Monday, September 19, 2011

Nuclear Generators Go Green

  • Nuclear "generators" for the home, car, and industry are claimed to be truly green, unlike faux-green nuclear "reactors" which emit no greenhouse gases, but create dangerous nuclear waste. Called nuclear-powered laser-turbine electricity generators, they harness harmless thorium ore instead of radioactive uranium.Nuclear power from reactors nudges enriched uranium into a critical mass that unless controlled can create a chain reaction that produces dangerous radioactive byproducts that must be kept safe from humans for thousands of years. Nuclear-powered laser-turbine electricity generators, on the other hand, harness the harmless radiation from the natural decay of thorium--an abundant natural ore.
    "Our device is not a reactor," said Charles Stevens, founder of Laser Power Systems LLC, who has become sensitive to people calling his device a reactor. "Our device is a laser-turbine electricity generator that uses sub-critical thorium as its power source."

    Cadillac hypothesized that a thorium fueled power plant in this concept car could carry enough fuel when manufactured to power it for its entire lifetime. (SOURCE: Cadillac)

    Stevens started his research circa 1984 when he invented a laser that could be powered by rare earth metals. Over the years his research has worked its way up the periodic table to demonstrate how heavier and heavier atoms can produce lasers of increasingly greater power. Eventually LPS perfected a uranium-powered laser that produced their highest power yet.  However, three-years ago Stevens decided to "go green" and throttle back from dangerously radioactive materials to thorium, which he claims is a safe source of nuclear power.
    "Thorium can be use to power a laser that creates temperatures in excess of 3000 degrees," said Stevens. "We use it to heat water, which makes steam to drive a turbine that turns a generator to create electricity."
    LPS currently has several prototypes of its thorium-powered laser-turbine generator. A 5 kilowatt unit is for general portable use, but its 250 kilowatt unit could substitute for an automobile engine. The automobile engine sized unit measures just 12-by-12-by-26 inches, weighs 500 pounds, and can produce the equivalent of about 335 horsepower. In addition, an electric automobile powered by thorium could be delivered with enough fuel to last its entire lifetime, since about one gram of thorium is the equivalent of about 7500 gallons of gasoline, and 8 grams of thorium could power a typical car for over 300,000 miles. LPS also has a 2.5 megawatt unit on the drawing board that could power about 5,000 homes with a unit about the size of a refrigerator.
    LPS's proprietary thorium-fueled laser-turbine electricity generators, which are protected by 20 patents, use a Tesla coil to drive a spark-plug-like device which accelerates the natural decay of thorium. The emitted alpha- and beta-particles are used by proprietary electronics to stimulate a gas laser into emission in a sub-critical reaction that never emits dangerous radiation like gamma-rays.
    According to Stevens, thorium is four to five times more abundant than uranium, with known worldwide resources available that could power everything on the planet for about 5000 years. After that, the Moon has massive deposits of thorium which NASA has already mapped, and which could be scooped up from the surface without the need for convention deep-mining equipment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Remember that no one can hurt your feelings without your cooperation and willingness.

No one can cause you to have any kind of emotional reaction without your first giving them permission to do so. You alone are responsible for your feelings and emotions. When you know what you plan to do with your life, you will not allow annoying situations to deter you from your goals for long. If you set ambitious goals for yourself and work enthusiastically toward them, you will quickly realize that you don’t have time to allow petty annoyances to upset you and keep you from your objectives.

Permanent link to this post: Remember that no one can hurt your feelings without your cooperation and willingness.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The BDPA Insider - September 11, 2011

The BDPA Insider - September 11, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:  

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--Come prepared with your elevator pitch!

Discussion Topics:

Bring your tough job search questions to the meeting.

--Good News
--Upcoming events

--Volunteer Opportunities

Date: Monday, September 12, 2011

Start Time: 07:30 PM Central Daylight Time, 8:30 PM Eastern

End Time: 08:25 PM Central Daylight Time, 9:25 PM Eastern

Dial-in Number: 1-213-289-0500 (Los Angeles)

Participant Access Code: 671366

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September 6th, 2011
By Ricardo Wilkins
As IT Professionals, we spend many years developing our crafts and investing in our careers. Along the way, we have all been fortunate enough to get help from many sources, including colleagues and mentors who decided to take the time to share their knowledge and experience with us.

As a result, we grow in our profession. Most of us inevitably ask the question - what can I do to give back and make the same investment in others someone made in me? Fortunately, there are many ways in which we can 'return the favor' in the IT Community while making a positive impact on our industry.

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BDPA iRadio Show host Franne McNeal hosted a Special Edition of the Internet radio show that featured student participants in the 2011 BDPA Youth Technology Camp (YTC) held last month in Chicago. This annual event provides interactive, hands-on workshops, seminars, and activities for students seeking to gain valuable exposure in leading edge technology topics. This event gives students the opportunity to network with young entrepreneurs and other youth from around the country who are pursuing academic and professional futures in the computer technology industry.

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L-R: William Morgan, Samuel Gonzalez, Brian Stempin (trainer), Norman Morrison, Hayward West (chapter president) and Pedro Soto

The Student Information Technology Education & Scholarship (SITES) program hosted by our BDPA Philadelphia chapter covers a variety of topics in the world of information technology. Instruction is provided in creating databases using MySQL, programming, Java, Linux and web development. The training not only prepares students to compete in regional and national competitions, but also provides them with skills in team building that can be valuable as they enter into the workforce.

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Article by Kai Dupé, Cross-posted from Atlanta Post
There are over 425,000 mobile apps available on Apple's App Store for the iPhone. The Android Marketplace now has well over 30,000 apps for their devices. According to the website TechCrunch, there has been more than 1 Billion downloads from the App Store as of April 2009. Here is a question? How many of these apps are produced by African Americans?

I would venture to guess we are producing very little. Mobile phones are the most ubiquitous way people communicate and interact with information. With more than 5 billions users communicating and interacting on these devices, the lack of African Americans producing mobile apps has to change.

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Soulclap to the folks at Black Web 2.0 for letting us know that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation will dedicate some time in their annual conference to talk about a topic that is increasingly popular by the day, technology. Technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, along with members of the African American tech community will take part in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

During the Annual Legislative Conference, held on September 23rd from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) will host an issue forum, entitled 'African Americans Joining the Leading Edge of the High Tech Boom'.

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Interviews can be daunting, but you can rock them with a little preparation and practice! Not sure how to make a great impression in an interview? Impress your future employer with these interview tips:

  1. Prepare for the interview
  2. Dress well
  3. Arrive on time
  4. Act confident
  5. Ask intelligent questions
  6. Say "Thanks"

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PS: Please share this information with your friends, co-workers, church members, etc so that they can help us pass the word. The key is that we must share what we know with others so we can all grow and prosper.
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NASA Space Laser to Make Radio Obsolete

Radio-based space communications could be made obsolete by a laser-based long-haul optical connection that runs 10 to 100 times faster.NASA will demonstrate a long-haul optical network by connecting California and Hawaii with a laser communication link that works similarly to fiber optics, sans the fiber. Called a free-space optical connection--as opposed to within a fiber--the first demonstration will show that long-haul lasers can communicate with pulses of light at 100M bps.
Today, space probes must transmit data back at 6M bps using radio waves, taking almost 90 minutes to receive a single 4GB high-resolution image. However, by encoding the bits on laser beams--like terrestrial long-haul fiber-optic networks--that same image would take only approximately five minutes to transmit. Similar to fiber-optic telecommunications--sans the fiber--NASA hopes to demonstrate its free-space optical transceivers between ground bases in California and Hawaii by bouncing their communications laser off a satellite. If the test is successful, NASA's Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Mission (LCRD) could also allow remote telepresence capabilities where astronauts would use remote-control robots to visit heavenly bodies virtually.
Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) will act as a long-haul fiber-optic network--sans the fiber. (Source: NASA)
"Optical communication will enable a rapid return of the voluminous data associated with sending spacecraft and humans to new frontiers," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA headquarters in Washington during the announcement of the technology demonstration program for its laser-based communications. The $175 million NASA Technology Demonstration Mission program will support two other missions--one testing a new atomic clock for precise space navigation, and the other a solar-sail for propellant-free propulsion.
According to NASA, free-space laser communications not only provide significantly higher data rates, compared with radio-frequency communications, but lasers also decreased the mass, size and power consumption of the spacecraft using them. The project could also allow real-time data streaming from instruments that today must store-and-forward files, like hyper-spectral imagers and synthetic aperture radar (SAR). And for astronauts, laser-speeded communications will allow them to use telepresence to safely investigate nearby planets, moons and asteroids.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Maryland) will build the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) system with the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) office in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist. The mission, which is just one of three technology demonstration missions, will take four years to achieve and is slated to be finished in 2016. The other two technology demonstration missions--a deep-space atomic clock for precise space navigation and a propellant-free solar-sail propulsion system--will run in parallel, but will only take three years to achieve, and will be demonstrated in 2015

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What is a Mini Maker Faire and how to create one

Makers: Mini Maker Faire Toronto from Ryan Varga on Vimeo.

Motivational Moment


In any organized endeavor, obstacles are going to occur. Sometimes they
appear  in the form of technical problems; sometimes they are disputes
between members of the team over which course is best to follow. If you have
set an example of initiative and open communication, you will find that your
team has the mental and spiritual resources to overcome these kinds of
struggles. A group of people who trust their leader and one another don’t
waste energy jockeying for prestige. They know that they will all benefit
from a solution, and they are motivated to find it by sharing the knowledge
and ideas. From these many parts a skilled leader can create the necessary
solution, but only if a spirit of friendliness and honesty prevails.

Smart Cities Will Require Smarter Sensors

  • A team of German scientists is working to create better sensors in order to enable “smart cities.” In such cities, all major aspects of infrastructure would be connected to increase efficiencies, cut costs, and save energy.Recently at Smarter Technology, we wrote about a smartphone-based sensor system to help drivers save fuel by tracking traffic lights. Researchers in Germany are taking this type of concept to the next level by imagining whole cities tracked by sensors. In the envisioned “smart cities,” everything from traffic lights to houses to health care systems would be improved with mobile devices.
    To that end, a team of computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians from TU Darmstadt and the University of Kassel are working on what they call the “Cocoon” project. In their vision of a smart city, a network of sensors would act as transceivers to receive data, analyze it and transmit it to other sensors.
    The team’s “Smart Home” system is already available to network and allows control of household devices for improved energy efficiency. The team hopes to now create linked "Smart Hospital," "Smart Industry" and "Smart Farm" systems to improve efficiencies around a city.
    According to the researchers, a major setback in developing citywide systems like this is the lack of appropriate sensor devices.

    In a smart city, all aspects of city infrastructure would be connected.
    "Current types of antennae radiate omni-directionally, like light bulbs,” explained Rolf Jakoby, a professor of TU Darmstadt's Electrical Engineering and Information Technology Department, according to a statement. “We intend to create conditions, under which antennae will, in the future, behave like spotlights that, once they have located a sought device, will track it, while suppressing interference by stray electromagnetic radiation from other devices that might also be present in the area."
    In working toward creating this type of antenna, Jakoby and his team have already added energy-saving reconfigurable amplifiers terrestrial digital-television (TDTV) transmitters.
    "If all of Germany's TDTV-transmitters were equipped with such amplifiers, we could shut down one nuclear power plant," he said.
    Many smart-city plans require all devices to cooperate across a large range of communications protocols. According to the research team, however, this type of cooperation is unrealistic.
    "Converting all devices to a common communications protocol is infeasible, which is why we are seeking a new protocol that would be superimposed upon everything and allow them to communicate via several protocols," explained Jakoby.
    Although smart cities might sound futuristic, projects such as the traffic sensors at MIT are quickly paving the way to connected, fuel-saving communications networks.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Energy Gap Being Filled by Social Media

  • A lack of understanding of their energy bills is prompting consumers to depend on the advice of friends and family, opening opportunities for new avenues for education, according to the "2011 IBM Global Utility Consumer Survey."Energy consumers worldwide want to conserve and take advantage of smarter technologies but lack a basic understanding of how to do so. Consumers surveyed by the "2011 IBM Global Utility Consumer Survey" say they need smarter ways of making their energy decisions.
    "We surveyed over 10,000 people in 17 different countries in nine different languages, and really focused on their expectations and perceptions as to where they see energy fitting into their lives," said Michael Valocchi, vice president, Global Energy & Utilities Industry Leader for IBM Global Business Services. "We found a really startling lack of knowledge."

    IBM helped Malta build the world’s first national smart utility grid, replacing 250,000 analog electric meters with smarter meters that track usage in real-time, identify sources of loss, set variable rates, and is being integrated with a new smart water metering system. (Source: IBM)
    According to Valocchi, "30 percent didn't understand the basics of their energy bill" leading to decision-making processes that depended on the evaluations of trusted advisers, rather than on understanding the clear choices being made available to them by the smart grid and smart meters. Younger consumers, in particular, were much more inclined to just depend on the consensual decisions of their social networks rather than on the traditional financial motivations being hawked by energy providers.
    "Younger consumers under 25 are three times more likely to make their energy decisions based on family or friends advise," said Valocchi. "That’s information that is outside the control of the energy provider itself."
    IBM's survey revealed that 60 percent of consumers still do not even understand the terms "smart grid" and "smart meter," but that understanding was key to their acceptance. For instance, 61 percent approved of smarter energy efforts when they finally understood them, but that only 43 percent, without a basic understanding of smart energy efforts, approved of them.
    "People want to conserve energy," said Valocchi. "We just need to get better at showing them how."
    IBM is recommending that instead of trying to educate consumers in the language and metrics of electrical energy--such as "dollars per kwh"—utilities instead should create consumer-oriented portals that compare a consumer's energy consumption with that of their neighbors, presenting clear visual evidence of the results of conservation and describing simple, effective methods of improving their standing among their peers.
    "We are providing energy providers with a new way of engaging their consumers in a way that allows them to see the choices they can make in terms that they understand," said Valocchi. "It’s going to allow a whole new way of customer engagement that we have never seen in the industry."
    As an example of progress already made, IBM described on-going efforts with the government of Malta (a small central Mediterranean archipelago) where research has revealed that deploying smart meters needs to be coupled with new presentations in billing that focus on the concrete steps that need to be taken to improve conservation with the new technology. The five-year effort, now in its fourth year, is a harbinger of how to make smart energy deployments successful and avoid consumer backlash during initial deployments.
    "Smart metering needs to go hand in hand with the larger transformation," said Jean-Christophe Samin, project manager for IBM’s smart grid deployment for electricity and water in Malta.
    According to Samin, the entire information chain needs to enhance consumer awareness, from the smart meter and the information it provides to the billing system.
    IBM's pilot efforts with the Malta-government-owned Enemalta Corporation and Water Services Corporation include creating an online smart energy portal that explains conservation in easy-to-understand terms that offer just a few simple concrete choices, then provide the tools for measuring their progress in comparison to the efforts of their peers that IBM calls "social proof."

Tracking Cholera Outbreaks in Post-Earthquake Haiti

  • Cholera has recently returned to Haiti, where it poses a deadly threat. A new computer-forecasting tool is enabling researchers to predict how the disease is spreading in order to contain it.Technological tools have recently helped track epidemics of influenza and tropical diseases such as dengue fever. With a new project, researchers are using computer forecasting to predict outbreaks of cholera, a highly contagious and deadly disease.
    In earthquake-damaged Haiti, cholera, spread by both human contact and contaminated water, is on the rise. But its multiple means of transmission make the disease difficult to track and contain.

    In Haiti, cholera is spread both by contaminated water and human contact, making the disease difficult to track. (Source: Ohio State University)
    A team of researchers from Ohio State University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working on a computer-modeling tool to help track where and how the disease is spreading.
    With the tool, researchers have already identified several patterns in cholera outbreaks. New strains of the disease, for example, usually cause a small outbreak of cases in the fall and then a larger epidemic in the summer.
    “Before the earthquake, cholera hadn't been reported in Haiti in decades, so we're in new territory as far as what the disease will do there in the coming months and years,” said Joseph Tien, professor of mathematics at Ohio State, in a statement. “There are lots of different factors to consider -- environmental conditions affecting the ability of the cholera bacteria to persist in water bodies, variation in water quality and sanitation in different locales, infection-derived immunity, seasonal drivers such as rainfall.  We're hoping to use mathematics to help piece the puzzle together.”
    Tien, along with other Ohio State researchers, including Marisa Eisenberg, has made several trips to Haiti, where cholera is currently rampant.
    “Two neighbors may both get cholera, but they didn’t necessarily get it from the same source,” Eisenberg explained in a statement. Even if one source is contained, another source can continue to spread the disease.
    One problem in creating an accurate prediction tool is the different types of data reported by various organizations. Local hospitals, UNICEF and the United Nations all provide information at different scales, such as by country or by city. Eisenberg is working on algorithms that help align and analyze different data at once.
    By identifying sources of cholera and then tracking the movement of that source, the forecasting tool can help predict and prevent outbreaks of the disease. It is able to predict the likelihood of cholera based on various factors, including population, water sources, travel and weather.
    As many organizations begin to run out of relief funds, the computer program should enable groups to use resources in optimized ways.
    A paper about the research was recently published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The National Science Foundation is providing funding for the team.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Motivational Moment


Samuel Johnson once observed that the prospect of being hanged wonderfully
focuses the mind. You yourself may have found that your mind seems sharpest
when you are faced with the greatest difficulties. Desperation often proves
you really are better than you think. But with the exception of an immediate
threat  to  your life or health, there are few situations that require
instantaneous action. When the world seems to be conspiring against you and
nothing is working out right, pause for a few moments to think the situation
through -- then develop the most appropriate plan of action, the one that
has the greatest likelihood of success.