Dark matter may be older than the Big Bang

Dark matter may be older than the Big Bang

Date:
August 7, 2019
Source:
Johns Hopkins University
Summary:
Dark matter, which researchers believe make up about 80% of the universe’s mass, is one of the most elusive mysteries in modern physics. What exactly it is and how it came to be is a mystery, but a new study now suggests that dark matter may have existed before the Big Bang.
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Big Bang illustration (stock image).
Credit: © Andrea Danti / Adobe Stock
 
 

Dark matter, which researchers believe make up about 80% of the universe’s mass, is one of the most elusive mysteries in modern physics. What exactly it is and how it came to be is a mystery, but a new Johns Hopkins University study now suggests that dark matter may have existed before the Big Bang.

The study, published August 7 in Physical Review Letters, presents a new idea of how dark matter was born and how to identify it with astronomical observations.

“The study revealed a new connection between particle physics and astronomy. If dark matter consists of new particles that were born before the Big Bang, they affect the way galaxies are distributed in the sky in a unique way. This connection may be used to reveal their identity and make conclusions about the times before the Big Bang too,” says Tommi Tenkanen, a postdoctoral fellow in Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University and the study’s author.

While not much is known about its origins, astronomers have shown that dark matter plays a crucial role in the formation of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Though not directly observable, scientists know dark matter exists by its gravitation effects on how visible matter moves and is distributed in space.

For a long time, researchers believed that dark matter must be a leftover substance from the Big Bang. Researchers have long sought this kind of dark matter, but so far all experimental searches have been unsuccessful.

“If dark matter were truly a remnant of the Big Bang, then in many cases researchers should have seen a direct signal of dark matter in different particle physics experiments already,” says Tenkanen.

Using a new, simple mathematical framework, the study shows that dark matter may have been produced before the Big Bang during an era known as the cosmic inflation when space was expanding very rapidly. The rapid expansion is believed to lead to copious production of certain types of particles called scalars. So far, only one scalar particle has been discovered, the famous Higgs boson.

“We do not know what dark matter is, but if it has anything to do with any scalar particles, it may be older than the Big Bang. With the proposed mathematical scenario, we don’t have to assume new types of interactions between visible and dark matter beyond gravity, which we already know is there,” explains Tenkanen.

While the idea that dark matter existed before the Big Bang is not new, other theorists have not been able to come up with calculations that support the idea. The new study shows that researchers have always overlooked the simplest possible mathematical scenario for dark matter’s origins, he says.

The new study also suggests a way to test the origin of dark matter by observing the signatures dark matter leaves on the distribution of matter in the universe.

“While this type of dark matter is too elusive to be found in particle experiments, it can reveal its presence in astronomical observations. We will soon learn more about the origin of dark matter when the Euclid satellite is launched in 2022. It’s going to be very exciting to see what it will reveal about dark matter and if its findings can be used to peek into the times before the Big Bang.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Johns Hopkins UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Tommi Tenkanen. Dark Matter from Scalar Field FluctuationsPhysical Review Letters, 2019 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.061302

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University. “Dark matter may be older than the Big Bang.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 August 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190807190816.htm>.
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A Glass Battery That Keeps Getting Better?

A prototype solid-state battery based on lithium and glass faces criticism over claims that its capacity increases over time

Illustration of a battery
Illustration: iStockphoto
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Is there such a thing as a battery whose capacity to store energy increases with age? One respected team of researchers say they have developed just such a technology. Controversy surrounds their claims, however, in part because thermodynamics might seem to demand that a battery only deteriorates over many charge-discharge cycles.

The researchers have a response for that critique and continue to publish peer-reviewed papers about this work. If such claims came from almost any other lab, they might be ignored and shunned by the broader community of battery researchers, the same way physicists turn their noses up at anything that smacks of a perpetual motion machine.

But this lab belongs to one of the most celebrated battery pioneers today—and one of the inventors of the lithium-ion battery itself. John Goodenough, who at 96 continues to research and publish like scientists one-third his age, last year joined with three co-authors in publishing a paper that grabbed headlines. (Spectrum had profiled him and his battery technology the year before, following an initial announcement about his group’s new glass battery.)

Goodenough and collaborators claimed they’d developed a non-flammable lithium battery (whose electrolyte was based on a glass powder) that had twice the energy density of traditional lithium-ion batteries. They also published a graph that showed an increase in capacity over more than 300 charge-discharge cycles. (This increase, however, pales in comparison to the cell’s at least 23,000-cycle lifespan.)

Maria Helena Braga, associate professor and head of the engineering physics department at the University of Porto in Portugal, has been one of Goodenough’s chief collaborators in the spate of recent papers around the glass battery.

“We are complex beings that happen between an entropy increase,” she says about the increased capacity claims—and any alleged violation of thermodynamics. “I don’t know why people make a big thing about this.”

This prototype of a non-flammable lithium-ion battery has an electrolyte based on a glass powder.
Photo: Maria Helena Braga
This prototype of a non-flammable lithium-ion battery has an electrolyte based on a glass powder.

She says their glass electrolyte is a ferroelectric material—a material whose polarization switches back and forth in the presence of an outside field. So charge-discharge cycles are effectively jiggling the electrolyte back and forth and perhaps, over time, finding the ideal configuration of each electromagnetic dipole.

“This is what happens as you are charging and discharging,” Braga says. “You are aligning the ferroelectric dipoles.”

She and collaborators published part of their argument in the journal Materials Theory earlier this year. Another part, she says, is under peer review.

Braga says their group has been working with companies looking to license the battery technology. Because no official announcements have been made, she said she could not reveal who the licensors are or what technology they might be developing with this battery.

She did say that large battery banks that might be spun off from this research stand to not only have higher capacity, but also be substantially lighter than lithium ions. Although, she adds, perhaps the greatest weight savings will come not from comparing one battery cell’s mass with another. “The biggest difference would be that you don’t have to have the same stainless steel bunkers in each of the cells,” she says. 

Sealing off each battery cell from each other—to reduce the risk of runaway fire—would not be necessary with a non-flammable battery. As would any extensive battery management system (BMS) that carefully monitors battery performance in EVs and other technologies that use large banks of batteries.

“The BMS is to control temperatures,” she says. “In our case, we don’t have to have that.” In fact, she adds, up to a point, rising temperatures only increase the electrolyte’s performance.

As for the future of the Goodenough/Braga battery, she projects it will first be used in a commercial product in three years. So circa 2022, if her forecasts are right, you might see an EV-maker or grid battery storage company, or a consumer-electronics manufacturer boast about a new, high-capacity (and non-flammable!) battery.

And if they claim the battery initially even increases its capacity as you charge and discharge it, then you’ll know whether Braga and her collaborators’ argument ultimately won out.

This post was updated on 3 June 2019. 

3D-Printed Semiconductor Cube Could Convert Waste Heat to Electricity

Here’s how these cubeoids could harness waste heat from steel plants

Image of new 3D technique
Photo: SPECIFIC team – Swansea University
New 3D printed technique for thermoelectrics developed by the SPECIFIC research team.

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From his office at Swansea University in the United Kingdom, associate professor Matthew Carnie has a good view of Tata Steel’s furnace stacks. To some, those chimneys rising over Port Talbot are unsightly. To Carnie, they’re an opportunity. They emit a good portion of the plant’s waste heat, which overall has the same power output as some nuclear plants, says Carnie—around 1,300 megawatts, according to his calculations.

 

With that much potential power waiting to be captured, Carnie and his research team have developed a hybrid, 3D-printed semiconductor material that converts waste heat into electricity. It’s 50 percent more efficient than another inexpensive semiconductor material, lead telluride, that’s screen-printed, and the new material could be assembled cheaply into a device that converts up to 10 percent of heat wherever it’s applied.

 

“Ideally, they could be deployed in areas where there is high-grade waste heat and be used to generate power to help with energy efficiency,” says Carnie. With one-sixth of all energy used by industry in the United Kingdom pouring into the atmosphere as waste heat, the possibilities are big, he says.

 

Carnie, who has expertise in printed photovoltaics, lately has been exploring the field of thermoelectrics. Here, materials like semiconductors and electrical conductors produce a voltage when hot electrons flow from one kind of heated material to another, relatively cooler kind. To date, the most efficient semiconductor material available is tin selenide, made from tin and selenium. Although it holds the record for efficiency of waste-heat conversion, it hasn’t been made into a commercial device.

 

To work with it, Carnie would need the appropriate rigs—ones that could sinter materials with plasma or press them at high pressures and temperatures in excess of several hundred degrees Celsius. Those machines were not in his department’s budget.

 

Carnie wondered if he could transfer some of what he knew from printing photovoltaic materials to thermoelectrics. He asked team member and postdoctoral researcher, Matthew Burton, if they could turn tin selenide into an ink. No one had done that before, and Burton was skeptical. But he made it happen by mixing tin and selenium powder with organic binders and water.

 

Burton then poured the ink into tiny cube-shaped molds about 10 millimeters on each side and dried them in an oven at 120 degrees Celsius. Lastly, he baked the cubeoids at more than 800 degrees K to burn off the organic binders.  

 

Efficiency measurements from the first results were promising, says Carnie. In the field of thermoelectric devices, efficiency is measured by a “figure of merit” number, known as ZT. Anything above 1 ZT is considered very promising. Burton’s first cubes tested at around .5 ZT. After tweaking the amount of binder and the ratios of tin to selenium, Burton was able to achieve 1.7 ZT.

 

“That is a record for thermoelectric material made in this fashion,” says Carnie.

 

Far more research is needed, says Carnie. For starters, they’ve made just one of the two different semiconductor materials needed—the type that holds the hot electrons. They still need to make the “cooler” side, where the electrons flow to. But this fall, Tata Steel is sponsoring a PhD student to help develop the second part, and eventually both materials will be sandwiched between slices of ceramic to make a thermoelectric device.

 

Whether the steel plant eventually adopts such a system will depend on cost, says Carnie. But he’s hopeful. Room-temperature ink is cheap to mix up and if they can move the ink to a nozzle-based system and print it with continuous manufacturing methods, it would be a dramatic improvement, he says.

 

The research was published in Advanced Energy Materials.

Updated 20 June 2018

New Porous Silicon Battery to be Available Commercially Soon

Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem With New Porous Silicon Battery

A Canadian company emerges from stealth mode to provide grid-scale energy storage with its high-density battery tech

Image of Christine Hallquist
Photo: Denial Documentary
Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power plans to commercialize a porous silicon battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI.
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A new Canadian company with roots in Vermont has emerged from stealth mode and has ambitious plans to roll out a new grid-scale battery in the year ahead. The longshot storage technology, targeted at utilities, offers four times the energy density and four times the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, the company says, and will be available for half the price.

 

The new company’s CEO, a former Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, founded Cross Border Power in the wake of her electoral loss last November. Within days after the election, she was at her computer and writing a thesis (since posted on her campaign website) that she boldly calls “[The] North American Solution to Climate Change.”

 

One of Christine Hallquist’s planks as gubernatorial candidate was to set the Green Mountain state on a path to obtaining 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. In the final weeks of the election, the Republican Governors Association attacked Hallquist’s campaign by claiming her vision would raise taxes on Vermonters and hike gasoline prices at the pump.

 

Today, she might agree that economics may indeed shape the future of renewable energy—but through low prices, not high ones. “I think we’re at the point, especially with our batteries, that renewables are going to be cheaper than any of the fossil fuels,” she says.

 

Before she ran for governor, Hallquist was CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative where she experienced firsthand the difficulties of transitioning to renewable energy without viable grid-scale storage.

 

Through her new venture, she’s now trying to provide a solution to wind and solar energy’s intermittency. That opportunity emerged after she published her “Solution” paper online, in which she wrote: “Battery storage is the holy grail for extensive deployment of renewables.”

 

A group of Canadian investors and venture capitalists, having followed Hallquist’s gubernatorial run and read her climate change “Solution” position paper, contacted her about a battery technology that was still in stealth mode. The investors, who Hallquist says are themselves still keeping out of the public spotlight, began as a Canadian assortment of venture capitalists and have since expanded to include a number of American financiers as well.

 

The battery they’re touting is made by the Bothell, Wash.-based company XNRGI. According to its website, an XNRGI cell uses existing silicon semiconductor manufacturing technology to engineer a “porous” silicon battery. “Think of a traditional silicon wafer that we use for all of our electronics today,” Hallquist says. “They etch a 20 x 20 micron honeycomb into that silicon to make a porous silicon. They use the same wafer for the anode and the cathode.”

 

The idea behind the XNRGI battery is an unconventional one, depicted in a two-minute explainer video and five-page white paper [PDF] from the company. The etched silicon wafers, which are later coated with lithium and other metals to form anodes and cathodes, contain forests of micro-sized batteries on each silicon wafer. Think of each “micro-battery” as an elongated hollow box with a 20 x 20 micron footprint. The cathode and anode are the top and bottom half of that hollow box, separated by some distance from each other. No individual micro-battery, Hallquist says, contains enough charge current to form substantial dendrites or other structures that could arc the positive and negative ends of the battery.

 

And each 12-inch silicon wafer consists of some 36 million of these vertical “micro-batteries” machined into the wafer’s surface. Which, as the explainer video argues, decreases the charge time of the macro-battery (made up of many micro-batteries) as well as the manufacturing cost of the technology, as it’s based on already scaled-up silicon fabrication processes used in computer chip manufacturing today.

 

Hallquist says the company’s technology is covered by 15 patents (and 12 pending patents) and supported with more than US $80 million investment from private and public sources.

 

According to the company’s white paper, XNRGI has “has already built more than 600 working samples (8 billion micro-batteries) for a wide range of clients.”

 

It was the group’s work at the individual battery cell level, Hallquist says, that convinced her that XNRGI’s battery was “ready for commercialization.” So Hallquist secured exclusive rights to sell and distribute the XNRGI battery technology to the North American power market. (These are rights that her company, Cross Border Power, which is based in Quebec, only finalized last week.)

 

 

Hallquist says the battery banks that Cross Border Power plans to sell to utility companies as soon as next year will be installed in standard computer server racks. One shipping container worth of those racks (totaling 40 racks in all) will offer 4 megawatt-hours of battery storage capacity, she says. Contrast this, she adds, to a comparable set of rack-storage lithium ion batteries which would typically only yield 1 megawatt-hour of storage in a shipping container.

 

Hallquist adds, however, that packing traditional lithium ion cells into a metal shipping container that’s exposed to summer heat can be dangerous, given the problem of thermal runaway. The XNRGI battery, Hallquist says, will not have that problem. “When you use porous silicon, you get about 70 times the surface area compared to a traditional lithium battery… [and] there’s millions of cells in a wafer. It completely eliminates the problem of dendrite formation.” And with no dendrites, the risk of thermal runaway disappears.

 

The last benefit, she says, is the XNRGI cells’ recyclability. “At the end of the life of this product, you bring the wafers back in, you clean the wafer off, you reclaim the lithium and other materials. And it’s essentially brand new. So we’re 100 percent recyclable.”

 

Yet, Hallquist says providing battery storage at utility scale is still not a simple problem. One 4-megawatt shipping container pales in comparison to the 222 gigawatt (GW) capacity that renewables represented in the United States in 2018. And, of course, the amount of renewable energy in the electrical grid is only going up.

 

“It’s a tremendous engineering challenge,” Hallquist says of the battery storage problem. “But I would posit that, of course, we can do it.”

This post was updated on 19 July. 

How Israel and its partisans work to censor the Internet

 

How Israel and its partisans work to censor the Internet

 

 

YouTube’s email claimed we had somehow violated their long list of guidelines but did not tell us which one, or how. It simply stated:

“Your video ‘Ahmad Nasser Jarrar’ was flagged for review. Upon review, we’ve determined that it violates our guidelines. We’ve removed it from YouTube and assigned a Community Guidelines strike, or temporary penalty, to your account.”

Such a penalty is not public and does not terminate the channel.

Three days later, before we’d even had a chance to appeal this strike, YouTube suddenly took down our entire channel. This was done with no additional warnings or explanation.

This violated YouTube’s published policies.

YouTube policies say there is a “three-strike” system by which it warns people of alleged violations three times before terminating a channel. If a channel is eventually terminated, the policies state that YouTube will send an email “detailing the reason for the suspension.”

None of this happened in our case.

We submitted appeals on YouTube’s online form, but received no response. Attempts to find a phone number for YouTube and/or email addresses by which we could communicate with a human being were futile.

YouTube’s power to shut down content without explanation whenever it chooses was acutely apparent. While there are other excellent video hosting sites, YouTube is the largest one, with nearly ten times more views than its closest competitors. It is therefore enormously powerful in shaping which information is available to the public–and which is not.

We spent days working to upload our videos elsewhere, update links to the videos, etc. Finally, having received no response or even acknowledgment of our appeal from YouTube, we decided to write an article about the situation. We emailed YouTube’s press department a list of questions about its process. We have yet to receive any answers.

Finally that evening we received an email with good news:

“After a review of your account, we have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of our Terms of Service. As such, we have unsuspended your account. This means your account is once again active and operational.”

Our channel was visible once more. And YouTube had now officially confirmed that our content doesn’t violate its guidelines.

Ultimately, the YouTube system seems to have worked, in our case. Inappropriate censorship was overruled, perhaps by saner or less biased heads. In fact, we felt that there might at least be one positive result of the situation—additional YouTube employees had viewed our videos and perhaps learned much about Israel-Palestine they had not previously known.

But the whole experience was a wakeup call that YouTube can censor information critical of powerful parties at any time, with no explanation or accountability.

Israeli soldiers paid to “Tweet, Share, Like and more”

 

 

Israel and partisans of Israel have long had a significant presence on the Internet, working to promote the Israel narrative and block facts about Palestine, the Israel lobby, and other subject matter they wish covered up.

Opinionated proponents of Israel post comments, flag content, accuse critics of “antisemitism,” and disseminate misinformation about Palestine and Palestine solidarity activists. Many of these actions are by individuals acting alone who work independently, voluntarily, and relentlessly.

In addition to these, however, a number of orchestrated, often well-funded projects sponsored by the Israeli government and others have come to light. These projects work to place pro-Israel content throughout the Internet, and to remove information Israel doesn’t wish people to know.

One such Israeli project targeting the Internet came to light when it was lauded in an article by Arutz Sheva, an Israeli news organization headquartered in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The report described a new project by Israel’s “New Media desk” that focused on YouTube and other social media sites. The article reported that Israeli soldiers were being employed to “Tweet, Share, Like and more.”

The article noted, “It is well known nowadays that what happens on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has great influence on events as they occur on the ground. The Internet, too, is a battleground.” It was “comforting,” the article stated, to learn that the IDF was employing soldiers whose job was specifically to do battle on it.

Israeli students paid to promote Israel on social media

Screen shot from a video about student program to spread pro-Israel content on the Internet and social media.

Another project to do battle on the Internet was initiated in 2011 by the 300,000-strong National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS). The goal was “to deepen and expand hasbara [state propaganda] activities of students in the State of Israel.”

Under this program, Israeli students are paid $2,000 to work five hours per week to “lead the battle against hostile websites.”

An announcement for the program (translated here into English) noted that “many students in Israel master the Internet and are proficient at using the Internet and social networking and various sites and are required to write and express themselves in English.” Students can work from the comfort of their own homes, points out the announcement.

“Students work in four teams: Content, Wikipedia, Monitoring and New Media,” according to the program description. It details the responsibilities for each team:

The content team is responsible for creating original content in a news format.

The monitoring team is responsible for “monitoring efforts while reporting and removing anti-Semitic [sic] content from social networks in a variety of languages.” (The program conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism; see below.)

The New Media team is responsible for social media channels, “including Facebook accounts in English, French and Portuguese, Twitter, YouTube channels, and so on.”

The Wikipedia team is “responsible for writing new entries and translating them into languages that operate in the program, updating the values of current and relevant information, tracking and preventing bias in the program’s areas of activity.”

This program sometimes claims it is working against antisemitism, but it conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel. This is in line with an Israel-backed initiative to legally define “antisemitism” to include discussing negative facts about Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

Campaign to infiltrate Wikipedia

The pro-Israel organization CAMERA infiltrated Wikipedia for a time. (Illustration by Electronic Intifada.)

Several years ago, another project came to light that targeted Wikipedia. While manipulating Wikipedia entries doesn’t directly impact YouTube, it provides a window into some of these efforts to manipulate online content.

A 2008 exposé in the Electronic Intifada revealed: “A pro-Israel pressure group is orchestrating a secret, long-term campaign to infiltrate the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia.”

While it is common and appropriate for individuals to edit Wikipedia entries to add factual information and remove inaccurate statements, this project was the antithesis of such editing. As EI, reported, its purpose was “to rewrite Palestinian history, pass off crude propaganda as fact, and take over Wikipedia administrative structures to ensure these changes go either undetected or unchallenged.”

Author Ali Abunimah reported that a source had provided EI with a series of emails from members and associates of the pro-Israel group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) that showed the group “was engaged in what one activist termed a ‘war’ on Wikipedia.”

CAMERA Senior Research Analyst Gilead Ini organized a project to infiltrate Wikipedia.

CAMERA called for volunteers to secretly work on editing Wikipedia entries. It emphasized the importance of keeping the project secret. Volunteers were schooled in ways to elude detection. After they signed up as editors, they were to “avoid editing Israel-related articles for a short period of time.”

They were also told to “avoid, for obvious reasons, picking a username that marks you as pro-Israel, or that lets people know your real name.”

CAMERA also warned them: “Don’t forget to always log in… If you make changes while not logged in, Wikipedia will record your computer’s IP address.”

A Wikipedia editor known as Zeq helped in the effort, telling volunteers: “Edit articles at random, make friends not enemies—we will need them later on. This is a marathon not a sprint.” He emphasized the importance of secrecy: “You don’t want to be precived [sic] as a ‘CAMERA’ defender’ on wikipedia that is for sure.”

Zeq recommended that they work with and learn from an independent, pro-Israel Wikipedia editor known as Jayjg, but directed them to keep the project secret even from him.

When this all came to light, Wikipedia took measures against such manipulation of its system and the CAMERA program may have ended.

If it did, others stepped into the breach. In 2010 two Israeli groups began offering a course in “Zionist editing” of Wikipedia entries. The aim was “to make sure that information in the online encyclopedia reflects the worldview of Zionist groups.” A course organizer explained that the use of the word “occupied” in Wikipedia entries “was just the kind of problem she hoped a new team of editors could help fix.”

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper reported: “The organizers’ aim was twofold: to affect Israeli public opinion by having people who share their ideological viewpoint take part in writing and editing for the Hebrew version, and to write in English so Israel’s image can be bolstered abroad.”

There was to be a prize for the “Best Zionist Editor”—the person who over the next four years incorporated the most “Zionist” changes in the encyclopedia. The winner would receive a trip in a hot-air balloon over Israel.

High tech millionaire Naftali Bennett, a right-wing minister close to the settler movement, describes the program:

 

 

The UK Guardian reports: “One Jerusalem-based Wikipedia editor, who doesn’t want to be named, said that publicising the initiative might not be such a good idea. ‘Going public in the past has had a bad effect,’ she says. ‘There is a war going on and unfortunately the way to fight it has to be underground.’”

Again in 2013, there was evidence of pro-Israel tampering with Wikipedia. Israel’s Ha’aretz reported that a social-media employee of NGO Monitor edited articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an allegedly biased manner. “Draiman concealed the facts that he was an employee of NGO Monitor, often described as a right-wing group, and that he was using a second username, which is forbidden under Wikipedia’s rules,” according to the paper.

Such actions have had an impact. A website critical of Wikipedia said in 2014 that there were “almost ten times as many articles about murdered Israeli children as there are articles about murdered Palestinian children,” even though at least 10 times more Palestinian children had been killed.

The website also pointed out: “While editors like Zeq (TCL) and CltFn (TCL) may get banned in the end, the articles they started remain.”

If YouTube reviewers and others use Wikipedia in their determination about whether content should be removed or not, these efforts to censor Wikipedia could adversely affect their decisions.

Social Media Missions for Israel

Title image from Forward article about the Act.IL campaign.

In 2017 yet another project to target Internet platforms was launched. Known as Act.il, the project uses a software application that “leverages the power of communities to support Israel through organized online activity.”

The software is a joint venture of three groups: Israel’s IDC University; the Israeli American Council, which works to “organize and activate” the half million Israeli-Americans who live in the U.S.; and another American group called the Maccabee Task Force, created to combat the international boycott of Israel, which it terms “an anti-Semitic movement.” Maccabee says it is “laser focused on one core mission—to ensure that those who seek to delegitimize Israel and demonize the Jewish people are confronted, combatted and defeated.”

Image from Maccabee end of year report.

In addition, the project is supported by Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry and Israel’s intelligence community. Its CEO is an eight-year veteran of Israeli army intelligence.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post reports that Act.IL is “a wide-ranging grassroots campaign app that lets individuals combat BDS in the palm of their hand” or, as we will see, from public computers in the US.

“Act.IL is more than just an app,” the Post article explains. “It is a campaign that taps into the collective knowledge of IDC students who together speak 35 languages, hail from 86 countries and have connections to the pro-Israel community all over the world.”

The article claims: “A platform like Act.IL offers world Jewry an opportunity to fight for one thing the majority can rally behind: Israel.” (This ignores the fact that there are many Jewish individuals who oppose Israeli policies.)

Israel partisans around the world download the app, and then “in this virtual situation room of experts, they detect instances where Israel is being assailed online and they program the app to find missions that can be carried out with a push of a button.”

An organizer notes: “When you work together, with the same goals and values, you can be incredibly powerful in the social media landscape.”

 

 

Some missions ask users to report videos. Israeli government officials say that the Act.il app “is more effective than official government requests at getting those videos removed from online platforms.”

The project is led by former Israeli intelligence officers and has close ties to American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Another funder is the Paul R. Singer Foundation, funded by the Republican hedge fund billionaire.

The Forward calls Act.IL a new entry into the “online propaganda war” that “has thousands of mostly U.S.-based volunteers who can be directed from Israel into a social media swarm.”

According to the Forward, “Its work so far offers a startling glimpse of how it could shape the online conversations about Israel without ever showing its hand.”

The Forward reports: “Act.il says that its app has 12,000 sign-ups so far, and 6,000 regular users. The users are located all over the world, though the majority of them appear to be in the United States. Users get ‘points’ for completed missions; top-ranked users complete five or six missions a day. Top users win prizes: a congratulatory letter from a government minister, or a doll of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister.”

Photo of group that participated in Act.IL training

Act.IL’s CEO, a veteran Israeli army intelligence officer, said the Israeli military and its domestic intelligence service “‘request’ Act.il’s help in getting services like Facebook to remove specific videos that call for violence against Jews or Israelis.” This according to the Forward report.

The officer later tried to walk back his statement, “saying that the Shin Bet [intelligence service] and the army don’t request help on specific videos but are in regular informal contact with Act.il. He said that Act.il’s staff is largely made up of former Israeli intelligence officers.”

Teens in American JCCs carry out missions assigned from Israel

New Jersey “Media Room,” a project of IAC New Jersey in partnership with Act.IL.

The project recruits Jewish teens and adults and sometimes operates out of local Jewish community centers, the Forward says. The paper describes one example:

“The dozen or so Israelis sitting around a conference table at a Jewish community center in Tenafly, New Jersey, on a recent Wednesday night didn’t look like the leading edge of a new Israeli government-linked crowdsourced online propaganda campaign.

“Tapping on laptops, the group of high school students and adult mentors completed social media ‘missions’ assigned out of a headquarters in Herzliya, Israel.”

In addition to the Tenafly “media room” another operates in Boston in cooperation with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. There are also regular Act.il advocacy-training sessions at The Frisch School, a Jewish day school in Paramas, New Jersey. Other media rooms are reportedly in the works, with one in Manhattan, hosted by The Paul R. Singer Foundation, scheduled to open soon.

The Forward reports: “In November, the Boston media room created a mission for the app that asked users to email a Boston-area church to complain about a screening there of a documentary that is critical of Israel. The proposed text of the email likens the screening of the film to the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, and calls the film’s narrator, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, a ‘well-known anti-Semite.’”

Photo of Boston Media Room published by Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, which states: “Media Room Ambassadors are students and adult mentors who are trained with the knowledge, skills, and tools to positively influence public discourse by developing pro-Israel social media campaigns.”

According to the Forward, Act.il also produces “pro-Israel web content that carries no logo. It distributes that content to other pro-Israel groups, including the Adelson-funded Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and The Israel Project, which push them out on their own social media feeds.”

The Forward predicts: “Initiatives in cyberspace seem likely to increase.”

Screenshot from video promoting the project, posted on the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston website.

Israeli media report that the Israeli military “has begun scouring Jewish communities abroad for young computer prodigies” to recruit for its ranks.

An Israeli official described the process: “Our first order of business is to search Jewish communities abroad for teens who could qualify, Our representatives will then travel to the communities and begin the screening process there.”

Israeli Government Ministry backs secret online campaigns

General Sima Vaknin-Gil told Israeli tech developers to “flood the Internet” with pro-Israel propaganda. As Israel’s Chief Censor, she said: ” “We censor information that is critical to our enemies, who have no capabilities like us, do not have a Jewish brain, and therefore our enemy relies to a large extent on open information…”

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is behind this and similar projects, has mobilized substantial resources for online activities.

Israel’s Ynet news reports that the Ministry’s director “sees it as a war for all intents and purposes. ‘The delegitimization against the State of Israel can be curbed and contained through public diplomacy and soft tools,’ she says. ‘In order to win, however, we must use tricks and craftiness.’”

The director, General Sima Vaknin-Gil, told a forum of Israeli tech developers at a forum: “I want to create a community of fighters.” The objective is to “curb the activities of anti-Israel activists,” and “flood the Internet” with pro-Israel content.

An Israeli report in December stated that the ministry has acquired a budget of roughly $70 million to “stand at the forefront of the battle against delegitimization, adopting methods from the fields of intelligence and technology. There is a reason why ministry officials define it as ‘a war on consciousness terrorism.’” [‘Delegitimization’ is a common Israeli term for criticism of Israel. See here for a discussion of the term.]

Ha’aretz article reports: “The Strategic Affairs Ministry’s leaders see themselves as the heads of a commando unit, gathering and disseminating information about ‘supporters of the delegitimization of Israel’—and they prefer their actions be kept secret.”

The article reports that the Ministry includes a job role entitled “Senior official—new-media realm,” responsible for surveillance and activities “in the digital realm.”

This individual head is responsible for analyzing social media and formulating a social media campaign against sites and activists who are deemed a threat to Israel.

Among the job’s responsibilities are:

“Analysis of the world of social media, in terms of content, technology and network structure, emphasizing centers of gravity and focuses of influence, methods, messages, organizations, sites and key activists, studying their characteristics, areas, realms and key patterns of activities of the rival campaign and formulating a strategy for an awareness campaign against them in this realm and managing crises on social media. That is, surveilling of activities mainly in the digital arena.”

Officials at the ministry are charged with “construction and promotion of creative and suitable programs for new media.”

The unit works to keep its activities secret from the public. For example, a program to train young Israelis for activities on social media was exempted from publishing a public bid for funding. Similarly, the ministry’s special unit against delegitimization, “Hama’aracha” (The Battle), is excluded from Israel’s Freedom of Information Law.

The 29th floor of Tel Aviv’s Champion Tower is the nerve center of a 24-7 ‘war’ in which Israeli agents working behind the scenes advance U.S. legislation, torpedo events, organize counter-protests, & close bank accounts.. The Director says: ‘In order to win we must use tricks and craftiness.’

Its activities reportedly include a “24/7 operations room monitoring all the delegitimization activities against Israel: Protests, conferences, publications calling for an anti-Israel boycott and international bodies’ boycott initiatives. The operations room will transfer the information to the relevant people to provide a proper response to these activities, whether through a counter-protest or through moves to thwart the initiative behind the scenes.”

Other programs include a 22-million-shekel project to work among labor unions and professional associations abroad “to root out the ability of BDS entities to influence the unions,” and a 16-million-shekel program focused on student activities throughout the world.

Israel’s UNIT 8200

Photo from article about Unit 8200 on Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre website.

Another Israeli entity that plays a role in covert Internet activity is the Israeli military’s legendary high-tech spy branch, Unit 8200. This unit is composed of thousands of “cyber warriors” primarily 18 to 21 years of age; some even younger. A number of its graduates have gone on to top positions at tech companies operating in the U.S., such as Check Point Software (where the spouse of the Jewish Voice for Peace head is employed as a solutions architect).

In 2015 Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced plans “to establish a special command to combat anti-Israel incitement on social media.” The command would operate under the foreign ministry’s hasbara [propaganda] department and would especially recruit from graduates of Unit 8200.

An article in the Jewish Press about the new command reports that Unit 8200 “has developed a great reputation for effectiveness in intelligence gathering, including operating a massive global spy network. Several alumni of 8200 have gone on to establish leading Israeli IT companies, including Check Point, ICQ, Palo Alto Networks, NICE, AudioCodes, Gilat, Leadspace, EZchip, Onavo, Singular and CyberArk.”

Check Point Software headquarters in Tel Aviv. Founded by a former Unit 8200 member, it also has offices throughout the U.S. Israeli tech companies sometimes assist in online spying efforts.

Numerous Israeli tech companies, many of them headed by former military intelligence officers, assist in these online spying efforts, sometimes receiving Israeli government funding “for digital initiatives aimed at gathering intelligence on activist groups and countering their efforts.”

According to the ministry’s statement, among the Command’s activities is finding videos with inflammatory content and issuing complaints to the relevant websites.”

To be clear, this is an occupying military working covertly to achieve censorship of reporting on its atrocities.

YouTube & Google officials meet with Israeli Minister

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki speaking to the Israel Collaboration Network’s Israeli Women in Tech Group on August 25, 2016.

Major Internet companies have reportedly been cooperating in this effort.

In 2015 Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced that she had visited Silicon Valley and met with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Google’s Director of Public Policy (it is unclear whether this was was Jennifer Oztzistzki or Juniper Downs; Hotovely’s announcement referred to “Jennifer Downs”).

“At the end of the meeting,” Israeli media reported, “it was agreed that Google would strengthen bilateral relations with the Foreign Ministry and build a collaborative work apparatus.”

Another Israeli news report about the meeting states: “…it was agreed that the companies would strengthen ties with the Foreign Ministry and build a regular mechanism of control to prevent the distribution of those incendiary materials on the network.”

Google, which owns YouTube, denied the Foreign Ministry’s report. The Ministry accordingly “clarified” its statement somewhat, but continued to say that Israeli officials would be in “regular contact with Google’s employees in Israel who deal with the problematic materials.”

Such officials often have close ties to Israel. For example, Facebook’s Head of Policy in Israel, Jordana Cutler, had previously been employed for many years by the Israeli government. (More about Facebook can be found here.)

The Linkedin page for Facebook’s Jordana Cutler

The meetings seem to have had a significant effect.

In 2016 Fortune magazine reported: “Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israeli requests to delete content that the government says incites Palestinian violence, Israel’s Justice Minister said on Monday.”

More recently, the Israeli Ministry of Justice said that its cyber unit handled 2,241 cases of online content and succeeded in getting 70 percent of it removed.

According to a 2017 report, Google, in its capacity as the operator of Youtube, announced that it was updating the steps it was already taking on this score.

Among other things, Google said it would increase the number of members of the “Trusted Flagger program,” which enables certain organizations and government agencies to report content. It also said it would “increase support for NGOs and organizations working to present a ‘corrective voice.’”

Given the record of infiltration and orchestrated activities described above—many financed by a combination of certain influential billionaires and the Israeli government itself—it’s hard to imagine that Israeli organizations and partisans are not thoroughly embedded in this program. In fact, one of the NGOs already working with YouTube as a “trusted flagger” is the Anti-Defamation League, whose mission includes ‘standing up for Israel.’

Anti-Defamation League celebrates Israel at 2017 New York City parade.

A leaked secret January 2017 ADL strategy paper detailed how to counter the pro-Palestine movement. Among its many strategies were some focused on the importance of efforts in cyber space.

The paper was produced in collaboration with the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank, and included an endorsement by Sima Vaknin-Gil, who stated that “the correlation between the Ministry’s mode of operation and what comes out of this document is very high, and has already proven effective… ”

Strategy paper about how to counter the Palestine solidarity movement. (Full document posted here.)

The document’s executive summary noted: “Cyberspace, broadly defined, stands out as a crucially important arena (for monitoring and counter and pro-active strategies) which requires more resources and attention due to its current influence, rapid growth and growing complexity.”

The paper called for “a mix of policy advocacy and industry engagement with corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter in a manner consistent with the ADL Center for Technology and Society and its Anti-Cyberhate Working Group.”

An illustration in the ADL-Reut working paper on improving Israel advocacy. It noted: “While the pro-Israel network increasingly is active in this domain, much more can be done.”

The paper also recommended: “‘Bottom-up efforts’ of crowd-sourcing to enhance the adaptive capacity of the pro-Israel network.”

At the same time, it urged:

“Strengthening pro-Israel organizations that mobilize and coordinate a network of ‘nodes’ e.g. Jewish Community Public Affairs (JCPA) and its network of Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRCs) in the USA; Hillel, which is present in nearly five hundred locations in the U.S. and globally; the Israel Action Network (IAN) that reaches nearly 160 federations in the U.S.; or the Jewish Congress (WJC) that represents dozens of Jewish communities around the world.”

The detailed, 32-page document reported that in recent years “a massive investment of resources and talent” had been directed against the pro-Palestine movement. One of the results, the paper said, was to create a “world-wide pro-Israel network.” It was this network that the report wished to mobilize. One of the paper’s concerns was that since Israel’s 2014  attack on Gaza “a growing number of Jews have become more critical of Israel.”

The document recommended a degree of stealth, noting: “high-visibility response by the pro-Israel side can be counterproductive.”

What this means

Nevertheless, despite all these forces arrayed against information about Palestine reaching the American public, our channel is back up on YouTube. In fact, we’ve just uploaded a new video:

 

 

This one is about the death of a nine-year-old boy. [Perhaps the Israeli government would consider this incitement to Palestinians to rebel against occupation; we see it as incitement to the world in general, and Americans in particular, to care.]

In other words, Israel’s efforts at censorship don’t always succeed.

But sometimes they do, and other YouTube users have not always been so fortunate. For example, YouTube has terminated several Palestinian news organizations.

One was the al-Quds network, which, according to a report in Middle East Eye, “relies on young reporters and volunteers using phones and other digital devices to cover local news across the Palestinian territories.” They would often report Israeli soldiers committing various human rights violations.

Its YouTube channel was terminated in 2011, and its editor says they had to “to create a new channel from scratch.” By 2017 its new channel had gained almost 10 million views before it was suddenly suspended without warning again last October. It now, however, appears to have a YouTube channel in operation.

According to the MEE report, YouTube also suspended the Filisten al-Youm TV channel last August, and in 2013, apparently following complaints by the Anti-Defamation League, YouTube closed down Iran’s PressTV channel. (A Press TV YouTube channel now also appears to be available again.)

 

 

Palestinian social media users risk even greater consequences.

The Israeli government has arrested Palestinians for videos, poems, and other posts it dislikes. A 2016 report estimated that “more than 150 arrests took place between October and February 2016 based on Facebook posts expressing opinions on the uprising. A recent video posted on social media led to the imprisonment of a 16 year old girl, her mother and cousin.

In addition, Palestinian access to social media is somewhat controlled by Israel. As a Huffington Post article reports, ”Palestinians’ digital rights and access to the Internet are compromised in very basic ways, because Israel controls the infrastructure and services of Palestinian telecommunication companies in the West Bank.”

While the situation has greatly improved in recent years – the Israeli government finally announced in 2016 that it would allow Palestinians in the West Bank to access 3G wireless networks, making this one of the last regions in the world with such access after years of Israeli restrictions – it is important to remember the enormous power Israel wields over this largely captive population.

While Israel is able to organize entire campaigns to filter and flood social media, its immense control over Palestinians impedes their access to the same media.

Given these facts, it is extremely important for people to search out information for themselves, go directly to our websites and others, subscribe to diverse email lists, and not rely on social media for information. [Please subscribe to our news posts here.]

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others are private companies. In the end, they have the power to censor information, and they periodically do so. For a few days, we felt acutely what that was like. If Facebook had joined the ban, as has happened with others, we would have been even more cut off from what is essentially today’s “public square.”

The Internet and social media give us far more access to information and tools for communication and activism than ever before, but they, too, can be controlled—and they are.

It is up to us, as always, to overcome.

#

Our videos are also being uploaded to Daily Motion, Vimeo, and BitChute, and many are already on our news blog, Timeline, and main website, where all of them will eventually be available.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of “Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.” 

UPDATES

* The section on the ADL was expanded on March 9. The ADL-Reut is posted here.

* After publishing this article, we produced a video with the information and posted it on YouTube. YouTube then removed it. However, the video can still be viewed on Vimeo.

https://youtu.be/Vqhi16iikxk

 

 

 

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Dynamics of Gravity is Mathematically Relatable to Dynamics of Subatomic Particles

 

Gravity is mathematically relatable to dynamics of subatomic particles
Gravity, the force that brings baseballs back to Earth and governs the growth of black holes, is mathematically relatable to the peculiar antics of the subatomic particles that make up all the matter around us. Credit: J.F. Podevin

Albert Einstein’s desk can still be found on the second floor of Princeton’s physics department. Positioned in front of a floor-to-ceiling blackboard covered with equations, the desk seems to embody the spirit of the frizzy-haired genius as he asks the department’s current occupants, “So, have you solved it yet?”

Einstein never achieved his goal of a unified theory to explain the natural world in a single, coherent framework. Over the last century, researchers have pieced together links between three of the four known physical forces in a “,” but the fourth force, gravity, has always stood alone.

No longer. Thanks to insights made by Princeton faculty members and others who trained here, gravity is being brought in from the cold—although in a manner not remotely close to how Einstein had imagined it.

Though not yet a “theory of everything,” this framework, laid down over 20 years ago and still being filled in, reveals surprising ways in which Einstein’s theory of gravity relates to other areas of physics, giving researchers new tools with which to tackle elusive questions.

The key insight is that gravity, the force that brings baseballs back to Earth and governs the growth of , is mathematically relatable to the peculiar antics of the  that make up all the matter around us.

This revelation allows scientists to use one branch of physics to understand other seemingly unrelated areas of physics. So far, this concept has been applied to topics ranging from why black holes run a temperature to how a butterfly’s beating wings can cause a storm on the other side of the world.

This relatability between gravity and subatomic  provides a sort of Rosetta stone for physics. Ask a question about gravity, and you’ll get an explanation couched in the terms of subatomic particles. And vice versa.

“This has turned out to be an incredibly rich area,” said Igor Klebanov, Princeton’s Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, who generated some of the initial inklings in this field in the 1990s. “It lies at the intersection of many fields of physics.”

From tiny bits of string

The seeds of this correspondence were sprinkled in the 1970s, when researchers were exploring tiny subatomic particles called quarks. These entities nest like Russian dolls inside protons, which in turn occupy the atoms that make up all matter. At the time, physicists found it odd that no matter how hard you smash two protons together, you cannot release the quarks—they stay confined inside the protons.

One person working on quark confinement was Alexander Polyakov, Princeton’s Joseph Henry Professor of Physics. It turns out that quarks are “glued together” by other particles, called gluons. For a while, researchers thought gluons could assemble into strings that tie quarks to each other. Polyakov glimpsed a link between the theory of particles and the theory of strings, but the work was, in Polyakov’s words, “hand-wavy” and he didn’t have precise examples.

Meanwhile, the idea that fundamental particles are actually tiny bits of vibrating string was taking off, and by the mid-1980s, “string theory” had lassoed the imaginations of many leading physicists. The idea is simple: just as a vibrating violin string gives rise to different notes, each string’s vibration foretells a particle’s mass and behavior. The mathematical beauty was irresistible and led to a swell of enthusiasm for string theory as a way to explain not only particles but the universe itself.

Gravity is mathematically relatable to dynamics of subatomic particles
Credit: J.F. Podevin

One of Polyakov’s colleagues was Klebanov, who in 1996 was an associate professor at Princeton, having earned his Ph.D. at Princeton a decade earlier. That year, Klebanov, with graduate student Steven Gubser and postdoctoral research associate Amanda Peet, used string theory to make calculations about gluons, and then compared their findings to a string-theory approach to understanding a black hole. They were surprised to find that both approaches yielded a very similar answer. A year later, Klebanov studied absorption rates by black holes and found that this time they agreed exactly.

That work was limited to the example of gluons and black holes. It took an insight by Juan Maldacena in 1997 to pull the pieces into a more general relationship. At that time, Maldacena, who had earned his Ph.D. at Princeton one year earlier, was an assistant professor at Harvard. He detected a correspondence between a special form of gravity and the theory that describes particles. Seeing the importance of Maldacena’s conjecture, a Princeton team consisting of Gubser, Klebanov and Polyakov followed up with a related paper formulating the idea in more precise terms.

Another physicist who was immediately taken with the idea was Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), an independent research center located about a mile from the University campus. He wrote a paper that further formulated the idea, and the combination of the three papers in late 1997 and early 1998 opened the floodgates.

“It was a fundamentally new kind of connection,” said Witten, a leader in the field of string theory who had earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1976 and is a visiting lecturer with the rank of professor in physics at Princeton. “Twenty years later, we haven’t fully come to grips with it.”

Two sides of the same coin

This relationship means that gravity and subatomic particle interactions are like two sides of the same coin. On one side is an extended version of gravity derived from Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity. On the other side is the theory that roughly describes the behavior of subatomic particles and their interactions.

The latter theory includes the catalogue of particles and forces in the “standard model” (see sidebar), a framework to explain matter and its interactions that has survived rigorous testing in numerous experiments, including at the Large Hadron Collider.

In the standard model, quantum behaviors are baked in. Our world, when we get down to the level of particles, is a quantum world.

Notably absent from the standard model is gravity. Yet quantum behavior is at the basis of the other three forces, so why should gravity be immune?

The new framework brings gravity into the discussion. It is not exactly the gravity we know, but a slightly warped version that includes an extra dimension. The universe we know has four dimensions, the three that pinpoint an object in space—the height, width and depth of Einstein’s desk, for example—plus the fourth dimension of time. The gravitational description adds a fifth dimension that causes spacetime to curve into a universe that includes copies of familiar four-dimensional flat space rescaled according to where they are found in the fifth dimension. This strange, curved spacetime is called anti-de Sitter (AdS) space after Einstein’s collaborator, Dutch 
astronomer Willem de Sitter.

The breakthrough in the late 1990s was that mathematical calculations of the edge, or boundary, of this anti-de Sitter space can be applied to problems involving quantum behaviors of subatomic particles described by a mathematical relationship called conformal field theory (CFT). This relationship provides the link, which Polyakov had glimpsed earlier, between the theory of particles in four space-time dimensions and string theory in five dimensions. The relationship now goes by several names that relate gravity to particles, but most researchers call it the AdS/CFT (pronounced A-D-S-C-F-T) correspondence.

 

Gravity is mathematically relatable to dynamics of subatomic particles
Credit: J.F. Podevin

Tackling the big questions

 

This correspondence, it turns out, has many practical uses. Take black holes, for example. The late physicist Stephen Hawking startled the physics community by discovering that black holes have a temperature that arises because each particle that falls into a black hole has an entangled particle that can escape as heat.

Using AdS/CFT, Tadashi Takayanagi and Shinsei Ryu, then at the University of California-Santa Barbara, discovered a new way to study

entanglement in terms of geometry, extending Hawking’s insights in a fashion that experts consider quite remarkable.

In another example, researchers are using AdS/CFT to pin down chaos theory, which says that a random and insignificant event such as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings could result in massive changes to a large-scale system such as a faraway hurricane. It is difficult to calculate chaos, but black holes—which are some of the most chaotic quantum systems possible—could help. Work by Stephen Shenker and Douglas Stanford at Stanford University, along with Maldacena, demonstrates how, through AdS/CFT, black holes can model quantum chaos.

One open question Maldacena hopes the AdS/CFT correspondence will answer is the question of what it is like inside a black hole, where an infinitely dense region called a singularity resides. So far, the relationship gives us a picture of the black hole as seen from the outside, said Maldacena, who is now the Carl P. Feinberg Professor at IAS.

“We hope to understand the singularity inside the black hole,” Maldacena said. “Understanding this would probably lead to interesting lessons for the Big Bang.”

The relationship between gravity and strings has also shed new light on quark confinement, initially through work by Polyakov and Witten, and later by Klebanov and Matt Strassler, who was then at IAS.

Those are just a few examples of how the relationship can be used. “It is a tremendously successful idea,” said Gubser, who today is a professor of physics at Princeton. “It compels one’s attention. It ropes you in, it ropes in other fields, and it gives you a vantage point on theoretical physics that is very compelling.”

The relationship may even unlock the quantum nature of gravity. “It is among our best clues to understand gravity from a quantum perspective,” said Witten. “Since we don’t know what is still missing, I cannot tell you how big a piece of the picture it ultimately will be.”

Still, the AdS/CFT correspondence, while powerful, relies on a simplified version of spacetime that is not exactly like the real universe. Researchers are working to find ways to make the theory more broadly applicable to the everyday world, including Gubser’s research on modeling the collisions of heavy ions, as well as high-temperature superconductors.

Also on the to-do list is developing a proof of this correspondence that draws on underlying physical principles. It is unlikely that Einstein would be satisfied without a proof, said Herman Verlinde, Princeton’s Class of 1909 Professor of Physics, the chair of the Department of Physics and an expert in string , who shares office space with Einstein’s desk.

“Sometimes I imagine he is still sitting there,” Verlinde said, “and I wonder what he would think of our progress.”

The origins of USB

 

The port that changed everything

Ajay Bhatt was struggling to upgrade his computer when he began to see the need for one plug to rule them all.

The unlikely origins of USB, the port that changed everything
[PHOTO: FLICKR USER WILLIAM WARBY]

 

In the olden days, plugging something into your computer—a mouse, a printer, a hard drive—required a zoo of cables. Maybe you needed a PS/2 connector or a serial port, the Apple Desktop Bus, or a DIN connector; maybe a parallel port or SCSI or Firewire cable. If you’ve never heard of those things, and if you have, thank USB. When it was first released in 1996, the idea was right there in the first phrase: Universal Serial Bus. And to be universal, it had to just work. “The technology that we were replacing, like serial ports, parallel ports, the mouse and keyboard ports, they all required a fair amount of software support, and any time you installed a device, it required multiple reboots and sometimes even opening the box,” says Ajay Bhatt, who retired from Intel in 2016. “Our goal was that when you get a device, you plug it in, and it works.”

 

It was at Intel in Oregon where engineers made it work, at Intel where they drummed up the support of an industry that was eager to make PCs easier to use and ship more of them. But it was an initial skeptic that first popularized the standard: in a shock to many geeks in 1998, the Steve Jobs-led Apple released the groundbreaking first iMac as a USB-only machine. The faster speeds of USB 2.0 gave way to new easy-to-use peripherals too, like the flash drive, which helped kill the floppy disk and the Zip drive and CD-Rs. What followed was a parade of stuff you could plug in: disco balls, head massagers, security keys, an infinity of mobile phone chargers. There are now by one count six billion USB devices in the world.

Now a new cable design, Type-C, is creeping in on the typical USB Type-A and Type-B ports on phones, tablets, computers, and other devices—and mercifully, unlike the old USB cable, it’s reversible. The next-generation USB4, coming later this year, will be capable of achieving speeds upwards of 40Gbps, which is over 3,000 times faster than the highest speeds of the very first USB. Bhatt couldn’t have imagined all of that when, as a young engineer at Intel in the early ’90s, he was simply trying to install a multimedia card. The rest is history, one that Joel Johnson plugged in to with some of the key players. Their reminiscences have been edited for clarity.  —The Ed.

“I KNEW THAT COMPUTERS COULD BE MADE EASY TO USE”

Ajay Bhatt: It was probably in 1992—I had joined Intel in 1990—that I started looking at the PC. I always felt that they were too difficult to use. I based that on my observation with my family’s struggle with computers and doing a simple thing like printing a document.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 
 
Ajay Bhatt [Photo: Flickr user Intel Free Press]

I also struggled, even as a technologist. I struggled with upgrading my PC when the multimedia cards first started coming out. I looked at the architecture, and I thought, you know what? There are better ways of working with computers, and this is just too difficult.

Bala Cadambi (an I/O architecture manager, now Intel’s director of IO Technologies/Standards): If you go back to the creation of the PC, it was based on the IBM design and the documentation of the hardware, the BIOS, and the interfaces. It was put together with the mindset this would be used by somewhat computer knowledgeable users. By the end of the ’90s, it was clear that the PC as it was evolving needed to become easier to use.

AB: The original goal was to attract a new class of users and promote new users of computers. That’s where it all began in 1992. I came to work, proposed this idea to a few managers, didn’t get much interest actually. People didn’t grasp the usefulness of something like USB, but I was quite passionate about it. I knew that computers could be made easy to use, and you didn’t need an IT guy to install a printer or configure a keyboard or a mouse or support multiple input devices.

FIRST: MICROPROCESSORS

BC: Both Intel and Microsoft were seeing business that was set to go well beyond that first 10 million users and required PC hardware and software to be much easier and much more seamless and much more standardized.

The first of those initiatives was PCI [Peripheral Component Interconnect]. PCI was intended to make some systems within the PC, within the box, easy to install, initialize, upgrade, and maintain. That initiative starting with PCI evolved to become plug and play. PCI was the first of the standardized 32-bit interfaces, which has since evolved to become PCI Express

Even under PCI, each computer peripheral had different and specific characteristics in terms of how data moved in and out of the PC. In some cases that required the addition of adapter jacks on the outside of a PC, or additional cards on the inside.

AB: The basic concern at that point was that at that time, there were multiple ways to interface with hardware. That actually meant that any time you changed something, it would result in significant changes to the operating system and applications themselves.

Everybody saw that as the most difficult part, and my immediate supervisor basically told me that changes cannot be done: “I don’t think you’ll succeed. You don’t understand PC architecture.” I said to him, I said, “No, no, no. We can fix that. Believe me. This can be done.” I had a hard time convincing him.

BC: The PC in this instance was not a notebook, keep in mind. It was a desktop. This was the era when notebooks were just barely beginning, and they were luggable, big boxes. Literally, I would say that if it had a handle, it was portable. If it didn’t have a handle, it was a desktop.

So as you plugged in these devices, you started getting cluttered—a different standard for audio, another for a serial modem, a different one for a SCSI printer. Each of these had artifacts in terms of how they would work. The orientation of the plug. Whether you could hot plug or you had to reboot the PC. The software was there inside the PC, or you had to load the software with a floppy drive. Whether they would work if you moved the peripheral from one interface to another.

[Photo: Flickr user Intel Free Press]

AB: I didn’t get any positive response, so I decided to make a lateral move within the company to a sister group, and that’s when I started working for a gentleman named Fred Pollock. At that time, there were a handful of Intel Fellows in the company. These are the topmost technical folks at Intel. He’s an incredibly smart person and one of the top computer scientists. I spoke to him, and his view was, “I don’t know. You know what? Go convince yourself.” That’s all I needed. I needed somebody who would be open-minded enough to allow me to take this risk.

I didn’t just rely on him. I started socializing this idea with other groups at Intel. I talked to business guys, and I talked to other technologists, and eventually, I even went out and talked to Microsoft. And we spoke to other people who ultimately became our partners, like Compaq, DEC, IBM, NEC, and others.

Basically, I had to not only build a life inside the company, but we had to ally with people outside, and obviously, each company or each person that I spoke to had their own perspective on what it ought to be. One thing that was common was that everybody agreed that PCs were too hard to use and even hard to design around. Something had to be done, and that’s where it all began.

“A LOT OF STORMING AND NORMING”

In February of ’92, as Intel and others were working on the PCI rollout and the plug and play initiative, a group of companies met in Redmond to discuss how to standardize external interfaces on the PC.

BC: That was a fairly simply ad hoc meeting. It was clear that we had a problem that was not well understood—let alone what solution we would want for it. At that point, I already was managing the team that did PCI and plug and play at Intel, so the knowledge base was there for us to appreciate how difficult this would be.

We did not have an appreciation in terms of what the potential for something could be in terms of future applications and requirements. So solving the current problem may have been somewhat obvious, but anticipating what the PC interfaces might look like several years down the road required us to start doing research. Meeting other companies. Talking to analysts. Talking to end users. Looking at where the trends were in terms of the business and the consumer marketplace for applications.

AB: Slowly but surely, I started convincing people [inside Intel] with the subtle requirements that we had, which ultimately became the USB. I think somewhere around 1993, we had achieved internal alignment, and we were off and running.

[Photo: Marco VerchCC by 2.0]

This whole convincing part took about a year, a year and a half. There was a lot of storming and norming happening in the early part of development, where we had to work on people’s skepticism and get people aligned in solving this problem.

By late ’93, maybe early ’94, I had formed a small team. We had internal work groups to generate ideas at Intel, and also to do analysis and to write the specs. Then we were also working with external partners on a regular basis.

At that time, it was called “Serial Box.” It didn’t have any name. It was a technology-driven thing.

DIGGING INTO THE SERIAL BOX AT DENNY’S AT 2 A.M.

Ajay and Bala, who had met while working together on the plug and play initiative, were joined by Jim Pappas, an input/output expert, along with others in marketing at Intel. They formed a working group in the summer of 1994.

Jim Pappas (engineering manager, now director of technology initiatives at Intel): We were a very focused and committed team. The four of us, myself, Bala, Ajay, and Steve Whalley, were very, very active and very close—in particular, Bala and I. I haven’t called him at home in a decade and a half, but I would pick up a phone and my fingers would just dial his number because we talked so much. It was incredible.

We would do what we called a power breakfast. Let’s say we were meeting with a company to get them going on real estate. We might all fly in different times from different cities. At 1 a.m., 2 a.m., we would meet at a Denny’s or something. We would have what we called a power breakfast. “Okay, what are we going to say tomorrow, what do we need?” We had this habit of not only just working very close together but we did it almost around the clock, and it was an incredibly fun experience.

BC: We went, literally, on a road trip for about a year. We visited about 50 companies in the whole range of industries–printing, scanning, communications, industrial controls, the keyboard, mice, joystick, modems, and so on. I’m just amazed there was that much interest in something that simple as a standardized external interface. The enthusiasm came because every one of those companies had a requirement, and they felt there was a market opportunity that was restrained by the current interfaces.

The biggest challenge however, was there was no existing problem to solve other than making it easier. Everything [already] had a place to plug in, which makes it extra hard to ask, “why do you need to standardize until the next one comes?”


BUILDING THE TEAM

Ajay and Bala and Jim’s team evolved into a larger group within Intel. The group was subdivided into different disciplines: overall protocols, how the bits would be organized, electromechanical issues–like connectors and cables–and groups devoted to business and adoption.

AB: We had organized ourselves to go attack all different aspects of a technology and what it takes to make it successful in the market because we wanted to cover all the bases. We not only wanted to do the spec, but we also wanted to help the developers develop products around this technology.

We didn’t quite stop after finishing the specs, but we came up with the recipe to design various applications. We also created something called “interoperability programs,” such that when different vendors were brought together, they would get tested according to predetermined tests, and we would make sure that everybody was following the spec and these devices, and that they would interoperate without any hiccups.

Even though we were an alliance, we were like a startup who were paying attention to every aspect of not only the specs but the product development and ultimately, introduction in the market.

JP: Ajay was the technical spec lead, Bala was the engineering lead, and I was running the overall program. We were forming an engineering group. In Intel speak, “Two in a Box” is where you have two managers. I asked Bala to join me running the program. It’s almost like we put ourselves back-to-back. He was looking into Intel and driving the engineering efforts, I was looking after driving the industry efforts.

BC: Jim drove the external communication, the external alignment of industries, putting the promoter group together, the industry forum together. He’s a natural at the communication aspect of technology relative to the marketplace. Often, he would defer to me to give keynote talks, but we tag teamed on that. Routinely, Jim and I would touch base at the end of every day. It was an 11 p.m. call. That went on for years. The phone would ring, and our spouses would think, “That must be Bala. That must be Jim.” It was that routine.

AB: I think we succeeded because everything that we did was well implemented. I knew that this would be the case because we had multidisciplinary teams where we had people who were experts in software and operating systems. We had people who knew how to build systems, like IBM and Compaq. We had people who knew how to build chips, like Intel and NEC. We had Nortel that knew how to build the telephony and other things that eventually became very important. By assembling a team of experts, we were able to reduce the risk and see to it that these were very broadly applicable specs to a variety of applications.

BC: Ajay was central to developing the spec itself. That’s where his passion was. He was also passionate in terms of understanding the requirements to make sure that the spec met the requirements. [Engineer] Jeff Morris, at this point, had relocated from Santa Clara to Oregon to work on my team. He felt strongly that this was something he wanted to work on. He wrote a good chunk, I would say more than half, of the first spec along with all the white papers that went with it to develop the technology.

AB: The spec got done somewhere in 1995. There was a [trade] show called COMDEX. Our goal was to finish the spec right around [COMDEX’s November dates] at the end of 1995. Thereafter, we started working on the products and stuff. It was a long journey, but ultimately the industry realized that this was something that really addressed all the painpoints of a personal computer.

THE PROBLEM WITH FIREWIRE AND OTHER INTERFACES

Computer companies were eager to make plugging in easier, but one application on the horizon that seemed to demand a faster interface in particular was video. Digital multimedia was still in its infancy, but getting video on and off computers would become a major focus for computer and peripheral makers. As Intel engineers worked on the interface that would become USB, they were also examining possibly faster alternatives.

BC: In general, streaming multimedia, getting video in and out of the PC, was the one [area] that we could put at the forefront and say, “You need to be able to do something like this.” I think in general, most companies appreciated the fact that if things were easier to use, the purchasing experience, the upgrade experience, the service and support would become easier. They would also have lower returns and fewer frustrated service calls.

The Size of a 16 GB flash drive compared to a floppy disk. [Photo: Etineskid/Wikimedia Commons]

As we gathered the requirements, we were also in parallel evaluating technologies that might fit these requirements. We clearly didn’t want to go out and invent something new if there was something that was close enough or good enough.

We explored about 12 different technologies. The most obvious of them was IEEE 1394, which subsequently got labelled as Firewire. When I first started attending those committee meetings to see whether that technology would work, 1394 was a 10-megabyte interface. It felt like it was a technology looking for a problem to solve. They already had something, but they weren’t quite sure what to use it for, and it was evolving. It was also a little more complicated and expensive than what the PC cost point was. On the other hand, it had elements that would be potentially usable.

We looked at that generation of Ethernet-like technologies. We looked at audio interfaces. Apple had an interface called GeoPort back then. We actually talked to Apple to see if they might be interested in evolving that. It didn’t quite transpire. Access Bus was another industry standard.

AB: I personally went to so many different forums. I talked to people in adjacent areas and said, “Guys, let’s all consolidate our applications.” For music, there’s an interface called MIDI, and a lot of synthesizers and the keyboards and stuff used it. I remember hosting a meeting with the key telephony vendors in Dallas, because there are a whole bunch of outside allies. We were trying to convince people that you could do computer telephony using something like USB, and a lot of people thought that we could not support certain things like that. There was a view that HP had that your printers would talk to your computer using this link called infrared data [IRDA].

BC: I would say it was USB, 1394, and Access Bus that were running on parallel tracks for about a year or two. In that ’93, ’94 time frame. By then, there was a groundswell on USB. Back then, it was called the Serial Bus. We didn’t have the name identified yet.

HOW USB GOT ITS NAME

BC: The naming of USB itself was a significant committee effort. So the question of naming goes three ways. There was a school of thought that said anything that was numbered wouldn’t succeed. It was too techy. Don’t make it like a 1394. That was a spec number. It needs to be something that’s got a handle that users can relate to. We tried coming up with consumer-ish names. Then we felt they were too far out from where USB was.

Intel is very big on acronyms, in case you haven’t picked that up already. You turn to our organization, a lot of team names or organization names, project names, technology names, a lot of them are acronyms. That seemed to be a place for us to start with and the universality of the solution. We played around with that. How would we expand on that?

On the other hand, the word “bus” seemed counterintuitive, but it’s something that the industry knew what it was about. So we stuck with that. Other interfaces were going parallel, SCSI, the parallel port, and so on. [Our new standard] was slim. It was economically simple. You want to bring out some of those elements in the description.

That’s what brought out the “universal serial bus.” There was this idea around the usage of the word “bus” in that time frame as being something that gets you from here to there, efficiently and consistently.

In the end, I think the universality of it is what really took off. That was what we were trying to do.

JP: COMDEX was a huge show in Las Vegas, and [in 1998], we rented a big hall, and we actually had a big showcase as well. We rented a big pavilion where we did a press event, and we attached the full 127 devices to one PC, and we hired Bill Nye The Science Guy to plug in the last one to kind of show how this one port on the PC could support—we had a whole stage full of different printers! We went around and shook a mouse and shook a different mouse—or print something here, and print something there.

OKAY, BUT: WHY WASN’T THE PLUG REVERSIBLE?

AB: Good question. We had looked at it, but the whole goal here was to make it very inexpensive, and at that point, we were trying to solve all the USB problems with two wires. At that point, if you added wires to make things flippable, you have to add wires, and you also have to add a lot of silicon. Wires and pins cost real money, so we decided to keep it as cheap as possible. With serial port and parallel port, there were versions that were 25 pins and 36 pins and so on and so forth. The cables were very thick and expensive. We were trying to solve all the problems. We went in favor of fewer wires. In hindsight, a flippable connector would have been better.

AB: Our goal was to say that this interface should be such that it should work on a mouse and it should also work on a high-end printer or on digital cameras. That’s what we were looking at, the range of products. At one end, we wanted it simple enough, so there could be very low costs. At the other end, we wanted to make sure that it could be scaled and, just as we speak today, we’re running the USB at tens of gigs. The original one was running at 12 megs. We’ve come a long way in scaling.

THE CALL FROM MICROSOFT’S BETSY TANNER THAT SAVED USB

JP: One of the people we met at Microsoft was Betsy Tanner, and at the time, she was the engineering manager for the mouse. I talked to Betsy and said, “if there ever comes a day that you’re not going to use USB for your next Microsoft mouse, I need to know.” And she says, “okay, that’s a fair request.”

We were designing USB—originally, it was supposed to be a five megabit-per-second bus, which at the time was faster than anything else that normally would come at the back of the PC. It’s not fast by today’s standards, but at the time, it seemed fast. And the reason we wanted high speed was so you could fan it out through hubs, and basically, however many devices would be attached to that single port would be sharing that bandwidth—not necessarily all being used simultaneously, but we wanted it to be fairly robust. Well, Betsy called me one day and said, “Jim, you asked me to call you if we’re not going to be using USB for the mouse. I’m calling you to tell you we’re not going to be able to do it because we have a problem.”

And I said, “what’s the problem?” She says, “Well, 5 megabits is just too fast.”

I said, “For a mouse, we don’t need that much bandwidth, and secondly, I’m really afraid of whether we can pass the electrical magnetic interference specifications. Signals going through a wire become an antennae. Am I going to have too much EMI radiation coming off creating digital noise?”

She said, “we could solve it by putting a shield around it, but it adds 4 cents per foot to the cost of a cable. If I’ve got a six foot cable that adds 24 cents. So I can’t do that. Secondly, if I put a shield on it, a mouse needs to have a simple cable. The cable can’t affect the movement of the mouse, and I’m afraid that if I put a shield, it becomes too stiff.”

So I said, “Betsy, what could you live with?” She said, “We’d be comfortable with two megabits per second.”

And I said, “Damn, that’s just as slow. Give me a week, can you do that?”

She said yes. I came back to the team, and we discussed Microsoft’s problem, and that’s where we actually split it, where we had a high speed and a low speed in the bus. At the high speeds, we brought it up to 12 megabits per second. And then we made the slow speed down to one and a half megabits per second, which was three quarters of the speed that was her maximum.

We saved Microsoft, we saved the mouse. And I think that that call from Betsy saved the program. One of the reasons why USB was so successful is because it hit the cost point that was required. It didn’t add any significant cost to the PC. You can even make the argument that it reduced the cost, over time.

“APPLE HAD NO INTEREST IN WORKING WITH US”

Among the USB confederacy that brought the standard into the world, one big company was notably missingBut in 1998, with the release of the iMac, Apple became the first to include USB as the only plug on its computers. It was Apple, not Intel, that would become the first prominent computer company to be associated with USB.

AB: It’s interesting. There was no Apple on the list, and they had a competing product called 1394, or Firewire. Apple also had their own interface. They were known for easy-to-use even then. Once the spec got done, it was actually Apple that came out with the first product. The Windows-based system was transitioning from DOS to Windows and from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98.

Remember, we were not the marketeers. We had a vision to bring about a profound change to the computer industry. That’s what my motivation was as a computer scientist. I wanted some of the clunky interfaces to go away because they were limiting some internal extensions, as well as they were limiting some of the applications of the computer.

As a matter of fact, when we started this thing, we had approached Apple, and they had no interest in working with us, and they wanted to go in a different direction. When they adopted the spec, we knew that we had done the right thing, and we had addressed the right problem. We were nothing but happy about it. Our view was that this pie needs to get bigger, and everyone will have a significant piece of pie. We were not at all disappointed. We were elated, and every time new stuff came out, it made us even more happy, and it validated our vision that we were solving the right problem.

EVERYTHING WAS USB

JP: Since the fall of 1996, [USB ports] started appearing on PCs. In the fall, Microsoft had [Windows] OSR 2.1 if I remember right. It had support for USB. But it had to be installed; OEMs couldn’t sell it on new machines. There were peripherals coming out, but it wasn’t like what happened in 1998.

When Windows 98 shipped, it was like a dam burst. The world was flooded with USB devices. I remember Steve Whalley and I were actually in Tokyo. We went to Akihabara, the electronic district of Tokyo, and we walked into one of the large electronic stores. We started walking around to see if they had USB stuff there yet. This was prior to Windows 98 or right about that time. We were walking around, we didn’t really see much. Somebody came up and asked us if they could help, and we said, “yeah, we’re looking for USB devices,” and he says, “oh, well that’s the fifth floor. The fifth floor is all USB devices!”

There was an entire floor of this electronics superstore dedicated to USB devices. That was a pretty exciting moment as well. You walk up there and there was aisles. Everything was USB.

BC: Who would have thought that a connector that we had defined in the early ’90s would still be usable today? That’s very rare. We had cost constraints, performance constraints. It was designed for a desktop not a smartphone. Looking back at it, it was wonderful that we accomplished what we did, that it withstood the test of time—that we were able to build on it, enhancing the power delivery, the performance, all the things we did for USB2 and USB3.

The miniaturization of USB development has taken us beyond the PC era right into the mobile era. Also, we’ve built on other protocols that had evolved since besides USB. We brought the goodness of all of those into Type-C.

Ajay Bhatt (left) and Bala Cadambi attend the European Inventor Award 2013. [Photo: EVERT ELZINGA/AFP/Getty Images]

JP: With USB-C, you can actually charge your laptop with a single USB port. You don’t even have to have a dedicated power port on your laptop anymore. It’s been a big deal. Who could have predicted?

BC: Defining a new connector always is a transition issue. We thought about it extremely carefully. It took us a good six years to work on it to put the whole Type-C capability together. A lot of industry work again went behind it.

There’s two aspects that we talk about when we talk about the standard. One is the interface that you plug in, and that is changing. The interface behind it, which is the interface between the device drivers and operating system between device and device drivers, there’s no change to that. That has held seamlessly for 20 years, and that carries through to USB-C.

JP: Bala put together a great slide at one point. Shawn Maloney was one of our senior vice presidents, and Bala took a picture of the back of Shawn’s computer. It was a complete rat’s nest of cables. That was one visual of the industry at the time, and that mess just kind of visually conveyed that.

But the other slide that he did was USB—the first hundred million devices. I remember we put that slide up in one of my keynotes or something, and the audience would laugh, you know?

And then a few years later, we were shipping 2.2 billion units a year. Nobody was laughing anymore. The success of this thing has been phenomenal. It became the ubiquitous connector.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joel Johnson used to be a writer.

 

 

Chinese military to create new OS to thwart US government hackers

Chinese military won’t move to Linux, but develop a custom OS instead.

10 things you should never do in Excel

10 things you should never do in Excel

 

Amidst an escalating trade war and political tensions with the US, Beijing officials have decided to develop a custom operating system that will replace the Windows OS on computers used by the Chinese military.

The decision, while not made official through the government’s normal press channels, was reported earlier this month by Canada-based military magazine Kanwa Asian Defence.

Per the magazine, Chinese military officials won’t be jumping ship from Windows to Linux but will develop a custom OS.

Thanks to the Snowden, Shadow Brokers, and Vault7 leaks, Beijing officials are well aware of the US’ hefty arsenal of hacking tools, available for anything from smart TVs to Linux servers, and from routers to common desktop operating systems, such as Windows and Mac.

Since these leaks have revealed that the US can hack into almost anything, the Chinese government’s plan is to adopt a “security by obscurity” approach and run a custom operating system that will make it harder for foreign threat actors — mainly the US — to spy on Chinese military operations.

The task of developing the new OS and replacing Windows will fall to a new “Internet Security Information Leadership Group,” as first reported by the Epoch Times, citing the May issue of the Kanwa Asian Defence magazine.

Per the magazine, this new group answers directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), being separate from the rest of the military and intelligence apparatus.

This is similar to how the United States Cyber Command operates as a separate entity in the US Department of Defense, separate and independent from the other US military and intelligence agencies.

In the late 90s, North Korea also developed a custom operating system for use inside the country, called Red Star OS.

The OS is still alive, it is a Linux distro, but it never became the “only” official OS for government agencies, which continued to use Windows, Mac, and Linux in parallel.

Engineers create ‘lifelike’ material with artificial metabolism

Cornell professor of biologi

Cornell professor of biological and environmental engineering Dan Luo and research associate Shogo Hamada

have created a DNA material capable of metabolism, in addition to self-assembly and organization.

 

By Matt Hayes |

As a genetic material, DNA is responsible for all known life. But DNA is also a polymer. Tapping into the unique nature of the molecule, Cornell engineers have created simple machines constructed of biomaterials with properties of living things.

Using what they call DASH (DNA-based Assembly and Synthesis of Hierarchical) materials, Cornell engineers constructed a DNA material with capabilities of metabolism, in addition to self-assembly and organization – three key traits of life.

“We are introducing a brand-new, lifelike material concept powered by its very own artificial metabolism. We are not making something that’s alive, but we are creating materials that are much more lifelike than have ever been seen before,” said Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The paper, “Dynamic DNA Material With Emergent Locomotion Behavior Powered by Artificial Metabolism,” published April 10 in Science Robotics.

For any living organism to maintain itself, there must be a system to manage change. New cells must be generated; old cells and waste must be swept away. Biosynthesis and biodegradation are key elements of self-sustainability and require metabolism to maintain its form and functions.

Through this system, DNA molecules are synthesized and assembled into patterns in a hierarchical way, resulting in something that can perpetuate a dynamic, autonomous process of growth and decay.

Using DASH, the Cornell engineers created a biomaterial that can autonomously emerge from its nanoscale building blocks and arrange itself – first into polymers and eventually mesoscale shapes. Starting from a 55-nucleotide base seed sequence, the DNA molecules were multiplied hundreds of thousands times, creating chains of repeating DNA a few millimeters in size. The reaction solution was then injected in a microfluidic device that provided a liquid flow of energy and the necessary building blocks for biosynthesis.

As the flow washed over the material, the DNA synthesized its own new strands, with the front end of the material growing and the tail end degrading in optimized balance. In this way, it made its own locomotion, creeping forward, against the flow, in a way similar to how slime molds move.

The locomotive ability allowed the researchers to pit sets of the material against one another in competitive races. Due to randomness in the environment, one body would eventually gain an advantage over the other, allowing one to cross a finish line first.

“The designs are still primitive, but they showed a new route to create dynamic machines from biomolecules. We are at a first step of building lifelike robots by artificial metabolism,” said Shogo Hamada, lecturer and research associate in the Luo lab, and lead and co-corresponding author of the paper. “Even from a simple design, we were able to create sophisticated behaviors like racing. Artificial metabolism could open a new frontier in robotics.”

The engineers are currently exploring ways to have the material recognize stimuli and autonomously be able to seek it out in the case of light or food, or avoid it if it’s harmful.

The programmed metabolism embedded into DNA materials is the key innovation. The DNA contains the set of instructions for metabolism and autonomous regeneration. After that, it’s on its own.

“Everything from its ability to move and compete, all those processes are self-contained. There’s no external interference,” Luo said. “Life began billions of years from perhaps just a few kinds of molecules. This might be the same.”

The material the team created can last for two cycles of synthesis and degradation before it expires. Longevity can likely be extended, according to the researchers, opening the possibility for more “generations” of the material as it self-replicates. “Ultimately, the system may lead to lifelike self-reproducing machines,” Hamada said.

“More excitingly, the use of DNA gives the whole system a self-evolutionary possibility,” Luo said. “That is huge.”

Theoretically, it could be designed so that subsequent generations emerge within seconds. Reproduction at this hyper pace would take advantage of DNA’s natural mutational properties and speed the evolutionary process, according to Luo.

In the future, the system could be used as a biosensor to detect the presence of any DNA and RNA. The concept also could be used to create a dynamic template for making proteins without living cells.

The work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation and supported by the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility and Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. Collaborators include Jenny Sabin, the Arthur L. and Isabel B. Wiesenberger Professor in Architecture, and researchers form Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

There is a patent pending with the Center for Technology Licensing.

 
 

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Flying cars are poised to take off

 

 
By KARL WILSON | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-08 07:20    
Ehang 184, a passenger drone, takes a test flight in Guangzhou in February. FENG ZHOUFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

The stuff of science fiction is close to becoming reality

Back in February, drone manufacturer Ehang released a video of the world’s first passenger drone, the Ehang 184.

The video showed the drone being put through its paces with and without a passenger. Many analysts watched the demonstration in amazement. The future was suddenly upon us.

The electric drone can carry one passenger, weighing up to 100 kilograms, and travels at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour.

Headquartered in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong province, the company describes the Ehang 184 as the “world’s first all-electric, consumer-facing autonomous passenger drone”. In other words, it is a flying car.

Two and a half years ago, Ehang was virtually unknown in the wider tech world. The company strutted its stuff at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016 and made the bold claim that it would build a completely autonomous, passenger-carrying quadcopter-a multirotor helicopter that is lifted by four rotors-that would “revolutionize” mobility.

Andrew J. Hawkins, a writer with The Verge, a technology news and media network in the United States, said, “Many of us in the tech community chortled under our breath at the time, wondering if such a thing was even possible, let alone advisable.”

Now, no one is laughing, as quadcopters, flying cars or taxis-call them what you will-are a reality. And as Hawkins wrote earlier this year, “This thing is no joke.”

Ehang is not the only Chinese company involved in the research and development of flying cars.

Late last year, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns Volvo and Lotus, acquired Terrafugia, a company in Boston, US, which plans to start selling flying cars by next year.

Bloomberg reported: “It’s the most prominent Chinese investment yet in an industry that’s attracting the talent and capital of some of the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs and investors. And it marks an important advance for a technology that could reshape the 21st-century city.”

However, China is not alone in developing this technology. Dozens of companies worldwide are spending billions on research to get commercially viable flying cars off the ground.

Some of the leading contenders include Airbus and Daimler in Europe, Boeing, Bell Helicopter, Uber and Google in the US, and Aston Martin in Britain.

Increasing traffic congestion across megacities and large urban centers, coupled with the resulting economic losses, continue to drive the need for more efficient modes of urban transportation, according to business consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

Joe Praveen Vijayakumar, the company’s industry analyst, said flying cars are being explored as an alternative form of future mobility, making use of underused domestic airspace.

He said flying cars are set to disrupt the personal mobility space of the future, with at least 10 early entrants expected to launch various versions by 2022.

“This space has been witnessing bustling activity, with new players from various industries entering the race to build flying cars,” he said.

“We have also seen a surge in funding, as several companies have raised funds or been acquired by established players from the automotive industry.”

With the newly developed Ehang 184, it seems that all passengers need to do is climb into the small cabin, fasten their seat belts, and the automated flight system does the rest.

The Ehang 184 passenger drone is displayed in Dubai. The electrically powered drone, developed by a company in Guangzhou, can carry a passenger weighing up to 100 kilograms and can travel at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. CHINA DAILY

Ehang’s Chief Executive Officer Hu Huazhi said in a statement in February: “None of the traditional flying vehicles can achieve the goal of fully autonomous flying, so they are still far away from common people. But our successful flight means the scenes that we used to see only in sci-fi movies are now very close to common people.”

The company said the drone has been tested more than 1,000 times and is designed to withstand gales with wind speeds of up to 50 km/h. But each Ehang 184 costs a reported $200,000 to $300,000.

Last year, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, announced a plan to cooperate with Ehang to develop self-flying taxis to transport people across the city.

Ehang cofounder Derrick Xiong said at the time, “The drone can help people to avoid traffic on the ground, but in other applications we can always think about emergency rescue, or we can transport patients to the hospital, or we can do tourism-you know, fly from one island to another.”

Analysts believe that flying cars and air taxis that ferry people to and from work, airports and between cities will be commonplace within the next two decades.

In February, Airbus released a video of the first successful test flight of its eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) autonomous drone.

Although it only hovered in the air for 53 seconds, the fact that its eight rotors were powered entirely by electricity was a landmark for the manufacturer of gas-guzzling commercial aircraft.

However, Ehang is considerably more advanced than most of its competitors, including Airbus. It is already test-flying drones with passengers who simply mark their destination on a map while the drone creates and executes a flight plan.

At the Farnborough International Airshow in Britain in July, Boeing announced it was setting up a new division to tap into what it described as “the growing market of autonomous flight”.

To be called Boeing Next, it will work in partnership with other companies as it looks to “build unmanned vehicles, resolve air traffic control and help model infrastructure on the ground”, the company said in a statement.

The development of flying vehicles is going to arrive in the next few years, Boeing said, adding that transportation in the future will need to be “multi-modal”.

The aerospace giant also announced that it has embarked on a new partnership with the US artificial intelligence company Spark-Cognition.

Boeing said the collaboration will use blockchain technology and AI to develop an air traffic management system that can track an unmanned vehicle as it flies. The system would also allocate traffic routes and corridors.

Amir Husain, founder and CEO of SparkCognition, said the urban aerial transportation market has been estimated to be worth $3 trillion, “which represents the largest new market in our lifetime”.

“The world’s No 1 aviation leader partnering with the world’s most innovative industrial AI company means that unparalleled experience in safety, innovation, scale and reliability will be brought to bear to address this monumental opportunity.”

Boeing plans to develop a system to track an unmanned vehicle in flight. CHINA DAILY

Steve Nordlund, vice-president of Boeing Next, said, “Boeing is leading the responsible introduction of a new mobility ecosystem, instead of just focusing on vehicles.

“Through our technology development and investments, as well as our work with industry leaders, new and existing partners, and regulators, we are uniting the key enablers and stakeholders to make the future mobility ecosystem a reality,” he said.

“Cargo and passenger air vehicle prototypes are being built and tested right now. The introduction of these new technologies won’t all happen at once; proven technologies will be phased in only after they have gone through a robust development process that includes rigorous testing.”

Most important, in Nordlund’s view, there must be a new transportation ecosystem that allows autonomous and piloted air vehicles to coexist safely.

He said a number of operating and business models are being considered-everything from shared air mobility (air taxis) to personal ownership (cars).

“In all of these models, the technology will make urban transport clean, quiet, accessible and safe,” he said.

Autonomy will be integral to the future of air mobility, and travel needs to be safe, reliable and accessible.

Boeing said it is building technology that will enable both fully autonomous vehicle operations as well as intelligent systems that will assist pilots during routine operations.

“We are designing, building and flight-testing electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles that will provide on-demand cargo transport and urban air travel in the future mobility ecosystem,” Nordlund said.

In May, at the World Business Forum in Sydney, one of the world’s leading futurists, Shara Evans, said flying taxis and flying cars “are no longer science fiction but a reality”.

She told China Daily flying cars will be in the air within the next decade.

Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi this year recommitted to the company’s goal of offering flying taxis as a transportation option within the next five to 10 years.

UberAir aims to fly vehicles at low altitudes as part of a network of small eVTOL planes that fly short distances. This is something the company has talked about since 2016, targeting demonstration flights in Los Angeles by 2020.

In April last year, Kitty Hawk, the flying car company backed by Google cofounder Larry Page, released the first footage of a prototype in action.

The vehicle will sit well with environmental activists, as it is fully electric. The company said the vehicle will be ideal for shorter, city-to-city flights, with a range of 100 km and a maximum speed of about 150 km/h. To operate it, a runway will not be needed, as it can take off and land vertically. Of course, users will not actually be operating it, as the vehicle is self-piloting.

The company has named it Cora. It also said it is meant to be much more than just a flying car-it is a flying taxi.

In a media release, Kitty Hawk said it is working with the New Zealand government to commercialize the flying taxi. The two sides aim to see a commercial network of air taxis soaring above New Zealand cities in as little as three years.

Kitty Hawk settled on New Zealand because of its uncongested airspace and rigorous regulatory environment. But more important, the government embraced the idea.

Cora has been granted an experimental airworthiness certificate by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand.

Trialing the flying taxi service will reportedly take six years, with operations based around the city of Christchurch.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said, “This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport ecosystem to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet.”

Flying cars are poised to take off

 

 
By KARL WILSON | China Daily | Updated: 2018-10-08 07:20    
Ehang 184, a passenger drone, takes a test flight in Guangzhou in February. FENG ZHOUFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

The stuff of science fiction is close to becoming reality

Back in February, drone manufacturer Ehang released a video of the world’s first passenger drone, the Ehang 184.

The video showed the drone being put through its paces with and without a passenger. Many analysts watched the demonstration in amazement. The future was suddenly upon us.

The electric drone can carry one passenger, weighing up to 100 kilograms, and travels at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour.

Headquartered in Guangzhou, the capital of South China’s Guangdong province, the company describes the Ehang 184 as the “world’s first all-electric, consumer-facing autonomous passenger drone”. In other words, it is a flying car.

Two and a half years ago, Ehang was virtually unknown in the wider tech world. The company strutted its stuff at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016 and made the bold claim that it would build a completely autonomous, passenger-carrying quadcopter-a multirotor helicopter that is lifted by four rotors-that would “revolutionize” mobility.

Andrew J. Hawkins, a writer with The Verge, a technology news and media network in the United States, said, “Many of us in the tech community chortled under our breath at the time, wondering if such a thing was even possible, let alone advisable.”

Now, no one is laughing, as quadcopters, flying cars or taxis-call them what you will-are a reality. And as Hawkins wrote earlier this year, “This thing is no joke.”

Ehang is not the only Chinese company involved in the research and development of flying cars.

Late last year, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns Volvo and Lotus, acquired Terrafugia, a company in Boston, US, which plans to start selling flying cars by next year.

Bloomberg reported: “It’s the most prominent Chinese investment yet in an industry that’s attracting the talent and capital of some of the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs and investors. And it marks an important advance for a technology that could reshape the 21st-century city.”

However, China is not alone in developing this technology. Dozens of companies worldwide are spending billions on research to get commercially viable flying cars off the ground.

Some of the leading contenders include Airbus and Daimler in Europe, Boeing, Bell Helicopter, Uber and Google in the US, and Aston Martin in Britain.

Increasing traffic congestion across megacities and large urban centers, coupled with the resulting economic losses, continue to drive the need for more efficient modes of urban transportation, according to business consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

Joe Praveen Vijayakumar, the company’s industry analyst, said flying cars are being explored as an alternative form of future mobility, making use of underused domestic airspace.

He said flying cars are set to disrupt the personal mobility space of the future, with at least 10 early entrants expected to launch various versions by 2022.

“This space has been witnessing bustling activity, with new players from various industries entering the race to build flying cars,” he said.

“We have also seen a surge in funding, as several companies have raised funds or been acquired by established players from the automotive industry.”

With the newly developed Ehang 184, it seems that all passengers need to do is climb into the small cabin, fasten their seat belts, and the automated flight system does the rest.

The Ehang 184 passenger drone is displayed in Dubai. The electrically powered drone, developed by a company in Guangzhou, can carry a passenger weighing up to 100 kilograms and can travel at speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour. CHINA DAILY

Ehang’s Chief Executive Officer Hu Huazhi said in a statement in February: “None of the traditional flying vehicles can achieve the goal of fully autonomous flying, so they are still far away from common people. But our successful flight means the scenes that we used to see only in sci-fi movies are now very close to common people.”

The company said the drone has been tested more than 1,000 times and is designed to withstand gales with wind speeds of up to 50 km/h. But each Ehang 184 costs a reported $200,000 to $300,000.

Last year, Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, announced a plan to cooperate with Ehang to develop self-flying taxis to transport people across the city.

Ehang cofounder Derrick Xiong said at the time, “The drone can help people to avoid traffic on the ground, but in other applications we can always think about emergency rescue, or we can transport patients to the hospital, or we can do tourism-you know, fly from one island to another.”

Analysts believe that flying cars and air taxis that ferry people to and from work, airports and between cities will be commonplace within the next two decades.

In February, Airbus released a video of the first successful test flight of its eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) autonomous drone.

Although it only hovered in the air for 53 seconds, the fact that its eight rotors were powered entirely by electricity was a landmark for the manufacturer of gas-guzzling commercial aircraft.

However, Ehang is considerably more advanced than most of its competitors, including Airbus. It is already test-flying drones with passengers who simply mark their destination on a map while the drone creates and executes a flight plan.

At the Farnborough International Airshow in Britain in July, Boeing announced it was setting up a new division to tap into what it described as “the growing market of autonomous flight”.

To be called Boeing Next, it will work in partnership with other companies as it looks to “build unmanned vehicles, resolve air traffic control and help model infrastructure on the ground”, the company said in a statement.

The development of flying vehicles is going to arrive in the next few years, Boeing said, adding that transportation in the future will need to be “multi-modal”.

The aerospace giant also announced that it has embarked on a new partnership with the US artificial intelligence company Spark-Cognition.

Boeing said the collaboration will use blockchain technology and AI to develop an air traffic management system that can track an unmanned vehicle as it flies. The system would also allocate traffic routes and corridors.

Amir Husain, founder and CEO of SparkCognition, said the urban aerial transportation market has been estimated to be worth $3 trillion, “which represents the largest new market in our lifetime”.

“The world’s No 1 aviation leader partnering with the world’s most innovative industrial AI company means that unparalleled experience in safety, innovation, scale and reliability will be brought to bear to address this monumental opportunity.”

Boeing plans to develop a system to track an unmanned vehicle in flight. CHINA DAILY

Steve Nordlund, vice-president of Boeing Next, said, “Boeing is leading the responsible introduction of a new mobility ecosystem, instead of just focusing on vehicles.

“Through our technology development and investments, as well as our work with industry leaders, new and existing partners, and regulators, we are uniting the key enablers and stakeholders to make the future mobility ecosystem a reality,” he said.

“Cargo and passenger air vehicle prototypes are being built and tested right now. The introduction of these new technologies won’t all happen at once; proven technologies will be phased in only after they have gone through a robust development process that includes rigorous testing.”

Most important, in Nordlund’s view, there must be a new transportation ecosystem that allows autonomous and piloted air vehicles to coexist safely.

He said a number of operating and business models are being considered-everything from shared air mobility (air taxis) to personal ownership (cars).

“In all of these models, the technology will make urban transport clean, quiet, accessible and safe,” he said.

Autonomy will be integral to the future of air mobility, and travel needs to be safe, reliable and accessible.

Boeing said it is building technology that will enable both fully autonomous vehicle operations as well as intelligent systems that will assist pilots during routine operations.

“We are designing, building and flight-testing electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles that will provide on-demand cargo transport and urban air travel in the future mobility ecosystem,” Nordlund said.

In May, at the World Business Forum in Sydney, one of the world’s leading futurists, Shara Evans, said flying taxis and flying cars “are no longer science fiction but a reality”.

She told China Daily flying cars will be in the air within the next decade.

Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi this year recommitted to the company’s goal of offering flying taxis as a transportation option within the next five to 10 years.

UberAir aims to fly vehicles at low altitudes as part of a network of small eVTOL planes that fly short distances. This is something the company has talked about since 2016, targeting demonstration flights in Los Angeles by 2020.

In April last year, Kitty Hawk, the flying car company backed by Google cofounder Larry Page, released the first footage of a prototype in action.

The vehicle will sit well with environmental activists, as it is fully electric. The company said the vehicle will be ideal for shorter, city-to-city flights, with a range of 100 km and a maximum speed of about 150 km/h. To operate it, a runway will not be needed, as it can take off and land vertically. Of course, users will not actually be operating it, as the vehicle is self-piloting.

The company has named it Cora. It also said it is meant to be much more than just a flying car-it is a flying taxi.

In a media release, Kitty Hawk said it is working with the New Zealand government to commercialize the flying taxi. The two sides aim to see a commercial network of air taxis soaring above New Zealand cities in as little as three years.

Kitty Hawk settled on New Zealand because of its uncongested airspace and rigorous regulatory environment. But more important, the government embraced the idea.

Cora has been granted an experimental airworthiness certificate by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand.

Trialing the flying taxi service will reportedly take six years, with operations based around the city of Christchurch.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said, “This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport ecosystem to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet.”

About Iqbal

 

 

 
Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath

Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath

Director at IQSoft Software Consultants

Kollam, Kerala, India

Education Management

4 people have recommended Mohamed

 

Summary

25+ Years Teaching Mechanical Engineering

Specialties: Gas Hydrates, Stirling Engines, PHP, MySQL, Linux

 

Mohamed Iqbal Pallipurath’s Articles & Activity

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    Online MBA Webinar – Development of Industrial Engineering

    NIBM Global offers free MBA webinars and MBA Lectures. Do visit http://www.nibmglobal.com for more details.

     

 

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  • Image for Director

    Director

    IQSoft Software Consultants

     – Present 27 years 3 months

    We provide Web Design, Content Addition, Customized Software and Consultancy (in Software, Web Design and Mechanical Engineering)

  • Image for Professor

    Professor

    TKM College of Engineering

     – Present 35 years

    Kollam

    Mechanical Engineering Department

  • Image for Mechanical Engineer

    Mechanical Engineer

    Saudi Oger Ltd.

     –  8 months

    Potable Water Project Al Jubail

  • Image for Mechanical Engineer(Technical consultant)

    Mechanical Engineer(Technical consultant)

    a company undertaking desalination and distribution of potable water

     –  10 months

    Saudi Oger
    Al Jubail
    KSA

  • Image for Lecturer

    Lecturer

    Anjuman Engineering College Bhatkal, Karnataka

     –  9 months

    Mechanical Engineering Department

 

Education

  • Image for Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

    Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

    PhD, Cryogenic Engineering

     – 

    Activities and Societies: Gas Hydrates

    Research

  • Image for Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

    Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

    M. Tech., Thermal Engineering

     – 

    Activities and Societies: Thermal Engineering

    MTech

  • Image for Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

    Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

    Master of Technology (M.Tech.), thermal engineering

     – 

    Activities and Societies: Gym

    MTech

  • Image for TKM College of Engineering

    TKM College of Engineering

    BSc Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

     – 

    Activities and Societies: Mechanical Engineering

    BSC Engineering

  • Image for Kendriya Vidyalaya

    Kendriya Vidyalaya

    CBSE, CBSE

     – 

    Activities and Societies: XI Std

    High School CBSE

  • Image for T.K.M. College of Engineering. Kerala

    T.K.M. College of Engineering. Kerala

    B.Sc Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

    BSc Engineering Mechanical Engineering

 

Certifications

 

Courses

  • phd

 

Languages

  • Malayalam

  • Hindi

  • Urdu

  • Arabic

  • Tamil

  • Sanskrit

  • Bengali

 

Projects

  • One Day International Cricket

     – Present

    PHP code to create Official Identification

    Other creators
    • moby thomas
  • Kerala State Athletics Association Website

     – Present

    PHP software developed for conducting athletic championships

    Other creators
    • Tony Daniel

 

Publications

  • Effect of Bed Deformation on Natural Gas Production from Hydrates

    Journal of Petroleum Engineering, Hindawi http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jpe/2013/942597/

    This work is based on modelling studies in an axisymmetric framework. The thermal stimulation of hydrated sediment is taken to occur by a centrally placed heat source. The model includes the hydrate dissociation and its effect on sediment bed deformation and resulting effect on gas production. A finite element package was customized to simulate the gas production from natural gas hydrate by considering the deformation of submarine bed. Three sediment models have been used to simulate gas production. The effect of sediment deformation on gas production by thermal stimulation is studied. Gas production rate is found to increase with an increase in the source temperature. Porosity of the sediment and saturation of the hydrate both have been found to significantly influence the rate of gas production.

  • Dissociation and subsidence of hydrated sediment: coupled models

    Energy, Exploration & Exploitation Volume 27, Number 2

    Thermal dissociation of hydrated sediment by a pumped hot fluid is modeled. A radial heat flow from the hot pipe is assumed. The coordinate system is cylindrical. Three components (hydrate, methane and water) and three phases (hydrate, gas, and aqueous-phase) are considered in the simulator. The intrinsic kinetics of hydrate formation or dissociation is considered using the Kim-Bishnoi model. Mass transport, including two-phase flow, molecular diffusions and heat transfer involved in formation or dissociation of hydrates are included in the governing equations, which are discretized with finite volume difference method and are solved in an explicit manner. The strength deterioration of the hydrate bed as a result of dissociation is investigated with a geo-mechanical model. The way in which dissociation affects the bed strength is determined by plugging in the porosity and saturation change as a result of dissociation into the sediment collapse equations. A mechanism to measure the pore pressure changes occurring due to dissociation is developed. The rate of collapse as dissociation proceeds is determined and the model thus enables the definition of a safety envelope for gas hydrate drilling.

 

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A preview of what LinkedIn members have to say about Mohamed:

  • Mr. Mohamed Iqbal is very hard working and enjoyable person. He has designed and developed many software applications. He has given inovative solution and consultation to many of his clients. It was great opportunity to work with him and learn many new fascinating things during my master’s studies at IIT Kharagpur. He passes his leisure time by playing computer games or listening old hindi songs. I am recommending him with my full support.

  • In very simple words i can say that Iqbal sir has proven that age is not a factor in learning especially in high end software applications. At IITkgp i have seen him trying all sorts of latest tools and managing well with them all. My best wishes are with him for bright future. Regards ashwani maloo

Join LinkedIn to see who recommended Mohamed

Groups

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    McGraw-Hill Education :: Engineering

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    IIT Kharagpur

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    Faroook College

  • Image for Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School) Alumni

    Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central School) Alumni

  • Image for Education Management Professionals

    Education Management Professionals

  • Image for TKMCE Alumni

    TKMCE Alumni

 

Breakthrough for carbon nanotube solar cells doubles efficiency

 

solar cells

Lighter, more flexible, and cheaper than conventional solar-cell materials, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have long shown promise for photovoltaics. But research stalled when CNTs proved to be inefficient, converting far less sunlight into power than other methods.

Now a research team led by Mark Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering and the Bette and Neison Harris Chair of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, has created a new type of CNT solar cell that is twice as efficient as its predecessors. It is also the first CNT solar cell to have its performance certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“The field had been hovering around 1 percent efficiency for about a decade; it had really plateaued,” Hersam said. “But we’ve been able to increase it to over 3 percent. It’s a significant jump.”

The research is described in the article “Polychiral Semiconducting Carbon Nanotube-Fullerene Solar Cells” in the August 7 issue of Nano Letters.

The secret lies in the CNTs’ chirality, which is a combination of the tubes’ diameter and twist. When a thin sheet of carbon is rolled into a nanotube, several hundred different chiralities are possible. In the past, researchers tended to choose one particular chirality with good semiconducting properties and build an entire solar cell out of that one.

“The problem is that each nanotube chirality only absorbs a narrow range of optical wavelengths,” Hersam said. “If you make a solar cell out of a single chirality , you basically throw away most of the solar light.”

Hersam’s team made a mixture of polychiral, or multiple chirality, semiconducting nanotubes. This maximized the amount of photocurrent produced by absorbing a broader range of solar-spectrum wavelengths. The cells significantly absorbed near-infrared wavelengths, a range that has been inaccessible to many leading thin-film technologies.

While this is major progress for CNT , they still lag behind other materials in efficiency. Silicon, for example, can be 15-20 percent efficient, but it is more expensive to manufacture. “If you look at our performance, there’s certainly a big jump,” Hersam said. “But there’s more work to be done. We still have to advance this technology by a factor of three to five.”

Hersam said the next step is to create polychiral CNT solar cells that have multiple layers. Each layer would be optimized for a particular portion of the solar spectrum and, thus, absorb more light. He said they might also incorporate other materials, such as organic or inorganic semiconductors, to complement CNTs.

“What we’d like to do is absorb every photon from the sun and convert it into electricity,” he said. “In other words, we’d like to have a solar cell that has an absorption spectrum perfectly matching solar light. We’re on a path toward that goal.”


Explore further

Researchers unveil new solar cell made from carbon nanotubes that converts more sunlight into power

 

Researchers find genetic cause for Alzheimer’s, possible method to reverse it

 

 
By Allen Cone  |  April 11, 2018 at 4:46 PM
 
 
 
 
 
 
Researchers say they have discovered a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and that in lab experiments with induced pluripotent stem cells found a way to neutralize its effects. Photo by geralt/Pixabay
 
 

April 11 (UPI) — Scientists at an independent biomedical research institution have reported a monumental breakthrough: The cause of the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and a possible cure for the disease.

Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco identified the primary genetic risk factor for the disease, a gene called apoE4. They were able to create a harmless apoE3-like version by inserting a class of compounds into it.

Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia and the fifth leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently there is no cure or prevention for the irreversible, progressive brain condition, which usually develops in people after age 60.

Lead author Dr. Yadong Huang, a senior investigator and director of the Center for Translational Advancement at Gladstone, told UPI he is working with an undisclosed startup pharmaceutical company in the San Francisco Bay area to “further develop the apoE4 structure corrector approach and move toward clinic trials.”

“My lab and my collaborators are working hard to move our discovery toward clinical trials as quickly as we can,” he told UPI.

Huang said apoE4 can be targeted directly for Alzheimer’s disease drug development, but that there is no defined timetable for clinical trials.

“It is difficult to estimate when a drug could be on the market given the complexity of drug development,” Huang said. “We are likely several years away from a drug being on the market, but with concerted effort, we are working to accelerate the timeline as much as possible.

Huang said he has been working with Dr. Robert W. Mahley at the Gladstone Institutes for over 20 years on apoE and Alzheimer’s disease, especially on developing apoE4 structure correctors.

“Drug development for Alzheimer’s disease has been largely a disappointment over the past 10 years,” Huang said in a press release. “Many drugs work beautifully in a mouse model, but so far they’ve all failed in clinical trials. One concern within the field has been how poorly these mouse models really mimic human disease.”

Huang used human cells to model the disease and test new drugs.

But he told UPI that “animal models continue to be very important to test possible drug toxicity and to test the efficacy of a new drug in vivo.”

For the first time, they examined the effect of apoE4 on the human brain by creating neurons from skin cells donated by Alzheimer’s patients with two copies of the apoE4 gene, as well as from healthy individuals who also have two copies of the apoE3 gene.

Researchers said one copy of the apoE4 gene more than doubles a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and two copies increases the risk by 12-fold.

In human neurons, the apoE4 protein not functioning properly is broken down into disease-causing fragments in the cells. The process leads to issues often observed with Alzheimer’s disease, including the accumulation of the protein tau and of amyloid peptides.

Although apoE4 does not change the production of amyloid beta in mouse neurons, it increases amyloid beta production in humans.

“There’s an important species difference in the effect of apoE4 on amyloid beta,” said Dr. Chengzhong Wang, a former research scientist at Gladstone. “Increased amyloid beta production is not seen in mouse neurons and could potentially explain some of the discrepancies between mice and humans regarding drug efficacy. This will be very important information for future drug development.”

Researchers examined brain cells that did not produce either form of the apoE protein. But if they added apoE4, the cells had pathologies related to Alzheimer’s disease. So, apoE4, and not the absence of apoE3, develops the disease.

By treating human apoE4 neurons with a structure corrector, it eliminated the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, restored normal function to the cells and improved cell survival.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A Few Interesting Indoor House Plants

Even those without a green thumb can appreciate the beauty of houseplants – if you’re one of those people, this post is for you! We’ve compiled information on 32 low-maintenance plants ranging from tiny succulents all the way to small trees, something for every skill level. This outdoorsy touch is a great way to boost mood, add color to your interior, and build up gardening skill. Many people even enjoy keeping houseplants to purify the air, but it’s important to consider some important caveats to that NASA study everyone keeps mentioning about – with that in mind, this list focuses on attractive aesthetics and easy maintenance only. Enjoy the search!