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Submission + - Japanese envy Indian Schools?

sas-dot writes: Nytimes article writes that Japan is suffering a crisis of confidence these days about its ability to compete with its emerging Asian rivals, China and India. But even in this fad-obsessed nation, one result was never expected: a growing craze for Indian education..India's more demanding education standards are apparent at the Little Angels Kindergarten, and are its main selling point. Its 2-year-old pupils are taught to count to 20, 3-year-olds are introduced to computers, and 5-year-olds learn to multiply, solve math word problems and write one-page essays in English, tasks most Japanese schools do not teach until at least second grade. America has to learn something from this? or not?

Submission + - Who's a Nerd ?

sas-dot writes: Is this nerdiness we know? New York Times carries this article on Who is a nerd?, excerpts from it "What is a nerd? Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has been working on the question for the last 12 years. She has gone to high schools and colleges, mainly in California, and asked students from different crowds to think about the idea of nerdiness and who among their peers should be considered a nerd; students have also "reported" themselves. Nerdiness, she has concluded, is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it, "hyperwhite."

Submission + - End of the World in 2012 ?

sas-dot writes: The NewYork Times sunday magazine carries an interesting article on the Final days of Earth as predicted by Mayan Calendar, which is Dec 21, 2012. From the article i quote "Far from its origins, divorced from its context and enlisted in a prophetic project that it may never have been designed to fulfill, the Mayan calendar is at the center of an escalating cultural phenomenon — with New Age roots — that unites numinous dreams of societal transformation with the darker tropes of biblical cataclysm. To some, 2012 will bring the end of time; to others, it carries the promise of a new beginning; to still others, 2012 provides an explanation for troubling new realities — environmental change, for example — that seem beyond the control of our technology and impervious to reason. Just in time for the final five-year countdown, the Mayan apocalypse has come of age."
The Media

Submission + - US website outsources city reporting to India

sas-dot writes: Indian news website writes: Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism. The first articles, some of which will carry bylines, are slated to appear on Friday. This is not the first time media jobs have been shipped to India. The British news agency Reuters runs an operation in the technology capital of Bangalore that churns out Wall Street stories based on news releases.

Submission + - Translate Gene Sequences to Music

sas-dot writes: Nature reports about Takahashi and Miller, who are based at the University of California, Los Angeles, developing a way of converting each of the 20 standard amino acids from which proteins are built into different piano chords. When played, the amino acids form a slightly disharmonious, but not altogether unpleasant tune, they report in Genome Biology. The project, called Gene2Music, isn't the first to convert biological structures into music, but Takahashi says it differs from its predecessors because the chord assignment limits the music to within a one-and-a-half octave spread, making it, in her opinion, more pleasing to the ear.

Submission + - 100Mbps mobiles coming soon?

DownintheUpside writes: "While today's 3G connectivity seems positively zippy at 1.8Mbps, some of the biggest names in telecoms are clubbing together to work on a standard that could boost mobile speeds to 100Mbps. Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, Orange and its parent company France Telecom, T-Mobile and Vodafone have all announced their intention to work together on promoting LTE (long term evolution), a super high speed version of 3G. Hmm, just think of the possibilities for video telephony and movie streams."
The Courts

Submission + - Scientology critic Keith Henson extradited

muldrake writes: "Engineer, writer, and Scientology critic Keith Henson has been extradited from Arizona to Riverside County, California, following his arrest in February. Henson had fled to Canada following his conviction for "interfering with a religion" in 2001 for his pickets and Usenet posts criticizing the Church of Scientology, returning to Arizona after his asylum claims were denied."

Submission + - India hopes to make $10 laptops a reality

sas-dot writes: We all know Nicholas Negroponte's $100 OLPC, India which was a potential market rejected it. Having rejected Nicholas Negroponte's offer of $100 laptops for schoolchildren, India's Human Resources Development ministry's idea to make laptops at $10 is firmly taking shape with two designs already in and public sector undertaking Semiconductor Complex evincing interest to be a part of the project. So far, the cost of one laptop, after factoring in labour charges, is coming to $47 but the ministry feels the price will come down dramatically considering the fact that the demand would be for one million laptops. "The cost is encouraging and we are hopeful it would come down to $10. We would also look into the possibility of some Indian company manufacturing the parts," an official said.

Submission + - Cheating is widespread among graduate students

sas-dot writes: Thirty-four first-year business graduate students at Duke University cheated on a take-home final exam, a judicial board has found, in what officials called the most widespread cheating episode in the business school's history. Nine of the students face expulsion, according to the ruling, which was distributed within the business school on Friday. Fifteen students were suspended for a year and given a failing grade in the course; nine were given a failing grade in the course, and one got a failing grade on the exam. Four students accused of cheating were exonerated. National surveys have suggested that cheating is widespread among graduate students. In a survey released last September by a Rutgers University professor, 56 percent of business graduate students admitted having cheated, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law school. More than 5,300 students at 54 universities were surveyed from 2002 to 2004.

Submission + - Condemned To Google Hell

sas-dot writes: Google Hell is the worst fear of the untold numbers of companies that depend on search results to keep their business visible online. Getting stuck there means most users will never see the site, or at least many of the site's pages, when they enter certain keywords. And getting out can be next to impossible — because site operators often don't know what they did to get placed there. Google's programmers appear to have created the supplemental index with the best intentions. It's designed to lighten the workload of Google's "spider," the algorithm that constantly combs and categorizes the Web's pages. Google uses the index as a holding pen for pages it deems to be of low quality or designed to appear artificially high in search results.

Submission + - Trials of Reverting a Notebook from Vista to XP

penguin_dance writes: "As if you need another reason to hate Microsoft or Vista, here's another one: They made it virtually impossible to delete Vista and install Windows XP. But part of the blame needs to go to the hardware manufacturers who have apparently removed their XP drivers.

Thor Schrock's blog tells how the team did it which involves a lot of hassles trying to find the right drivers.

Obviously it would be better to buy the laptop with Windows XP (or even better, nothing, installed.) Which begs the question, "Where's the best place to buy an up-to-date laptop without Vista?" (not a mac, please.)"
Operating Systems

Submission + - What's wrong with Ubuntu 7.04?

SlinkySausage writes: "Ashton Mills from APC Magazine has written a pretty scathing review of Ubuntu 7.04: "It's out love for Ubuntu that I'm being so harsh in this review. Look where we're at — 7.04, a number of significant releases since 4.10 Warty three years ago — and it still can't manage the display properly. And that's just the start. I'd like to say the install was seamless, but it wasn't — the migration tool, while a nice touch, didn't apply to me as I was doing a fresh install, but the tool would have none of it and spewed up an error saying the process couldn't continue. Upon inserting a DVD movie, Ubuntu recognised recognised it didn't have the CODECs needed to support the media, but then couldn't install DeCSS support to actually play encrypted DVDs — i.e. 99.99% of the ones you're likely to use. I had great expectations for 7.04, but unfortunately they're not met. If you're a fanboy, don't read on, because I'll shatter your fragile world.""

Submission + - Indian project shows solar power affordable - U.N

sas-dot writes: A solar power project in India supplying electricity to 100,000 people will be widened to other developing nations after showing that clean energy can be cheaper than fossil fuels, a U.N. report said on Sunday. BBC News says that the $1.5m project, led by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), supports Indian bankers who offer finance to people who want to purchase a unit. The sunlight-powered systems are used to light homes and shops instead of expensive and polluting kerosene lamps. Officials hope to expand the scheme to Tunisia, China, Ghana and Indonesia. Before the UN project was set up, purchases were predominately cash only — making the devices too expensive for most people. The Indian Loan Programme helps its bank partners offer lower interest rates, longer payback periods and smaller deposits. "This project removes one of the main barriers to the shift to solar power — lack of financing," said Jyoti Painuly, a UN senior energy planner. "Asking customers... to pay cash for solar systems meant asking them to pay upfront an amount equal to 20 years of electricity bills." In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the UN says a single wick lamp each year burns about 80 litres of kerosene, which produces more than 250kg of carbon dioxide. An estimated 100 million families in India use kerosene lamps.
United States

Submission + - Desalination VS Water Transfers

cakilmer writes: "Desalination VS Water Transfers

A couple weeks back I blogged about a widely published report that held that the west was entering into a prolonged drying spell. The New York Times detailed solutions being proposed & implimented that included desalination.

What was not mentioned was an idea that will be bandied about during a meeting in Calgary. That meeting will be held next week in Calgary. It addresses the idea of massive water transfers from Canada to the USA & Mexico to address water shortages. You won't hear about it south of the border however. The only place this is mentioned is in Calgary.

April 25, 2007 April 25, 2007

Next week, government officials and academics from the three countries will gather in Calgary for the two-day North American Future 2025 Project (see page 6)where they'll brainstorm ideas on how the continent should implement policies to deal with various challenges — including security, energy and labour.

But it's the agenda on water that has activists concerned, given that the discussions will be held behind closed doors without public scrutiny, said Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians.

"We want this out in the light of day. We tried contacting them and they said this meeting is private," Barlow said. "How could it be private if it is setting up the political and policy framework for the future of North America?"

An outline of the proceedings states that climate change is expected to greatly exacerbate water shortages in the United States and Mexico while Canada, which has the world's largest supply of fresh water in the Great Lakes and elsewhere, is not expected to suffer to the same extent.

It goes on to state that "creative" solutions — such as water transfers and artificial diversions of fresh water — may be needed to address the "profound changes" that are bound to occur south of the border.

Water transfers is something that's hotly debated in Canada ... but you don't hear much about it in the lower 48-though President Bush has mentioned his support for the idea. Asked about the possibility of water transfers world renowned water expert Peter Gleick said the economics simply weren't there. Mr. Gleick says.

I actually think this enormous controversy over bulk water exports is a little bit silly because no one's going to be able to afford it," he says."And frankly I think some of these people who complain because they have been prohibited from doing it, I think we've saved them a lot of money. I think they should have been allowed to do it and go bankrupt."

Santa Barbara looked into the idea several years back and decided on water desalination even at then current prices.

Never the less, according to a joint report entitled Global Water Futures produced by the CSIS and the Sandia National Laboratories.

Finding 5: Solutions must be innovative, revolutionary, and self-sustaining. Current
trajectories for improvement in freshwater availability and quality are inadequate to meet global
needs in a timely way. Innovative solutions must be found and employed that replace steady,
incremental rates of progress with dramatic, revolutionary changes. These solutions must be designed to be self-sustaining over the long-term.

Given the recognized urgency of the need for water solutions and the fact that the meetings are behind closed doors, it looks like much of the time & effort will be put into expediting Bush's desire for water transfers-rather than doing any actual brain storming.

This is a shame. Especially as likely it will suck up what federal institutional energy there is behind water desalination R&D. Its especially shameful because the feds could get so much more bang for their buck out desalination R&D.

So if you happen to know someone who knows someone who is attending the meeting in Calgary next sure to mention to them that basic research suggests that the cost of water desalination & transport will collapse in the next 5 to 10 years.

Here are three promising avenues of research mentioned in this blog from three different research labs.

1. Lawrence Livermore


3. University of Rochester

Here's a strategy for turning municipal sewage into pure water and oil.

Here's a strategy for cutting the cost of pumping water

To hasten the pace of research, I would greatly increase the amount of money available to federal university & corporate labs for water desalination research. As well, I would include DARPA in the effort to fund start up companies. Further, I would suggest three ways to focus research dollars.

The first would be to make available prize money like the X-Prize that Newt Gingrich touts as a frugal way to get the most bang for the research buck. I blog about this in a piece called harvesting research unknown unknowns.

The second suggestion would be to attack known unkowns by employing a much less publicized method of crowdsourcing scientific research which I discuss in detail here.

How does a research administrator best deploy his dollars between projects competing for research dollars? Choosing rightly between known knowns is difficult. In fast paced industries companies use something called prediction markets. I discuss this strategy here.

Finally, make plain to those in attendance that the pace of scientific innovation in the next 20 years will likely be more than the last 100 years. They ain't seen nuthin yet.

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