Show of 9-13-2008

  • Email and Forum Questions
    • Email from Robert: Dr. Shurtz, I have an opportunity to purchase an Apple MacBook for a great price. However it does not come with an operating system.  Can you tell me what is involved in installing MAC Leopard on the notebook. thanks Robert
    • Tech Talk Answers: Installing a new operating system in an Apple MacBook is easy. You simply boot up on the CD by restarting the machine while holding down the C key. The install process checks the hardware to make certain that it is compatible with the new OS. You should upgrade the firmware on the machine (BIOS update) and check to see which OS is supported by your MacBook. The latest version Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) which retails for around $100. You will then need to install applications. If you are low on money, I would suggest the open source options.
    • Email from Kirk: I recently purchased a Garmin GPS unit and am very impressed with it. I am astounded at how much data is available through this unit. There must be some sort of incredibly efficient compression algorithm that enables them to stuff so much data into the unit. So, can you explain how so much data is stored in these GPS devices? Kirk Randall, Fairfax, Va
    • Tech Talk Answers: Your location is based on satellite data (24 Satellites orbit Earth, 12,658.8 miles high, 11 hour 58 minute orbit time, 24 satellites in 6 orbits, 4 satellites needed to triangulate position). The map data is represented by nodes with weighted links. The best path is found using Dijkstra’s algorithm. For fastest time, links are weighted by average road speed and distance. For shortest distance, links are weighted by road distance. Route data is merged with location-coordinated layered map image.
    • Email from Cathie: Hi – I’m listening to your program and couldn’t believe your assessment of Google’s Chrome! It is a major problem, as illustrated on your program – people can download it with NO administrative rights. It is going to create MAJOR problems for IT Security Teams because people who have NO admin rights can download it and major "holes" have already been identified. It means more "scanning" by network and desktop security folks, resulting in higher costs to companies and federal government. It bypasses the FDCC standards established by NIST. Cathie Skoog, Gainesville, VA
    • Tech Talk Answers: Actually Chrome does need administrative rights to be installed. Jim, for some strange reason, has those rights on the machine he was using. You are right that is browser has not been vetted yet. However, its simplicity may in the long run make it more secure.
  • Stratford University Offers Special Tuition Rates for Active Military Personnel
    • Stratford University is pleased to announce that they will now offer a special tuition rate to active military personnel.
    • Servicemen and women who enroll in undergraduate or graduate programs at the university are eligible to receive a tuition rate of $750 per 4.5-credit course, about half the cost of the standard tuition rate.
    • This military tuition cap will open the door to many military personnel who are qualified to receive funding toward a university degree.
  • Stratford University Open House
    • Saturday, September 27th at the Falls Church Campus
    • Location: Tysons Corner Campus, 7777 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA
    • RSVP to: rsvp@stratford.edu or 800-444-0804.
  • Profiles in IT: Dr. Fujio Masuoka
    • Fujio Masuoka invented NAND and NOR flash memory while working for Toshiba.
    • Flash memory was the most important semiconductor innovation of the 1990s.
    • Dr. Fujio Masuoka was born in Takasaki, Japan, in 1943.
    • Received a BS in 1966 and PhD in 1971 from Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.
    • Four months after he joined Toshiba in 1971, he invented a type of memory known as SAMOS (Self-Aligned Metal Oxide Semiconductor).
    • After five years at Toshiba, he invented another type and was moved to the semiconductor production division, where he developed a 1-megabit DRAM.
    • DRAM volatile because it lost its memory each time the power was turned off.
    • Without permission from Toshiba, Masuoka began spending his nights and weekends working on this idea a new idea for non-volatile memory.
    • By 1980 he had applied for the basic patents on NOR-type (not/or) flash memory.
    • It was not until four years later that he was able to produce the first flash memory.
    • He was now senior enough that he could order the factory to manufacture his design.
    • Masuoka presented his flash memory at the IEEE Conference in 1984.
    • Intel immediately put more than 300 engineers to work full time on flash memory, while Toshiba assigned only five part-time engineers to the project.
    • Shortly thereafter DRAMs were earning Toshiba $500 million a year, while Intel was receiving an estimated $500 million a year from flash memory.
    • In 1986, he began to work on a new type of flash memory his spare time.
    • The idea was a NAND-type (not/and) flash memory that could be used to replace the hard drives of computers.
    • The NAND type of memory sacrificed speed for compactness and a low price. The NAND type could contain more than double the amount of information and be slower if used like a floppy disk or hard drive.
    • The NOR type needs to be fast because it is used by the CPU to store its BIOS.
    • His aim was nothing less than to replace the hard disk drives on computers.
    • In 1987, without permission, he made batches of his new type of flash memory. This time Toshiba gained an insurmountable lead in both patents and process.
    • Toshiba tried to move him from his senior post to a position with no subordinates.
    • In 1997 the IEEE in New York gave him its Morris N. Liebman Memorial Award in recognition of his invention of flash memory while he worked at Toshiba.
    • Toshiba has withdrawn from the DRAM business and is devoting resources to Flash.
    • In 2006, Toshiba Toshiba is to pay $758,000 to settle a $9.1 million lawsuit brought by Masuoka the man credited with inventing Flash memory.
    • Masuoka’s tale illustrates how Japan lost the semiconductor race with the US in part by neglecting basic research in favor of applied work on established products.
    • Masuoka now a professor at Tohoku University where he received his degrees.
    • Since quitting Toshiba in 1994, he has been working a "three-dimensional silicon-based semiconductor? to extend the life of Moore’s Law.
    • In 2005 he became Chief Technology Officer of Unisantis Electronics.
    • In December 2997, Unisantis announced it will create and sell a new kind of "3-D" transistor that provides 10 times the computing speed of current chips.
  • Large Hadron Collider Achieves First Beam
    • The twin proton beams circulated in opposite directions around the 17-mile underground loop with no problems.
    • The $9 billion machine’s debut came as a blip on a screen in CERN’s control room, with a particle beam the size of a human hair appearing in the tightly-sealed 27-km (17-mile) circular tunnel.
    • "We’ve got a beam on the LHC," project leader Lyn Evans told his colleagues, who burst into applause at the news.
    • Though the event, called ?first beam? by physicists, was cause for celebration, the real experiment begins in about a month when they direct those beams to collide.
    • Theories about the collisions of enormously powerful proton beams present strange possibilities, such as the formation of microscopic black holes, the opening of new dimensions, and the creation of elusive, theorized dark matter.
    • One hope is that those peeks will help us understand the universe’s basic laws better, filling in glaring gaps in our knowledge and inspiring new theories that work equally well with all four of the universe’s most basic forces, thereby attaining the ?Holy Grail? of theoretical physics.
    • The Large Hadron Collider is the most powerful collider ever built.
    • Beams of protons traveling around the LHC’s underground loop will smash into each other with a combined energy of 14 tera-electron volts (TeV).
    • Though a single electron volt is fairly tiny ? on the scale of that used by a flying mosquito, according to CERN officials ? the LHC generates 14 trillion of them and packs them into a proton, more than a million times smaller.
    • The energy achieved by the LHC will be seven times more powerful than the current record holder, Fermilab’s Tevatron.
    • The Large Hadron Collider sits in a circular underground tunnel that crosses from Switzerland into France and back again. Along its circumference sit four detectors conducting experiments involving elementary particles.
    • Scientists hope to verify the Standard Model of the atom.
    • The Standard Model has been so robust that its predictions have been verified by virtually every experiment carried out to test it.
    • Just one particle predicted by the Standard Model ? the Higgs boson ? has yet to be seen in experiments.
    • Unfortunately, The Standard Model does not account for gravity.
    • So physicists designed the Large Hadron Collider in the hope that what it reveals will reveal how to extend the standard model. Perhaps giving support for String Theory.
  • Large Hadron Collider and Implications for US
    • The successful start-up of the Large Hadron Collider represents not just a huge victory for particle physics but also a victory for Europe.
    • Once upon a time there was a brain drain from Europe to the U.S. ? not only Albert Einstein in the 30s but also Wehrner von Braun in the 40s and all the way through the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
    • Today Europe ? especially CERN ? is the center of the science world.
      • The Europeans took the lead in building the LHC, kicking in $6 billion.
      • The US contributed just over $500 million.
    • Besides the LHC, there’s the ITER fusion research center in southern France and the HiPER laser-fusion facility.
    • In the meantime Congress is cutting support for physics research.
    • Michio Kaku regrets the actions by the US in funding this type of research.
    • According to Kaku, ?There could be a brain drain of some of our finest minds to Europe, because that’s where the action is. We had our chance, but Congress canceled our supercollider back in 1994. We can basically tag along after the Europeans, begging them for time on their machine ? but the action is in Europe now.?
    • Will the US contribute to the next major initiative: the International Linear Collider?
    • The US is supposedly interested but it will have to compete.
  • Va. Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Anti-Spam Law
    • The Virginia Supreme Court invalidated the state’s "anti-spam" law by saying the law violated the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech.
    • It took particular note of the banning of anonymous emails.
    • The ruling, arising from the Loudoun County criminal prosecution of Jeremy Jaynes of Raleigh, N.C., was also remarkable because the Supreme Court reversed itself:
    • Just six months ago, the same court upheld the anti-spam law by a 4-3 margin.
    • But Jaynes’s attorneys asked the court to reconsider, typically a long shot in appellate law, and the court not only reconsidered but changed its mind.
    • Jaynes was convicted in 2004 of sending tens of thousands of e-mails through America Online servers in Loudoun.
    • He was the first person tried under the law, enacted in 2003, and Loudoun Circuit Court Judge Thomas D. Horne sentenced him to nine years in prison.
    • Today’s ruling was written by Justice G. Steven Agee, who participated in the rehearing but has since retired. There were no dissenters.
    • Virginia’s anti-spam law makes it:
      • A misdemeanor to send unsolicited bulk e-mail by using false return address.
      • A felony if more than 10,000 recipients are mailed within 24-hours.
    • The court noted that "were the ‘Federalist Papers’ just being published today via e-mail, that transmission by Publius would violate the current Virginia statute."
    • The court suggested that the law does not limit its restrictions on spam to commercial or fraudulent e-mail, or to unprotected speech such as pornography or defamation.
    • "That statute is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face," the ruling concludes, "because it prohibits the anonymous transmission of all unsolicited bulk e-mails including those containing political, religious or other speech protected by the First Amendment to the United State Constitution."
  • Forecasters Implement New Hurricane-tracking Technique
    • A new technique that helps forecasters monitor land falling hurricanes, giving them frequent and detailed images of a storm’s location, was implemented this year.
    • The system, developed by NSF-funded researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., and NRL in Washington, D.C., has been implemented at the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
    • The technique, known as VORTRAC (Vortex Objective Radar Tracking and Circulation), was successfully tested by the hurricane center last year.
    • The system, which relies on existing Doppler radars along the U.S. coast, provides details on hurricane winds and central pressure every six minutes, indicating whether the storm is gathering strength in the final hours before reaching shore.
    • VORTRAC will enable hurricane specialists, for the first time, to continuously monitor the trend in central pressure as a dangerous storm nears land.
    • One of VORTRAC’s strengths is that it can use radar data to calculate the barometric pressure at the center of a hurricane, a key measure of its intensity.
    • VORTRAC uses the Doppler radar network established by NOAA in the 1990s.
    • About 20 of these radars are scattered along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines from Texas to Maine. Each radar can measure winds blowing toward or away from it, but no single radar could provide an estimate of a hurricane’s rotational winds and central pressure until now.
    • The VORTRAC team developed a series of mathematical formulas that combine data from a single radar near the center of a landfalling storm with general knowledge of Atlantic hurricane structure in order to map the approaching system’s rotational winds.
    • Each radar can sample conditions out to about 120 miles. This means VORTRAC can track an incoming hurricane for at least several hours.
    • To monitor the winds of a landfalling hurricane, forecasters now rely on aircraft to drop instrument packages into the storm that gather data on winds and pressure.
    • The aircraft can take readings no more than every few hours, which means that coastal communities may not be swiftly alerted to changes in approaching hurricanes.
  • Food Science: Chocolate
    • Cocoa have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago.
    • It was used by the Maya Culture, as early as the Sixth Century AD.
    • Maya called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl? "tree," and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water.
    • To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility.
    • Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree.
    • The use of chocolate worldwide begins with the discovery of America.
    • The Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella got its first look at the principal ingredient of chocolate when Columbus returned in triumph from America.
    • During his conquest of Mexico, Cortez found the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans in the preparation of the royal drink of the realm, "chocolatl", meaning warm liquid.
    • In 1519, Emperor Montezuma, who reportedly drank 50 or more portions daily, served chocolatl to his Spanish guests in great golden goblets, treating it like a food for the gods. Montezuma’s chocolatl was very bitter.
    • To make the concoction more agreeable to Europeans, Cortez and added sugar.
    • It did not take long before chocolate was viewed in Europe as a healthy food.
    • In 1657 the first of many famous English Chocolate Houses appeared.
    • By 1730, chocolate had dropped in price to within the financial reach of all.
    • The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 reduced the prices even further.
    • In 1847, an English company introduced solid "eating chocolate" through the development of fondant chocolate, a smooth and velvety variety.
    • The second development occurred in 1876 in Vevey, Switzerland, when Daniel Peter devised a way of adding milk to the chocolate, creating milk chocolate.
    • It was in the pre-revolutionary New England — 1765, to be exact — that the first chocolate factory was established in the US.