Impact

Intel-s-tiny-wi-fi-chip-could-have-a-big-impact-2554ce98a0

This month, Intel unveiled a Wi-Fi radio almost completely made of the same sort of transistors that go into one of its microprocessors.

At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Yorgis Palaskas, research lead in radio integration at Intel and the company’s chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, also showed off a system-on-a-chip that sported this digital Wi-Fi radio nestled up next to a couple of its Atom processors for mobile devices.

The announcements make it clear that Intel believes Wi-Fi radios—traditionally relatively large devices that operate mostly outside the chip—will be integrated into the chips in coming years. This could mean three things: more electronic devices will be able to network wirelessly; these devices could be more energy-efficient; and ultimately, multiple digital radios could be combined on a single chip, something that could make gadgets, including mobile phones, cheaper.

“We are now looking at moving a lot of the parts on the periphery, like Wi-Fi, into the chip itself,” says Jan Rabaey, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. “If wireless can move into digital and miniaturize at the same pace as digital, that’s a good thing.”

All radios, technically called transceivers, are made of a number of components. A transceiver is composed of a receiver that brings in a signal from the outside and a transmitter that sends out a signal to the world. Both receiver and transmitter contain components such as a baseband, which dictate the frequency the radio operates on, filters and mixers to fine-tune the signal, and amplifiers to make small signals larger.

Engineers have, for years, been slowly digitizing these components, so there are fewer analog components, which don’t operate well when miniaturized. Basebands, for instance, have long been digital.

There have already been demonstrations of almost completely digital Bluetooth radios. And Intel itself has digitized important radio components for 3G operation. But radios like Wi-Fi that operate across a wide range of frequencies and have been harder to convert from analog to digital.

While there have been no other public announcements from other companies about digital Wi-Fi radios, it’s likely ARM and Qualcomm are also tackling the challenge, says Rabaey. “You can bet those guys are doing digital structures as well,” he says. “It’s a whole industry trend.”

By making radios using the same process used to make microprocessors, Intel is streamlining manufacturing and making it easier and cheaper to add a Wi-Fi radio to any chip.

“Being able to add this functionality digitally means you can add a radio to pretty much anything you want to,” says Peter Cooney, an analyst at ABI Research. This could allow anything with a chip to communicate, from SD cards and dishwashers to television sets and the family car.

And as chips shrink, Wi-Fi radios will experience the same benefit of miniaturized processors, including a reduction in power consumption (see “A New and Improved Moore’s Law“).

Intel’s Palaskas explains that a digital Wi-Fi radio that takes up 1.2 millimeters of chip space will draw 50 milliwatts of power. The same radio design compressed into an area of 0.3 millimeters (manufactured with so-called 32-nanometer processes) will only sip 21 milliwatts. This is comparable to the best radios made mostly out of analog components, says Palaskas.

But battery life for gadgets themselves is a tricky thing to predict, says Rabaey, and the energy efficiency gained from shrinking transistors might not translate directly to fewer charges for your phone. Much depends on standards that dictate the design of radios. For instance, radios that constantly send signals when they’re not being used directly will drain a battery, no matter how many digital components they contain.

Perhaps the most compelling application of the digital Wi-Fi radio, though, is that it points to a future where more radios can be programmed with software, changing their functionality on the fly. A simple software upgrade to a device with a digital radio could potentially improve its performance. “Digital is fundamentally more programmable than analog,” says Palaskas.

Rabaey suggests that in the future, multiple digital radios could be combined into one, which could reduce the cost of making cell phones. Instead of separate components for 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other radios, a single chip could contain all of them. The device would flip between radios via software. “Truly programmable radio could be five or 10 years away,” says Rabaey. “But everyone sees the economic value in it.”

Image courtesy of YouTube

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
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Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/21/intel-wi-fi-chip/