Sunday, March 13, 2011

Airplanes, anyone?

In William Halal's "Technology's Promise" the concern for a much improved global transportation system is an underpinning to continued, sustainable and ecologically friendly, economic growth. The advances in technology like, hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid gas/electric engines, and control automation do seem to offer some exciting prospects. These prospects do have real barriers, and the barriers must be considered.

For example the prediction that air transport may become as ubiquitous as car ownership; "A Plane in every driveway" as it were. But reality just says "no". There are tooooo many obstacles in the way of this one: economic, technical, legal, social, etc.

Consider air traffic control alone. Let's pretend that everyone is a good, curteous, and vigilant driver (ha,ha,ha,ha!!...oh!,My ribs!), can you imagine the size and complexity of the air traffic control system required to keep safety? this is assuming that some method of automatic air collision avoidance system existed? Even the Chinese couldn't afford that!.

No, this fellow was much closer with his prediction of a Moon base. Thats much more likely to happen --if-- there is a "Very" compelling value proposition behind it.

Then, we have Hydrogen fuel cells. Again, discounting the cost of the technology itself (significantly more expensive than a comparable 'hybrid' vehicle), you have the cost of infrastructure required to support the technology. Hydrogen does not occur naturally in sufficient quantities that it could just be collected. It has to be synthesized. Here entire new Hydrogen production, storage and delivery systems are needed. Hydrogen, as most folks know, is super volatile --much more so than gasoline. There is an entire development effort just in producing delivery systems that the average person can use (without blowing everyone up). The final note here, is that these predictions were expected to be in some sort of deliverable stage around 2010....its 2011 and were not much closer ubiquitous flight or hydrogen fuel cells than we were in 2005

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Need my Sleepy Time!

Well, heres a sleepy little flick to illustrate the need for my sleep-machine schtick!

Create your own video slideshow at

30 seconds isnt all that greate to convey the full message, but this works ok as a prototype!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Love and Hate ...The new Agora

The essay "The New Agora" is a work examplary of those that would cause your typical college COMP 101 instructor to reach for her nitro pills. "Problématique" describes this paper well. Perhaps this is why the authors chose the term for one of the many easter eggs strewn about this text.

The work is rife with mechanical and gramatical errors that make it ridiculously hard to understand: one section does not flow into the next, new concepts or terms are simply 'dropped' into the discussion without prior defintion or some kind of introduction, topics bounce around non sequitur. I wont beleaguer the point.

Then the relevance of some supporting arguments are suspect or just wrong. For example, the author points to "species based constraints" as inhibitors to dialogue. To support the point, a J. Madison entry in "The Federalist" is cited. However that passage says -nothing- about any kind of "species" dependency. Rather, the piece addresses the relationship between size of a population vs. the political homogeneity of that population. By inference the reader might think that there is some connection between communication attributes and the mechanics of achieving that homogenity --but its a stretch. The author does nothing to help someone draw that connection, if in fact, that is what is intended.

Now, does that mean that there isnt some species dependecy? No, not at all. In fact the next section of text offers three direct examples of said "species" specific constraints. The entire piece on Madison is just flotsam one has to muddle through to get on the path to understanding. Then we're assulted with (high school physics teachers, plug your ears)

"The discovery in the beginning of the twentieth century of the phenomenon called“Doppler effect,” i.e., the curvature of light traveling through a strong gravitationalfield, was predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity."(TOR)


How can this author expect credibility when he attempts to draw an analogy to a reference that is patently wrong? First, the Doppler effect was described in the late 19th century about 30 yrs before Einstein's TOR. Naturally then, the TOR could NOT have predicted such effect. Secondly, the Doppler effect has nothing to do with the bending of light in any form. It is, however, possible to measure the relative speed, distance and vector of an object that emits light because of the doppler effect. (see here: Once again, in spite of the blunder, some sense manages to dribble out at the end: In order for Einstein to "sell" the TOR, he had to describe it in terms of Reinmanian geometry vs. Euclidian geometry. This was not only a convenience, but also a necessity as Reinmann geometry also offrered the right language with wich to codify and manipulate his concepts.

But is the entire piece without merit? Obviously not or we wouldnt have been asked to examine it. So, I assume, this is a mining exercise whereby you must turn tons of rock to retrieve ounces of gold. Here are the nuggets I found:

1. To correctly capture collective thought, it is necessary to apply a communication and collaboration strategy which harvests thoughts and ideas, but decoupled from the passions of their originators such that they may be assessed on their own merit.

2. Such a strategy may be achieved via the application of "6 laws of dialog" of which the most significant is #2 "parsimony" (gee..why didnt they apply that on this paper?)

3. Synthesizing the collective mind requires at least 2 passes: the first to elicit the raw materials (thoughts and ideas), and the second actually develops these ideas in homogenized thoughts via an Interpretive Structural Modeling technique.

I'll end this review on what may seem a wierd note: I loved it! Its very much like when one goes to the pound to get a puppy and winds up picking the ugliest one...because he wagged his tail for you. This ugly paper wagged its tail for me. As a student preparing a dissertation on the contribution of knowledge management techniques to the creation and sustainment of enterprise architecture, I became immediately interested in the "group communication" message this train wreck contains. There can be no "management" of knowledge without accurate communication between individuals or groups. Likewise, communication is at the heart of enterprise planning.

This paper, re-written, or at least sent to a professional editor is actually quite golden with respect to content. But as it is, it takes a no life like me to sit there and plow throw the sludge, sifting and sorting, to find that value.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Web 2.0 tool: Isndr.... when "Quick n Dirty" is all you need

You know those times when you just need to pass a file to a friend, relative, coworker or other associate?  But the file you want to pass is either too  big for mail, or the sharing app provider wants either money and/ or information about you including what color your knickers are and what you had for breakfast?

No time for BS and just wanna "get er done"?   Try this!


This cool little tool lets you quickly share a file with a friend (or friends) super quick.  You upload your file and then send your recipients the "tiny URL" the site gives  you.  when  web over to that url, they will have instant access to download the file... the company that does this claims to not keep record of the file or the transaction so if privacy is a issue, well here is the fix.    Having said that, its just good user policy to encrypt ones data -anytime- it leaves your control....RSA is a great way to do that .... send  the url along with your public key and your recipient can unencrypt the file

Days of futurists past.... Gene Rodenberry


So screamed Scotty while attempting to outrun Klingons orbiting around Uranus. Unknowingly Scotty in 1966 was predicting the future in 2009. Ok, ok... it wasn't Scotty who made the prediction, it may more appropriately be attributed to the author of Star Trek - Gene Roddenberry. The Starship enterprise was powered by an ion-propulsion engine which used Dylithium crystals.

It turns out that 40 years later, Ion propulsion engines are science fact, not fiction. Dylithium, as it turns out, is a gas not a crystal...its the gaseous state of the element Lithium...and its not used for propulsion.

Xenon gas, on the other hand is! In fact, the Ion propulsion engine does now exist, and its used to propel satellites through space. a certain exploratory research satellite named "Dawn" was launched in late 2009 towards to asteroidsCeres and Vesta. Unlike its predecessor "one trick pony" research satellites, Dawn entered orbit around the first asteroid, studied it and returned information to earth. It then thrust out of orbit and moved to the next asteroid to repeat the sequence...all using a Xenon ion propulsion drive.

So... what forces could have transfiormed an imaginary propulsion system and enabled today's sattelite ? The first would seem to be sociological.  The generation that grew up as kids watching StarTrek on TV is todays engineers and scientists.  The notion of space flight for that generation was not so far fetched.  After all, we were in the middle of  space race with Russia and just a couple of years later we put a man on the moon.  These science facts of the time easily reinforced anyone who may have thought "well, why not?"  From another point of view, the technical advances over the last 40 years have become tremendous enablers!.. Just one, alone, has made a myriad of things happen: Electronic miniaturization.   Via this one marvel where circuits are now designed at the atomic level,  SO many MILLIONS of transistors packed into the size of a postage stamp makes the ROOM sized computers of the 60s laughable!...speaking of laughable,

Capt. Kirk's "communicator" didn't have a video screen, nor could it be used to play games. But it did make a cool little "weep weep" sound when you flipped it open....


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The sleep machine

What if...

It were possible to put on your 'sleeping cap' and drift off to a deep relaxing sleep? What if said cap had no consequences or side effects like those of modern sleep-aid drugs (including anesthetics) or the very common booze bottle?  Why do this?

Because exhaustion has been demonstrated to be a major cause in traffic accidents, poor job performance, social dysfunction and a host of other consequences[1].  Insomnia and/or "restless sleep" happens for many reasons and consequently there are also many  treatment therapies.   However, as noted previously  "sleep-aids" are the common approach to sleep induction.  I suspect that a good part of sleep-aid use is because its "fast and easy".. I suppose that meditation or exercise are equally effective sleep inducing mechanisms, but they require both time and effort.  What the objective is, then, is to develop and equally "quick n easy" sleep solution that replaces both over-the-counter and prespcription drugs.

"Restful" sleep has been identified as that portion the sleep cycle known as Delta wave sleep where the brain is at itsl lowest point of activity during sleep [2]. Sleeplessnes or non restful sleep can be due to numerous things but most treatments are very uncomfortable for the user (e.g CPAP) or have many undesireable side effects (drugs). The device in question induces sleep by stimulating the brain electronically, and in fact, had already been studied over 40 years ago [3] but for reasons unclear to me, never really gathered the momentum necessary to become a commercial product.

I suspect a couple of reasons:  First, technical issues.  Technology of 40 years ago may have  not have allowed practical application of the technology outside of a clinical setting, in addition, the state of  the body of knowledge may not have been sufficient, at the time, to deliver a product that was thoroughly safety tested. Secondly, social unawareness of the linkages between insomnia, exhaustion, performance, and morbidity issues.  That is, whereas today we know that exhaustion (from insomnia or restless sleep) is a the root of many accidents, back then these linkages were not so clear. Therefore insomnia was understood in the more classical sense and wasnt reall the subject of public discourse.  That brings ut to today...

Whare trying to become a 'natural' and 'green' society.  That means many things,but one among them is the desire to improve our lives in more natural ways.  I extend this concept by interpreting 'natural' as the desire to live in a less chemically dependent world.  With that,  I would want to revive research in electronarcosis and its potential consequent products.  Because there is precedent research and because science can today address this topic so much more broadly,  I  suspect that both Delphi and NGT methods of eliciting new ideas and approaches to this topic.  Not to mention, both the Delphi method and NGT are already heavily used approaches in the field of medical sciences.   In fact, I would see an approach whereby NGT efforts are subsequently supported by Delphi pannels  that allow the introduction of other contexts into the main research question.  The idea here is to be able to capture the 'breadth a depth'  of  my propsed device so that it does, in fact, meet its proposed goals of "restful sleep induction without noxious side effects"

[1] Naitoh,P., Kelly,T.L. & Englund, C. (1991) lHealth Effects of Sleep Deprivation,

[2] Stbaus, B., Elkind, A. & Bodian, C. (1964) Electrical Induction of Sleep, The American Journal of the Medical Sciences (248)5 514-520

[3] Magora, F., Beller, A., Aladjemoff, L., Magora, A. & Tannebaumm, J. (1965) Observations on electrically induced sleep in man,  British Journal of Anesthesia (37) 480

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

<RANT> Its kind of sad that the lights of progress are typically dimmed by politics and greed. While I fully believe that authors deserve reward for their efforts, the current IP envrionment has little to do with the moral "right and wrong" of the issue and a lot more with the greedy "dollars per copy" issue which is in my mind despicable. </rant>

That litle rant simply sets off the point that academia and technology can't solve the issues of the human condition. Nonetheless, the horizon report highlights the beauty of the internet: a giant ubiquitous, high speed, library void of social, political and religious boundries which makes available a wealth of information to many who would not have that access any other way before. With all these sources of data, people can gain new insights, synthesize new information and add many new data points to triangulation efforts.

WRT to technology, I recall the old adage "the more things change, the more they remain the same". The latest "new" technology is actually a pretty OLD concept: "cloud computing"...its been done before. It was called "Mainframe time/partition sharing" The differences are, of course, technology implementation and system capability. Whereas mainframes had limited WAN acces over private transports, today's server farms (the analog) have access anywhere there is an internet POP. Moreover, applications arent limited to what is available on any specific machine...given the beauty of virtuallization in terms of end-platforms and networks, from the user perspective "anything can be anywhere".

What technology truely offers (beyond better mouse-traps) is the opportunity for all persons to exercise their minds in ways that were once limited to the most priviledged.