Super-Tough Solar Panels Could Make Every Road Into a Power Plant [Energy]...from Gizmodo

By John Herrman, 5:00 PM on Fri Aug 28 2009, 3,082 views (Edit, to draft, Slurp)

Roads do two things well: Carry cars, and soak up sun. What if, instead of just getting really hot, roads could generate electricity with that sunlight? That's exactly what Solar Roadways—and now, the Department of Energyhas in mind.

Solar Roadways, a single-purpose startup, just snagged a $100,000 grant from the DoE to design and build a 12-by-12-foot super-tough solar panel, intended to be laid as sections of road. As it's been optimistically imagined, the panels would also have a layer of low-res LED lights, so they could display changing signage.

Given how expensive and inefficient regular solar panels are, this whole plan sounds a little far-fetched, but the benefits could be huge: the company says that they could meet the entire country's energy needs if the interstate system was replaced with its (still theoretical) panels. Neat, but there's a minor issue of cost.

To pull this into perspective, Solar Roadways say they could take 500 homes off the grid with just one mile of four lane solar highway. They also say their 12x12 panels will cost about $6900 apiece. Assuming a width of four panels, a mile of highway need to be made up of 1760 panels, which comes to over twelve million dollars before construction costs, which usually make up the bulk of the sum anyway.

I mean, they managed to coax $100k out of the government already, so maybe there's more to this than meets the eye. Or maybe, the Deptartment of Energy just wants to give this plan a fair shot, just make sure this won't work. Spaghetti, walls, etc. [Solar Roadways via Inhabitat via PopSci]

Now this is a BIG idea...but it needs a Billion dollars of research, NOT $100K... imagine the POWER of this...solves so many problems, yet I have a hard time imagining it working in the TUNDRA of snow and ice country? But just maybe it is possible....worth investing in the research.

Lifestreaming: Evolving the Model from Import and Aggregate to Hub and Spokes by Steve Rubel

Now that Facebook acquired Friendfeed and the noise on Twitter is at near cacophonous levels, I am seeing a new model emerge for lifestreaming. This one centers on using a site as your hub, having it syndicate out to all your spokes (where you engage around it) and then bringing some of the conversation back to your site. It also seems to help people focus their content in more useful ways.

Mark Krynsky, who I had a chance to meet in LA last week at XPrize, summarizes this shift for lifestreaming nicely in this post. Here's how he diagrammed it...

And this closely mirrors what others, like our creative director Jared Hendler, Fast Company and others have observed about Posterous.

Facebook, Twitter and RSS all have a big problem - too much noise, not enough signal. This new approach for lifestreaming, however, coupled with Posterous' outstanding reader (depicted below) is forcing me to make smart choices about who I follow. I am finding myself turning more to the Posterous community for cool stuff since, they too, seem to recognize that too much nose is bad, signal is good.

Maybe I am crazy, but I think the simplicity of the Posterous platform - which helps us get closer to signals and away from noise - will be the next site to capture the hearts and minds of the digerati, particularly as they tire of the noise.

Steve Rubel TOTALLY "gets it" ...read what he has to say here, or go directly to his site at www.steverubel.com

25 Years Later, First Registered Domain Name Changes Hands...from TechCrunch by Robin Wauters

Did you know the first .com domain name that was ever registered was Symbolics.com, on the 15th of March 1985 by the now defunct Massachusetts-based computer manufacturer Symbolics?

While the first that was created in January of that same year was Nordu.net (used to serve as the identifier of the first root server, nic.nordu.net), symbolics.com was the first domain name to actually be registered through the appropriate DNS process a few months later. This was of course long before there was a WWW, but you already had ‘the Internet’. In fact, the first TCP/IP-based wide-area network had already been operational for two years when nordu.net was created, right around the time the United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) commissioned the construction of the legendary NSFNET, a university 56 kilobit/second network backbone. Only six companies thought it’d be a good idea to reserve the domain name on the root servers in 1985 (the others were bbn.com, think.com, mcc.com, dec.com and northrop.com). But Symbolics was first to make the move.

Remarkably, Symbolics.com hasn’t changed ownership once during the nearly 25 years that followed its initial registration. Marking an end to that era, domain name investment company XF.com Investments has just purchased the domain name for an undisclosed sum.

Which calls for a bit of history about the original owner:

Symbolics, Inc - a spinoff from the MIT AI Lab - was a computer manufacturer headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts and later in Concord, Massachusetts, that designed and manufactured a line of Lisp machines, single-user computers optimized to run the Lisp programming language. The machines became the first commercially available “general-purpose computers” or “workstations” way before those terms were coined.

The company also offered one of the premier software development environments of the 1980s and 1990s, now sold commercially as Open Genera for Tru64 UNIX on the HP Alpha.

In the late eighties, the company started its slow descent towards bankruptcy and oblivion, neatly chronicled in this blog post by former Symbolics employee Dan Weinreb:

The world changed out from under us very quickly. The new “workstation” category of computer appeared: the Suns and Apollos and so on. New technology for implementing Lisp was invented that allowed good Lisp implementations to run on conventional hardware; not quite as good as ours, but good enough for most purposes. So the real value-added of our special Lisp architecture was suddenly diminished. A large body of useful Unix software came to exist and was portable amongst the Unix workstations: no longer did each vendor have to develop a whole software suite. And the workstation vendors got to piggyback on the ever-faster, ever-cheaper CPU’s being made by Intel and Motorola and IBM, with whom it was hard for Symbolics to keep up. We at Symbolics were slow to acknowledge this. We believed our own “dogma” even as it became less true. It was embedded in our corporate culture. If you disputed it, your co-workers felt that you “just didn’t get it” and weren’t a member of the clan, so to speak. This stifled objective analysis. (This is a very easy problem to fall into — don’t let it happen to you!)

Meanwhile, back at Symbolics, there were huge internal management conflicts, leading to the resignation of much of top management, who were replaced by the board of directors with new CEO’s who did not do a good job, and did not have the vision to see what was happening. Symbolics signed long-term leases on big new offices and a new factory, anticipating growth that did not come, and were unable to sublease the properties due to office-space gluts, which drained a great deal of money. There were rounds of layoffs. More and more of us realized what was going on, and that Symbolics was not reacting. Having created an object-oriented database system for Lisp called Statice, I left in 1988 with several co-workers to form Object Design, Inc., to make an object-oriented database system for the brand-new mainstream object-oriented language, C++.

Symbolics still exists as a shell of its former self. But now the very first .com domain name ever registered becomes property of a small domain name investment holding that is so shy about its identity that it doesn’t publish the names of the people involved with the company, let alone a company address, on its website. There’s absolutely no indication of what the future has in store for the historical domain name, apart from the fact XF.com intends to celebrate its 25th birthday next year.

To quote Samwise Gamgee in Lord Of The Rings: “I don’t know why, but it makes me sad.”

Wow....try and imagine what the Internet will be like in ANOTHER 25 years......it's hard to imagine, since I am typing on my MacBook that will get Snow Leopard soon, with my iPhone that is really a camera, computer, iPod, with 160 Apps on it now.....and I can POST REAL TIME content to this incredible Posterous product, which Autopost's out to Twitter etc, see Posterous Post below to understand visually "Univeral Uploader" ie, what Posterous calls Autopost.

IBM Takes First 3D Image of Atomic Bonds [Quantum Computing]...from Gizmodo

By Jack Loftus, 2:14 PM on Thu Aug 27 2009, 14,104 views (Edit, to draft, Slurp)

From what I remember of chemistry, molecules were presented on computer screens, or at the very least with dowels and balls. Thanks to this incredible discovery, however, I'm jealous of how tomorrow's engineers will view—and control—nature's building blocks.

Now, the picture above is pretty unremarkable, right? Black and white (trivia: molecules have no color), grainy, shot in the kind of out-of-focus manner you expect from a guy like me, who can't seem to venture out beyond the Auto setting on his entry-level Nikon D40 DSLR. But wait a second. Doesn't the image kind of seem, well, familiar? Like high school chem class familiar? Balls and sticks familiar?

Here's another image; a computer generated image that's much more at home for anyone who studied atoms and molecules in the dead and gone days of 1997:

Make sense now? That B&W structure is an actual image of a molecule and its atomic bonds. The first of its kind, in fact, and a breakthrough for the crazy IBM scientists in Zurich who spent 20 straight hours staring at the "specimen"—which in this case was a 1.4 nanometer-long pentacene molecule comprised of 22 carbon atoms and 14 hydrogen atoms.

You can actually make out each of those atoms and their bonds, and it's thanks to this: An atomic force microscope.

Like the venerable electron microscope, but more powerful and with an eye for the third dimension, the AFM is able to make the nano world something we humans can appreciate visually. Using a silicon microscale cantilever coated in carbon dioxide (tiny, tiny needle), lasers, an "ultrahigh vacuum" and temperatures that hovered around 5 Kelvin, the AFM imaged the pentacene in nanometers. It did this while sitting a mere 0.5 nanometers above the surface and its previously invisible bonds for 20 long, unmoving hours. The length of time is noteworthy, said IBM scientist Leo Goss in statement from IBM, because any movement whatsoever would have disrupted the delicate atomic bonds and ruined the image.

And that's the real beauty of this image. For the first time ever we can see where each of those carbon and hydrogen atoms line up, and the overall symmetrical shape they create. In 3D.

Quirky, Quarky, Quantum Computing

That IBM, a hardware company, was the entity to accomplish this feat should be fairly obvious, given what we know (and don't yet know) about quantum computing. Said an IBM representative in an email to me this morning, "This pioneering achievement and the new insights gained from the experiments extend the ability of scientists to study matter with atomic resolution and open up exciting new possibilities for exploring electronic building blocks and devices at the ultimate atomic and molecular scale-devices that might be vastly smaller, faster and more energy-efficient than today's processors and memory devices."

In a quarkshell, that means this discovery might help future engineers manipulate atoms and their bonds, as well as create powerful, energy-sipping quantum computers for their cryptography needs, space travel or maybe even large black and yellow rooms that make our fantasies come true (or at the very least allow androids to play Sherlock Holmes).

But not so fast, Einstein. I see that tabletop subspace communicator you've imagined on your desktop. It's a great idea, and while I understand your enthusiasm for such things, as Matt explained earlier this month quantum computing, entangled desktops and Star Trek holodecks are all decades away, if not more.

What this discovery does do however is advance our primitive understanding of the Way Things Are. It's a small, nanometer-sized piece in a puzzle that doesn't even have all the pieces on the table yet. Hell, we don't even know where all the pieces are yet. From the looks of these images though, we will someday soon. [Images: IBM]

Just amazing.....

China: All Your Rare Earth Metals Belong to Us - Wired: Top Stories by Nathan Hodge

Rare-earth molycorp

metals are the key to 21st Century technology: Without them, we wouldn’t have smartphones, hybrid cars or precision weapons. And China, which mines most of the world’s rare-earth metals, may be starting to catch on to their strategic value.

According to this alarming story in Britain’s Telegraph, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is weighing a total ban on exports of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium — and may restrict foreign sales of other rare-earth metals. But don’t panic yet: U.S.-based Molycorp Minerals is preparing to resume mining of rare earth ore deposits at a California facility, pictured here.

Still, it’s a reminder of the role that strategic resources play, especially for the high-tech military of the United States. As I reported a few years back in the Financial Times, the Pentagon has become increasingly concerned over Chinese demand for specialty steels and titanium, which are key to armor plating, aircraft design and other high-end weaponry. Finding new, affordable sources of military-grade titanium has been a top priority of Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm.

Of course, China is not the only country that’s figuring out how to play the mineral-wealth hand in geopolitics. For several years now, Russia has used natural-gas supply as a way to exert less-than-subtle pressure on its neighbors. Energy, the Kremlin found, is a more effective instrument than an aging nuclear-weapons stockpile: You can actually turn the gas taps off when you feel like punishing someone.

As an old piece of wisdom from the Strategic Air Command put it, “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

Data miner: RC

Image: Google Earth

See Also:

Rare resources as negotiation "chips" have always been powerful. Oil, minerals, and now rare earth metals. I wonder if Prius owners have thought through all the rare earth metals in their hybrids. The nearly 7 Billion people on this planet NEED resources, and allocating them will continue to be strategically challenging.