Saturday, November 15, 2014

INNOVATION: Researchers target new form of RAM from rare materials

Researchers from Victoria University, in New Zealand, are studying the application of a class of materials called rare earth nitrides (RENs) to create a new type of non-volatile RAM memory.

Dr Ben Ruck, Professor Joe Trodahl and Dr Franck Natali from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, are studying potential commercial applications of RENs, thin films grown under ultra-high vacuum which are both magnetic and semiconducting.

Two concepts already patented include developing the first magnetic memory storage devices based on RENs, called "magnetic tunnel junctions".

The issue with current forms of RAM is that it does not retain information when the host computer is turned off, says Ruck.

Friday, October 31, 2014

TECHNOLOGY: Shortage of cybersecurity professionals poses risk to national security

The nationwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals – particularly for positions within the federal government – creates risks for national and homeland security, according to a new study from the RAND Corporation.

Demand for trained cybersecurity professionals who work to protect organizations from cybercrime is high nationwide, but the shortage is particularly severe in the federal government, which does not offer salaries as high as the private sector.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TECHNOLOGY: Scheduling algorithms based on game theory makes better use of computational resources

Rubing Duan and Xiaorong Li at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing in Singapore and co-workers have now developed a scheme to address the scheduling problem in two large-scale applications: the ASTRO program from the field of cosmology, which simulates the movements and interactions of galaxy clusters, and the WIEK2k program from the field of theoretical chemistry, which calculates the electronic structure of solids1. The researchers' new scheme relies on three game-theory-based scheduling algorithms: one to minimize the execution time; one to reduce the economic cost; and one to limit the storage requirements.

The researchers performed calculations wherein they stopped the competition for resources when the iteration reached the upper limit of optimization. They compared their simulation results with those from related algorithms—namely, Minimum Execution Time, Minimum Completion Time, Opportunistic Load Balancing, Max-min, Min-min and Sufferage. The new approach showed improvements in terms of speed, cost, scheduling results and fairness. Furthermore, the researchers found that the execution time improved as the scale of the experiment increased. In one case, their approach delivered results within 0.3 seconds while other algorithms needed several hours. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TECHNOLOGY: Four DARPA projects that could be bigger than the Internet

From DefenseOne:
Forty years ago, a group of researchers with military money set out to test the wacky idea of making computers talk to one another in a new way, using digital information packets that could be traded among multiple machines rather than telephonic, point-to-point circuit relays. The project, called ARPANET, went on to fundamentally change life on Earth under its more common name, the Internet.

Today, the agency that bankrolled the Internet is called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which boasts a rising budget of nearly $3 billion split across 250 programs. They all have national security implications but, like the Internet, much of what DARPA funds can be commercialized, spread and potentially change civilian life in big ways that its originators didn’t conceive.

What’s DARPA working on lately that that could be Internet big?

Monday, September 15, 2014

INNOVATION: Memory cells built on paper

A team based at the National Taiwan University in Taipei has used a combination of inkjet and screen printing to make small resistive RAM memory cells on paper. These are the first paper-based, nonvolatile memory devices, the team says (nonvolatile means that the device saves its data even when it's powered down).  
As Andrew Steckl outlined in his feature for IEEE Spectrum last year, paper has a lot of potential as a flexible material for printed electronics. The material is less expensive than other flexible materials, such as plastic. It boasts natural wicking properties that can be used to draw fluids into sensors. And it can be easily disposed of by shredding or burning.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

On language

Language shapes the world we think about the world. But not in the way that you might think.

Take the word "Aidos'. As Sriram Padmanabhan points out, it is a word in Greek that has connotations of shame.

"The ancient Greeks apparently had a few words that are difficult to translate into English. One of them was "AIDOS". It means a kind of reverence or shame, the feeling that a prosperous man should have in the presence of the unfortunate - not compassion, but a sense that the difference between him and them is not fully deserved. " [@Sriram Padmanabhan]

Aidos is not shame per se. Precisely speaking, the word is difficult to translate into a "single word" in the English language.#NoSingleWordExistsButYesMultipleWordsCanCaptureTheIdea

If you ask me, I feel that that even though one may feel this emotion from time to time, it is not healthy, psychologically speaking, to harbor it. If you think about it, this emotion seems quite irrational. I would even say that is not how Man was intended to live his life- feeling shame for one's good fortune seems unnecessary. There is something to be said for American evangelical Christianity's attitude towards good fortune - if you have good fortune, just thank God and help other people. Why feel shame at all?

In a very powerful way, language shapes the way we view the world. If the word "Aidos" does not occur as a single word in one's language, say, English,one is much less likely to feel this emotion. After all, what better example of this is there than the sociological fact that there is very little class envy in America despite high levels of inequality. And this is partly because this is a sociological phenomenon in a country that speaks English. Which does not have a "single short word" for the word "Aidos". People only use words that are available to them. This is a form of judgement bias (the basis introduced by the "availability heuristic") similar to other judgement biases such as the loss aversion bias. Indeed, we tend to fall into certain set behavioral and thought patterns because of the availability heuristic introduced by language.

I think this "availability heuristic" is very powerful in the way it shapes we way we think about the world. There has been some recent research to suggest that language does influence the way we think about the world ( But more important than the question of whether we have different words for the color blue is the question of whether we use language to fall into certain set behavioral and thought patterns.

Monday, August 18, 2014

INNOVATION: Moving over from Silicon

Meanwhile, from the University of Southern California:
When it comes to electronics, silicon will now have to share the spotlight. In a paper recently published in Nature Communications, researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering describe how they have overcome a major issue in carbon nanotube technology by developing a flexible, energy-efficient hybrid circuit combining carbon nanotube thin film transistors with other thin film transistors. This hybrid could take the place of silicon as the traditional transistor material used in electronic chips, since carbon nanotubes are more transparent, flexible, and can be processed at a lower cost. 
Electrical engineering professor Dr. Chongwu Zhou and USC Viterbi graduate students Haitian Chen, Yu Cao, and Jialu Zhang developed this energy-efficient circuit by integrating carbon nanotube (CNT) thin film transistors (TFT) with thin film transistors comprised of indium, gallium and zinc oxide (IGZO).