Miscellaneous Stories 2007

Stories that earlier appeared in Nelson's News 
Note 1: Carl Nelson Consulting, Inc is not an investment adviser and may hold a financial interest or client relationship in companies discussed.
(Note 2: Carl Nelson Consulting does not endorse these companies or organizations or their activities.) 
Looking for other older stories? Visit the archives


twitter writes "PC World has released their year in review statistics and 2007 was not kind to Microsoft. IE 6 users are equally likely to move to Firefox as they are to IE7 and no one wants Vista[slashdot.org, Dec 30] Do innovation giants eventually lose their touch?

The euro has fast gained ground against the dollar in international official foreign exchange reserves in recent months, according to official statistics highlighting the nine-year-old currency’s growing global importance. [Financial Times, Dec 30] Well, if you are just an SBIR company looking for another DOD or NASA R&D contract for a turbulence model, you can ignore such international developments. But if you are a market-driven company, you might be concerned about the trends resulting from America's recent our-way-or-the-highway attitude toward the world. We are NOT an island any more.

Severstal, Russia’s biggest steelmaker, aims to increase profit from its US operations almost threefold by 2010 with the help of a $1bn investment plan to increase output and improve quality. [Financial Times, Dec 30] Do we think that the Russians really understand profit making investment? Or are Russian investments returning to their Cold War ideas that everything is about political power?  If the Russians offered you an investment, would you take it?

But At What Price? scientists at Sandia National Laboratories aim to find out by building a novel reactor that can chemically "reenergize" carbon dioxide.  The device uses a solar-powered two-stage thermochemical reaction to break down carbon dioxide to produce carbon monoxide. ... says Christian Sattler, of the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics at the German Aerospace Center, in Cologne. "The question is, at what efficiency?" he says. "How much energy does it take to carry out this reduction? It may be more efficient to use the solar energy for direct power production." [Duncan Graham-Rowe, MIT Tech Review, Dec 17]

Netscape, the browser once used in 80% of all Internet sessions, will be shut down by AOL after failing to regain market share from Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.  Netscape users should switch to Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser, Netscape director Tom Drapeau wrote on his blog. [Houston Chronicle, Dec 29]

Mr. Thiel, the former CEO of online-payment company PayPal, is making waves in Silicon Valley with an investment strategy that differs significantly from the traditional approach. His company invests only modest amounts of money, sometimes just a few hundred thousand dollars, and focuses on entrepreneurs Mr. Thiel and his partners often know personally. He also takes an uncharacteristically hands-off approach to company management. [Rebecca Buckman, Wall Street Journal, Dec 29]

InfoWorld thinks you'll find these stories surprising, interesting and above all, useful.
1. Java is becoming the new Cobol
2. Sun Microsystems is back in the game
3. Hackers take aim at Mac OS X
4. There are some threats you can worry less about
5. Companies may have found a way around H-1B visa limits
6. Open source's new commercial strategy
7. End-to-end Ethernet finally arrives
8. Blade servers arrive for the masses
9. BI is dead; long live BI
10. Balance of power shifts to software buyers

Competition for Investment. There was a time when no one in their right mind would invest overseas because the USA had a deeper market, better regulation, better accounting, better ratings for investment risk and a better currency. Today, all those harmful barriers have been swept away. [Scott Burns, Dec 30]

The Curse of Knowledge. “Look for people with renaissance-thinker tendencies, who’ve done work in a related area but not in your specific field,” she says. “Make it possible for someone who doesn’t report directly to that area to come in and say the emperor has no clothes.” ... IT’S a pickle of a paradox: As our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off. Why? Because the walls of the proverbial box in which we think are thickening along with our experience. ... This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy.   [Janet Rae-Dupree, New York Times, Dec 30]

The Bay State ranked fifth in patents per resident in fiscal 2007, trailing only Idaho, Vermont, Oregon, and California. [Boston Globe, Dec 31]

Extrapolation Is So Easy. I look pretty stupid in hindsight, although I remind you that I had plenty of company in the audience that day. How could so many people be so wrong? .... I saw no sign of light anywhere. A child of the Great Depression, I had been well schooled by my college professors in economics in the late 1930s to believe that the American economy had lost its long-run dynamic. So, in the downturn of 1957, I was convinced that the dreaded moment had arrived when we would sink back into the stagnation of production and employment that I had remembered so well. [Peter Bernstein, New York Times, Dec 30]

Conservative Doctors. One reason for this mess [of medication errors] is that 95% of prescriptions are transmitted using 5,000-year-old technology: pen and paper.  That is unacceptable. The deaths and inefficiencies of paper prescriptions can be nearly entirely eliminated if we use the same technology that we use in other aspects of our lives. Electronic prescriptions can replace handwritten, misread and mismatched prescriptions with online, automated and expert technology. .... One initiative led by Chrysler, General Motors and Ford to encourage doctors to write e-prescriptions in the Detroit region has generated more than one million prescription alerts that have saved lives and money. The benefits of e-prescribing are so important that the Institute of Medicine has called for every doctor and nurse to prescribe electronically by the year 2010. [Newt Gingrich and John Kerry, AEI Public Policy Paper, Nov 07]

Wang's company is typical of China's dot-com boom. Over the past decade, startups have proliferated, thanks to an aggressive government campaign to attract private investment. Many of the new companies focus on Web sites, but there are also computer-chip and telecommunications equipment designers, biotech development labs and medical-device makers. The state has created dozens of "new Silicon Valley" districts — glittering high-tech zones and incubators as big as cities, with such incentives as no corporate income tax for the first three years. The largest is Beijing's Zhongguancun, home to 20,000 start-ups, most of them information-technology companies, with nearly 800,000 employees that together received more than half the international venture capital invested in China last year.  The money flowing into China is transforming small towns into tech centers and a Third World economy — based on churning out such products as cheap TVs and socks — into a world player in innovation.  [AE Cha, Washington Post, Dec 31]

 If you can keep your head, ... Born December 30, 1865: English author, Rudyard Kipling

air travelers will no longer be able to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage beginning Jan. 1, .... Passengers can still check baggage with lithium batteries if they are installed in electronic devices, such as cameras, cell phones and laptop computers. If packed in plastic bags, batteries may be in carryon baggage. The limit is two batteries per passenger. The ban affects shipments of non-rechargeable lithium batteries, such as those made by Energizer Holdings and Duracell brand.  [AP, Dec 28]

"This evidence reinforces the likelihood that the economy will slow dramatically in the fourth quarter," Nigel Gault, U.S. economist at forecaster Global Insight, said in a note to clients.  A slowdown in business investment could spell trouble [Kelly Evans, Wall Street Journal, Dec 28]

There always will be bubbles in markets, adds Mr. Posner, and government intervention aimed at preventing a future crisis would create a false sense of security that would only lead to future bubbles. In the long run, he says, a recession would do less harm to society than restrictions on lending practices.  [Nobelist Gary] Becker writes on the blog he shares with U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner. Adult thinking.]

The World Economic Forum announced a list of startup technology companies that the international organization said have demonstrated visionary leadership and proven technology that could change business and society.  [World Economic Forum]  Of the 47 winners, 24 appear eligible for SBIR.  23andMe, Accuray, RainDance Technologies, Rincon Pharmaceuticals, SiGNa Chemistry, Cima NanoTech, Gridpoint, Hycrete, LS9, Nanostellar, Primafuel, Silver Spring Networks, Unidym, AdMob, Clearwire, Innovative Silicon, Kayak, Lumio, MEDIO SYSTEMS, Meraki, QlikTech International, Roundbox, Transclick. Of the 24, two had SBIR for a total of less than $1M. Is the Executive Branch having trouble seeing the high potential companies or do such companies just not want to bother with the structure and attitudes of SBIR? Although Congress could change the Executive Branch's vision criteria, it is unlikely to do so while distracted by much larger issues. So, DOD and NASA SBIR will continuer to bumble along funding mostly futureless companies.

several experienced chief executives have joined together to offer a mentoring program for Chicago-area firms. After a competition among several young firms, three have been selected to receive intense mentoring for the next six months. ... The firms are RevStor LLC, a Schaumburg-based data storage firm; ParkWhiz LLC, a Chicago-based firm that uses the Internet to match people wanting to rent out parking spaces with motorists needing a place to park; and PrepMe Inc., a Chicago firm that helps people prepare to take standardized tests. .... Even though most entrepreneurs are in love with the bright idea that causes them to start a new company and the technology behind it, Churchwell said, investors aren't impressed. Instead of listening to descriptions of slick technology and rosy sales projections, they look for solid management with a proven success record.  [John Van, Chicago Tribune, Dec 17]

China's stock market wound up a stellar — and turbulent — year today, with its benchmark Shanghai composite index up 97%  And of course, "We expect the stock market will go up in 2008, but..., said one China securities wag. [Joe McDonald, AP, Dec 28]  Take a flyer?  Be careful with markets that can be manipulated by the government.

Gerard Baker's [The Times, London] prediction quiz. 6. The economy will:  a) collapse under the weight of America's bad-loan-riddled housing market;   b) surge on the strength of continuing substantial growth in emerging markets;  c) bobble along all right at a perfectly decent rate of growth while every pundit and journalist screams it's the dawn of another Great Depression;  d) none of the above. Baker's answer: c Sub-prime crisis? What sub-prime crisis?  Life and entrepreneuring will go on because the American system rewards optimism.

Brookhaven researchers discover unexpected fuel cell catalyst activity ... two next-generation catalysts including gold, cerium, titanium, and oxygen nanomaterials exhibit very high activity [Small Times, Dec 18]

Researchers from the University of Rochester (NY) have created a nanoscale device that is capable of detecting one quadrillionth of a gram of biological matter, or about the size of certain viruses. In the future, the sensor may be able to detect influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), bird flu, and other viruses. ... described in a recent edition of Optics Letters.  [physorg.com, Dec 20]

“When the Janesville banks turned him down, it was a major blow and became a defining moment in his life,” daughter Kim Hendricks recalled in June 2006, when her father won the annual “Seize the Day” award from the Wisconsin Technology Council. “That's partly why my dad is so passionate to this day about helping small businesses get started. He truly finds great joy in starting businesses and creating jobs. He's a big believer in the American Dream.”  Hendricks estimated a year ago that, in addition to ABC, he owned 30 other firms with combined sales of $1.5 billion. [Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Network, Dec 24] Hendricks, 66, died Dec. 21 after falling through a hole in the floor of an addition being built to his Rock County home

The Future.  IBM released its second annual " IBM Next Five in Five" innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. The list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that could make these innovations possible. ... "smart energy" technologies will make it easier for you to manage your personal "carbon footprint";  a wave of connectivity between cars and the road ; know the exact source and make-up of the products you buy and consume; your mobile phone will be a trusted guide;  your doctor will be able to see, hear and understand your medical records in entirely new ways.  [IBM press release] .... The Futurist magazine has its own list of predictions for 2008 and beyond: a billion millionaires by 2025; revolutionize the textile industry; threat of another cold war with China, Russia, or both; move toward a cashless society; the verge of a significant extinction event; global fresh water shortages; a full-scale rush to develop the Arctic (see Karl Vick, Alaskans Weigh the Cost of Gold, Washington Post, Dec 25].

The 21st century economy rewards hard work all right. But it must be smart and productive work. Hard productive work will always trump hard dumb work.  [Rich Karlgaard, Digital Rules blog]

“Berkeley has one of the strongest chemical engineering schools in the world, but it will be the M.B.A.’s who understand areas like microfinance solutions to drinking water problems,” Mr. Hawkins said. ... The political landscape of academia, combined with the fight for grant money, has always fostered competition far more than collaboration.  But the threat of global warming may just change all that.  [Claudia Deutsch, A Threat So Big, Academics Try Collaboration, New York Times, Dec 25]

Darwinalia.  the Darwin Correspondence Project’s new web site. The main feature of the site is an online database with the complete, searchable, texts of around 5,000 letters written by and to Charles Darwin up to the year 1865. This includes all the surviving letters from the Beagle voyage - online for the first time - and all the letters from the years around the publication of Origin of species in 1859. [Cambridge University]

In reality, most incubators fail to live up to expectations. Indeed, a survey of 300 firms by Arthur D. Little found that only 47% of companies believe their new ventures satisfy strategic objectives. Worse, only 24% meet financial objectives. When done right, however, new growth businesses can in fact generate massive growth. ....Disruptive innovations are uncertain, unpopular and difficult. In a portfolio heavily weighted toward incremental improvements, disruptive projects invariably lose out, even though they tend to create by far the most shareholder value.  [Stephen Wunker, Forbes, Dec 21]

"The global war on terror has spurred spending on advanced technologies, such as net-centric and embedded technologies, but has siphoned away funds for traditional or pure-play IT projects, resulting in a slight slowing of the annual growth rate of such technologies over the next few years," Lauren Jones, principal analyst for Input, said in a statement (about FY08 DOD spending). [KC Jones, Information Week, Dec 21]

Stonebraker,  the 'Johnny Appleseed' of start-ups. His first three companies, all started in the 1980s and 1990s while he was teaching computer science at Berkeley, were acquired by high-tech biggies Computer Associates, Informix, and PeopleSoft for as much as $400M.  [Scott Kirsner, Boston Globe, Dec 23]

America’s Piggy Bank. Over all, foreigners continue to finance the American government deficit, with their Treasury holdings rising $194.7 billion in the first 10 months of the year, more than the $166 billion increase in Treasury securities held by the public. Since January 2001, when President Bush took office, the debt issued to the public has risen by $1.7 trillion, with $1.3 trillion of that increase being taken by foreigners, the Treasury estimated. ... But,  the Treasury has a history of getting these numbers wrong, and then fixing them months later.  [Floyd Norris, New York Times, Dec 22]  Think of something you would like from the USG, then get your favorite Congresscritter to demand it while cutting your taxes.

A CREDIT crunch, a liquidity squeeze, a subprime meltdown... now it looks like becoming a banking crisis as well. The grievous experience of two centuries of financial busts is that when the banking system is in difficulties the mess spreads. Straitened banks lend less, sucking money out of the economy. ... There is an irony in seeing state-owned investors bail out capitalism's most ardent exponents; back when money was plentiful, the government outfits were rebuffed.  [The Economist, Dec 19] Those so-called conservatives who want low tax and micro government (except for a large military to conquer the world) can be thankful that a too-large government has the capacity and the organization to right the ship before it takes on much water.

The same least common denominator folks, some of whom got overboard in sub-prime mortgages also want foreign wealth holders to bail them out at no cost. These enormous pools of wealth, controlled by governments in countries that have been getting fat off high oil prices and a booming global economy, are viewed suspiciously by those who fear foreign powers might use them to gain competitive advantages or push political agendas. [Bill Powell, Time, Dec 31] Well, of course, when you put yourself at their mercy, you get what you deserve when they do what you would do -  use any advantage for your purposes. Turn about is fair play! Don't want to depend on them any more? Cut your energy consumption in half.

Expert Predictions. "We do not expect significant spillovers from the subprime market to the rest of the economy or to the financial system." BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve Chairman, May 17, 2007. A global credit crunch began three months later.

It was a big week in the fight against global warming. ... and our biggest enemy will be ourselves ... While a growing majority of us believe we ought to do something about global warming, we're not so sure we want to pay the upfront costs.  From high-efficiency light bulbs to solar-electric panels, ... We need to stop obsessing about the next iPhone and think more about inventing a real eCar. [Vindu Goel, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 23]

Who's Innovative?  In 2006, Idaho led the nation with 266.8 patents per 100,000 workers employed in the state. This was followed by California (161.5), Vermont (160.3), Oregon (149.2), and Massachusetts (136.7). The District of Columbia had the lowest number (10.3 patents), along with Mississippi, Alaska, West Virginia and Arkansas  [SSTI, Dec 17]  DC does politics.

Chinese buyers spent $29.2B acquiring foreign companies so far this year, outpacing for the first time foreign buyers that have invested in China. [Wall Street Journal, Dec 20]

MIT: Completely Online. ... has put all its courses online. Free materials for all 1800 courses are available at ocw.mit.edu--everything from full video talks about aerospace engineering to anthropology lecture notes about "Intersubjectivity, Phenomenology, Emotion, and Embodiment." The site has drawn 35 million visitors since 2002, most from outside North America, says MIT's Stephen Carson. "It's unprecedented to have all the courses available at a university this deeply and openly available on the Web. … It's an extension of the public-service function of the university."  [Science, Dec 14]

Persuading the private sector to accept a handout from California's $3 billion stem-cell institute might strike some as a no-brainer. After all, what business wouldn't take the money?  But there's a catch: Although companies now have a chance for the first time in the institute's three-year history to apply for its money, they may wind up having to share some of their revenue and research. And that is giving some companies second thoughts about participating.  The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which so far has awarded about $260 million in grants to non-profit institutions, today will begin to get an inkling of how many businesses are interested. [Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 20]

Academics, business leaders, and politicians have warned repeatedly that the United States risks losing its economic edge unless it produces more scientists and engineers. They also say that the country's system of science and math education is not up to snuff. But a new study questions two basic tenets of that argument, concluding that work force data do not support claims of a looming labor shortage and that test scores indicate U.S. students are doing at least as well in science and math as their international counterparts are. [Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, Science, Nov 16]

Prediction 2008. media attention will focus on China as the world's next potential “bubble” and cause many manufacturers to shift sourcing strategies from Asia to the Americas. The falling U.S. dollar, limited free trade agreements, high energy costs, and rising production costs in Asia will all contribute to companies reevaluating extended supply chains and moving sources closer to their home markets.  [David Blanchard (Ed-In-Chief), Industry Week]

Re-Inventors Welcome. [Toledo] became famous in the last century for being one of North America's leading glass centers. The industry has been in decline since the 1980s, but Toledo hopes to be known for its glass again. This time, though, the glass is being coated with thin layers of chemicals to produce ecofriendly "solar cells." ... "The good thing about the Rust Belt is they want factories there," says Ron Kenedi, vice president of Sharp Corp.'s Solar Energy Solutions Group ..."I started in glass, and now I'm back in glass," says Mr. Johnston, whose start-up has recently been acquired by German solar-panel maker Q-Cells AG. [Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal, Dec 18]

Got a Wave Idea? "Wave energy is in the early stages of development," said Uday Mathur, an energy-procurement principal for Pacific Gas & Electric. "It's where wind power was 10 to 15 years ago." ... PG&E will become the first U.S. utility to agree to buy energy from the ocean when it announces a deal today to get 2 megawatts of power by 2012 from the cold, choppy waters off the Northern California coast.  The deal, with Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company, could eventually lead to the building of a "wave farm" about 2.5 miles off the coast of Eureka in Humboldt County. ... As PG&E seeks to meet California's mandate that it get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010   [Matt Nauman, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 18]

Need Treasures and Junk Prices? Even tech companies need garage sales now and then ... San Jose start-up FreeFlow puts out the signs. The company's sole role in the tech value chain is to help companies around the globe unload outdated or excess products and components with Internet speed. "We joke about being technical ragpickers," said FreeFlow vice president Andrew Katcher. [John Boudreau, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 18]

With Americans cutting the cord to their land lines, 2007 is likely to be the first calendar year in which U.S. households spend more on cell phone services, industry and government officials say. [Dibya Sarker, AP, Dec 18]

When the Data Don't Fit. The lead researcher of a long-delayed drug study says he regrets not standing up to Merck and Schering-Plough when they first told him last month that they planned to alter the statistical analysis of their jointly sponsored trial. ... John P. Kastelein, a cardiologist at Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, and principal investigator of the study, said he breathed a "sigh of relief" when the companies told him last week they were reversing course. "It's never, ever right to change the primary endpoint of a study," especially after all the data are in, he says. ... The decision drew a wave of criticism, including the launch last week of a Congressional inquiry into the conduct of the study. The companies say their decision to go back to the original analysis plan was made before they heard from Congress.  [Ron Winslow, Wall Street Journal, Dec 17]  Now when it comes to the White House interpreting data from Iraq, ....

Doctor-R writes "The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA has created a new YouTube channel for videos of their lecture series. Newest is the Dec 10 panel on the 25th Anniversary of the Commodore 64. Currently there are 23 lectures available and the 7-minute Museum overview." [slashdot.org, Dec 16]

Fortune revealed today what it calls the "101 Dumbest Moments in Business, 2007,"  ... One Laptop Per Child Foundation of Cambridge was 82 on the list [Boston Globe, Dec 18]

Clean Energy The Northern California Power Agency will use solar panels to generate electricity to run water pumps at its geothermal fields. [San Jose Mercury News, Dec 11]

with everyone predicting a more volatile year ahead, business executives are going to be graded more heavily on whether the decisions they make on everything from strategy to talent help their companies grow. They have to stop becoming experts on giving a positive spin to economic warnings and start analyzing the data at hand. [Carol Hymowitz, Wall Street Journal, Dec 17] For SBIR proposers, the "Commercialization Strategy" can still be all spin since the government neither knows nor cares much.

Green tech" may be the top business buzz-phrase of 2007—and that could signal a problem. Venture capitalists have been piling into biofuels, solar power, and wind farms, investing $2.6 billion over the first three quarters, compared with $3.9 billion in Web outfits. The question is whether that's too much money chasing too few good ideas. Already, some experts are predicting a shakeout. (wired.com) [Business Week, Dec 24] 

A new computational method that searches an enormous database of protein structures could allow researchers to predict a drug's potential side effects without breaking out a single test tube. The technique, developed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), could also be applied to existing drugs to explain known side effects or to identify additional uses. [Jocelyn Rice, MIT Tech Review, Dec 17]

As the transistor turns 60.  Preparing for the day they can't add more transistors, chip companies are pouring billions of dollars into plotting new ways to use the existing transistors, instructing them to behave in different and more powerful ways.  Intel, the world's largest semiconductor company, predicts that a number of "highly speculative" alternative technologies, such as quantum computing, optical switches and other methods, will be needed to continue Moore's Law beyond 2020.  [Jordan Robinson, AP, Dec 17]

maintained internal laboratories like Bell Labs. These corporate labs were essentially research universities embedded in private companies, and their employees published academic papers, spoke at conferences and even gave away valuable breakthroughs. Bell Labs, for instance, created the world’s first transistor after World War II — and never earned a dollar from the innovation. Almost no corporate labs based on the Bell or Xerox model remain, victims of cost-cutting and a new appreciation by corporate leaders that commercial innovations may flow best when scientists and engineers stick to business problems. [GP Zachary, New York Times, Dec 16]  They also saw the federal government ramping up its basic research machine that competed for the best scientists and was at least as likely to find the big discoveries first. As the private labs shrank, the science machine magnified its arguments for ever more public money to keep America first. And with the public acceptance of deficit finance, the politicians could pay off the interest groups and claim high patriotism. But “Universities don’t innovate,” says Curtis R. Carlson, chief executive of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif., that bought what remained of RCA’s lab. “Innovation means you get it out so people can use it. The university is not going to take it to the world.” 

Hong Kong and many other corners of Asia are betting billions of dollars to become incubators of innovation. China has 56 official, and countless unofficial, technology parks, and President Hu Jintao regularly calls for "independent innovation." In India, government and industry leaders sponsor startup incubators and lure venture capitalists in hopes of spawning the next generation of entrepreneurs to lead the country beyond its role as back-end outsourcer. [John Boudreau, San Jose Mercury News, Dec 17] The good news is that as long as governments call the shots in innovation, only government's interests will be served. They can waste energy and opportunity on their no-value-added SBIR programs too.

Connect in Denver.  Travelers at Denver International Airport who have previously had to pay for wireless Internet access are getting an early Christmas surprise: The service is now free [Denver Post, Nov 29]

Bargain bin. It's becoming increasingly clear that the low U.S. dollar has become the primary force in domestic M&A right now ... According to data compiled by Thomson Financial, none of the 10 largest merger-related bids here in the past four months had a U.S. acquirer, and in only two of the top 10 acquisitions overseas is a U.S. company the buyer. Expect even more bargain bin hunting in the first half of 2008 [Dennis Berman,  Wall Street Journal, Dec 15] some retailers rolling out the red carpet for anyone with a foreign passport [Wall Street Journal, Dec 15] The dollar was so weak, “We had trouble spending all our money.” Add a new superlative to New York’s long list: world’s most fabulous discount mall. [K Hammer & J Vertigier, New York Times, Dec 15]   Not to worry. Though the dollar is undergoing a correction, it is a healthy one and the dollar is likely to stay on top for years to come. The real matter for concern is the large U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world, which causes jobs and demand to leak out of the economy. As a result, borrowing and spending that should create jobs in the United States end up creating jobs offshore, while the U.S. economy is left with a weakened manufacturing sector and burdened with the debts that finance this spending. [Thomas Palley, Foreign Policy, Dec 07]

Great Tech, Treo smart phones, but now Palm is laying off about 10% of its work force this week to cut expenses. Tech and competitors march on. [AP, Dec 14]

20% in India. IBM Corp.'s expansion in developing countries shows no sign of relenting. The technology company revealed Friday that it now has 73,000 employees in India, almost a 40% leap from last year. [AP, Dec 15]

Carbon nanotubes may be perfectly safe, but then again, they may have asbestos-like properties. Nobody knows. Indeed, industry, regulators and governments know little about the general safety of all manner of materials that are made into fantastically small sizes. ...Research on animals suggests that nanoparticles can even evade some of the body's natural defence systems and accumulate in the brain, cells, blood and nerves. [The Economist, Nov 24]

This Christmas, Royal Philips Electronics is vividly displaying its dominance in the lighting market. ... Philips also will provide the lights for the New Year's Eve Times Square Ball in New York. Instead of 600 incandescent and halogen bulbs, the ball will be fitted with more than 9,500 LEDs, which burn twice as brightly and can create a palette of 16 million colors. Depending on their hue, they'll be up to 98% more energy-efficient than the bulbs they replace. ... Check the economics: A 67-cents incandescent bulb will burn 1000 hours for $360 of electricity; a $35 LED will burn 60000 hours for $12 of electricity. [Business Week, Dec 24]

the Rich Are Getting Richer Faster, Much Faster. The increase in incomes of the top 1% of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20% of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows. [New York Times, Dec 15] George Bush, the darling of the rich and religious, has a solution: cut their taxes.

Perspective. our poorest 20% would be upper middle class in most countries of the world, and would be far richer than 99.9% of people who have ever lived. [Coyote blog, Dec 11]

Among the [oil supply] peakists, war and economic breakdown are favorite themes. They figure that cheap oil is the essential fuel of modern capitalism, which will founder without it. A more hopeful take is that innovation is the essential fuel of modern capitalism and that high oil prices will drive rapid advances in conservation and alternative energy. Either way, the beginning of the end of the oil era may be upon us, well ahead of schedule. [Justin Fox, Time, Dec 3]  If innovation is the answer, and the government has a funding program named innovation, should it be used to pursue the proposed innovations with the greatest potential for making a future societal impact? 

one niche that [Frank Sustersic, manager of the $674 million Turner Emerging Growth Fund] likes right now is clinical research organizations. These companies are hired by pharmaceutical and biotech firms to run clinical trials and collect data. He thinks this is a high-growth area now because of changes in the pharmaceutical industry toward more outsourcing. "A shift from a major pharma company to go from 20 to 30 percent outsourcing—that's a huge shift." [Matthew Bandyke, US News & World Report, Dec 6]

Gimme, Gimme. More than 3 in 4 life sciences companies would consider leaving Massachusetts, according to preliminary results of a survey by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Collaborative. ...and 63% have already been contacted by other states about moving.  [Boston Globe, Dec 12] The story did note that Massachusetts has a "strong workforce", that is a large smart labor pool that may not want to move to Kentucky. Nor would the similar pool move from Silicon Valley to Kansas. The poll sounds more like a tactic seeking more government subsidy for private firms. It naturally did not address the question of where the money for such subsidies would come from. Isn't government money free?

experts on California's economy say the state could see a more dramatic and prolonged downturn than other parts of the country ... forecasting a 9% decline in average home prices on the statewide level in 2008. And he said an additional 15 to 20% drop in 2009 would not be out of the question. [Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec 11]

other industry forces are at work, causing large pharmas to buy smaller ones with promising technology, or, as the bioscience people call new drugs, "molecules." Any time a great story pops up and an exciting drug makes it through the tortuous FDA approval pipeline, the company that developed the molecules receives offers that can’t be refused   [Keith Dubay, coloradobiztoday]

IBM has announced an optical breakthrough that could integrate thousands of individual processors into a single chip as fast as a supercomputer but only requiring the power of a light bulb [newsfactor.com]

Rent-a-Lab. Thirteen nano-level university laboratories across the country are hiring themselves out to businesses eager to make their mark in the millennium of the minuscule. The intimidatingly named National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, begun in 2004, is funded in part with $14M a year from [NSF]. [Ben Dobbin, AP, Dec 11]

Progress Has a Price “Everyone wants that silver bullet,” said Fran Recht of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The question is, Is this as benign as everyone wants to say it is?”  The first federal permit to conduct testing for a wave energy farm off the coast of the United States was awarded in February ... “I don’t want it in my fishing grounds,” said Mr. Martinson, ... “I don’t want to be worried about driving around someone else’s million-dollar buoy.” [Wm Yardley, New York Times, Dec 8]  Waves themselves are perfectly green and free since they naturally capture wind energy over a long reach.  And we love to extract free natural resources.

Free Market or Nationalism? no one wants foreign states, especially those which might be anti-Western, acquiring Western companies that have anything to do with national security or advanced technology. But policymakers also believe that having governments play an active role in the stock market and in the global economy might make the whole system less efficient and productive, since government-run companies would likely think about things other than the bottom line, including protecting the interests of their home country. This situation has put free-marketeers in a peculiar quandary. They usually favor the free flow of capital in the world’s markets, but, in this case, supporting the free flow of capital would mean letting governments run American companies, which no free-market economist thinks is a good idea. ... Passing laws barring foreign states from acquiring American companies may help treat the symptom. But it’s not going to do much to cure the disease.  [James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, November 26]

[Guy] Kawasaki said that many companies raise money because the first version of their products suck. [San Jose Mercury News, Dec 7]

Sunny New England. United Natural Foods Inc., a Dayville, Conn.-based distributor of natural and organic foods, reports it has finished the installation of what it's calling the largest solar electric system in New England. [Mass High Tech, Dec 7]

a new concern has recently gone "from not on the radar screen to being an American consensus." The worry? It's foreign oil dependence. ...  Adds Democratic pollster Mark S. Mellman: "There's a strong feeling that we are sending billions to people who don't like us in exchange for oil, damaging national security."  [John Carey, Business Week, Dec 6] Worry, sure. Sacrifice, fuuhgedabboutit.

In 1974-2005 food prices on world markets fell by three-quarters in real terms. Food today is so cheap that the West is battling gluttony even as it scrapes piles of half-eaten leftovers into the bin. That is why this year's price rise has been so extraordinary. Since the spring, wheat prices have doubled and almost every crop under the sun—maize, milk, oilseeds, you name it—is at or near a peak in nominal terms. ... the rise in prices is also the self-inflicted result of America's reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest. [The Economist, Dec 6] Hey, aren't subsidies a free good?

Researchers at the NIST and the University of Colorado at Boulder have taken an important step toward making nanoscale resonators that could be used in communications devices. The researchers have grown gallium-nitride nanowires that display properties much better suited to such uses than other nanostructures of similar sizes. [P Pratel-Predd, MIT Tech Review, Dec 5]

On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways plans to become the first US carrier to offer airborne travelers the ability to e-mail or chat online. And the service will be free. [Boston Globe, Dec 7]

Slower. Weakness in the US economy figures to take a bite out of the technology industry’s growth rate in 2008, when analysts expect tech spending to slow around the world.  The picture is not exactly dire: A forecast released today by the analyst firm IDC calls for the worldwide information-technology market to grow 5.5 percent to 6 percent in 2008, the lower end of what has become a usual range. In the United States, the market is expected to expand 3 to 4 percent.  Those growth rates would be softer than this year’s 6.9 percent worldwide and 6.6 percent US growth rates.   [Boston Globe, Dec 6]

Moradi, who calls himself a "serial entrepreneur," has founded nanotechnology companies. But he was blown away by Albany NanoTech, which houses the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. "If I were a semiconductor company, I'd pick up and move out here in a heartbeat," he said. "It seems like the center of the universe, at least for new ventures." [Larry Rulison, Albany Times-Union, Dec 7]

Outsourcing Research. Five years from now, Eli Lilly could look like a different company, with fewer employees and plants, as it shifts more of its scientific research, manufacturing, sales and administrative work from Indianapolis to outsiders around the world. [John Russell, Indianapolis Star, Dec 7]  The more that large companies do that, the less rationale for government R&D "fair share" subsidy of small tech firms, especially life-style firms.

Helium Rising and Falling. when his helium supplier informed him it was cutting deliveries to his lab, Mr. Vidali said, "it sent us into a panic mode." ... The technology explosion is sucking up helium supplies at dizzying rates. U.S. helium demand is up more than 80% in the past two decades, and is growing at more than 20% annually in developing regions such as Asia. ... Soaring helium expenses could shut the doors of some independent labs  [Ana Campoy, Wall Street Journal, Dec 5]

Generic Competition. First Pfizer, then Merck, now Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to cut jobs as the pharmaceutical industry wrestles with profits being siphoned off to generic drugs.   Bristol-Myers Squibb, whose best selling product is the anticoagulant Plavix, said Wednesday it would lay off about 4,300 employees and close more than half of its manufacturing plants in a broad restructuring aimed at cost savings of $1.5 billion by 2010.  Bristol-Myers is the latest brand drug maker to reduce its work force, as the industry struggles to battle generic competition following expirations of key drug patents. [Jennifer Sterling, AP, Dec 5]

a new fear now stalks the markets: that the dollar's slide could spin out of control ... Already Airbus has called the dollar's decline “life-threatening” and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has given warning of “economic war”. ... Investors' conviction that transparent markets and vigilant regulators make America a safe place to store money has taken a battering from the revelations of recent weeks.  [The Economist, Dec 1]

Sometime next year, developers will boot up the next generation of supercomputers, machines whose vast increases in processing power will accelerate the transformation of the scientific method, experts say. The first "petascale" supercomputer will be capable of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. That's about twice as powerful as today's dominant model  [Christopher Lee, Washington Post, Dec  3]

Bay Area companies making an array of futuristic products have captured nearly a third of the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneer Awards for 2008. ...This year's crop of 39 includes 11 Silicon Valley companies among 23 U.S. winners [Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News, Nov 30]  Only one SBIR company: Accuray with one Phase 1.  Non-SBIR companies: 23andMe, Admob, Arteris, Innovative Silicon, LS9, Lumio, Nanostellar. Silver Spring Networks, Unidym.   Other non-SBIR US winners: RainDance Technologies, Rincon Pharmaceuticals, SiGNa Chemistry, Cima NanoTech, Gridpoint, Hycrete, Primafuel, Clearwire, Kayak, MEDIO SYSTEMS, QlikTech International, Roundbox, Wikimedia Foundation (ineligible). One SBIR winner: Transclick (NYC)

Only on Our Terms.  Flush with petrodollars, oil-producing countries have embarked on a global shopping spree. ... Experts estimate that oil-rich nations have a $4 trillion cache of petrodollar investments around the world. And with oil prices likely to remain in the stratosphere ... Many oil investors are also worried about a potential political reaction in the United States similar to the furor of last year when Dubai tried to acquire a company that operates American ports ... Such concerns seem to be driving investments to other parts of the world  [Steven Weisman, New York Times, Nov 28]

Broadcom said yesterday that it will ask a federal court to stop Qualcomm from making and selling cell phone chips that infringe on the Irvine company's patents, after a ruling that left both sides claiming partial victory. [San Diego Union Tribune, Nov 24]

The Big Game. The corporate giants popularly known as Big Pharma spend annually, worldwide, some $25 billion on marketing, and they employ more Washington lobbyists than there are legislators. Their power, in relation to all of the forces that might oppose their will, is so disproportionately huge that they can dictate how they are to be (lightly) regulated, shape much of the medical research agenda, spin the findings in their favor, conceal incriminating data, co-opt their potential critics, and insidiously colonize both our doctors' minds and our own. [Fredrick Crews reviewing three books on Prozac, New York Review of Books, Dec 6]

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority started in 1976. It occupies its own skyscraper, with three trading floors and total square footage equivalent to a third of the Empire State Building. While many ruling families in the region relied on one or two investment advisers a generation ago, today their own, often Wall-Street-trained sons and daughters invest their swelling oil profits.  [Keith Bradsher, New York Times, Nov 29]  If the USA is to compete with such bankrolls of our own money, the government could at least do its part by pushing any R&D subsidies to companies whose ideas have he best potential for self-sufficient life and growth after the subsidy. But the drivel of the political debates gives little confidence that the politicians can see that far. 

Science Rescues Itself. What struck me was how common this phenomenon is becoming. Increasingly science seems both to plunge us into irresolvable ethical quandaries only to rescue us shortly thereafter. Trade-offs of all sorts – moral, ethical and economic – that were once hard to fudge are increasingly rendered moot by technological or scientific advance.   [Andrew Sullivan, The Sunday Times, Nov 25]

ethanol has gone from panacea to pariah... A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that biofuels "offer a cure [for oil dependence] that is worse than the disease." [Lauren Etter, Wall Street Journal, Nov 28]

I'm also thankful for bubbles.... But without an inflated belief in the future, entrepreneurs wouldn't take crazy risks. ... If you sneeze "clean tech" at venture capitalists, they will cut you a check for $5 million. ... The last bubble ... helped develop the Web to the point where Yahoo and Google could succeed. ... We got cheap Internet access thanks to the bubble makers who put a bunch of fiber-optic cable into the ground and across the oceans.  [Dean Takahashi, San Jose Mercury News, Nov 26]

Throughout the Triangle, small businesses are beefing up their online presence, and they're having to expand their information technology staffs and hire outside consultants to do so.  Even companies well outside the tech field are hiring software developers, multimedia experts and the like to help them store and sort data, maintain secure networks, develop business software and create Web marketing strategies. ... demand for information technology workers is at a five-year high, according to Robert Half Technology. ... a shrinking supply of workers in some fields as baby boomers retire and U.S. universities produce fewer computer science majors as a percentage of total graduates. [Frank Norton, Raleigh News&Observer, Nov 24]

Smaller companies are grabbing a bigger share of U.S. exports, making up for some of the jobs lost as multinational firms move operations overseas. American businesses without international subsidiaries accounted for 46% of sales abroad in 2005, up from 38% in 1999, according to a Commerce Department analysis  [Courtney Schlisserman, Bloomberg News, Nov 23]

China’s new sovereign fund alone has two hundred billion dollars to invest, while sovereign wealth funds all together control more than two and a half trillion dollars—and could control as much as twelve trillion by 2015. These funds now have the buying power to shape market prices and acquire assets throughout the developed world. Were China’s fund so inclined, it could buy Ford, G.M., Volkswagen, and Honda, and still have a little money left over for ice cream. [James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, Nov 26]

Is growth a self-evident good?   Thanks to technologies initially supported by or spun off from cold-war research projects—such as computers, fiber optics, satellites, and the Internet—commodities, communications, and information now travel at a vastly accelerated pace. Regulatory structures set in place over the course of a century or more were superseded or dismantled within a few years. In their place came increased competition both for global markets and for the cataract of international funds chasing lucrative investments. Wages and prices were driven down, profits up. Competition and innovation generated new opportunities for some and vast pools of wealth for a few; meanwhile they destroyed jobs, bankrupted firms, and impoverished communities. [Tony Judt's lo-o-ong  review of Robert Reich's Supercapitalism, New York Review of Books, Dec 6]  Echoes of Galbraith's The Affluent Society which does not surprise me in a world where lessons of any past generation are forgotten or ignored as irrelevant in an age of instant everything and survival of the fittest.

Six Ideas That Will Change the World .  "hacktivists" who help people stranded in Web-censored countries, bendable, stretchable circuits that will one day be used to make electronic skin and malleable computers, get rust nanoparticles to bind to arsenic, machines that fix themselves, burying our CO2, biodegradable plastic from lemons. [Esquire.com, Nov 20]

Dot-com Redux. Silicon Valley solar companies are on a hunt for talent. Akeena Solar of Los Gatos is looking for installers. GreenVolts of San Francisco wants reliability test engineers. Innovalight of Santa Clara wants an ink formula chemist. Nanosolar of San Jose wants technicians and engineers. And Solyndra of Fremont, SolarCity of San Francisco and SunPower of San Jose, well, they want everybody. ... A dot-com feel to solar growth [Matt Naumann, San Jose Mercury News, Nov 20]

a new type of magnetometer--or magnetic-field detector--that rivals the sensitivity of its predecessors but is small and cheap, and uses very little power. ... developed by NIST physicist John Kitching, consists of a laser, a cell containing vaporized metal atoms, and a light detector. [MIT Tech Review, Nov 16]

Playing the Game. Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and RTI International formed the Research Triangle Energy Consortium. ... to attract more of the federal grants and venture investments that until now have headed to alternative-energy research hubs in Texas, Massachusetts and California. In turn, the organizers hope that such research will spur startup companies and stimulate economic development. ... "It could be a big deal in terms of a critical mass that competes against MIT and Cal Tech for major federal earmarks," said Dennis Grady, a political science professor at Appalachian State University who directs the ASU Energy Center. [John Murawski, Raleigh News&Observer, Nov 21]

Small business matters a lot to the economy. Companies with 500 or more employees have been cutting positions in the U.S., and adding them overseas, while smaller companies have been expanding at a solid clip, according to Automatic Data Processing Inc., a payroll processor.  The growth is cooling off. At businesses with fewer than 50 employees, 501,000 workers have been added to payrolls this year through October, according to ADP. That is down from 655,000 for the same period a year ago, and 827,000 in 2005. [Wall Street Journal, Nov 20] Is that a good reason to divert jobs from large business to small business by forcing more government R&D contracting into small business? The SBIR advocates say so, although they have no compelling evidence that small business does the government job any better than large business. Nor is there any compelling evidence that government can pick small business contractors to develop marketable innovation any better than the market alone will do. At least the SBIR'ers can claim that it doesn't do much harm, although an acid test of whether the federal agencies think so would be to make it optional rather than mandatory.

MIT has launched a group that will act as a liaison between MIT researchers and venture capitalists around the world. The International Innovation Initiative (I³), which MIT president Susan Hockfield announced, will be modeled on the school's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, which has funded more than 65 projects since 2002, including 12 spinouts.  [MIT Tech Review, Nov 19]

The rise of Asia is changing the geography of innovation, shifting it East, away from the U.S. and Europe. China and India have become not only low-cost sources for manufacturing and services, but also their universities and research labs are growing centers for talent—engineers, scientists, designers, inventors.  Typically, Nearly all the candidates are in favor of spending more federal money for education in science, math, and engineering. And Republicans and Democrats alike want to invest more in nonoil energy sources. Most have advisers on innovation with ties to Silicon Valley and leading research universities.  [Business Week, Nov 26]  Good, they're for innovation, even though they won't talk about how pay for their schemes. Of course, they don't spend, they invest.  These candidates also talk like they can unilaterally enact their tech (or any other) agenda, when the inconvenient fact is that the Congress has been around a lot longer than they have and Congress makes laws, not the President. After all the vested interests have their say, any emerging law will look quite different from any Presidential proposal.

As America threatens to slide into recession, China is still growing at 10% cent a year. Four of the world’s ten largest companies by market capitalisation are now Chinese. But the Chinese economy is unlikely to overtake that of the US for a generation or more. .... China, India and even a resurgent Russia are emulating America by trading their way to greatness.  [Gideon Rachman, Financial Times, Nov 20]  Meanwhile, China expressed concern at the decline in the dollar, joining a growing chorus of global policymakers alarmed by the weakness in the world’s main reserve currency. [multiple authors, Financial Times, Nov 20] China bet that it would prosper by keeping its exports competitive and holding dollars. But the American taste for Chinese products led to a treasury full of dollars that keep deteriorating partly because China was so good at exporting to America while America was so good at buying on credit. “It may be our currency, but it's your problem,” was Treasury Secretary John Connally's taunt when the United States unhooked the dollar from the gold standard in 1971, unilaterally rewriting the rules of world business in America's favor. Now the world is taunting back.  [James G. Neuger and Simon Kennedy, Bloomberg News,  Nov 20] If you were China with a eroding trillion dollars, what would you do? 

A Minority of Two Adults. In the midst of a heated congressional debate over taxing wealthy investors, [VC William] Stanfill broke ranks with his industry and promoted a 20% tax increase on himself, his friends and his colleagues in the VC industry. ... “If I couldn’t go against the current at the age of 71, when was I going to?” asks Stanfill. [Lisa Lerer, politico.com, Nov 13]  He and Warren Buffet make a minority of about two who find societal equity in taxing private equity pay as ordinary income (which puts the income in the progressive tax structure). But of course, we go by majority rule, no matter how selfish the motive, for determining our actual tax structure. The high rollers appeal to Adam Smith (and supply-side Arthur Laffer) and the Institute for Policy Innovation asks "What Would Reagan Do?", while the Members of Congress keep the pot stirred which (purely coincidentally, of course) attracts more campaign contributions.

Public Proposal Review? If scientific papers can be publicly reviewed either pre-publication or post-publication, and if one day soon the public can have a voice on the patents, then why not also grant proposals? Now, Michael does not go that far - he only proposes a more direct communication between the researcher and the reviewer - but, why not? Some people write good proposals. Others can sell them better in a different way: by talking about them. I would certainly like to be able to try to sell my grant proposal by shooting a video and posting it on a site like Scivee.com, where both the reviewers and the public can add their commentary. [Posted by Coturnix , A Blog Around the Clock, Nov 15]  Fertile ground for IP theft.

a tool that could help democratize the funding hunt — IdeaCrossing.org. Think of it as matchmaking service between entrepreneurs and investors.  IdeaCrossing is open and free to anyone in the U.S. Entrepreneurs build a profile, and the system matches them to like-minded participating investors. Investors can see these profiles (the entrepreneur doesn’t get to right away) and reach out with time or money.  The site is still in beta with about 1,000 users. [Independent Street blog, Wall Street Journal, Oct 30]

technology companies are on a buying spree  ... Technology executives and industry watchers say more mergers and acquisitions are on the way. ... Technology industry analyst Charles King said there are a few other reasons why big tech companies are on a buying binge. First, King said, they want to expand into areas that are expected to be hot in the future. Most of the acquisitions in recent weeks have involved companies in the data storage and management, data "mining" and "business intelligence" fields — all areas that are expected to grow substantially in coming years. Second, with continued concerns about an economic on downturn, companies are looking for ways to diversify and insulate themselves. That might mean expanding beyond businesses that just sell products and into areas such as business services. [Bob Keefe, Austin American-Statesman, Nov 17]

Needed Money More. Advanced Micro Devices said Friday that it sold an 8.1% stake in the company for $622 M to an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government  ... to shore up its financially troubled balance sheet. [Mark Boslet, San Jose Mercury News, Nov 17] Buy more oil so the desert sheiks can own more American companies. Anyway, in a pinch, the US government could ban the sheiks from exercising any control just like other desperate governments.

a BP-funded alternative energy initiative at Berkeley has officially begun to function, ... The Energy Biosciences Institute, as the partnership is known, has a $500M commitment from BP to seek a long-term solution to the fossil fuel crunch. ... Still, BP's [recent] woes added fire to stiff opposition from many around campus who argued that signing the deal would render Berkeley's research hostage to BP's interests. [Angel Gonzalez, Seattle Times, Nov 17]

Ya Gotta Believe. [Wall Street firms] field departments full of smart analysts [that cost tens of millions a year] to assess market, credit, liquidity and operational risk. The process is marked by a formal governance structure and risk-tolerance limits. That's what the banks tell investors, anyway. When it came to their exposure to the subprime mortgage market, none of this seemed to matter. "Executives believe what they want to believe," says Frederick Cannon, a bank analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. [N Weinberg & N Condon, Forbes, Nov 26] Self-deception while the money-making fun lasts.

In our experience, many companies are constrained by an inability to achieve long-term growth through innovation. Their competitive advantage, if they have one, cannot readily be sustained because it is built only on their current enterprise, with insufficient attention paid to the innovations necessary to drive future growth and create future value. [Toni C. Langlinais and Marco A. Merino, Outlook Journal, September 2007] The idea applies also to companies who live from SBIR to SBIR, and government is wasting its SBIR opportunity by continually funding their safe and incremental propositions.

No recession forecast. In 1929, days after the stockmarket crash, the Harvard Economic Society reassured its subscribers: “A severe depression is outside the range of probability”. In a survey in March 2001, 95% of American economists said there would not be a recession, even though one had already started. Today, most economists do not forecast a recession in America [The Economist, Nov 17]

Cooler Tech. Intel CEO Paul Otelini pledges to do something about the fact that for every dollar we spend on servers we're going to be spending 70 cents to cool them within the next three years. ... the electricity consumed by data centers represents 1.5 percent of the total U.S. energy consumption [Brian Prince, eWeek, Nov 13]

Innovative Chip-Making.  Frito-Lay is embarking on an ambitious plan to change the way this factory operates, and in the process, create a new type of snack: the environmentally benign chip. Its goal is to take the Casa Grande (AZ) plant off the power grid, or nearly so, and run it almost entirely on renewable fuels and recycled water. Net zero, as the concept is called [Andrew Martin, New York Times, Nov 15]

Drowning in Info? Anthropologist-turned-brand-strategist Cheryl Swanson identifies a mega-trend of the past decade, "Survival of the Fastest." She says that while we are processing 400 times more information than our Renaissance ancestors, the day did not get 400 hours longer. "Whipsawed by stimuli" that we haven't (or can't?) adapt to physically or mentally and with family dinnertimes shrinking to less than a few minutes. [Source:AdAge, Boston Globe business filter blog, Nov 14]

"The foundation of capitalism, both economically and socially is, therefore, the insatiability of wants that entrepreneurs have managed to induce consumers to see as needs." That is, in many ways, the most pessimistic statement I have read about capitalism, but it's also very true. [Robert May, businesspundit.com, commenting on Schumpeter]

Too Many Techs. The federal dollars pumped into university science departments has created more scientists and engineers than the market wants, said Michael S. Teitelbaum, vice president of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, ... Engineers and scientists have started to grumble about poor job prospects.  [Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov 16]

Biotechnology companies are gobbling up a growing amount of laboratory space in the Boston area, according to a report by Richards Barry Joyce & Partners, a commercial real estate firm in Boston.The report found vacancy rates for lab space fell to 9.1% for the two quarters ending Sept. 30, the first time vacancy rates have fallen below 10% since 2002. [Boston Globe, Nov 14]

Nov 14, 1972 – The Dow Jones industrial average closes above 1,000 for the first time.

Throughout 2007, Seattle's biotech industry has been running just to stand still. It could have been a blockbuster year. Many companies awaited landmark clinical results that, if successful, could have boosted their stock and lifted the struggling local sector into national prominence. But it didn't play out that way. The market value of local companies climbed some 25% to $4 billion early in the year as investors wagered on good data. But failed tests, delays and other bad news disappointed observers and investors in the area's publicly traded firms. [Angel Gonzalez, Seattle Times, Nov 12]

21 companies that will pitch their stories to investors from at least three states Wednesday [Nov 14]at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison's Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. About half are biomedical firms, with the rest in software, Internet services, advanced manufacturing and clean technologies, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, which puts on the event. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Nov 13]

Gore and Doerr in 2004 came true in 2007 as Al Gore joined Silicon Valley VC behemoth Kleiner, Perkins.

A study sponsored by the drug industry suggests that Massachusetts life science companies account for a small, but growing piece of the state's economy. The full report, scheduled to be released tomorrow, found the state's biopharmaceutical industry employed 55,000 workers in 2005, up 12% from 2000 and up 46% since 1990. [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Nov 13]

Google plans to offer $10M in prizes to developers who create applications for its mobile phone operating system, known as Android. ... The cash awards will range from $25,000 to $275,000. Winners will be selected by a panel of judges. [Bloomberg News, Nov 13] Want more efficiency from SBIR? Offer prizes instead of zero-risk process money.

A recent Ernst & Young study says the IPOs with the best stock performance in their early months are those of companies that have been around awhile, eight or nine years under their belts prior to going public. [Business Week, Nov 19]

sinking technology stocks were out of luck. They battered the Nasdaq composite index, which fell 1.9%. The index was down as much a 3%. It was a sudden downturn for technology companies, which have enjoyed a steady run-up in prices since the summer. Analysts said yesterday’s sell-off was driven by a bout of profit-taking in an uncertain climate. [Michael Grynbaum, New York Times, Nov 9]

technology is bound to deliver a biofuel that will be competitive with fossil energy at something like current prices. It probably already has. Brazil has been exporting ethanol to the US at an average delivery price of $1.45 for an amount with the energy equivalence of a gallon of petrol. It is doing so profitably and in increasing amounts, in spite of a 54 cents a gallon tariff to protect American maize-based ethanol producers. [Ricardo Hausmann, Financial Times, Nov 6]

EVEN as oil prices surge, the housing market contracts, Wall Street reels and multibillion-dollar deals falter, small businesses are flourishing and, in fact, are helping to buoy the economy, experts say.  ... an increase in private sector employment in October of 106,000. That included a surge of 63,000 at businesses with fewer than 50 employees  ... Carl Schramm, an economist, said the figures indicate that the role of small businesses as an engine of job growth is gaining force, especially in troubled economic times.  [Brent Bowers, New York Times, Nov 8]

Sounds Good, Does Little. A recent article by Yoonsoo Lee of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland suggests that public incentives to attract and retain industrial plants have only a marginal impact on the decisions made by manufacturing firms to relocate or shut down particular plants. ... Lee also argues that the incentives themselves do little to attract or create new jobs.  Download "Geographic Redistribution of the U.S. Manufacturing and the Role of State Development Policy" at: http://www.ces.census.gov/index.php/ces/cespapers?down_key=101779

Where Capitalism Shines. If you get too excited about technology you end up in Silicon Valley, where pretty much everyone is either making, drinking, or selling Kool-Aid about the potential for technology to make wondrous things happen. In the Valley, there's the added excitement that technology can also make you incredibly wealthy. [Michael Parsons, The Times online (London), Aug 31]

At this year's [Massachusetts Biotechnology Council's annual] investor conference , most presenters are small publicly traded companies, including Alseres Pharmaceuticals (no SBIR) of Hopkinton, Momenta Pharmaceuticals (one SBIR) of Cambridge, Oscient Pharmaceuticals ($2.3M SBIR) in Waltham, and Synta Pharmaceuticals (no SBIR) in Lexington. The largest is Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($1M SBIR), the Cambridge company whose market value has rocketed to nearly $4B on hope for its experimental hepatitis C drug, telaprevir. [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Nov 5]

Kentucky writes "MRI machines are about to get smaller, much smaller. Most of their bulk is taken up by the huge superconducting magnets required to generate fields of a few Telis. Now a team at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico has built a machine that can produce images using a field of only a few Microtel (PDF, abstract here). So giant superconducting magnets aren't necessary, a development that has the potential to make MRI machines much smaller, perhaps even suitcase-sized. The one-page paper shows sections of the first 3D brain image taken with the device."  [slashdot.org, Nov 10]

Desalt Innovations Needed.  Israel has the world's largest desalination plant, by reverse osmosis. The massive scale of the plant also makes its product the cheapest so far, with production costs below $0.55/m3. But the fresh water for drinking isn't good enough for agriculture (which uses 70% of world's fresh water supply). Israeli farmers have discovered that although Na+ and Cal- have been removed, so too has Mg2+, essential for plant growth.  As if that weren't bad enough, boron concentrations have increased. Although boron poses no threat to human health, most crops aren't so lucky. Last but not least, the altered ion balance in the desalinized water results in water that is less buffered, meaning that the pipes that carry it corrode faster. [Jonathan Gitling, Ars Journal, Nov 10]

Thanks, Uncle Sam.  Gloom envelops world markets  Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic concluded their worst week in months as deepening economic gloom prompted investors to ratchet up bets that the US Federal Reserve would be forced to cut rates again in the face of mounting credit losses. [Financial Times, Nov 9] One of the reasons that the vicissitudes of the markets will produce only a mild economic shift is the existence of a conservative bugbear - a large government - whose boring steadiness provides a counterweight.

Guesswork 101. Why do academic economists believe that short-run currency fluctuations are not connected to macroeconomic fundamentals, whereas the individuals most connected to financial markets obviously do? Our answer is that market participants and observers recognize that the relationship between the exchange rate and macroeconomic fundamentals changes at times and in ways that cannot be fully foreseen. While they may use economic theory to understand and forecast markets, they recognize that they cannot base their actions solely on a fixed model. The basic premise of our approach, called "imperfect knowledge economics" (IKE), is that the search for sharp predictions of market outcomes is futile. [Roman Freedman and Michel D. Goldberg, The Dollar-Euro Exchange Rate and the Limits of Knowledge, Nov 9]

Check the Mirror.  High oil prices are fueling one of the biggest transfers of wealth in history. [Steven Munson, Washington Post, Nov 10] Hate the wealth transfer consequences of dear oil? We have had thirty years to do something, but we preferred immediate pain avoidance. The Europeans took a different route - taxing petroleum fuel to suppress demand. As a result, English petrol (gasoline) now peddles for £1 per liter, which translates to about $8 a gallon if you buy with the falling dollar. We will do and say almost anything to prevent new taxes, and we demand that our politicians agree with us. If they want to get re-elected, they have no choice but to "represent" us.  We could also demand that our lawmakers raise fuel efficiency standards which would push us to buy smaller, lighter, more efficient autos. On the other hand, look on the bright side - Houston loves dear oil. And Houston oil money brought us the big W who for seven years has resisted any pain for Houston.

Capital is plentiful; it is skilled people who are scarce. The salient struggle is no longer capital versus labor but, capital versus talent. The upshot is that in many knowledge businesses the employees often do better than the shareholders....Even in Silicon Valley, land of the inflated stock price, companies are so desperate to attract and keep the best and the brightest that workers often prosper at the expense of the capitalists.  [James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, Mar 2005] Surowiecki was talking about professional hockey players with Silicon Valley as a side example.

Bubbles Inevitable. The problem with credit has been the always dubious promise of magically high returns without unacceptable risks. It is insane greed that leads people to toss aside arithmetic and basic theory and just go for the green stuff up to the elbows. It happened with tech stocks, Drexel junk bonds, savings and loans and real estate (over and over). And it will happen again. [Ben Stein, New York Times, Nov 11]

What brand is your mattress? According to a Times interview with the head of Tempurpedic, you don't know. That's how they built a built a billion dollar company. By getting 2% of a market that doesn't care about brands to care about them. A typical marketer looks at this and says, "great marketing! You branded a product in an unbranded marketplace."  [Seth Godin's blog, Nov 11]

Tech in Demand. At Hotel 1000, which markets its high-technology trappings to people visiting this tech-driven [Seattle], guests can get high-definition movies delivered over the Internet to a giant flat screen ... The $133 billion lodging industry's cutting edge sees a business opportunity in traveling lawyers pining for high-speed Internet access, twentysomethings looking for a place to plug their iPods and vacationers preferring YouTube over the boob tube.  [Joseph Menn, LA Times, Nov 11]

In an annual ritual, two dozen local medical device companies plan to make quick pitches to investors today at an industry conference in Boston.  The MedTech Investors Conference, sponsored by a state trade organization, will feature mostly early stage companies - promoting everything from cutting-edge medical scanners to gels that heal wounds. Abiomed, NeuroLogica, Tepha ($1M+ SBIR), SteriCoat (one-year-old)  [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Nov 1]

Despite the attractiveness of exotic new Asian and Eastern European markets [Chengdu, China, Orissa, India as well as Ho Chi Minh City/Hanoi, Vietnam], Dennis Donovan, principal of Wadley-Donovan-Gutshaw Consulting, said North, Central and South America, "continues to be very strong," for outsourced call centers and manufacturing centers. Donovan calls places ranging from Dickinson, North Dakota, to Hermosillo, Mexico to Santiago, Chile, among the hottest future investment hotspots in the Western Hemisphere. [Industry Week, Nov 7]  If you can't find Dickinson, look along I-94 in the SW corner near the Montana border. The town next door, Medora, rocks in the summer with Teddy Roosevelt in person and a grand outdoor musical variety show. 

Clay [Christiansen] said he got his best tips [on disruptive innovation] from his students. Which makes sense: Young people have a better feel for the next disruptive thing. Clay's strategy--investing in disruptive companies before the Schumpeterian sea changes become obvious--has yielded Clay a 35% compound annual return over the last five years. [Rich Karlgaard, Digital Rules blog]

Marquette University has launched an initiative to spur innovation and breed the kind of entrepreneurship administrators say they see in the school's alumni. The Cross-Campus Entrepreneurship Initiative will be run out of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship  [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Nov 7]

Hydrogen for Politics; Batteries for Cars. Batteries are a clear winner in the grid-to-wheels efficiency battle. Conventional Lithium-ion batteries charge at about 93% efficiency and operate at about the same efficiency, leading to an overall efficiency of over 85%. For the same energy input, you'll get three times the power out of a battery than out of a fuel cell.  [gizmag Emerging Technology Magazine, Nov 2]

Time Will Tell. The race is on among medical device makers to grab bigger pieces of a shrinking market for cardiovascular stents. ... Since the alarm bells sounded, sales of drug-eluting stents have fallen. They had been $6 B worldwide. The market now is $4 - 5 billion worldwide, says John Capek, Abbott's executive vice president of medical devices. [Peter Benish, Investors Business Daily, Nov 2]  Once again, shining success in short term trials awaits the judgment on time scale of adverse effects in human bodies.

IT Bubble Redux. the larger force at work--capitalism's cold efficiency. What Wall Street does is raise money to throw at innovation. Creating liquidity in mortgage markets so that more people can buy houses is not so unlike funneling billions to Silicon Valley in the 1990s to secure U.S. technological dominance. The problem, as epitomized by the tech boom, is that the Street never knows when to turn off the money spigot. A good idea once is a good idea a million times, to the point of excess. In the hunt for ever more profit, everyone gets carried away, ethics and laws are at times breached, and then, ultimately, the collapse comes. [Barbara Kiviat, Time, Nov 12]

Everybody knows how to get more innovative, but they are rarely willing to undertake the kinds of cultural changes necessary to yield significant results. Without more actionable advice, too many companies proceed to make the same mistakes when trying to spark innovation. ... The companies that are realizing the biggest bang for their innovation buck, however, aren't on the front page anymore. While out of the public eye, companies such as Hewlett-Packard have been digging deep and doing the long, hard work of transforming into innovation leaders for the long term. They can see the script for innovation isn't a mystery. It just takes a long time and a lot of change to pull off. [Dev Patnaik, Business Week Online, Oct 23]

The Southern Growth Idea Bank at www.southernideabank.org is an online compendium of smart ideas, best practices and innovative programs from across the Southern region. [SSTI, Oct 31]

Researchers at IBM have devised a process to recycle discarded computer-chip wafers into solar panels [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Oct 31]

On Top and 75th.  A report on the competitiveness of economies around the world released yesterday puts the U.S. out front and highlights the growing potential of energy-producing countries awash in oil and natural-gas revenue. [Marc Champion, Wall Street Journal, Nov 1] Even so, the dollar is still dropping. And, "The U.S. does amazingly well on innovation and markets, but on the macroeconomic-stability pillar it ranks 75th" out of 131.

Market watchers have been waiting for the pendulum to finally swing back in favor of growth stocks, and that appears to be the case now. But momentum investors have added fuel to particular stocks, industries, and even parts of the world to push some prices dramatically higher.  Of course, those opportunities involve risk.  [Steven Syre, Boston Globe, Nov 1]

GE is returning to its historic roots in [Schenectady NY] with its plan to add 500 jobs locally as part of a $39 M expansion of its power-generation business. ...  founded in Schenectady and was once considered the company's headquarters. During World War II, GE employed 40,000 people in the city, but today it employs just 3,200. Another 2,000 work at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna. [Larry Rulison, Albany Times-Union, Nov 1]

Max Weber [Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, vol. 2, ch. 9, sec. 2 (1919)] taught us that secrecy is the implacable foe of democratic society. It can never be eliminated entirely, because every government has military secrets and similar matters which the interests of state security require it to safeguard. But left unchecked, secrecy becomes a tool in the hands of the political schemer, who will use it to play political games with his domestic adversary. Beyond this, the great strength of democracy is its ability to subject political ideas and plans to the test of the marketplace of ideas where the weak will falter and fail and only the most able will succeed. Secrecy therefore inevitably makes the decision-making process a little bit stupider. And sometimes it makes it profoundly dumb. [Scott Horton, Harpers, Oct 27]

Delaware has one of the highest concentrations of workers in the medical device industry, and those high-paying jobs are helping drive the state's economy, according to a new study.  In Delaware, 3,067 people work in medical technology . ... given the relatively small size of its employment base, had more than 2.5 times more medical technology workers than would have been expected, the study found. That ranked the state second, behind only Utah, which had slightly more than three times more medical technology workers than would have been predicted.  [Gary Haber, Delaware Online, Oct 27]

Look Sharper. A recent poll aimed at automobile shoppers that interact with search engines found that 7 out of 10 Americans experience what’s called ‘‘search engine fatigue.’’ 65.4% of Americans ‘‘say they’ve spent two or more hours in a single sitting searching for specific information on search engines,’’ and 75.1% report leaving their computers without the information [Maura Welch, Boston Globe, Oct 30]

Scholars at the Brookings Institution argue that America's old industrial cities can indeed rise again. ... cities are the natural centres of the new knowledge economy and will only grow more appealing to young people and ageing baby-boomers, who want amenities near their homes. [The Economist, Oct 25] Cities are also large enough to have the kind of assets needed for a tech-based industry - at least one top university, mobile skilled labor pool, large R&D oriented companies, transportation links.... Politicians who shove federal seed money into their have-not areas just because they have-not are wasting the taxpayers' assets.

Blowing R&D. Cleveland wants to tackle offshore wind so that it can identify -- and then overcome -- the technological challenges and institutional barriers that make offshore wind so expensive today. By overcoming the factors that make offshore wind currently uneconomic, Cleveland seeks to become a leading center of offshore wind R&D. [Richard Steubi, cleantech blog, Aug 27, 07]

I believe there is a massive bubble developing because of substantial new capacity coming on stream in a couple of years," he warns. Sass sees polysilicon prices plunging. [Gene Marcial, Business Week, Nov 5, 07]

Really big lens to focus a ton of sunlight onto a crystal that will lase enough to burn magnesium in seawater is the idea being pursued by Takashi Yabe at the Tokyo Institute.  [Duncan Graham-Rowe, MIT Tech Review, Sep 19]

Stony Stevenson sent in this ITNews story which opens, "Techies were paid nearly record-high hourly wages in the third quarter, according to a new report released Thursday by staffing firm Yoh. Based on data compiled from 75 Yoh field offices and 5,000 technology professionals contracted in short and long-term projects, pay increased an average of more than 5.5 percent for the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared to the same period last year." [slashdot.org, Oct 26]

Supply Down. Recent data should provide cheery reading for bulls. Equity is being withdrawn from the market at a record annual pace of roughly $800B, according to the Federal Reserve, mainly as a result of a record amount of share buybacks and extensive spending by private equity firms taking public companies private. [Conrad de Aenlle, New York Times, Oct 27]

Gauging the progress of Indiana's life-sciences effort is tricky. Plenty of public relations folks are happy to tout new venture capital or new companies that add up to new momentum. But momentum in one person's eyes looks like wasted effort to someone else.  [John Ketzenberger, Indianapolis Star, Oct 28]

A Market Way. For those of you who love prediction markets (a variety of which we’ve written about in the past), there’s a new site that looks to be as vast, inclusive, and user-friendly as anything I’ve seen: Predictify. ... There’s a free version of the question model in which you get 100 responses from the public, as well as a premium version that, if the audience proves to be dependable, might soon become every marketer’s best friend  [Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics blog, Oct 25]

To Corsicana TX.  Northrop Grumman opened an information-technology center in town and began recruiting IT specialists and software engineers. ... In a twist on offshoring that Northrop has dubbed "onshoring," the global defense and technology company has been shipping computer work to small-town America, shunning India's Bangalore and Mumbai. [Peter Pae, LA Times, Oct 28]  One reason: in Corsicana you can buy two scoops of ice cream for $2.

“Do cell phones cause brain cancer?”  As a physician who has followed the published medical literature on this, I can tell you that the answer is no.  One problem is that as humans, when something bad happens to us, we blame something. [Pogue's Imponderables blog (New York Times, Oct 23] They have, however, changed the most common English phrase to "It's me."

Venter was riding the waves again last week. He is close to making an artificial life form, very much an alpha male thing. It will, says Venter, conquer infection. Is he playing God? No, he’s more Adam, a new human beginning. He is, as he puts it, “the first chemical machine to gaze upon his own sequence”. He knows, in other words, his own DNA. He was the first man to decode the human genome, the announcement of which in 2000 was hyped as one of the great moments in history, like Galileo, Newton and Darwin rolled into one, but bigger. [Brian Appleyard, The Times (London), Oct 28]

Capital Re-Cycling. "In the current environment, you would have to be extremely brave or extremely stupid to buy a U.S. bank," says Pete Hahn, a fellow at City University's Cass Business School in London.  .. [Business Week, Nov 5] But A $5.5 B investment by China's biggest bank in South Africa is the latest sign of China's growing power as an exporter not just of toys, sweaters and MP3 players, but of capital. ... China's investments in places like Sudan have drawn criticism in the West. [R Carew, J Lowe, J Areddy, Wall Street Journal, Oct 26]  But China has no incentive to play by Western rules that advantage the West. They will do things their way as long as the West keeps feeding them capital while hoping to control the game as it has for two centuries. 

Silicon Valley wits derisively refer to the ailing Mercury News as the "Techtanic." ... "I saw the Internet as a great opportunity, but also as a great threat," says Ingle, then executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News] .... an epic shift of advertising over to the Web would cut the economic legs out from under the Mercury News  ... Today, with advertising weak and readers flocking to the Web, the Mercury News is trying desperately to reinvent itself. ...  [Steve Hamm, Business Week, Nov 5]  If you are in high-tech, with or without an addiction to SBIR, your core advantage could evaporate in a New York minute.

Outsourcing Fatal Ailments. The patients arrive every day in Chinese hospitals with disabling and fatal diseases acquired while making products for America. silicosis, leukemia, kidney failure, touch and inhale carcinogenic materials every day, all day long. Benzene. Lead. Cadmium. Toluene. Nickel. Mercury. [Loretta Tofani, San Jose Mercury News, Oct 28] Yet another form of the free lunch.

Mussel Glue. a new polymer that allows researchers to coat almost any object, even one made of Teflon, with microscopic patterns of metals and organic materials.  Researchers at Northwestern University designed the polymer to mimic a protein-based glue that mussels use to attach themselves to rocks, wood, plastic, and steel--indeed, just about any material they encounter. The researchers, led by Phillip Messersmith, a professor of engineering and materials science and engineering at Northwestern, identified an easy-to-make compound  [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Oct 26]

GE invests more into clean technologies than any other company.  The company's yearly allotment for Ecomagination, its cleantech investment arm, totals $1B, and GE says it's on track to raise the number to $1.5B by 2010. Compare that to the mere $844 M invested in U.S. clean-technology companies by the entire venture capital establishment last quarter, which is at record levels.  [Chris Morrison, Venture Beat, Oct 24]

at Sandia, about 20% of the lab's effort is now focused on a different security issue – how to reduce consumption of oil. ... Some of this work is funded by auto makers and truck engine builders. Some of it is your tax dollars   [J White, WSJ,Oct 23] Because  the United States has become increasingly dependent on energy supplies from unstable regions of the world. ... U.S. dependency on foreign energy creates immense economic challenges and vulnerabilities as well. One-third of the skyrocketing U.S. trade deficit can be attributed to increased costs of imported oil. ... not a critical problem as long as U.S. trading partners continue to reinvest their returns in the United States. [Washington Quarterly, Josef Brami, Aut 07]

In 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor published a [widely ignored] paper in which he speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down ...  But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want — from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention. So after 52 years, he has retracted it.  .. It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.  [Cornelia Dean, New York Times, Oct 25]

Oct. 23, 1911: Aero-Plane Makes Its Debut Above the Battlefield

What Hath Tech Wrought.  Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, says that the industry he helped create is now generally responsible for the production of rubbish and filth: "Video games today are a race to the bottom. They are pure, unadulterated trash and I'm sad for that." [Chris Kohler, Wired News, Oct 23]

Gizmos Quick. The military’s appetite for expensive, gold-plated systems still exists, but soldiers increasingly want their civilian technology partners to deliver solutions quickly to the field, even if the devices are far from perfected. That is partly because changing conditions in the Iraq war have raised demand for new gadgets and gizmos, even in tiny batches. ... Asked by the Army to quickly help soldiers in Iraq who found themselves under sniper fire, BBN delivered 50 early versions of a system it called Boomerang in a mere 66 days. ... [in 42 days] BBN built a two-way translator, a hand-held device that allows an American soldier to understand an Arabic speaker, sort of. It is not perfect, Mr. Sherman acknowledges, but at 50 percent accuracy, the digital translator may indeed improve security and save lives  [GP Zachary, New York Times, Oct 21]

Plus or Minus $2B. Pfizer Inc.'s decision to shelve a novel insulin inhaler and take a $2.8B pretax hit on the product -- one of the drug industry's costliest failures ever -- rids the company of an albatross - Exubera. But it suggests the risks Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler and other industry executives face as they steer makers of traditional pills more deeply into biotechnology drugs. .. in part due to concerns among doctors about its long-term safety. Earlier the company predicted the drug would be a $2 billion-a-year product.  ...to pull a new drug from the market because it didn't sell -- in the absence of a red flag -- is almost unprecedented. ...  "This is one of the most stunning failures in the history of the pharmaceutical industry," said Mike Krensavage, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates. "I hope it would give Pfizer pause about buying any more assets."  [Avery Johnson, Wall Street Journal, Oct 19]  Got a great bio-tech idea, or want to invest in one?  Consider playing the wheel in Vegas. The body becomes a more mysterious organism all the time.

Forty years after a team of Texas Instruments inventors gave the world its first hand-held electronic calculator, the company continues to dominate the market through strong ties with teachers, students and textbook companies.  ... "The thing that most people don't recognize is that calculators are at the crux of their loyalty strategy," said Cody Acree, managing director of the Dallas office of Stifel Nicolaus & Co.  [Brad Hem, Houston Chronicle, Oct 21]

Compete or Die. Today’s corporate and political leaders are no different, he says, from their earlier counterparts. What has changed is that new technology has made the economic environment dramatically more competitive.  [Robert Frank reviewing Robert Reich's Supercapitalism, New York Times, Oct 21]

Drug researchers that contract with pharmaceutical companies to test new medicines plan to create 2,500 jobs in the Triangle over the next three to four years. These will be jobs that pay well. Generally, salaries start at $40,000 -- above the Wake County average salary of $35,672 per year -- and can go as high as $150,000 before benefits [Sabine Vollmer, Raleigh News&Observer, Oct 21]

after returning the Dell and buying a Mac, I blogged an open letter to Michael Dell suggesting his company read blogs, write blogs, ask customers for guidance, and "join the conversation your customers are having without you." ... Dell started its Direct2Dell blog, where it quickly had to deal with a burning-battery issue and where chief blogger Lionel Menchaca gave the company a frank and credible human voice. Last February, Michael Dell launched IdeaStorm.com, asking customers to tell the company what to do. Dell is following their advice.  [Jeff Jarvis (Buzzmachine.com), Business Week, Oct 29]

A high-profile panel of CEOs and academics met last month in Washington to discuss how to measure innovation in the U.S. economy. ... Thirteen proposals were discussed, including the development of a national innovation index and a way to measure the "science of startups," or innovation within new businesses. The transcript is posted online at innovationmetrics.gov.  [Helen Walters,Business Week, Oct 29] Remember that input is not an output measure (except in government).

Limits of Profit Incentive. antibiotics aren't very profitable. It can take up to 10 years and some $800 million to create a new drug, but it's tough to recover those costs, given that a course of antibiotics is usually prescribed just once, for 7 to 10 days. Then there's the antibiotic Catch-22: Doctors tend to limit prescriptions of new drugs for all but the most dire infections in order to delay the emergence of resistant strains. "What's good for the public health is a real disincentive for antibiotic development," says Dr. Barry I. Eisenstein, head of scientific affairs at Cubist Pharmaceuticals [Catherine Arnst,Business Week, Oct 29]

A Stentorian.  "He is incredibly enthusiastic about angioplasty," says Nash, referring to Sharma, "but in my heart of hearts, I believe he's overselling it." After double-digit growth in angioplasties by Sharma's team since 2002, volume in his cath (short for catheterization) lab has fallen 3% this year.   .... Every other month, Sharma travels to India for the weekend to perform angioplasties, free of charge, at a heart hospital he built in his hometown of Jaipur.  [Arlene Weintraub, Business Week, Oct 29]

Brazil's sugar-cane-based ethanol is the only form of ethanol that is generally cheaper to produce than gasoline, according to an International Monetary Fund analysis, boosting Brazil's plans to make itself a fuel powerhouse and undermining U.S. corn growers' efforts to present themselves as price competitive. [B Davis and L Etter, Wall Street Journal, Oct 18]  So, raise the subsidy to make the uncompetitive ... dependent. The same argument made for more and bigger SBIR.

Researchers at Harvard University have made solar cells that are a small fraction of the width of a human hair. The cells, each made from a single nanowire just 300 nanometers wide, could be useful for powering tiny sensors or robots for environmental monitoring or military applications. What's more, the basic design of the solar cells could be useful in large-scale power production, potentially lowering the cost of generating electricity from the sun. Each of the new solar cells is a nanowire with a core of crystalline silicon and several concentric layers of silicon with different electronic properties. [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Oct 19]

The Indianapolis Enterprise Center, a business incubator on the Eastside, has been sold to a California company. Seller Scott Meyers, who bought the facility in 2005, said he sold it to devote more time to his self-storage business and two startup companies. [Indianapolis Star, Oct 19]

With world population projected to grow by 3 to 4 billion people over the next fifty years, the corresponding growth in energy demand cannot be met with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. ... appeal to the reader with little to no background in economics but with some financial common sense [Linda Bui, reviewing Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry, by Travis Bradford, J Econ Literature, Sep 07]. Even if the Malthusian population expansion proves wrong again, fossil fuels will still have trouble keeping up with demand at current prices. And there will not be enough sun power to fill the gap.

Silicon Valley Start-Ups Awash in Dollars, Again  [New York Times, Oct 17]  while Wisconsin has a serious shortage of venture capital and ranks poorly compared with the rest of the nation in the number of high-tech businesses that have been spun out of academic institutions, Hefty said. Mason Wells of Milwaukee and Venture Investors of Madison are the only two venture capital firms that focus their investing on the state's young, high-tech companies. [Kathleen Gallagher, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Apr 1, 06] Is it the government's role to remedy such a capital imbalance? No, inter-state competition is not a federal question. Could government succeed even if it tried? We have plenty of evidence that government program(s) merely divert tax money to uncompetitive entities with political connections. If capital is to be efficiently deployed, the private sector has to do it.  The one place where government may have a role is in the infant stage of young technology in young firms. SBIR could possibly play such a role if its current structure were completely re-invented.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have borrowed a trick from oysters, which fabricate mother-of-pearl one layer at a time, and have used it to make a tough, superlight composite plastic. The researchers started with a layer of clay only nanometers thick, then added a sticky liquid, then another layer of clay--repeating this process 300 times. The result is a light, transparent substance as strong as steel but no thicker than plastic wrap. [Business Week, Oct 22]

Solar energy-related stocks are hot. In the first half of 2007, there was a record $4.7B in capital raised in solar-based IPOs, according to U.K.-based research firm New Energy Finance. That's more than double the amount raised in new solar issues during all of last year.  [Forbes, Oct 5]

Bigger Worker Pool. Boston Scientific is preparing to slash thousands of jobs to cope with slumping sales, analysts say. [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Oct 16]

Xconomy is a daily blog written and edited by professional journalists, and dedicated to the proposition that the Boston area is an oft-discounted hotbed of innovation. By highlighting local research, invention, startups, venture investment, and other technology-related business news, we hope to both chronicle and catalyze Boston's rise to equal status with Silicon Valley as a source of game-changing technological advances.

The lengthy courtship [of Cytyc by Hologic] highlights the fact that companies must often spend years laying the groundwork before pulling off a major deal. In this case, both firms are also major players in the women's healthcare industry and both are based in the Boston suburbs, so they eyed each other long before seriously discussing a merger ... combined will create one of the state's largest life sciences companies with annual sales of $1.7B [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Oct 15]

Misplaced modifier: Debug Console will automatically appear to help resolve web page errors. [Pogue's Post blog, New York Times]

John Kao, an innovation consultant, points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, ...that the geography of innovation is changing. For much of the 20th century, the locus of leading-edge thinking was the U.S. and Western Europe. The rise of Asia is evening that out, redistributing the fruits of innovation: wealth and power. How did things switch so swiftly? Here are Kao's bullet points:  — Talent is now everywhere. As are Capital, Silicon Valley, and Military spending. [Bruce Nussbaum, Business Week, Oct 22]

International markets continued to outshine the United States in the third quarter, as many of the world's economies continue to grow faster. ... China region funds remained on top, offering a 28.9% return. Economists expect blistering growth as the country enjoys demand from a growing middle class. [Seattle Times, Oct 11] A sign of how rapidly the trade situation is changing: In August, 41% of the containers shipped from the Port of Los Angeles were loaded, up from a year-earlier 32% [Justin Lahart, Wall Street Journal, Oct 11]

A novel artificial cornea that adheres to eye cells could bring new hope to the estimated 10 million people worldwide who are blind because of corneal damage or disease. ... The key to the new implant is a protein-coated polymer developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute, in Munich, Germany; the group is led by Joachim Storsberg, head of the university's medical-polymer research unit. The polymer, which is commercially available, repels water, so it won't absorb tear-duct secretions that could cause it to swell. It also prohibits cell growth, so natural tissue will not cloud it over. [Brittany Sauser, MIT Tech Review, Oct 10]

Intel Completes Photonics Trifecta. A new light detector means all three core components of telecom networks can now be built in silicon.  [Kate Greene, MIT Tech Review, Oct 10]

Buying from India? India's stock market has been as hot as a five-alarm curry. ... Many tech companies in India haven't joined the party. An index that tracks Indian info-tech companies is down 10% this year, compared with a 33% gain by the Sensex. ... A problem for India's tech outfits -- which get most of their revenue from the U.S. -- has been a 12% gain in the rupee against the dollar this year [Wall Street Journal, Oct 10]

"I am continually surprised by what people can do with these things," [Gordon Moore] says. ... that's a bit like Newton saying he can't believe how quickly apples fall from trees  [Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal, Oct 10]

Madison-based Alliant Energy Corp. and two other companies were sued in a challenge to their patent for a way to generate energy from the ethanol-manufacturing process. Idaho Energy LP, a maker of systems for turning waste into fuel, sued Alliant and the co-owners of the patent, Harris Contracting Co. and AE&E-Von Roll. Idaho Energy, known as Energy Products of Idaho, asked a court to rule the patent doesn't cover a true invention and never should have been issued[Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Oct 10]

In Silicon Valley, old-timers have some leading [economic] indicators of their own. The goofy-names index, for example, is back near its previous high. Consider Orgoo Inc., which helps people organize all their Web communications. Or Zipidee Inc., a purveyor of "digital goods" such as cellphone ring tones. ... The rate of odd-looking start-ups, too, is on the rise. One called Startup Schwag exists solely to deliver a monthly package of T-shirts and other goodies bearing logos of other tech start-ups. Rapper MC Hammer, known for 1990s hits like "U Can't Touch This" and a 1996 bankruptcy filing, is chief strategy officer of an online-video start-up called DanceJam. PlaySpan Inc., a Web-gaming outfit that raised $6.5 million, boasted on its Web site that it had been founded by a fifth-grader.... "It is absolutely déjà vu," says VC David Chao,  "There's just as much junk now as there was in 1999,"  [R Buckman and K Delaney, Wall Street Journal, Oct 9]

Kevin Costner is fighting global warming — and losing. The Oscar winner recently said he's dropped some $40 million on green investments and projects over the years, including a failed plan to develop a nonchemical battery. [Time, Oct 15]

Small, but with the disease. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today will start a $100 M fund to nurture unorthodox approaches to global health, inviting scientists to bid for small, quickly awarded grants. ... among the richest and most ambitious donor-backed programs of this kind ... The Grand Challenges Explorations program, to be announced in Cape Town, South Africa, will reach out to scientists in Africa and Asia, where disease is widespread and money is scarce, though it will be open to all comers. ... "Talent is grouped in great institutions, but not all of it," Mr. Gates said in an interview. "There's a real logic to being where a disease exists."  [Marilyn Chase, Wall Street Journal, Oct 9]

PARC and HP Labs try a new approach to cultivate innovation. ... inspired by the success of two startups recently spun out of PARC: SolFocus (solar energy) and Powerset (natural-language search). ... Among the areas of focus for HP: next-generation data centers, automating data-center tasks, reducing the cost of energy and new nanoprinting technologies. [Lee Bruno, LARTA Vox, Sep 25] What kind of companies would succeed? The ones seeking outsize profits in a narrow sector of a market. Companies that want to do research or sell everything to everybody won't find any capitalists to provide them the financing. One of the false assumptions in SBIR is that small companies can do research better than large entities. “Typical startups don’t have the research capacity of what we have here at PARC.” The only small companies with any competitive advantage are those with solid patents and market agility. But in SBIR, the government pays no attention to either factor and run SBIR programs because they are forced to do so by the political will of Congress.

a recent report I read argued that every asset class is overvalued. The only question is by how much. [James Stewart, Smart Money, Sep 07]

Innotech convention. The Austin Convention Center will be a high-tech hot zone Thursday. About 1,500 people from almost every corner of the tech industry are expected to attend the Innotech Austin conference. The event will highlight companies and innovators from around the region. Visit www.innotechconference.com/austin. [Austin American-Statesman, Oct 8]

Cameras that could spot suicide bombers carrying bombs strapped to their bodies will be used in a new test aimed at securing the nation's rail and bus stations .. Manufacturer QinetiQ (the British firm that bought Foster-Miller) North America hopes to see the technology used at military bases, landmark buildings, large events, arenas and possibly stores trying to catch shoplifters ... TSA bought 12 machines from QinetiQ for $3 million to test in labs and transit stations in the next eight months.  [Thomas Frank, USA Today, Oct 4]

mytrip writes to tell us that Berkeley is now using YouTube as an important teaching tool. Today marks the first time a university has made full course lecture available via the popular video sharing site. Featuring over 300 hours of videotaped courses initially, officials hope to continue to expand this program. [slashdot.org, Oct 4]

If the Dow is divided by the price of one ounce of gold its value is less than half its 1999 value, notes Chart of the Day (Oct 5). It currently takes 19.2 ounces of gold to “buy the Dow", considerably less that the 44.8 ounces back in the year 1999.

It’s no surprise that stocks are rising. It has happened 100 percent of the time in the first month after a Fed rate cut. [Rachel Beck, AP, Oct 8]

By 2010, clean-energy demand will outpace generation by at least 37% unless a rush of projects is built, says a report due out next week from the National Renewable Energy Lab. Under laws in 25 states, clean energy — such as wind, solar and biomass — must constitute up to 30% of a utility's energy portfolio in five to 15 years. [Paul Davidson, USA Today, Oct 4]

Several years ago Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, captured the new reality when he talked of ideally having “every plant you own on a barge”. The economic logic was that factories should float between countries to take advantage of lowest costs, be they due to under-valued exchange rates, low taxes, subsidies, or a surfeit of cheap labor. Globalization has made Welch’s barge a reality. [economistsview blog, Oct 3]

Cheaper Solar Technology Attracts More Homeowners. .. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of new photovoltaic systems installed in U.S. homes nearly tripled ... and expected to top 11,000 this year. ... One problem is that there are hundreds of photovoltaic installers to choose from in states such as California and New Jersey, which are among the most aggressive in offering consumer credits to use solar. That makes it difficult to tell who's reliable. [Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal, Oct 4]

The heavy spending on fiber networks, analysts say, is typical in Japan, where big companies disregard short-term profit and plow billions into projects in the belief that something good will necessarily follow. ... “The Japanese think long-term,” Mr. Bortesi added. “If they think they will benefit in 100 years, they will invest for their grandkids. [Ken Belson, New York Times, Oct 3]

Worries about the current-account deficit have been popping up in currency markets for years. Broadly speaking, the deficit measures how much more the U.S. spends on goods and services from abroad than it earns on the goods and services it sells. To cover the difference, the U.S. is, in effect, borrowing from other countries. If they tire of this routine, they'll expect America to write bigger IOUs. The easiest way for that to happen is through a weaker dollar. [Wall Street Journal, Oct 3] And with the looming fiscal train wreck (after the next election(s) of course), there's little chance for dollar recovery.

The recovery in US manufacturing appeared to be losing momentum as a fresh survey showed growth in the sector slowed last month to its weakest pace in seven months. [Financial Times, Oct 1] Note: FT has re-opened its web site to the free-riding public.

Unless something changes, the next decade looks grim for Big Pharma.  Research and development productivity has slipped and most of its top-selling products will come off patent. [Financial Times, Oct 1]

THE DISRUPTOR: MFG.com THE DISRUPTION: An online exchange for the manufacturing industry THE DISRUPTED: Manufacturers' reps, parts brokers, and trading houses MFG.com is rapidly becoming the eBay of manufacturing. In the past 12 months, $2 billion worth of gears, molds and machined parts were sourced and traded on the site in an innovative system in which sellers pay an annual fee - $6,000 on average - and buyers pay nothing.  .......Another Disruptor.  The leading battery technology - lithium-ion - has not changed in a decade. A123 holds patents for smaller, lighter lithium-ions with significantly longer lives. A123 batteries are installed in hybrid buses worldwide and will enter consumer hybrids in 2010. ....... And a Profitable Disruptor. Sure, compact fluorescent lightbulbs are energy savers, but they also contain mercury. Cree is the leading maker of light-emitting diodes, which are less hazardous and even more energy-efficient. Toronto and Raleigh, N.C., are already installing Cree LEDs in streetlamps and parking garages.  [E Schonfeld and C Morrison. Business 2.0, Sep 07]  3Com up 44% in principle (34% in practice) on news of selling itself to private-equity firm Bain Capital Partners LLC for about $2.2B cash with Chinese networking giant Huawei Technologies to get a minority stake for a small part of the Chinese dollar hoard. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 28] In return for our buying goods cheap, China buys companies cheap. As a small high tech company, what's your take on globalization and free trade? 

Foreign firms are taking advantage of the weaker dollar to buy US companies at a record pace that is boosting investment here but also raising fears about a potential loss of jobs and autonomy.  In New England alone, 69 companies have been sold to foreign buyers in the first nine months of 2007 for a total of $30.8 billion, more than in any full year since 2000, the height of the high-tech boom, according to New York research firm Thomson Financial. [Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, Oct 1] It might help stanch the bleeding if the government tried a lot harder with its billion plus SBIR to advance entrepreneurial small firms with new technology of high market potential that needs to overcome high technical uncertainty. Unfortunately, that would require the R&D agencies to look beyond self-serving procurement, and Congress to look beyond buying off small business special pleaders.

Buy the Best. Drug giant Novartis AG says it will give its Cambridge neighbor, MIT, $65M over 10 years to create a research program, likely to be the biggest in the world aimed at revolutionizing the way drugs are made. [Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, Sep 28]

SMALL BIZ, BIG RETURN:  there’s nothing “small” about the economic, social and financial impact of the entrepreneurial set. says Wendy Bounds as she chronicles the spirit of independence, and the money to be made from it, in her new blog, Independent Street. [Wall Street Journal, Sep 26]

Scientists Feel Miscast. But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised — and in some cases, angered — to find themselves not in “Crossroads” but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” also has a different producer, Premise Media. [Cornelia Dean, New York Times, Sep 27]

Giddy :) Technology stocks are posting big gains, after a long period when they were scoffed at by the market, and some money managers say the recent rally is just the beginning.  Still, The Nasdaq Composite Index, the symbol of the '90s bull market and subsequent tech-stock crash, is at a two-month high but remains off 47% from its record close of March 2000,   [Tom Lauricella, Wall Street Journal, Sep 26]

NASDAQ will have a new index - NERV - to track the performance of neurotechnology companies that are listed and actively traded on the three major stock indexes. Among the 32 firms listed on the index are DURECT of Cupertino, XenoPort of Santa Clara, Micrus Endovascular of San Jose, Alexza Pharmaceuticals of Palo Alto, Pain Therapeutics of South San Francisco, Natus Medical of San Carlos and Medivation of San Francisco. [San Jose Mercury News, Sep 25]

The Few, The Productive. engaging in international trade is an exceedingly rare activity: of the 5.5 million firms operating in the United States in 2000, just 4% were exporters. Among these exporting firms, the top 10% accounted for 96% of total U.S. exports. ....  the question of whether higher-productivity firms self-select into export markets, or whether exporting causes productivity growth through some form of “learning by exporting.” Results from virtually every study across industries and countries confirm that high productivity precedes entry into export markets.  [Bernard, Jensen,Redding, and Schott, Firms in International Trade, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Summer 2007]

Cheaper to Fly It.   Expressed in 2000 U.S. dollars, the price fell from $3.87 per ton-kilometer in 1955 to under $0.30 in 2004.  [David Hummels, Transportation Costs and International Trade in the Second Era of Globalization, Journal of Economic Perspectives—Summer 2007]

An anonymous reader writes "A method developed at Colorado State University for crafting solar panels has been developed to the point where they are nearly ready for mass production. Professor W.S. Sampath's technique has resulted in a low-cost, high-efficiency process for creating the panels, which will soon be fabricated by a commercial interest. 'Produced at less than $1 per watt, the panels will dramatically reduce the cost of generating solar electricity and could power homes and businesses around the globe with clean energy for roughly the same cost as traditionally generated electricity. [slashdot.org, Sep 24]

The landscape of the brave new Web has changed radically, with start-ups sprouting daily and clout shifting from VCs to entrepreneurs. The cost of launching a business has plummeted, driven down by the advances in the "open source" software movement, outsourcing and the potency of Web-based marketing. Further complicating life for VCs is the acquisitive appetite of deep-pocket firms like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and eBay, all shopping for companies.  [Scott Duke Harris, San Jose Mercury News, Aug 10]

Capture more than half. researchers at the University of Delaware, Newark, used a novel light-splitting technique to combine in a single device materials whose properties would otherwise make it difficult to work together. After only a year and a half of work, the $12M [DARPA] project has yielded an unofficial record of 42.8% efficiency--beating the previous mark by about 2% ... the team hasn't yet built a prototype of a working solar cell ...  not a new concept; NASA scientists used a prism in the 1970s to create a "rainbow cell" with the same goal. "But a lot of the light gets lost using a prism," says Delaware electrical engineer and team leader Allen Barnett.  SBIR aficionados will remember Barnett as the founder of the now defunct AstroPower, also of Newark DE.  research partner DuPont has announced a 3-year commercialization effort with the Delaware team to spend up to $100 million to build prototype devices. [Eli Kintisch, Science, Aug 3]

[Intel co-founder Gordon] Moore said by about 2020, his law would come up against a rather intractable stumbling block: the laws of physics. "Another decade, a decade and a half, I think we'll hit something fairly fundamental," Mr Moore said at Intel's twice-annual technology conference. Then Moore's Law will be no more. [Jonathan Richards, The Times (London), Sep 19]

A Dubai-based investment firm has pledged $50M to establish an entrepreneurship center at MIT. ... to support fellowships for MIT students from developing countries. Students are expected to learn skills including how to commercialize new technologies and how to address problems facing developing nations. [Mass High Tech, Sep 17]

Rensselaer Technology Park going industrial as GE preps to build a $135M plant to make digital X-ray imaging equipment ...  start with blank sheets of glass on which it will apply materials to form 7 million electronic devices that will sense an image and display it on a computer screen, said Tom Feist, a GE spokesman. "The key to this technology is, digital is replacing film," [Eric Anderson, Albany Times-Union, Sep 18]

Go Ahead, Replace Silicon. the whole science of silicon chips is starting to show its age. Industry leaders say it must be retired within 10 years and replaced with something better, if computer technology is to continue advancing at the current pace.  It's not clear what  [Peter Swensson, AP, Sep 14]

Uncontrolled Battery. not5150 writes "The inventor of the electric 'KillaCycle" motorcycle was taken to the hospital for x-rays after demonstrating the vehicle to reporters. Bill Dube, a government scientist during the day and bike builder at night, attempted a burnout in front of the Los Angeles Convention Center during the Wired NextFest fair. Fueled by the "most powerful" lithium-ion batteries in the world, the bike accelerated uncontrollably into another car. [slashdot.org, Sep 14]

Researchers at the Risoe National Laboratory, in Roskilde, Denmark, are now one step closer to building a magnetic-cooling system that promises energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and completely silent fridges. ... The Danish researchers have built a refrigerator that can vary temperature by almost 9 ºC. ... This is an important step toward practical temperature spans of 40 ºC  [Pachi Patel-Predd, MIT Tech Review, Sep 14]

Science is driving our conversation unlike ever before.  From climate change to intelligent design, HIV/AIDS to stem cells, science education to space exploration, science is figuring prominently in our discussions of politics, religion, philosophy, business and the arts. New insights and discoveries in neuroscience, theoretical physics and genetics are revolutionizing our understanding of who are where we come from and where we're heading. Launched in January 2006, ScienceBlogs is a portal to this global dialogue, a digital science salon featuring the leading bloggers from a wide array of scientific disciplines. Today, ScienceBlogs is the largest online community dedicated to science. [scienceblogs.com]

From WXNT-AM (1430) Indianapolis: entrepreneurialism. The program was "Let's Talk Business," and ]local business consultant C.J.] McClanahan, founder of the ReachMore Strategies management-consulting company, has been doing the hourlong radio show for four months -- extolling the virtues of business ownership and welcoming listeners who might be considering a plunge into the world of the entrepreneur. [James Harper, Indianapolis Star, Sep 17]

Indiana's seventh ethanol refinery officially opened.

In "Are the Rich Necessary?" global investments expert Hunter Lewis says yes, no and, on the other hand, maybe.  ... only the rich save enough to provide the investment capital to keep the economy growing, improve productivity and provide jobs for the poor and the middle class. .... Lewis, however, has succeeded in providing ammunition for persons on all the opposing sides of the economic issues raised to argue their positions better. [Cecil Johnson, St Louis Post Dispatch, Sep 14] As usual, where you stand depends on where you sit. Before you say the answer is obvious, remember that America started out with a government by, for, and of white propertied men.

The Canadian dollar hit a 30-year high, the Euro hit an all-time high, against the US dollar (is that good or bad?)   Oil shot to a record $80. What's the next US price level raiser? [Sep 14, 07]

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) within the Georgia Institute of Technology announced its affiliated companies have received more than $1 billion in VC funding since 1999. .... represents 15 % of the total VC in Georgia,  [SSTI, Jul 11]

The building at 165 University Avenue [Palo Alto CA] here has been so good to the Amidi family that Saeed Amidi says it is blessed with good karma. There are some high-technology entrepreneurs who would agree. Over the years, the nondescript two-story building, which the Amidis have owned since the early 1990s, has been home to a series of Silicon Valley start-ups that became stars.  [Miguel Helft, New York Times, Sep 14]

Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. ...[medical scholar Dr John Ioannidis]'s 2005 essay "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" remains the most downloaded technical paper that the journal PLoS Medicine has ever published. ...Next week, the first world conference on research integrity convenes in Lisbon.  [Robert Lee Holtz, Wall Street Journal, Sep 14]

A report last week by Automatic Data Processing showed that companies with fewer than 50 employees added 44,000 jobs in August while large-business employment dropped by 6,000 jobs  [Cyndia Zwahlen, LA Times, Sep 13]  No data presented on how many jobs were lost from small businesses' failing. Survivor bias allows a small business mythology as the great engine of job creation, a pol's favored subject. The half story is one reason that programs like SBIR survive despite their lack of proof of economic benefit. 

OSI Systems (Hawthorne, CA; too large for SBIR) fell 20% after quarterly  earnings rose sharply for the maker of equipment for baggage-screening devices and other technology.  [Wall Street Journal, Sep 6, 07]

According Richard Florida in his 2002 book, The Rise of the Creative Class, creative people are most drawn to places that have an abundance of existing creative talent, a tolerance for diversity, and the ability to produce technology.  [SSTI, Sep 12]

Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, UK, are now proposing a novel sensor design to read the bits on a hard disk. The design, published in the Journal of Applied Physics, is based on a different magnetic effect than current read heads. It could lead to much thinner and smaller read heads that are suitable for data densities as high as one terabit per square inch, says lead researcher Marian Vopsaroiu.[Prachi Patel-Predd, MIT Tech Review, Sep 11]

coondoggie writes "NASA researchers have designed and built a new circuit chip that can take the heat of a blast furnace and keep on performing. Silicon carbide (SiC) chips can operate at 600 degrees Celsius or 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit where conventional silicon-based electronics — limited to about 350 C — would fail. The new silicon carbide differential amplifier integrated circuit chip may provide benefits to anything requiring long-lasting electronic circuits in very hot environments such as jets, spacecraft, and industrial machinery. In particular, NASA said SiC applications will include energy storage, renewable energy, nuclear power, and electrical drives."  [slashdot.org, Sep 11]

Corporate America has the most cash it's had -- ever. says investment veteran James Brinkley, a Smith Barney executive

Several accusations of research misconduct against a Purdue professor who claims to have generated nuclear fusion in a tabletop experiment merit further investigation, the university said. The professor, Rusi P. Taleyarkhan, has said that the force of sound waves can collapse bubbles in a liquid violently enough to generate conditions that cause hydrogen atoms to fuse together, releasing energy. But other scientists remain skeptical. The findings have not been reproduced outside of Dr. Taleyarkhan’s laboratory. [Kenneth Chang, New York Times, Sep 12]

How can upstate New York plug the brain drain?  First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer ... is convening the "I Live New York" summit. [Albany Times-Union, Sep 12]  Embrace global warming? The manufacturing base that made NY America's most populous state until after World War II has shrunk and the jobs are simply not there.

Intel provided additional evidence that technology demand is broad-based and accelerating. ... Intel's remarks follow other encouraging signs about the health of the market for computers and related products. HP, Dell, Seagate, and Western Digital confirm the trend. [Don Clark, Wall Street Journal, Sep 11]

Wind Up the Batteries. American Electric Power, a coal-burning utility looking for ways to connect more wind power to its grid, plans to announce on Tuesday that it will install huge banks of high-technology batteries. ... The batteries will be built by NGK Insulators Ltd. of Japan. They use a sodium sulfur chemistry and operate at temperatures of more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit. [Matthew Wald, New York Times, Sep 11]

Big Apple. Sometimes referred to as Silicon Alley, owing to its purported small size, New York's high technology sector has seldom been seen as a major player. But a nonprofit group hopes to challenge that perception when it releases a report, due out today, that says that New York has more high technology workers than innovation meccas like Seattle, or even Silicon Valley itself. The report, "Buried Treasure: New York's Hidden Tech Sector,"  [AP, Sep 11]

Now that Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Supercomputing Center is fully operational, research can be conducted at a depth and scale like never before. [Troy Record, Sep 8] The $100 M IBM Blue Gene supercomputer...can handle more than 100 trillion arithmetic operations a second, making it the seventh-fastest computer in the world, and the fastest on a university campus. [Albany Times-Union, Sep 8]

Chips Not Neutral. A series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, stated that chip implants had "induced" malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats  [AP, Sep 9]

Titanium Innovation Sought. As titanium prices rise and the U.S. increasingly relies on overseas sources, DuPont Co. and several start-up companies are working with the Department of Defense to find a new way to produce the metal. Investments are modest at this point, but proponents say a breakthrough could transform the premium, hard-to-make metal into a commodity, much as smelting technology revolutionized and streamlined the production of aluminum a century ago. [Paul Glader, Wall Street Journal, Sep 10]

wide swaths of Wall Street, and many of the industries that serve it, are in for some serious collateral damage. Not only has private equity been out of business for the last two months, but that activity is not likely to resume with any significance soon. [Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times, Sep 9]

IBM scientists have created a novel molecular switch that is able to turn on and off without altering its shape. While such a switch is still years from being used in working devices, the scientists suggest that it does show a potential way to link together such molecular switches to form molecular logic gates for future computers. [Duncan Graham-Rowe, MIT Tech Review, Sep 4]

Xudong Wang invented a novel device that converts ultrasonic waves--high-frequency mechanical vibrations--into electricity. The tiny device turns out a steady 0.5 nanoamperes of current that engineers may one day be able use to power implantable biosensors, remote environmental moni­tors, and more. [MIT Tech Review, Sep 4]

Texas Instruments (no SBIR) has developed a battery-gauge chip that can tell mobile-phone users down to the minute how much talking or standby time they have left--a degree of accuracy much greater than that provided by existing battery gauges. [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Sep 4]

Just the Fruits, Please. several universities are already tweaking, modifying or stepping up their efforts to establish new businesses in emerging fields through innovative approaches. [SSTI, Aug 29]  Universities would like the monetary fruits of patents and royalties without investing energy and money in an administrative system and faculty incentives. The faculty would like the money also if they don't have to invest time and energy that takes away from 'publish or perish."  Sorry, no free lunch beyond tenure.

Climate Getting Cloudy. The economy shed 4,000 jobs in the August reporting period, according to statistics the Labor Department released Friday. That's not a huge number, but it marks the first fall in job creation since August 2003. June and July payroll data also were revised downward by 81,000 jobs

The dream of cheap, wireless Web access broadcast across whole cities -- a dream nurtured with great fervor around the country last year -- has largely collapsed. ... technical limitations and financial troubles have killed plans to replicate coffee shop Wi-Fi networks on a broad scale. Just last week, plans for networks in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco were scuttled when EarthLink Inc. disbanded its Wi-Fi team. ... If Portland (OR) is positioned to be the last man standing, though, that's hardly an enviable spot. MetroFi itself acknowledges that free Wi-Fi alone won't satisfy its investors, and is exploring alternatives that include more robust technologies and paid services. Others say that Portland's plan was fatally flawed and that it's impossible to use Wi-Fi to build a citywide network that's both profitable and reliable.  [Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, Sep 3]

Need a good chemical engineer? Be prepared to compete. Like star athletes, engineering students are prized prospects for the energy industry, which is experiencing dizzying demand for engineers. ... Management consulting firm Oliver Wyman says roughly eight in 10 global oil and gas companies forecast a shortage of petroleum engineers through at least 2011. The American Petroleum Institute said U.S. energy companies will need at least another 5,000 engineers by decade's end. [John Borretto, AP, Sep 5 reprinted Cincinnati Enquirer]

What if your computer was smarter than you? Top experts in artificial intelligence are participating in a two-day conference at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater this weekend to talk about the consequences of tremendous technological change. Participating technologists include heavyweight thinkers like Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, and Rodney Brooks, of MIT and iRobot. Entrepreneurs include venture capitalist Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, and Barney Pell, co-founder of Powerset  [San Jose Mercury News, Sep 6]

the "Laffer to Google" global boom of the last 25 years. The world has enjoyed a tremendous run of innovation, technology, productivity, prosperity and profits during the last quarter-century. Few dispute the essential fact of this boom beyond a few left-wing fossils[Rich Karlgaard, Digital Rules blog]

Water as Fuel, an age-old dream. Jerry Woodall at Purdue finds an effective catalyst in Al /Ga, albeit with a higher ratio of Ga than is likely to make it affordable. Still he soldiers on to improve the idea and is working with AlGalCo (no reported SBIR yet), a startup in West Lafayette, IN, to commercialize the process. [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Sep 5]

An Easier Way to Make a Nano Optical Device. Researchers at Princeton have found that splitting a polymer film into two layers makes optical nanoscale gratings that are useful in biosensors and DVDs.  [Prachi Patel-Predd, MIT Tech Review, Sep 6]

“We have had dedicated e-book devices on the market for more than a decade, and the payoff always seems to be just a few years away,” he said. ... “Digital readers are not a replacement for a print book; they are a replacement for a stack of print books,” said Ron Hawkins, vice president for portable reader systems at Sony. ... Several people who have seen the Kindle say this is where the device’s central innovation lies — in its ability to download books and periodicals, and browse the Web, without connecting to a computer.  [Brad Stone, New York Times, Sep 6]

athloi writes "Invention is new and clever; innovation is a process that takes knowledge and uses it to get a payback. Invention without a financial return is just an expense. Ideas are really the sexy part of innovation and there's rarely a shortage of them. If you look at the biggest problems around innovation, rarely does a lack of ideas come up as one of the top obstacles; instead, it's things like a risk-averse culture, overly lengthy development times and lack of coordination within the company. Not enough ideas, on the other hand, is an obstacle for only 17 percent. At the end of the day all that creativity and all those ideas have to show on the bottom line. The goal of innovation is to make or save money, and IT should never lose sight of that central fact."  [slashdot.org, Sep 1]

"The Revenge of Icarus," a Paris newspaper headlined in 1979, the day after Paul MacCready's Gossamer Albatross flew across the English Channel, powered by a furiously pedaling bicyclist. ... The Gossamer flights were perhaps the apotheosis of Mr. MacCready's career as an imaginative engineer. Few of his inventions were ever commercialized, but he was an influential designer, with a cadre of impressive inventions. Among them: The GM Sunraycer, a solar car that crossed Australia averaging 41 miles per hour;.... MacCready died Tuesday at age 81  [Stephen Miller, Wall Street Journal, Sep 1]

Stony Stevenson writes "US research engineers claim to have developed a low-cost technique that allows them to create ultra-small grooves on microchips as easily as 'making a sandwich'. The simple, low-cost technique results in the self-formation of periodic lines, or gratings, separated by as little as 60nm, or less than one ten-thousandth of a millimetre. From the article: 'The new 'fracture-induced structuring' process starts when a thin polymer film is painted onto a rigid plate, such as a silicon wafer. A second plate is then placed on top, creating a polymer 'sandwich' that is heated to ensure adhesion. Finally, the two plates are prised apart. As the film fractures, it automatically breaks into two complementary sets of nanoscale gratings, one on each plate. The distance between the lines, called the period, is four times the film thickness.'"  [slashdot.org, Sep 3]

Shelter. He opens his book with a mock article from The Economist, published in 2039, which looks back at the unlikely rise of a world-beating hydrogen fuel-cell maker in Mozambique. The fuel-cell division prospered only after a long and costly apprenticeship, bleeding money for 17 years. The article is based, Mr Chang says, on a real piece about South Korea's Samsung, which is now one of the world's leading exporters of semiconductors, having started life as an exporter of fish, vegetables and fruit. And the 17 years of red ink, Mr Chang points out, is the length of time Nokia's electronics division lost money.  [The Economist, Aug 30] The SBIR advocates agree with the Hamilton idea that infant industries need shelter until they can compete with the big industrials. A nice idea for an infant economy, as the US was in the 18th century; not such a compelling idea in a rich economy, especially when sheltering companies that have little intention of doing anything more than government contracting. Ha-Joon Chang of Cambridge University made his name with his 2002 book “Kicking Away the Ladder”. ... His book will not settle this 200-year duel between the Hamiltonians and the liberals. But he succeeds in drawing a few flecks of blood on his opponents' waistcoats.

Automakers are finding new ways of using small cameras in vehicles in a quest for greater safety and security, including the first 360-degree cams that give a driver a view of blind spots in their surroundings. [Chris Woodyard, Indianapolis Star, Sep 2]

WuXi PharmaTech (Shanghai) jumped 40% above its IPO price. It provides research and development services to nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world  [Wall Street Journal, Aug 10]

Whoa, Lithium. Toyota which exploited the green image of its gasoline-electric Toyota Prius to propel a U.S. sales surge, has decided to delay by as long as two years the launches of new high-mileage hybrids using lithium-ion battery technology. [NORIHIKO SHIROUZU, Wall Street Journal, Aug 8]

After cashing in on the company he dropped out of college to start, technology entrepreneur Richard Yoo settled in Houston because it felt like a place where people take chances on new ideas. ... Yoo said he could have retired on the money he made selling his ownership of Rackspace, but retiring at 29 would have been boring. Instead, he moved to Houston and invested his undisclosed fortune in a new venture called Hush Labs. [Houston Chronicle, Aug 29]

Harvard professor of pathology explains how he discovered that resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine, extends life span in mice by up to 24 percent and in other animals, including flies and worms, by as much as 59 percent. [David Duncan, MIT Tech Review, S/O 07]

Scientists in Sweden have demonstrated a compact device that, when combined with a laser, can generate a wide range of wavelengths that standard lasers can't achieve on their own. The new laser add-on could lead to compact, inexpensive detectors for explosives or biological and chemical weapons.  The device, reported in the current issue of Nature Photonics, [Neil Savage, MIT Tech Review, Aug 3]

A new scheme for creating a compact device that efficiently converts methanol into hydrogen could make it practical to incorporate fuel cells into laptop computers and other portable electronics. Such a device could allow a laptop to run for 50 hours and be recharged instantly by swapping in a small fuel pack. ... Ronald Besser, a professor of chemical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, NJ, described a new system that could solve the problem.  [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Aug 27]

Roland Piquepaille writes "Physicists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) say they have improved the performance of solar cells by 60 percent. And they obtained this spectacular result by using a very simple trick. They've coated the solar cells with a film of 1-nanometer thick silicon fluorescing nanoparticles. The researchers also said that this process could be easily incorporated into the manufacturing process of solar cells with very little additional cost. Read more for additional references and a photo of a researcher holding a silicon solar cell coated with a film of silicon nanoparticles."  [slashdot.org, Aug 21]

a common blind spot among technology entrepreneurs: forgetting to put the customer first. Technology-industry observers say it's a particular problem for scientists and inventors, who tend to stress the ingenuity of their inventions more than the potential benefits to customers. .. [the inventor] thought his new process to clean mining waste would be an instant hit. It removed more potentially harmful metals than rival technologies did, produced less waste and was cheaper, too, ... But couldn't attract any interest from the environmental managers of big mining firms.  [Phred Dvorak, Wall Street Journal, Aug 20]

Blog It and They May Come.  So far this year, 25% of new prospects have come by way of the company's Web site. Before the blog was launched, it was 1%, and most new clients came through word-of-mouth and referrals. Sales also are up by 18% so far this year from a year earlier, she adds. Blogging is "worth it," says Ms. Nazarian, "but you definitely need patience."  [Sarah Needleman, Wall Street Journal, Aug 20]

Q. why is the stock market going crazy? A: Markets are driven by emotion, and investors are worried about who might be the next to own up to problems, will growing problems for housing weigh on consumer spending, and whether a recession is around the bend. So while economic growth is respectable, and foreign growth is strong, markets try to anticipate the future. Right now, that's in doubt.

Not long ago, people were slapping their foreheads, too, after the tech-stock boom busted earlier this decade. Much of the talk of new paradigms turned out to be worth the pizza boxes that many a dot-com business plan was written on. [Adam Bryant, New York Times, Aug 18]

Get Some Perspective. News.com has an interesting stroll down memory lane with a look at the "DigiBarn", a collection of technology from early mechanical calculators to modern web appliances. NASA contractor Bruce Damer and partner Alan Lundell run this "museum in transition" from a 19th-century farmhouse deep in the Santa Cruz mountains. In addition to notable success milestones, the company also includes some of the industry failures, like an Apple III Damer acquired from Apple's legal department. [slashdot.org, Aug 19]

RPI researchers invented a battery that looks like a piece of paper and can be bent or twisted, trimmed with scissors or molded into any shape needed.   The battery uses paper infused with an electrolyte and carbon nanotubes that are embedded in the paper. The carbon nanotubes form the electrodes, the paper is the separator and the electrolyte allows the current to flow. ... reported in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Randolph Schmid, AP, Aug 14]

Silicon Valley is building again as what had been a fitful economic recovery now moves into full-fledged expansion. [Pui-Wing Tam, Wall Street Journal, Aug 15]  Michael Jaharis, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur who sold Kos Pharmaceuticals for $4.2 billion, is pursuing a new endeavor: venture capital. ...start-ups will be able to tap the expertise of one of the industry's farsighted executives. [Brian Gormley, Wall Street Journal, Aug 15]  Innovation and investment are alive.

In the eight years since Xerox Corp. bought Tektronix Inc.'s color printing business, Tek's old Wilsonville OR campus has become a key source of new technology and ideas for Xerox's reinvention. "We don't make copiers anymore," says XRX CEO Anne Mulcahy, ... Solid ink technology developed in Wilsonville has been vital to the transition Mulcahy led, providing a means for printing color documents economically without the packaging other print technologies require  [Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, Aug 13]

The landscape of the brave new Web has changed radically, with start-ups sprouting daily and clout shifting from VCs to entrepreneurs. ... The cost of launching a business has plummeted, driven down by the advances in the "open source" software movement, outsourcing and  the potency of Web-based marketing. [SD Harris, San Jose Mercury News, Aug 12]

last week's downward revisions of U.S. productivity growth for the past three years suggest that the trend is closer to 2%, and shows that productivity growth has slowed for four straight years. ...regardless of computers, we still have Baumol's Disease in services... it still takes a bartender the same two minutes it always has to make a gin-and-tonic  [Brian Blackstone Wall Street Journal, Aug 13]  Sometimes. computers even cause productivity loss, as in yesterday's customs screening glitch or in the old FAA and IRS computers here it's not a failure of technology but a failure of organization.

Keeping Tabs on Tabloid Science. The Weekly World News, the supermarket tabloid that once claimed 12 U.S. senators were space aliens, is ending publication this month. But there are enough purveyors of pseudoscience, anti-science, and quackery to keep the following three Web sites in business. Crank Dot Net* furnishes a taxonomy of crackpot Web sites. Erik Max Francis, a computer programmer in San Jose, California, rates the entries on how far they've strayed from reality. For instance, a page on the possibility that the sun has an unobserved twin merits only a "fringe" classification, whereas a site that dispenses advice on conducting diplomacy with aliens earns the highest ranking. Homeopaths, advocates of untested herbal remedies, and credulous reporters who promote them take a beating at British doctor Ben Goldacre's Bad Science blog. Pharmacologist David Colquhoun of University College London hammers similar targets at DC's Improbable Science. Although both sites have a British emphasis, the quackery they expose is often international. [Science, Aug 10]

We BelieveThat innovation in all areas of our business is essential to attaining and sustaining leadership. and ... Our private ownership must be preserved.  Principles of Hallmark Cards seen in its Kansas City Visitors Center.

"Microsoft has quietly been building up graphics-related R&D, reports Computerworld, noting that Microsoft employees will be presenting one out of every eight papers at SIGGRAPH 2007  [slashdot.org, Aug 9]

Sounds Like Proposing SBIR.  [an entrepreneur] offers the Ultimate Global Warming Challenge: $100,000 if you can provide a scientific proof of harmful man-made warming. ...[he] isn't even pretending that the judging will be objective -- his own junkscience.com will decide whether they have to pay out the money. ... Oh, and it costs $15 to enter the challenge. You are better off buying a lottery ticket where your chance of winning is more than zero. [Deltoid blog, Aug 8]

Profits, Not Sales, Measure Success. you can run the biggest marketing behemoth the drug industry has ever seen - but if people really aren't interested in buying your product (and if insurance companies really aren't interested in paying for it), that's not enough. The evidence? Pfizer's Exubera, the inhaled insulin that for years was thought by some to be one of the Next Big Things. Earlier this year, a "relaunch" of the product was announced, but that doesn't seem to have helped much. Pharmalot passes on the news that one of Pfizer's main suppliers is cutting back production.  This comes after the drug ran up only $4 million in sales in the second quarter, relaunch be damned. And I mean that "only" - compared to what Pfizer and its partner Nektar spent on developing Exubera, a few million dollars is nothing at all.  [Derek Lowe, Corante blog, Aug 8]  All the bleating about post-SBIR sales shows the same failure of economics - counting sales as success with no concept of ROI.

Inviting Counter-Truth. Google says it will start allowing participants and subjects in news stories to post comments about the articles. But with no editing, where's any credibility?

 Massachusetts' fast-growing "clean energy" industry -- companies involved in fields such as solar and wind power, conservation, and high-efficiency energy technology -- is poised to add as many as 3,000 jobs this year [Boston Globe, Aug 9]

Tinkle writes "Sci-fi novelist William Gibson has given up trying to predict the future — because he says it's become far too difficult. In an interview with silicon.com, Gibson explains why his latest book is set in the recent past. 'We hit a point somewhere in the mid-18th century where we started doing what we think of technology today and it started changing things for us, changing society. Since World War II it's going literally exponential and what we are experiencing now is the real vertigo of that — we have no idea at all now where we are going."  [slashdot.org, Aug 6]

If you’re wondering what new technologies your company might invest in over the next few years, look at the federal government. ...Earlier this week, the GSA awarded Alliant, a $50 billion government information-technology contract over 10 years, to 29 high-profile tech companies, including household names like IBM, Accenture, Unisys, and CSC. In May, the GSA awarded Networx, a $20 billion IT contract also over 10 years, to five large telecommunications companies. In order to win the contracts, the companies have agreed to support certain government tech initiatives. ... Alliant winners have all pledged to help the government with its “enterprise architecture” mandate, which is intended to reduce overall IT costs and facilitate the sharing of information across the government. Both show the government assuming a new role. [Ben Worthen, Wall Street Journal, Aug 3]

Envy Thy Neighbor.  a self-described geek, has banked more than $2M. The $1.3M house on a bluff overlooking the Pacific is paid off. net worth of roughly $3.5M places them in the top 2% of US families. Yet each day Mr. Steger continues to toil in what a colleague calls “the Silicon Valley salt mines,” working as a marketing executive for a technology start-up company, still striving for his big strike. ... many such accomplished and ambitious members of the digital elite still do not think of themselves as particularly fortunate, in part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth — often a lot more. ... “You’re nobody here at $10 million,” Mr. Kremen said   [Gary Rivlin, New York Times, Aug 5] this societywide arms race for goods ... In his new book “Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class,” Professor Frank deftly updates the argument for our current gilded age. The rise of an overclass, he convincingly argues, is indirectly affecting the quality of life of the rest of the population — and not in a good way. ... the powerful driving force of “relative deprivation.” When asked whether they’d rather have a 4,000-square-foot house in a neighborhood of 6,000-square-foot McMansions, or a 3,000-square-foot home in a zone of 2,000-square-foot bungalows, most people opt to lord it over their neighbors. [Daniel Gross, New York Times, Aug 5]

Talk is Safer Than Investing. Most U.S. investors see putting money into alternative-energy companies as both potentially lucrative and a way to support the environment. But while many might see opportunity, few are taking it. ... while about 85% of investors think there is money to be made from investing in areas such as solar and wind power, only about 20 % have broached the subject with a financial adviser. [Tim Paradis, AP, Aug 5] 

most companies will be able to shrug off the credit squeeze. That is partly because creditworthy borrowers still have access to debt (albeit at a higher price), and partly because many firms don't have to borrow. Across the rich world, firms are flush with cash. Their profits have been fat for the past five years and, on average, companies have been funding their capital spending from their own resources. [The Economist, Aug 2]

Three new stocks rose on their first day of trading, indicating that investors are still enticed by initial public offerings, even in a volatile market environment. [Wall Street Journal, Aug 3]

A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous. "Cyberchondriacs". A Harris poll suggests that the Internet has become a third party in the conversation between doctors and patients. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on a few factors. [Ars Technica blog, Aug 2]

Dell delivered its first "Made in India" computer, with hopes that production there will lift domestic sales in a market that is growing 30% a year.

Bloomberg reports that "China will curb exports of cheap labor-intensive products to force manufacturers into making higher-quality goods."

Microsoft faces an onslaught of nimble start-ups and deep-pocketed competitors coming to market with breakthrough technologies. ..Mr. Mundie says advances in technology that represent "fundamental change" or "whole new business opportunities" are "more disruptive, and so people aren't as focused on them" at Microsoft as they are on developing new features for existing products. "When they encounter them, they are naturally a bit more skeptical." [Robert Guth, Wall Street Journal, Jul 30]

Imagine tapping the brakes at 50 mph and stopping within 15 feet. Or dropping your cell phone, only to find it bound together more tightly. Or peeling back duct tape with a flick of the wrist, then reusing it. Kellar Autumn, a biology professor at Portland's Lewis & Clark College, says geckos can help accomplish these feats. Bio-mimicry, he says, could enable fumble-free football gloves and anti-rattle dashboards. [Richard Reed, The Oregonian, Jul 29]

the careless use of counterfactuals is one reason politicians and experts are often wrong in their predictions. "History does not give us control groups," he said. With counterfactuals, "the control groups are all being run in the imaginations of the analysts."  [Shankar Vedantam, Department of Human Behavior, Washington Post, Jul 30]

Shining Market. Signaling that alternative energy could one day provide massive amounts of the state's power, PG&E said Wednesday it signed a contract to buy electricity from what will be one of the world's largest solar plants. The deal provides enough power to serve more than 400,000 homes [Sarah Jane Tribble, San Jose Mercury News, Jul 26] If big money is flowing at the top, look for a chance for trickle feeding, the rationalization for tax breaks for the rich.

When one looks at the great technological revolutions that have shaped our lives over the past 50 years, more often than not one finds that the men and women behind them were avid consumers of what used to be considered no more than adolescent trash. As Arthur C. Clarke put it: "Almost every good scientist I know has read science fiction." And the greatest writer who produced them was Robert Anson Heinlein, born in Butler, Mo., 100 years ago this month. ... Bemoaning the state of U.S. education in the 1970s, he wrote that "the three-legged stool of understanding is held up by history, languages and mathematics . . . if you lack any one of them you are just another ignorant peasant with dung on your boots."  [Taylor Dineman, Wall Street Journal, Jul 26]

A Different Recruiting Team.   A.O. Smith Corp. and Badger Meter Inc. are leading an effort to lure emerging water-industry entrepreneurs to Milwaukee. ... identified some 50 Milwaukee-area companies that already research and develop products for water technology ... "There are companies that haven't started yet, and we don't even know them yet, but they will be successful," predicted Paul Jones, the chairman and chief executive of A.O. Smith, a major manufacturer of water heaters. "They have to start somewhere. Why not here?"  [John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Jul 26] Entrepreneuring around an established industry has better prospects than shotgun subsidies to a broad collection of start-ups, especially when the beneficiaries are picked by the federal government that has no interest in economics nor in company development.

athloi writes "Researchers have made a computer program that learns to decode sounds from different languages in the same way that a baby does. The program will help to shed new light on how people learn to talk. It has already raised questions as to how much specific information about language is hard-wired into the brain." [slashdot.org, Jul 25]

No, Not That Competition. The U.S. public as well Germany, France Spain, Italy and Britain are increasingly perceiving globalization as negative for them and their countries, a poll published by Harris Interactive said. .. plus Respondents in all six countries polled wanted their governments to raise levels of taxation on those with the highest incomes.  [Agence France-Presse, Jul 25]

More Fuel for the Anti-Globalization Fire. Clyde Prestowitz shows the powerful yet barely visible trends that are threatening to end the six-hundred-year run of Western domination of the world. The trends include America's increasingly unsustainable trade deficits; the equally unsustainable (and dangerous) buildup of massive dollar reserves in places like Japan and China; the end of America's position as the world's premier center for invention and technological innovation; the sudden entrance of 2.5 billion people in India and China into the world's skilled job market; the role of the World Wide Web in permitting many formerly localized jobs to be done anywhere in the world; and the demographic meltdown of Europe, Japan, Russia, and, in later decades, even China. "Three Billion New Capitalists" is a clear-eyed and profoundly unsettling look at America's and the world's economic future, from an author with a history of predicting the important trends long before they become apparent to others.... Click Here for the Chinese Translation   [Economic Strategy Institute]

In one sign that Indiana's life-sciences economy is taking shape, investment in Hoosier startups totaled $45M in the second quarter, according to Ernst & Young and Dow Jones VentureOne. .. the state's highest amount of quarterly venture investment since the survey began. Neighbors Illinois and Ohio had about the same VC while far away California had $3600M. [Daniel Lee, Indianapolis Star, Jul 26]

Gilded ages come, go, and are reborn on the monsoon cloudbursts of seemingly intangible forces such as globalization, innovation, and favorable tax policy. [Bill Gross, PIMCO Bonds, Aug 07] Since PIMCO's clients love lower taxes, he wouldn't miss a chance to advocate tax breaks for the investor class. The other side of that coin is that the investor class has more to lose if society degrades from lack of government attention. Of course, the SBIR advocates see no connection between tax rates and their "entitlement". Most people can rationalize lower taxes for themselves with no adverse effect on government or society. How comforting!

Price Matters. The news isn't all good for technology suppliers, though. Fierce competition that is driving down prices for such key components as microprocessors and data-storage chips has squeezed many suppliers' profit margins -- especially those of hardware makers. [D Clark and W Bulkeley, Wall Street Journal, Jul 21]

"Technology is the sector of choice," said Barry Hyman, equity market strategist at EKN Financial Services. "I think this is getting to be a momentum-driven market."  [Wall Street Journal, Jul 20]

after a banner 2006 that saw three ethanol companies raise just shy of $1B in initial public offerings, ethanol IPOs have ground to a halt as concerns about high raw material costs and saturation curbed market demand. [Lauran Villegran, AP, Jul 23]

Deep Science. The to-be Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory will extend to 8000 feet under the Black Hills of South Dakota in the remnants of the deepest mine in the U.S. The swing factor was an offer of $70M from a philanthropist if the site was that mine. Eventually, the project will cost a cool half-billion.

energy consumption globally is expected to rise by more than 50% over the next 25 years, says the National Petroleum Council, an industry group in a 476-page “Facing the Hard Truths About Energy”. [New York Times, Jul 19] Econ 101 teaches that to keep the price unchanged, supply would have to expand the same amount with no increase in the cost of production.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation, who led most of the company's big-bet moves into new technology arenas, has retired after 37 years. ... He said it is not enough to come up with innovations, you also have to be able to find a way to bring the technology to the market, while at the same time "making your numbers." [eWeek, Jul 16]  The nice thing about SBIR is that you don't have to pay for the technology development, you don't have to bring the technology to market, and you don't have to make any "numbers". The government will give you repeated doses of money despite your doing none of the above. Whatta deal, no wonder the SBIR advocates want more of it.

Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers at UC Davis have used nanocrystals made of diamond-like cubic zirconia to develop cooler fuel cells. Even if hydrogen fuel cells have been touted as clean energy sources, current fuel cells have to run at high temperatures of up to 1,000 C. This new technology will allow fuel cells to run at much lower temperatures, between 50 and 100 C. Obviously, this could lead to a widespread use of fuel cells, which could become a realistic alternative power source for vehicles."  [slashdot.org, Jul 16]

solar power has captured the public imagination ... unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon ... “This is not an arena where private energy companies are likely to make the breakthrough,” said Nathan S. Lewis, head of a solar-research laboratory ...  In the battle for money from Washington, solar lobbyists say they are outgunned by their counterparts representing coal, corn and the atom. ...  “Most of the environmental stuff out there now is toys compared to the scale we need to really solve the planet’s problems,” Mr. Khosla said. [A Revkin and M Wald, New York Times, Jul 16]

The U S technology industry imported more computers, high-tech components, and consumer electronics in 2006 than it exported, resulting in a record $102B trade deficit in the sector, even though high-tech exports were up 10% from 2005 [AP, Jul 17]  Now if the DOD would devote its SBIR to potential high-tech products, instead of merely serving its knowledge needs, we could earn the money to throw away on projects like liberating Iraq.

Researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany are reporting progress in developing a robot that can adapt to different terrain, adjusting its gait and posture after a few learning experiences. The 9-inch-high machine, called RunBot, has already been shown to be able walk at a good clip (about 3.5 leg lengths per second, compared with a sprinter’s 4 to 5 per second).  [Henry Fountain, New York Times, Jul 17]

Free Trials Aren't. walterbyrd writes with a warning: "Microsoft is pushing Office 2007 with 'try-before-you-buy.' Please don't let your friends and relatives install Microsoft 'trial' software. When Microsoft tells you 'try-before-you-buy,' the 'buy' part is not meant to be an option. Once you 'try' a Microsoft 'upgrade' you can not easily go back, because your files will be replaced by new versions that you need the new software to read." The ChannelRegister article also notes how Microsoft's push goes against the grain of the consumer revolt against "crapware."  [slashdot.org, Jul 14]

Resilient Enough for Muscles.  [RPI scientist] Pushparaj assembled a 2-mm-square block that was made of millions of multi-walled carbon nanotubes. This block was then compressed between two steel plates, and that process was repeated more than 500,000 times, compressing the block down 25%. The researchers found that the carbon nanotubes returned to their original shape even after half a million squeezes, and they even retained their ability to conduct electricity  ... an article in the July edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology titled "Fatigue resistance of aligned carbon nanotube arrays under cyclic compression." ...  that carbon nanotubes hold up extremely well under repeated stress -- much like muscles in the human body.  [Larry Rulison, Albany Times-Union, Jul 11]

Imation has been sued by SanDisk, the world's largest maker of flash-memory cards, claiming infringement of patented data-storage technology. SanDisk said Imation infringed a 10-year-old patent for its Flash EEprom memory system. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jul 13]

About 400 academics will gather at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters to discuss the future of computing at the company's annual two-day Faculty Summit. The attendees will also meet with Microsoft's internal research group to discuss funding priorities in the coming year. [Seattle Times, Jul 15]

“U.P.S. spent more than $600 million on package flow technology, and they’ll recoup it and more over the next few years,” said Kenneth Hexter, an analyst with Merrill Lynch. Every tidbit of package information, from size to destination to special handling needs, is embedded in those customer-generated scannable labels. That alone has enabled U.P.S. to offer premium-price early delivery in many more ZIP codes. And it has reduced the chaos that human error once caused drivers. [Claudia Deutsch, New York Times, Jul 12]

A history teacher once told me that history never repeats itself. I think sometimes that it does, only we don't know how to listen. I was doing some research on Independence Day and came across this, from Wikipedia: "American industrialists recognized the threat of cheap offshore labor to American workers during the 1910s, and explicitly stated the goal of what is now called "lean manufacturing" as a countermeasure. [Brad Kenney, Industry Week forum, Jul 5]

Dollar Price Matters.  China's trade surplus soared to a record $26.9B [up 87%] in June, exceeding economists' estimates and supplying ammunition for US lawmakers threatening sanctions. ... Japan’s surplus expanded 31% [Bloomberg News, Jul 11]

Vested Interests.  We've seen cable companies trying to prevent using the Internet for Internet phones. I am concerned about this, and am working, with many other committed people, to keep it from happening. I think it's very important to keep an open Internet for whoever you are. This is called Net neutrality. It's very important to preserve Net neutrality for the future.  [Tim Berners-Lee, Jul 10]  There's also the story about Verizon removing the POTS line as part of installing its fiber-optic line to a home. 

learning and investment are not enough, Dr. Wulf says. An innovation economy depends on intellectual property law, tax codes, patent procedures, export controls, immigration regulations and factors making up what he calls “the ecology of innovation.” Unfortunately, he argues, in the United States too many of these components are unworkable, irrelevant, inadequate, outdated or “fundamentally broken.”  ...He has been asking these questions a lot lately: they were his subject at a recent forum held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in a guest editorial in the journal Science. [Cornelia Dean, New York Times, Jul 10]

PC World reports: "Transmeta did secure a few licensing deals, notably in Japan, but it also wracked up heavy losses. In January 2005 the vendor announced job cuts and said it would switch its focus to licensing its power management technology to other companies. [slashdot.org, Jul 6]]

Keep It Simple.  My mother was a statistic, one of the 26 percent of adults 65 and older not online ... Then I got excited about one new product that might have brought her into the world of the Internet without making her learn something new: the HP Printing Mailbox ... Sadly enough, the first time I set up the printer for my mother, it didn't work. Presto sent a new one and walked my mother through the installation on the phone.  Here's where it all broke down. My mother installed the inkjet cartridge and apparently jammed it in the wrong way. Now the printer doesn't function properly. My mother got frustrated and said she was fed up. [Dean Takahashi, San Jose Mercury News, Jul 5]  The military learned many centuries ago that equipment had to be operable by the least facile user.  A GI will break an anvil, and in the heat of battle there is no time to read the techno-gibberish user's manual.

telso writes "Microsoft will be opening a new software development center in Vancouver because of difficulties getting workers into the US. The company said the center will 'allow the company to continue to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by the immigration issues in the US' It seems possible that shrinking immigration quotas have affected America's tax and knowledge base." [slashdot.org, Jul 5] No, SBIR companies cannot do that since R&D has to be done in the US and the DOD looks askance at foreeign workers anyway. 

“The law of conservation of energy has been very reliable for 300 years; however it’s missing one variable from the equation, and that’s time,” said McCarthy. He explained to Silicon Republic that Orbo technology works on the basis that occurrences in magnetic fields do not happen instantaneously, and are therefore not subject to time in the way that, say, gravity is. The time variance allows the Orbo platform to generate and consistently produce power, out of nothing. Unhappily for the inventors, the free-energy demo failed at London’s Kinetica Museum. Excuses pending. [San Jose Mercury News, Jul 5] Sounds like another day in the SBIR proposal pool.

a new computer game: BraBaby Pirate Brigade ... Chicago entrepreneur is battling rampant piracy of his company's BraBaby, a plastic cage that ... prevents bras from getting tangled in the spin cycle. What he is really up to on that computer, four hours a day, is tracking Chinese companies selling knockoffs of BraBaby online at cut-rate prices. It's not difficult to find the impostors, Mr. Engel says [Jonathan Cheng, Wall Street Journal, Jul 5]

A Tech Community.  Why everyone wants to come to the valley. SuperHappyDevHouse, the marathon programming party thrown every sixth Saturday at a home somewhere in Silicon Valley, was so overwhelmed by techies last weekend that many programmers didn't have room to crack open their laptops. ...The open-invitation "hacker" party had been thriving for two years by word of mouth, but we ran a huge article about it the weekend before. ... 116 partyers tried to pack in ... attendees muttering, rather than critiquing the technical details of Facebook, Flickr and other Web sites. ... the next party will be more conducive to churning out software programs by the end of the night because it'll be held at a home at least twice as large and has many more tables and chairs.  [Nicole Wong, San Jose Mercury News, Jun 29]

Harness New Mexico Sun. Colorado's two largest utilities have agreed to explore the development of a major [solar thermal] power plant in New Mexico.  Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association will join several other power companies and the Electric Power Research Institute to study what could become one of the nation's largest plants using solar heat to make electricity.  [Denver Post, Jun 29]

Physicists at the University of North Carolina have developed new improvements for high-energy-density capacitors that can store up to seven times as much energy per unity volume as common capacitors. "The amount of energy that a capacitor can store depends on the insulating material in between the metal surfaces, called a dielectric. A polymer called PVDF has interested physicists as a possible high-performance dielectric. It exists in two forms, polarized or unpolarized. In either case, its structure is mostly frozen-in and changes only slightly when a capacitor is charged up. Mixing a second polymer called CTFE with PVDF results in a material with regions that can change their structure, enabling it to store and release unprecedented amounts of energy." [slashdot.org, Jul 2]

The tenth wealthiest American founded the oldest technical university. Stephen Van Rensselaer, a member of the Erie Canal commissions and president of the state’s first board of agriculture, had amassed a fortune of $10M or 1/194 of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) at the time of his death, according to the publication. ... Van Rensselaer graduated from Harvard and spent time in state government and as a member of the U.S. Congress from 1822-29. The richest was John D. Rockefeller with 1/65 of the GDP. [Rensselaer magazine, Spr 07]

Today the leading technologies are hatched by commercial companies pursuing lucrative and large civilian markets. “The U.S. government and its defense partners no longer are at the leading edge of most of the militarily-relevant technologies, having been displaced by international commercial industries and markets,” the Defense Science Board, an adviser to the Pentagon comprised of independent experts, concluded in a February report to the top brass entitled “21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors.” [GP Zachary, New York Times, Jul 1]

Ogle arrives at nine laws that "crack the code of creativity." ... Sorry, Richard, but this is well-plowed ground ... [John Carey's review of Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity and the New Science of Ideas, Business Week, Jul 9]

In early October of 1929, Mr. Fisher confidently predicted stocks "reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." The market, of course, promptly crashed. Mr. Fisher's mistake stemmed from his biases. Because he was fully invested in stocks himself, he was blinded to the risks of one of the greatest speculative bubbles in history. Despite the lessons of history, this natural instinct of human behavior has repeated itself often -- most recently in the millennial tech-stock bubble. Today's credit boom could end with a similar thump. [Wall Street Journal, Jun 29] And a plateau requires that only a tiny fraction of stock owners would want to sell.

prostoalex writes "PC Magazine looks at 5 ideas that will reinvent computing. IMAX-quality movies at home with new projectors, a mid-air mouse that requires no flat surface, a home quantum computer, a router-based peer-to-peer system, and a man-made brain all made the list."  [slashdot.org, Jun 29]

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at University of Maryland have developed a prototype of what may be the next generation of personal computers. The new technology is based on parallel processing on a single chip and is 'capable of computing speeds up to 100 times faster than current desktops.' The prototype 'uses rich algorithmic theory to address the practical problem of building an easy-to-program multicore computer.' Readers can win $500 in cash and write their names in the history of computer science by naming the new technology." [slashdot.org, Jun 28] 

Even kings are eventually overthrown, so Robert X. Cringely asks what kind of startup could seriously disrupt Google. Does that startup even exist? And where are the entrepreneurs right now? (Eating sushi in the Google cafeteria, says Cringely.)  [Rich Karlgaard, Digital Rules blog]

The potable water industry must adopt innovative technology to maximize efficiency and overcome key industry challenges such as aging water infrastructure and budget constraints. In addition, future water system performance will benefit from a paradigm shift wherein the industry no longer manages for compliance but rather for sustainability. [Frost & Sullivan, Jun 11] If they have budget constraints - who doesn't? - they will find barriers to investing much in R&D, especially longer term, paradigm-shifting stuff.  They need the classic - a brand new ideas that has been thoroughly tested.

Know Your Bugs.   hungry microbes are devouring cafeteria leftovers and lawn clippings and converting them into methane and hydrogen . .. But since scientists don't seem to know the digestion mechanism other than that it works, they have a new project to sequence the genomes of the microbes. [Emily Singer, MIT Tech Review, Jun 18]

A solar cell more than twice as efficient as typical rooftop solar panels has been developed by Spectrolab, a Boeing subsidiary based in Sylmar, CA. It makes use of a highly customizable and virtually unexplored class of materials that could lead to further jumps in efficiency over the next decade, making solar power less expensive than grid electricity in much of the country. The cell, which employs new "metamorphic" materials, is designed for photovoltaic systems that use lenses and mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays onto small, high-efficiency solar cells, [MIT Tech Review, Jun 15]

Mundane but multifarious.  All those YouTube videos and MySpace pages zipping back and forth on the Net have revived the telecom industry—and charged up the economy ... Seven years ago the communications business, made up of companies providing everything from phones to computer networks to routers and switches, was laid low by the worst collapse to hit a U.S. industry since the Great Depression. With breathtaking speed and little advance warning, high-flying companies like Global Crossing and WorldCom which had loaded up on debt to build out fiber-optic networks and buy up companies in anticipation of a never-ending e-commerce boom, collapsed into bankruptcy.Spencer Ante, Business Week, Jun  25] All that heretofore dark broadband fiber is now being sold to someone. SBIR proposers could spin such stories for their Commercialization Strategy and Competitive Advantage for the few federal deciders who actually care.

It Was Too Good. A lot of people spend hours browsing sites to stalk friends, ex-girlfriends and love interests online "but there isn't a streamlined process that's, like, one shot, boom," said the now 19-year-old freshman at University of California-Berkeley.  In one day, Kim had built a program he calls "a little hack I put together" and named it Stalkerati. In three weeks, the site was featured in a blog. In another week, 10,000 users were on the site each day. All the traffic soon got the attention of MySpace, the social networking company owned by News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media. MySpace considered Stalkerati a security risk since it required a user to give their MySpace password and user name. It blocked Stalkerati and other social networking sites followed. [Lauren Shepherd, AP, Jun 14]

Sales of industrial robots are on the upswing as companies find new, sometimes more complex uses for the machines. ... North American robotics companies posted a 12% gain in orders through March. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from the Robot Exhibition in Rosemont, IL, Jun 13]

Business is embracing the global economy more than ever before. Politics is turning away from it. ... the gap between business and politics in the U.S. has widened into a frightening chasm. [Alan Murray, Wall Street Journal, Jun 13] Present job losers (for whatever reason) have a lot more clout than future economic beneficiaries.

Hot War, Hot Profits. In 8th place on Business 2.0's ranking of fastest-growing companies is Ceradyne which doubled its profit last year. Number 24 American Science and Engineering with luggage bomb scanners. Number 61 ViaSat with wireless for private jets. Number 86 ATMI. [CNNmoney.com]

manufacturers are bringing nanoengineered products to market at breakneck speed, spurred by a torrent of federal funding since 2001 for research and development. About $2.6 trillion worth of goods worldwide are expected to use nanotech by 2014, up from $50 billion in 2006. [Consumer Reports, July 07] So even if you are not making nano-silver washing machines or powerblock sunscreens, your workers are at respiratory and other risk whatever they are handling. Researchers at Savannah River National Laboratory have found several instances of risky handling of nanoparticles. Workers at one laboratory, for example, did not know that some nanoparticles are extremely combustible. So they were startled when a rag that contained nanoparticle residues spontaneously burst into flames. A few good scares and some sensationalist press, and Congress will get into the act with regulations and speeches.

How 9 Hot Technologies Can Blow Up In Your Face.  Smartphones, server virtualization, enterprise search, network admission control, unified communications, service-oriented architecture, business intelligence, software-as-a-service, JavaScript. [TechWeb, Jun 9]

Manipulating light in a novel way, researchers at the United States Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, DC, and the University of Alberta, in Canada, have demonstrated that light can be controlled with magnets in very small, transistor-like devices. Such switches could lead to fast, small, and efficient optical chips for cell phones, and optical communications. [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Jun 12]

Dramatic Scientist. 300 years after his birth, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is alive and well in public memory, thanks at least in part to Hans Odöö.  A 54-year-old Swedish writer, impersonating Linnaeus. Since 1994, he has given 2600 performances [Science, May 25]

Free and Worth It. AP's Sarah Skidmore found that Portland's free WiFi doesn't work in the all-too-common rain. Nor in the sunshine. Portland thought it had a bargain when it licensed Silicon Valley start-up MetroFi to blanket the city with free, high-speed wireless Internet access. Unlike many cities that have jumped on the municipal WiFi bandwagon, Portland faced little risk: MetroFi would pay to build and manage the network and make its money from online advertising. [San Jose Mercury News, Jun 11]

Too Much Innovation. In recent years, the adhesive-label maker Avery Dennison has expanded into areas such as stick-on automotive trim and heat-transfer inks to label clothing. But Avery executives grew vexed a few years ago at how long it took to turn ideas into products. Schedules were slipping. Customers were chafing. .. A consultant's conclusion: Avery was jamming too many new ideas into its product pipeline, without enough slack time to ensure that critical tasks stayed on schedule. The remedy: Shrink the number of rollouts. [George Anders, Wall Street Journal, Jun 11]

New nanoparticles with a totally original shape, made by researchers at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, and Xiamen University, in China, could lead to cheaper catalysts for making and using alternative fuels. The 24-sided platinum nanoparticles have surfaces that show up to four times greater catalytic activity compared with commercial catalysts. [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, May 4]

mostly Apple's zest comes from its reputation for inventiveness. In polls of the world's most innovative firms it consistently ranks first. ... Apple has at least four important wider lessons to teach other companies. innovation can come from without; designing new products around the needs of the user; sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today; “fail wisely”. [The Economist, Jun 7]

Human Model Completed.  Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have constructed the first complete computer model of human metabolism. Available free on the Web, the model is a major step forward in the fledging field of systems biology, and it will help researchers uncover new drug pathways and understand the molecular basis of cancer and other diseases.[Katherine Bourzac, MIT Tech Review, Feb 4]

Researchers at MIT have created a molecule that glows a distinctive light-blue color in the presence of two common but difficult to detect explosives- RDX and PETN. The compound could be incorporated into small, easy-to-use devices for detecting traces of hidden explosives [MIT Tech Review, Jun 5]

Inconvenient? Assume Away the Problem. Attendees at the Gartner IT security summit keynote session Tuesday responded to an instant poll indicating that most of them, 57% of the 340 people present, believe that vulnerability labs set up by security researchers are a useful public service, while 22%, or 75 people, think they're a distraction that forces them to patch more often. [TechWeb, Jun 5]

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Overdoing. The rush to build ethanol plants could produce an investment bubble that bursts and undermines the biofuel's prospects in Wisconsin. Several national reports in recent weeks have questioned whether the supply of ethanol - a corn-based renewable fuel that's blended with gasoline - will outpace the demand. ... Nationwide, there are 115 ethanol plants in operation, with more than 40 more under construction, [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Jun 7]

Though several new silicon plants are in the works, most won't be operational for a few years. [Wall Street Journal, Jun 7]

More often, though, projections fail because they do not account fully for the human factor -- the unexpected, unintended complexities of social and political affairs ... part of Mr. Friedel's achievement: to show that technology's development is as flawed, tangled, wondrous and unpredictable as man himself  [Adam Keiper reviewing Friedel's A Culture of Improvement, Wall Street Journal, Jun 7]

Money for Ventures. A surge in foreign purchases of U.S. companies and in foreign start-ups in the U.S. last year suggests overseas investors still see the country as a good place to do business despite growing protectionist sentiments here. Foreign investments to start or acquire U.S. businesses jumped 76.7% to $161.5 billion in 2006 [John McCary, Wall Street Journal, Jun 6]

Only Slow Magic. Embryonic stem cells by themselves "can't cure or repair these mature tissues," he says. "They cannot serve the function they are being advertised for.", says MIT's James Sherley. [Wall Street Journal, Jun 6]

Hank Green writes "A new kind of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell has been developed that can consume any kind of fuel, from hydrogen to bio-diesel; it is over two times more efficient than traditional generators. Acumentrics is attempting to market the technology to off-grid applications (like National Parks) and also for home use as personal Combined Heat and Power plants that are extremely efficient (half as carbon-intensive as grid power.)"  [slashdot.org, Jun 4]  

Harvard University, in one of its largest technology transfer deals ever, is set to disclose today that it has licensed a portfolio of more than 50 nanotechnology patents to a Cambridge start-up  that is working with manufacturers and the Pentagon to commercialize the technology. ... Nano-Terra, incorporated in 2005, was co-founded by Harvard University professor George Whitesides  [Robt Weisman, Boston Globe, Jun 4]

Patent farmer Forgent's shares plunged 25% after hours after it lost a suit in Tyler TX. Other companies sued by Forgent mostly have settled out of court. Last month, Forgent said it won a total of $20 million in settlements with nine of the 15 defendants it had sued in 2005. [Austin American-Statesman, May 22]

pcause writes "There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for programmers to shift paradigms and begin building more parallel applications and systems. The need to do this and the hardware and systems to support it have been around for a while, but we haven't seen a lot of progress. The article says that gaming systems have made progress, but MMOGs are typically years late and I'll bet part of the problem is trying to be more parallel/distributed. Since this discussion has been going on for over three decades with little progress in terms of widespread change, one has to ask: is parallel programming just too difficult for most programmers? Are the tools inadequate or perhaps is it that it is very difficult to think about parallel systems? Maybe it is a fundamental human limit. Will we really see progress in the next 10 years that matches the progress of the silicon?" [slashdot.org, May 29]

Chinese solar-power companies are descending on U.S. stock markets, offering investors a new way into one of the fastest-growing corners of the renewable-energy industry. ... "Solar is a commodity and the only thing that matters is cost per watt," says Jesse Pichel, a clean-technology analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. "This industry will ultimately be based in China for all the same reasons that cellphones and computers are made there." [Wall Street Journal, May 23] Investors should beware of companies in places where government political control trumps capitalism.

SILICON VALLEY, as the old joke goes, was built on ICs—Indians and Chinese that is, not integrated circuits. As of the last decennial census, in 2000, more than half of all the engineers in the valley were foreign-born, and about half of those were either Indian or Chinese—and since 2000 the ratio of Indians and Chinese is reckoned to have gone up steeply. Understandably, therefore Silicon Valley has strong views on America's visa regime. [The Economist, Apr 28]

A successful tool is used to do something undreamed of by its author. -- SC Johnson, founder of Johnson Wax

Gotta Look Reliable. "We certainly kicked the tires to be sure [Riverbed] would be around," says Brian Moore, Standard Insurance's network architect.  ... corporate tech managers are once again starting to buy equipment from small networking businesses with little-known names ... tech managers are finding that the start-ups often have more cutting-edge products that are cheaper than the big suppliers' offerings. [Bobby White, Wall Street Journal, May 22]

How much investment capital will my next web product be eligible for? Ask Bubbleprice.

Matchmaker For Inventors. a database of more than 35,000 discoveries that would otherwise go unnoticed. ... UTEK has had more hits than misses, including deals involving technologies for fertilizer production, pollution monitoring, even land mine detection. Since 2003 the number of tech transfer deals UTEK has brokered has quadrupled, despite robust competition, which includes 10 publicly traded tech-transfer companies. UTEK, which went public in 2000, now holds equity stakes in 55 companies.  [Business Week, Feb 26]

Albuquerque—yep, Albuquerque—is where it all began. A new exhibit goes all the way back to show how far we've come. ... The UNIVAC 1 console is just 54 years old in STARTUP: Albuquerque & the Personal Computer Revolution, a new 4,000-square-foot permanent exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.... Why Albuquerque? That's where STARTUP's biggest benefactor, Paul Allen, and fellow geek Bill Gates launched Microsoft in 1975. [Business Week, Feb 26]

Maybe computer science should be in the College of Theology. --RS Barton, software engineer

"Ideas today, royalty checks tomorrow!"  The toughest part of inventing isn't solving problems. It's figuring out which problems are worth the effort. ...  65 years ago [Raymond] Yates, a self-taught engineer, inventor and technical writer, tried to nudge other inventors in the right direction with his book, "2100 Needed Inventions."  [Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal, May 21] Remember though that an invention is a gadget, and an innovation is an invention that sells.

Three lab workers poring over a lab bench saying, All right, we didn't create life, but we did create a kind of glue or varnish or something.  [Wall Street Journal cartoon, May 21]

Do charities like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation produce better medical research than institutions supported by the government? Uh, could you ask some other question? The Wall Street Journal reports a piece in May 17 Nature.  And some scientists worry that philanthropies like the Gates Foundation will attain enough clout to change the broad research agenda, without the accountability to the public that agencies like the NIH labor under, even though the privates contribute only 5% of such funding. Besides, if it is private money, the organization has NO obligation to meet any governmentally prescribed societal goal. In a way, like the FDA should not be judging a new drug by whether the market already is already offering a treatment.

Two medical device companies, Hologic and Cytyc, have agreed to a $6.2B deal that will create a women's healthcare powerhouse in Boston's suburbs [Boston Globe, May 21]  Cytyc up 22%.

MIT researchers are developing a new kind of x-ray imager that uses information that traditional machines ignore. By looking at how tissue refracts the rays, not simply at how it absorbs them, [K Bourzac, MIT Tech Review, May 21]

Physically, culturally, and economically the world is not flat. Never has been, never will be. There may be vast flat plains inhabited by indistinguishable hoi polloi doing mundane tasks, but there will also be hills and mountains from which the favored will look down on the masses. Our most important gifts to our offspring are firm footholds on those hills and mountains, far from the flat part of the competitive landscape. [Edward Leamer's scathing review of Friedman's The World is Flat, J Econ Lit, Mar 07] .... knowing it wouldn’t take much effort on my part. As soon as I received a copy of the book, I shipped it overnight by UPS to India to have the work done. I was promised a one-day turn-around for a fee of $100. Here is what I received by e-mail the next day: “This book is truly marvelous. It will surely change the course of human history.” That struck me as possibly accurate but a bit too short and too generic to make the JEL happy, and I decided, with great disappointment, to do the work myself.  As with writing SBIR proposals, machines don't have insights and creativity.

 Donald M. Ginsberg, a physicist who became a leading expert on the production and functioning of superconductors, died.  ... Beginning in the 1980s, Dr. Ginsberg grew YBCO crystals in his laboratory at the University of Illinois and studied their ability to conduct electricity with great efficiency when heated to high temperatures. Although other scientists had developed the YBCO compound, Dr. Ginsberg established a process that allowed the growth of crystals of exceptional purity. He then distributed the results to fellow researchers at Illinois and institutions worldwide. [New York Times, May 19]

It's no secret that the U.S. aerospace industry is rapidly graying: The average age of an aerospace worker was 45 in 2005. By next year, roughly one in four will be eligible to retire. [Alicia Chang, AP, May 21]

TiEcon, Silicon Valley's super start-up networking conference, lived up to its "new face of entrepreneurship" theme Friday when 13-year-old Anshul Samar of Cupertino set up a booth to court investors for his home-based business selling a chemistry card game. [San Jose Mercury News, May 19] Not competition to your PhD-rich staff? Don't be so sure.

Heard a probable whopper? Truemors.com, where people can use email or the phone to call in "true rumors" they've just heard.

Anyone who has ever watched a doe-eyed entrepreneur insist, "It's not about the money" will appreciate Mr. Kawasaki's bracing mixture of honesty and cynicism. It even makes you think: Maybe a cynic is just an honest man tired of watching other people get rich.  [Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal, May 17] 

"There is nothing permanent except change." - Heraclitus  [Chart of the Day, May 18]

"Word of blog" is the new word of mouth ... Bloggers are forcing companies to be more transparent. [Paul] Gillin opens his book with an anecdote about Vincent Ferrari, who recorded the painful conversation he had with America Online when he wanted to cancel his account. When Ferrari posted the audio file on his blog, the resulting "blog swarm" brought down his servers and forced AOL to drop its hard-sell retention tactics. [Dean Takahashi, San Jose Mercury News, May 17]

Promising new medicines discovered in the [NC] Triangle are increasingly ending up in the hands of large drug makers. Buying ideas, also known as licensing, has become so rampant that even medium-size pharmaceutical companies are doing it. Industry observers predict that licensing deals will generate about half of all U.S. drug sales in 2010. [Sabine Vollmer, Raleigh News & Observer, May 16]

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently showed how silicon can stretch in one dimension, like a rubber band. (See "Stretchable Silicon.") Now, in the group's most recent work, the researchers have made sheets of silicon that can stretch in two dimensions as well, which could make it possible to put electronics on spheres and surfaces with complicated shapes. [Kate Greene, MIT Tech Review, May 15]

The first rule for promoting a new technology is to make sure it works. So it's a surprise when a four-person team from EarthLink Inc. tells me that the wireless broadband service the company is rolling out for the city of Anaheim, Calif., won't work in a coffee shop there. [Ronald Grover, Business Week, May 21]

the price of helium is soaring like an escaped party balloon ... Why the sudden supply crunch? More and more electronics factories that use helium are springing up in China, South Korea and Taiwan as demand for components rises. Output from existing gas fields is starting to decline. [The Economist, May 5]

Obsolete Factory, Obsolete Jobs. Intel confirmed last week that it expects to eliminate more than 1,000 jobs, starting in August, at a semiconductor factory in New Mexico that makes chips using outdated technology. ... Intel is shifting work on older-generation technology overseas [The Oregonian, May 6]

higher earnings growth could boost share prices for small semiconductor makers, computer-networking companies, specialized software makers and telecoms, which stand to benefit from investments in bandwidth and wireless technology. [Seattle Times, May 10]

Last week, Sci-Fi writer Charlie Stross was invited to speak at a technology open day at engineering consultancy TNG Technology Consulting in Munich. He's posted a transcript of his discussion on his website, which features a fascinating analysis of where technology is going in the next 10-25 years. Instead of envisioning outlandish future developments, he looks at what the impact might be on society from very reasonable iterations of today's SOTA. [slashdot.org, May 14]

In a comment in the Financial Times about ten days ago, David Hale argues that there is little need to worry about either the dollar or the US current account deficit.   The US has no shortage of financial assets to sell the world, and the world has no shortage of savings to lend the US.  True enough.   The question is whether the rest of world – or, more precisely, private investors in the rest of the world – want to lend that savings to the US and in the process buy US financial assets in the process. Right now, in my judgment, the data says that they don’t.     That is what currently worries me. [Brad Setzer,RGE Monitor, May 1]

Get Your Price Down. The market is taking off in part because low-end mems motion sensors have dropped in price to less than $2 from $20 five years ago. That opens up the market for consumer applications like videogames and cellphones. [William Bulkeley, Wall Street Journal, May 10]

BIO Bacchanalia in Boston. A record 22,000 gathered to celebrate biotech--an industry that is still bleeding billions of dollars a year. [David Ewing Duncan, MIT Tech Review, May 14]

Sematech, a consortium of leading nanoelectronics manufacturers, will move its headquarters from Austin TX to its research center in Albany NY as part of a $600 million expansion. It said that it will invest $300 million in the move and use another $300 million provided by the state.  [AP, May 10]

Get Taller Rooms. An anonymous reader writes to mention that a recent University of Minnesota study suggests that ceiling height may affect problem-solving skills. "'When people are in a room with a high ceiling, they activate the idea of freedom. In a low-ceilinged room, they activate more constrained, confined concepts.' Either can be good. The concept of freedom promotes information processing that encourages greater variation in the kinds of thoughts one has, said Meyers-Levy, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. The concept of confinement promotes more detail-oriented processing." [slashdot.org, May 9]

Who Will Buy Your Tech? A survey about the technology people have, how they use it and what they think about it shatters assumptions and reveals where companies might be able to expand their audiences.  The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that adult Americans are broadly divided into three groups: 31% are elite technology users, 20% are moderate users and the remainder has little or no use of the Internet or cellphones. [AP, May 7]

the first woman to lead Purdue, as well as the first Latina, the first former chief scientist at NASA and, she said, "the first soccer mom." ... France Cordova opened a World Book encyclopedia for a science report in seventh grade and marveled at a diagram of a hydrogen atom ... she took a low-level job in a lab at the [MIT]. That move launched a scientific career that took her to the top ranks of NASA and culminated Monday in her appointment as the 11th president of Purdue University. [A Gammel and T Evans, Indianapolis Star, May 8]

Human beings, he said, weren't designed to remember everything we ever learned, and sometimes are better off when we forget. Computers, he adds, should as a result be taught to let some memories go. says Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. [Wall Street Journal, May 8]

You're a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well, says Kevin Delaney [WSJ, May 8] people increasingly rely on search engines to find things they want to read, music they want to hear, people and companies they want to do business with.

Companies founded by immigrants from the Asian subcontinent have become the gold standard for investment in Massachusetts [Boston Globe, May 7]

Technology and Real Life. The New York Times reports that schools are abandoning their laptops-for-students programs. It turns out that the expense of providing laptops, expense of repairing laptops, difficulties of school network management, and discipline problems stemming from pornography, cheating, and cracking more than outweighed the educational benefits. Indeed, a number of schools have concluded that far from improving student achievement, laptops either had no effect or actively hindered academic performance. Apparently, politicians embracing technology as a quick fix for social problems doesn't always work out. [slashdot.org, May 4]

according to the AEA's "Cyberstates 2007" report, Florida is the fourth-largest and second-fastest-growing technology hub [eWeek.com, Apr 26]

There's absolutely truth in advertising when Parker Hannifin says customer collaboration is an integral part of its product development process. How so? Every project design team must have a customer as a member of the team. [Industry Week, Apr 24]

Got a great search idea? We've rounded up 11 different services that are actually better than Google - for the cool things they do. These services range from the human-led ChaCha, to eBay's latest acquisition, to the bizarre but oddly compelling "Ms. Dewey." We've even got the lowdown on Kevin Federline's latest search engine! Check them all out in our story. [Jim Louderback, Ziff Davis, Apr 19]

Home Cooking Not So Nourishing. Universities with a strong commitment to local development objectives compared to other objectives, such as revenue generation, for example, produced on average 30% less income per license, See Sharon Belenzon and Mark Schankerman (London School of Economics), Harnessing Success: Determinants of University Technology Licensing Performance  [SSTI Weekly Digest, Apr 16]

the resulting shortage of new company IPOs, this has been one of those rare tech booms driven by large corporations, not entrepreneurs. And H-P has so far proven to be the big winner. [Michael Malone, Wall Street Journal, Apr 14]

researchers Georgia Tech Research Institute have come up with a prototype solar cell, whose surface consists of hundreds of thousands of 100-micrometer-high towers, catches light at many angles and actually works best in the morning and afternoon. [David Talbot, MIT Tech Review, Apr 17]

Microsoft spent $6.6B on R&D last year. Overall, R&D spending in the technology industry jumped 17% last year, according to a Baseline survey. ... "If you're a technology innovator, the moment you get ahead of the pack you have no option but to do research," says Arvind, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who goes by that single name and is an expert in research. That's how "you make sure nobody can catch up to you."  [Robert Hertzberg, Baseline, Apr 17]

By depositing narrow light-emitting fibers on a silicon substrate patterned with gold electrodes, researchers at Cornell University have created extremely small light sources with dimensions of only a few hundred nanometers. The fibers are made of a polymer that is embedded with light-emitting molecules, which light up when exposed to an electric field. [P Patel-Predd, MIT Tech Review, Apr 18]

CatrionaMcM tips us to a BBC story reporting that Gregory Straszkiewicz, a UK resident, was fined £500 and sentenced to a conditional discharge for 12 months after being caught using a laptop from a car parked outside somebody else's house. '[H]e was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service.' A separate BBC story notes that two other people in England were arrested and cautioned for sharing Wi-Fi uninvited. [slashdot.org, Apr 17]

an enormous amount of inefficiency today. Some patients get expensive treatments that bring little benefit, while millions of others miss out on basic care, like cholesterol-lowering drugs, that would make a huge difference to them.  Solving that problem will require changing the system so that it rewards good care not just any care. [David Leonhardt, New York Times, Apr 18] If you are promising great medical benefits for your hot new technology, you might take into account the financial realism of America's health system. In case the government SBIR decider even cares. Also be aware that the government's funding your proposal says nothing about whether it accepts your benefits claims. DOD, for example, cares nothing for the US civilian health system.

Just A Few mW per Transction. 1sockchuck writes "Just days after Google announced that it may build a huge data center in the state, Oklahoma's governor has signed a bill into law that will effectively exempt the largest customers of municipal power companies from public disclosure of how much power they are using. Officials of the state's power industry say the measure is not a 'Google Law' but was sought 'on behalf of large-volume electric users that might be considering a move to Oklahoma.' Others acknowledge that data center operators were among those seeking the law, apparently arguing that the details of their enormous power usage are a trade secret. Google recently acquired 800 acres in Pryor, Oklahoma for possible development as a data center, and is reportedly seeking up to 15 megawatts of power for the facility."  [slashdot.org, Apr 13]

Dr. Rose dismissed such criticism. He characterized D-Wave’s approach as bluntly commercial: he expects the marketplace to endorse Orion and doesn’t care about evaluations in peer-reviewed journals. ... Dr. Rose concedes that his machine is still primitive. “In terms of the actual time it takes to solve problems, Orion as it currently stands is about 100 times slower than a PC running the best algorithms,” he says. Jason Pontin, [New York Times, Apr 8] questions whether the quantum computer actually computed anything in the demo.

I saw one tall crane in the whole of Osaka, as compared to the 20 I counted in Shanghai just while walking the Crystal Symphony's 12th deck. No visible growth is what you get 17 years into history's biggest real estate bust and its longest-lasting stock market slump. Osaka feels European in more ways than one. [Rich Karlgaard, Digital Rules blog, Apr unk]

"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times." This was Machiavelli's view, and it's one held by professional researchers, librarians and U.S. government reading-room regulars. They have been lobbying to preserve access to historical documents at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. [Cindy Skrzycki, Washington Post, Apr 17] Since "the past is another country", politicians with some present scheme find the past a foreign territory that could endanger their allegedly new idea. It's also a broad truism that today's problem was yesterday's solution for some reality that has not changed.

Pfizer has laid off a large number of research staff this week in Groton. ... the company seems to want to get more people out in the lab. They're aiming for a 4:1 ratio of associates to PhDs in chemistry, where the cuts seem to have been deeper. That would (to my knowledge) probably be the highest average ratio in the industry. [Derek Lowe, Corante blog, Apr 15]

Short sellers are increasingly betting against shares of America's smallest companies, and some of the biggest U.S. investors are equally pessimistic. [Michael Patterson, Bloomberg News, Apr 12]

Do Your Data Fit? Fitting data curves  One of the problems with standard economics training is that the econometrics focuses on linear regression and tends to skip over non-linear functions. Most economists would never consider a curve may be, say, a Poisson distribution. Many sem to think adding a squared or cubed term to their model is the height of sophistication! Part of the problem is that few economists seem to eyeball the data before crunching it. Now there's a tool to help. In a new post on the Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science blog, Aleks Jakulin at Columbia University points us to a great online tool, ZunZun. It lets you use 2 and 3 dimensional 'Function Finders' to "help determine the best curve fit for your data". I've tried it and it works. Of course, one needs to avoid over-fitting the data. But the developer of the software, James R. Phillips, has promised to add the AIC sooon; this will help select the more parsimonius function. [New Economist blog, Mar 21]

Showing Your Stuff. The MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest is hosting a show in which companies can demonstrate what they do. The MIT Venture Lab, called "Start up Demo 2007, is accepting applications until April 20 for the June 7 event. Only companies with products that can be demonstrated are allowed to participate. Entrepreneurs, investors and the media are invited. [Seattle Times, Apr 14]

The temptation to chase big profits rather than less lucrative, more practical innovations is stunting efforts to transfer technology from university labs to the U.S. marketplace. ... "could hardly be more inaccurate" said the universities defending their TT operations, about the report by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a respected nonpartisan group designed to advance entrepreneurship. [Tim Simmons, Raleigh News & Observer, Apr 13]  It's a basic confrontation between capitalism trying to maximize profits and state organizations justifying their jobs.  

shortages of high-quality turbine components [for wind farms]. Other companies grumble about a lack of gearboxes and bearings ... Wind firms' worries echo those in the solar-power business, which is also booming but where a shortage of polysilicon has hampered growth [The Economist, Mar 31]

 Economy Enemy No.1: Soft Capital Spending [Wall Street Journal, Apr 13] Not good news for the few SBIR companies in mission agencies who depend on commercial adoption of new ideas.

James Fowler at UC San Diego and colleagues have performed an interesting study about the willingness of people to spend their own money to lower the wealth of others. ... It is no wonder that redistibutive taxes are popular. [FuturePundit blog, Apr 11]

London is the top European city for technology and IT companies to invest in as they look to take advantage of the city's global talent pool and breadth of businesses.  The capital's technology sector is currently worth £27bn ($50B) with annual growth of around six per cent, according to the city's foreign investment agency Think London.   Almost half of all Californian investment in London during the last five years has come from IT and telecommunications companies. [silicon.com, Apr 13] But fewer English hotels have high speed Internet services than American hotels, and dial-up is outrageously expensive because phones charge by the minute. Many more Internet parlours, though, for the multitudes of young people from all countries.

Global Competition. “Though the reasons can differ a fair amount, national origin does correlate with the innovativeness of the people of a country,” says Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University. ..Nations can and do change, sometimes by smart planning, sometimes by serendipity. Finland, home to the mobile phone powerhouse Nokia, was an agricultural country 50 years ago. So was Ireland  [GP Zachary, New York Times, Apr 15]

So where would you go for your 100th anniversary? If you're a Purdue chemical engineer, how about the Catalysis Laboratory or the Hydrogen and CO{-2} Capture Laboratory? Purdue University founded its chemical engineering program in April 1907. In the early days, the school had 79 undergrads. Today it has 340 undergrads, 117 graduate students  [Indy Star, Apr 15] 

The Competition. the momentum behind the steady expansion of [China]'s huge trade surplus shows no real signs of easing. .. a more familiar picture of rapidly expanding exports, modest gains in imports and a widening surplus ... The U.S. so far this year has filed three cases at the World Trade Organization challenging Chinese trade practices, while U.S. lawmakers are debating punitive tariffs on imports. China's leaders have said they don't pursue a large trade surplus as a matter of policy [Andrew Batson, Wall Street Journal, Apr 11]

Dave Metzger, the true expert on SBIR law and general expert in procurement law, has changed law firms.  He is now David.Metzger@aporter.com.

American preeminence in chemistry research is slipping away as the country grapples with declining numbers of homegrown doctoral degrees in chemistry and the rise of competition from Western Europe and Asia. .. sunnier skies for U.S. leadership in broad areas of chemical engineering research, although it warned that the heavy emphasis on biology, nanotechnology, and other hot fields in research spending threatens to undermine less-sexy areas of the discipline. [Robert Service, Science, Apr 6]

A Few Make Money. Genentech's first-quarter profit rose 68%, thanks to sales of its cancer drugs Avastin and Rituxan. [Apr 07]

Battery Work Everywhere.  schliz writes "Researchers at the Delft University of Technology are developing nanostructured batteries that are expected to deliver more usage between charges, and shorter charge/discharge times, to mobile consumers within the next five years. The batteries will improve electric and hybrid vehicles, researchers say." [slashdot.org, Apr 11]

The development, composition, performance, manufacture, price and marketing of germ-killing drugs are now controlled as tightly as shoulder-mount missiles. The manufacturers operate like big defense contractors, mirror images of the insurers, regulatory agencies and tort-litigation machines that they answer to. And as a result, the germ side of the pharmaceutical industry has lost its dynamism, flexibility, resilience and reserve capacity. The whole edifice leans sharply toward the past. Insurers favor yesterday's drugs because the patents have expired. FDA licensing gives the licensed status quo a decade-long lead, at the very minimum, over anything now emerging from the lab.  Germs no longer need to be smarter than our scientists, just faster than our lawyers.  [Peter Huber, Wall Street Journal, Apr 10]

Free Speech Needs Civility. a few high-profile figures in high technology are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse. Last week, Tim O'Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of what to many would be common sense -- though already controversial -- guidelines to shape online discussion and debate. [Brad Stone, New York Times, Apr 9]

In Haifa, Rony Friedman was working on a chip for low-cost computers. It was slower than Intel's lineup — but it put out less heat. The trick was to persuade the rest of Intel that the company could sell a slower processor. Winning over Otellini, then head of the chip division, proved a turning point. "We did it the Israeli way; we argued our case to death," Eden recalls. "You know what an exchange of opinions is in Israel? You come to the meeting with your opinion, and you leave with mine."  [Ian King, "How Israel Saved Intel", Bloomberg News, Apr 8]

As states look to shrink the swelling ranks of those without health insurance, the crucial test for one approach gaining favor with policy makers is likely to be its impact on small business. ... require employers either to provide health benefits to their workers or make annual payments to help cover the uninsured.  [Kelly Spors, Wall Street Journal, Apr 9]

Is a Decent Business Enough? At each monthly board meeting, Mr. Williams sold the investors on a new strategy. In late 2005, he had his 14 staffers take two weeks off to brainstorm new business directions. Mr. Williams unsuccessfully tried to sell Odeo to Yahoo and RealNetworks. ... "Once you raise a lot of money and you have a lot of fuel, you just want to step on the pedal and go fast and execute," says Ariel Poler, a San Francisco tech executive who was an Odeo investor and board member. "And that's not consistent with the situation of not knowing exactly what you want to do."  Well then, there's always DOD SBIR which doesn't care whether the business succeeds.

Softly, Softly. what troubles some economists is the decline in business investment ... Equipment and software spending was down 4.8% ...  IPOs of California technology companies Super Micro Computer and GSI Technology [neither had SBIR] priced at $8 and $5.50 a share, respectively, compared with their expected ranges of $9.50 to $11.50 and $6.50 to $8. GSI Technology also sold fewer shares than expected. ... Several semiconductor shares slipped after RF Micro Devices, a maker of cellphone chips, warned of a sequential decline in fiscal first-quarter profit, citing a scaling back at a major customer.  [Wall Street Journal, Mar 30]

Georgia Tech University researchers announced they have created a prototype "nanogenerator" that can produce electricity to power portable devices using mechanical vibrations, sonic waves, or the flow of blood or other liquids.  [Bob Keefe, Austin Statesman-American, Apr 7]

Today's silicon-based solar cells are so mirror-like that lots of the sun's energy is lost when photons are reflected away. But scientists at Georgia Tech have cut these losses. Using carbon nanotubes, the team grew ultra-tiny "towers" across the surface of the cell. The structures not only increase the cell's surface area, which boosts the amount of sunlight it can absorb, but also help it to catch more rays by trapping photons that carom into the gaps between the structures. 
[Arlene Weintraub, Business Week, Apr 16]

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed computer modeling software that identifies the probability of traffic accidents at certain times and locations on state roadways. The program--the first of its kind in the nation--is based on historical crash data. [MIT Tech Review, Apr 2] Now, just like the opponents of climate models, the carping will start against any proposed government action based on the flawed model. Of course, since all models are only approximations of the real world.

 In a recent issue of The MIT Sloan Management Review, Michael Schrage challenged the thinking of a prominent Columbia Business School professor. "The Myth of Commoditization,"  .. he challenged what Bruce Greenwald, whose work focuses on finance and investing, has said about the fate of all innovative technologiesIn the long run, everything is a toaster. [Rob Walker, Boston Globe, Apr 8]

theodp writes "In a world where nastiness online can erupt and go global overnight, BusinessWeek finds Corporate America woefully unprepared and offers suggestions for how to cope, including shelling out $10,000 to companies like ReputationDefender.com to promote the info you want and suppress the news you don't. And in what must be a sign of the Apocalypse, BW holds Slashdot's moderation system up as a model for maintaining civility in message boards." [slashdot.org, Apr 8]

FloatsomNJetsom writes "Popular Mechanics has a very cool video and report about test-driving Hybrid Technologies' L1X-75, a battery powered, 600-hp, carbon-fiber roadster that pulls zero-60 in about 3.1 seconds, and tops out at 175 mph. Of course, there are few creature comforts inside, but that's mainly because the car's 200 mile range is meant for the track, not the road. Nonetheless, Popular Mechanics takes the car for a spin up 10th Avenue in NYC. Oh, and the car recharges via a 110 outlet. They also test-drove Ford's HySeries Edge, a hydrogen fuel-cell powered, plug-in series hybrid that, unlike the L1X-75, is unfortunately at least 10 years away from production and nearly 100 mph slower."  [slashdot.org, Apr 8]

neither sales to foreigners nor purchases from foreigners are problems.  It's just commerce, pure and simple.  And it should remain free of artificial obstacles -- obstacles thrown up by greedy rent-seekers and applauded by those who cling to the ridiculous superstition that a political boundary makes voluntary trade suspect.  [Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek blog, Dec 9, 06]

Computer systems designed to make mammograms more accurate turn out to make them less reliable, according to the largest study to evaluate the increasingly popular high-tech versions of the common test for breast cancer. [Washington Post, Apr 5]

The Ultrafast Future of Wireless. A new metal film could help control terahertz radiation and lead to wireless devices that are thousands of times faster than today's Wi-Fi. .. [University of Utah's] Nahata and his team designed a perforated stainless steel film that is able to selectively allow certain terahertz frequencies to pass through and cancel out others. [Kate Greene, MIT Tech Review, Apr 3]

If you're a Bulgarian programmer, a Romanian network-systems engineer, or a Czech enterprise-software specialist, life is good. Salaries for information technology workers in Central Europe are rising by double digits annually as multinationals such as Hewlett-Packard, SAP, and Dell dive into the region, soaking up what was supposed to be a deep pool of math and science graduates willing to work for a third of what their Western European counterparts are paid.  As it turns out, the supply of qualified labor is proving surprisingly finite. And it's not just IT specialists, but also managers, accountants, engineers, and more.  [Business Week, Apr 9]

Despite record quarterly sales Ultralife Batteries keep losing money. But the stock drop attracted an investor who now has 30% of the stock. One fund manager close to Grace figures the stock is worth twice its price.  [Gene Marcial, Business Week, Apr 2, 07]

Merger planned between the world's leading producer of carbon nanotubes, Carbon Nanotechnologies (Houston TX), and Unidym (a subsidiary of Pasadena, Calif.-based, publicly traded Arrowhead Research), a company that can use them to make better television, phone and computer screens and other electronics. [Houston Chronicle, Mar 22]  No SBIRs for either.

Seattle biotechs Calistoga Pharmaceuticals, VentiRx Pharmaceuticals and Spaltudaq have been rolling in the money this month. Three early-stage companies have scored a total $76.6M.  [Seattle Times, Mar 20] No SBIRs.

UT-Austin is getting better at commercializing the inventions that its scientists and engineers develop, according to a state study. ... took in a record $8.4 million in technology licensing income in fiscal 2006, up 26% from 2005. ... All state schools in Texas are under pressure to commercialize more faculty research to help Texas create homegrown companies   [Austin American-Statesman, Apr 2]

Self-Cleaning, Fog-Free Windshields A new adaptive polymer coating ... changes its structure depending on whether it's in contact with oil or water ... developed at Purdue University   [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Apr 2]

on Wall Street, where myths are usually packaged as in-depth research reports. The purpose, of course, is not to impart wisdom but to win business. [Lazlo Birinyi, Forbes, Apr 16]

This year's $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize goes to Timothy Swager, head of the MIT's Department of Chemistry who began developing bomb-sniffing technology a decade ago under a Pentagon-funded research project to help detect land mines ... In 2001, Swager licensed his patented technology to Nomadics, now a unit of ICx Technologies, for use in that company's Fido Explosives Detector ... The technology can be fitted to military robots produced by two Massachusetts firms, Burlington-based iRobot Corp. and Waltham-based Foster-Miller Inc.  [AP, Apr 2]

Selling Your Science?  48% of American don't accept evolution; 34% think Genesis is fact; and An alarmingly high number of individuals responded that they believe the earth is only 10,000 years old, and that a deity created our species in its present form at the start of that period. [slashdot.org, Mar 31] 

Business outlays for new equipment and facilities have slowed sharply over the past year. [Business Week, Apr 9]

Despite a turbulent start, the market for new issues remained buoyant last month, placing it on track for a strong second quarter. .. The 18 IPOs raised $2.9 billion [Wall Street Journal, Apr 2]

New Scientist's technology blog reports that Dyson, the UK company that reinvented the vacuum cleaner, is recruiting robotics engineers. They're looking for people with experience of machine vision and mobile robots that create their own maps [slashdot.org, Mar 30]

holy_calamity writes "A first step to allowing wireless data transfer over a currently unused part of the electromagnetic spectrum is reported in New Scientist. Terahertz radiation exists between radio and infrared. A new filter created at the University of Utah can filter out particular frequencies, a prerequisite for using it for data. The abstract of the paper in the journal Nature is freely available."  [slashdot.org, Mar 29]

While economists argue whether technology, globalization, deregulation or changing social mores are most to blame for the widening gap between economic winners and losers, the public has no such doubt. It's far easier for an American worker to damn the Chinese for his falling wages than to damn the personal computer in his den.  ....The issue isn't whether trade makes the world as a whole richer. It does. The issue is the distribution of those gains. [David Wessel, Wall Street Journal, Mar 29] Job losers vote now, but job gainers don't recognize who they are.

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum the US has lost the leading spot for technology innovation. The new reigning champ is now apparently Denmark with other Nordic neighbors Sweden, Finland and Norway all claiming top spots as well. "Countries were judged on technological advancements in general business, the infrastructure available and the extent to which government policy creates a framework necessary for economic development and increased competitiveness."  [slashdot.org, Mar 28]

"Funding remains strong," said Peter Pritchard, program director for venture programs at the Watervliet Innovation Center, a business and technology accelerator for security-focused businesses based at Watervliet Arsenal  (NY) [Eric Anderson, Albany Times-Union, Mar 28]

Illegal Outsourcing. The ITT Corporation, a major manufacturer of night-vision goggles used by the American military, pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally sending classified military information to other nations, including China, and agreed to pay a $100 million penalty. ... The government said ITT did so to take advantage of cheaper manufacturing overseas. [Leslie Wayne, New York Times, Mar 28]

Recycling Dollars to Harvest Subsidies. Portugal's biggest electricity utility agreed to buy Horizon Wind Energy LLC of Texas from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for $2.15B ... raises EDP-Energias de Portugal SA to fourth from sixth among the world's largest wind power producers,  Federal incentives for wind energy helped to make the American market attractive. [Joao Lima, Bloomberg News, Mar 28]

Animals Blogging. Several readers have written in about the death threats and threats of sexual harm that have been directed at tech blogger Kathy Sierra. She is the author of a number of books about Java and a popular speaker at conferences. She has now stopped blogging and cancelled her appearance at eTech. She names the names of four prominent bloggers who are backers of two sites on which the threats were posted. [slashdot.org, Mar 27] When profits and power are at stake, civil standards decline and animals prowl and America gets a taste of why Iraq is a mess. 

Doubly Cool. IBM says that they can double CPU cooling capacity while making it easier and safer to do so ... a smarter way to apply the thermal paste typically spread between the face of a chip and the heat spreader that sits directly over the core. [Joel Hruska, ArsTechnica, Mar 25]

Medical stocks should come with their own warning labels. ... the relentless pressure of expectations and competition make it incredibly difficult for medical companies to sustain the stock market's peak enthusiasm. [Steven Syre, Boston Globe, Mar 27]  The glow of expectation meets the reality first of clinical trials and then of competition.

Lunch With Einstein. Walter Isaacson [Rhodes scholar, biographer, and former CEO of CNN] shows how Einstein became the most celebrated intellect of the 20th century. Among other things, he traces sutble links between the physicist's research and the ethical and political convictions for which he became equally admired. Copies of [Isaacson's new] Einstein: His Life and Universe will be available for purchase and for inscription by their prolific author. April 12, Washington DC, co-sponsored by the English Speaking Union with and at the Woman's National Democratic Club. Details.  Republicans and Libertarians welcome.

Science fiction is to technology as romance novels are to marriage: a form of propaganda. ...  To this day, my tastes and choices as an editor and journalist are bluntly science fictional: I look for technologies that are in themselves ingenious and that have the potential to change our established ways of doing things. Best of all, I like technologies that expand our sense of what it might mean to be human. [Jason Pontin, MIT Tech Review, M/A 07]

What if nothing works safely? Results from two major clinical trials, scheduled for release in the coming days, could dampen demand for heart stents. ... The $3 billion market for the stents .. has been besieged with data over the past six months, [Janet Moore, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mar 24]

If it works for leaves, photosynthesis: Two massive protein complexes split water and carbon dioxide and forge new energy-storing bonds in sugar molecules. At the heart of the process is the harnessing of electrons excited by sunlight. [MIT's Daniel] Nocera is looking for novel catalysts that will perform some of these tasks more efficiently. [Robert Service (not the Yukon poet), Science, Feb 9]

Metamaterials. several separate advances reported this week in Science describe new materials for manipulating light in exotic ways, potentially leading to vastly improved electronic circuitry, microscopy, and data storage. ... The researchers were able to manipulate visible wavelengths by assembling metals (such as gold or silver) with other materials in precise nanoscale layers.   "Cloaking Breakthrough."  [Kevin Bullis, MIT Tech Review, Mar 23]

The Knee Joe Namath Needed. researchers at the University of Virginia have bioengineered a new ACL replacement using a 3-D polymeric fiber braiding process. It's the first synthetic scaffold design to demonstrate exceptional tissue regeneration and healing, and it could lead to a promising ligament-replacement technology. [Brittany Sauser, MIT Tech Review, Mar 22]

Wisconsin manufacturing employment last month reached its lowest level in 17 years of collecting data. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Mar 23]

A son, Thomas Jr., was provoked to bitter complaint: "You should have been... a millionaire 10 times over if you knew how to handle your own achievements." [Hardy Green reviewing Stross's new bio of Edison, Business Week , Apr 2]

Employers in Santa Clara and San Benito counties added 21,100 jobs, an increase of 2.4 percent, during the previous 12 months [San Jose Mercury News, Mar 24]

Need Techies?  Texas Instruments start the first of the 500 layoffs ... which will continue until the last week of the year. [Dallas Morning News, Mar 25]

Mental v. Physical Filingit appears that the more disorganized and messy your desk is, the more productive you are [Karen Jackson, Reuters, Mar 20]

Home Committment?  English economist Andrew Oswald has shown that across European countries, and across U.S. states, high levels of home ownership are correlated with high levels of unemployment. More conventional factors such as generous welfare benefits or high levels of unionization don't explain unemployment nearly as well as the tendency to own houses. Renting your home and staying flexible do wonders for your chances of always finding an interesting job to do. [Tim Harford, Slate, Mar 17]

Here is a giant chart mapping relationships among scientific paradigms, as published in the journal Nature. This map was constructed by sorting roughly 800,000 published papers into 776 different scientific paradigms (shown as pale circular nodes) based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers. Information Esthetics, an organization founded by map co-creator W. Bradford Paley, is giving away 25" x 24" prints of the Map of Science (you pay postage and handling via PayPal). There are also links to a 3000+ pixel wide jpg of the chart. It would be all one long spectrum except for Computer Science, which makes the connection (via AI) between the hard sciences and the soft sciences.  [slashdot.org, Mar 20]

Gibbs-Duhem writes with news that MIT has dropped its subscription to the Society of Automotive Engineers' web-based database of technical papers over the issue of DRM. The SAE refuses to allow any online access except through an Adobe DRM plugin that limits use and does not run on Linux or Unix. Also, the SAE refuses to let its papers even be indexed on any site but their own.  [slashdot.org, Mar 20]

George Ou's blog on ZDNet for a tale of how Apple's PR director reportedly orchestrated a smear campaign against security researchers David Maynor and Jon Ellch last summer. [slashdot.org, Mar 20]

John W. Backus, who assembled and led the I.B.M. team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped open the door to modern computing, died at 82. [New York Times, Mar 20]

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are using electricity to control the flow of water through carbon nanotubes. By reversing the charge in the tiny tubes, they can start and stop water streams at will. This is the first step toward designing nanotubes that can filter impurities from water and even desalinate seawater. The technology might also be used for other ultraprecise tasks, such as pulling specific strands of DNA from biological samples. [Business Week, Mar 5]

A Creativity Pill?  Big Pharma and Big Computing are running an unspoken race, to decide which technology — the electronic or the biochemical — can first deliver the magic elixir that gives humans vastly improved creative powers. Might we be heading, however fitfully, toward a new industrial age when Microsoft buys Merck to better compete with Google?  [G Pascal Zachary, New York Tines, Mar 18]

Only monkeys. Not that long ago, as their business was getting worse, housing companies would use the word "bottom" in presentations to investors and their stocks would rally -- until they allegedly bottomed one too many times without the bottom ever really having been in sight.   Semiconductor-related stocks are starting to act in a similar fashion. No matter how bad the news gets, notes money manager Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital -- a longtime chip bear -- the stocks tend to move higher on sizzle rather than substance.  [Herb Greenberg, Wall Street Journal, Mar 17] As an investment guy once told me, "Only monkeys pick bottoms."

"The laptop and wireless revolutions have led to the rise of a new class of digital 'Bedouins' — tech workers who ply their crafts from Starbucks and other locations with WiFi access. Another article describes some strategies and tools for embracing the Bedouin way of life, [PetManimal, slashdot.org, Mar 16]

SMALL-CAP stocks are significantly overvalued. In fact, they are even pricier, on average, than they were in March 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst. [Mark Hulbert, New York Tines, Mar 18]

Lemons ripen before plums. In other words, a new VCT [VC Trust] will put money into a variety of small companies. Some of those investments will go sour — and do so quite quickly. That drags down the initial performance of the VCT. It is only when the investments in successful companies begin to come through that the true performance of the VCT can be judged — typically over five years or more. [The Times (London), Mar 18]

More Protection. The Internet Archive is being sued by a Colorado woman for spidering her site. Suzanne Shell posted a notice on her site saying she wasn't allowing it to be crawled. When it was, she sued for civil theft, breach of contract, and violations of [RICO] and the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act. A court ruling last month granted the Internet Archive's motion to dismiss the charges, except for the breach of contract claim. If Shell prevails on that count, sites like Google will have to get online publishers to 'opt in' before they can be crawled, radically changing the nature of Web search.[slashdot.org, Mar 17]

The Wavoids say they believe that Wave’s moment has finally come — of course, they have always believed that Wave’s moment has finally come.... a company that has lost roughly $300 M since its inception in 1988 and has had nearly 50 consecutive quarters in the red since going public ... Last year, the company did a 3-for-1 reverse split to keep its share price out of penny-stock territory  [Danny Hakim, New York Times, Mar 4]

Cellulosic ethanol costs roughly $2.25 a gallon to produce, compared with $1.07 for corn-based ethanol, he said.

The problem, he said, is that the company is inventing technology that few firms have found a use for. High-temperature superconducting is a business worth only a few hundred million dollars, relatively small potatoes compared to the power industry as a whole. ... SuperPower was a subsidiary of Intermagnetics General Corp. of Latham, now known as Philips Medical.    [Alan Wechsler, Albany Times-Union, Feb 27]

On the (first) day of the China scare [Feb 27,07], none of the SBIR companies regularly followed here had giant moves. The most notable was Curagen UP 12%. Iomai down 12%, Kosan Biosciences down 13%, and Trubion Pharmaceuticals down 12%,

Need a Real Risk-Taking Commercializer?  Unlike other technology-transfer companies, which license technologies they've acquired or charge fees to broker deals, UTEK pays the research lab for licensing rights to its discovery. It then sells those rights to the client company for shares of stock, which UTEK agrees to hold for one year. UTEK might pay $500,000 for the discovery and receive stock worth $2.5M . A lot can happen in a year—UTEK's stake in ZTrim, for example, ballooned to $6M. On the other hand, in a dozen deals since the company's inception in 1997, the client company ceased operations, and UTEK's stake evaporated.  [Business Week, Feb 26]

Innovation Opportunity. The coal industry faces a bleak future unless ways are developed on a commercial scale to capture and store carbon dioxide to reduce global warming, according to a study (by MIT). [AP, Mar 15] Find an economically efficient chemistry to lock CO2 in a harmless solid or liquid.

What emerges in "Almost Human" is a fascinating, frustrating, sad story. The Carnegie- Mellon researchers have big dreams. They work incredibly hard. But the deeper Mr. Gutkind immerses himself in their projects, the more he realizes that they aren't rolling from one triumph to another. Instead, their labs seem cursed by failure. [George Anders reviewing Lee Gutkind's Almost Human, Wall Street Journal, Mar 16]

"Researchers in England are attempting to build a desktop computer that runs on light rather than electronics. A $1.6 million research project starting in June at the University of Bath is focused on developing attosecond technology, which refers to continuously emitting light pulses that last just a billion-billionth of a second." [slashdot.org, Mar 14]

"According to several articles in the press, an Austrian company has opened a new chip printing factory. But there is a twist. The chips produced by this factory, dubbed Semiconductor 2.0 by the company, will be organic semiconductors, and will be produced by inkjet printers. According to the company, the new factory will be able to produce 40,000 square meters of semiconductors per year, mainly for the biotech, clean tech, and defense industries." [slashdot.org, Mar 14] 

The cellphone market is increasingly relying on a single semiconductor architecture, which may spell trouble for chip makers supplying more sophisticated chips. .. which is good for Texas Instruments ...  but Despite the expectations of growing demand for a single-chip architecture, analysts noted there will always be a market for cellphones with multiple chips because of consumers' love for high-end cellphones that do much more than make calls. [Donna Fuscaldo, Wall Street Journal, Mar 14]

When Optimism Tops Memory. Technology companies that bleed red ink are once again lining up to go public -- and once again finding plenty of takers.... more than half the tech companies now in the IPO pipeline are in the red ... many investors appear willing to turn a blind eye to profits if a tech company displays soaring revenues [Pui-Wing Tam, Wall Street Journal, Mar 13]

Electronic paper, conversely, relies on ambient light from the surroundings, just like ink on paper—so electronic-paper displays are sharp and easy to read in bright sunlight. Better still, once the screen has been set to display a page of text, no electrical power is needed to keep it there; power is consumed only when the screen is updated, which can extend the battery life of mobile devices.  [The Economist, Mar 8]

High Tech Exports. “There are more lines of computer code in these [John Deere] tractors than there is in the space shuttle,” ... “We are outpacing the Europeans and Japanese in terms of product development and productivity,” said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland. “The U.S. manufacturing sector has the highest level of productivity in the world, especially in durable goods. We make more stuff with fewer people.”   [William Holstein, New York Times, Mar 11]

One competing source of pizzazz is private foundations like the Stanley Medical Research Institute that is giving $100M to the "already well-heeled" Broad Institute to apply "the most advanced genomic tools" on severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. [story from Science, Mar 9]

By the end of the year, [MIT's] entire curriculum should be available online for free. ...So far, the most popular online course has been an introduction to electrical engineering, [Chris Reidy, Boston Globe, Mar 10]

Fiber-Optics: Stage Two. Companies in Houston are laying the groundwork — in the form of fiber-optic cable — for the next generation of home entertainment and communications. ... Think 100 Mbs ...By comparison, Internet download speeds are 5 megabits per second with Time Warner Cable ... Just 5 percent of U.S. residences — about 7.5 million households — are wired for fiber, and the high cost of digging up yards to lay new fiber likely will mean another decade will pass before it hits 10 percent, said Vince Vittore, a Yankee Group senior analyst specializing in broadband [Brad Hem, Houston Chronicle, Mar 11]

Inventing? ... Start at www.inventionconvention.com, the Web site of the National Congress of Inventor Organizations. .. If you want to patent it, instead of donating it to humanity,  go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site at www.uspto.gov  [Jacqueline Taylor, Houston Chronicle, Mar 11] Then get yourself a patent lawyer; it's too complicated for the amateur to get it right.

"All of traditional media is scrambling to remain relevant on the Net, but The Economist of London is taking it to extremes, with a skunkworks operation called Project Red Stripe. The magazine gathered six staffers from around the world, set them up in a London office, and gave them six months to come up with a radically new idea for the business. As a magazine for free markets, they figured others would have the best ideas — so are throwing open the doors for community input."  [slashdot.org, Mar 11]

WHY VALLEY LAWYERS ARE BUSY  Robust business, Globalization, Intellectual property, Stock-option scandal. [San Jose Mercury News, Mar 11]

a small roundtable of some of America’s most successful universities at turning their faculty and student research into revenue streams for the institutions released a brief white paper outlining nine guiding principles or ideals for all university technology transfer offices to consider while pursing their common goal of helping the private sector to commercialize academic research results. In the Public Interest: Nine Points to Consider in Licensing University Technology [SSTI, Mar 5]

Our members' top priority is the cost and availability of health insurance, said Susan Eckerly , the group's public policy VP [for the National Federation of Independent Business].

3M sued companies including Sony, Lenovo, and Matsushita for infringing patents for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

A Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor is among a group of researchers who claim to have isolated a type of bacterium that can be used to help break down polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB, a substance present in the Hudson River and other waterways. [Troy Record, Mar 8]

The top award for clean green tech went to Austin. Runners-up: San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena, Boston. Survey by SustainLane, a San Francisco service that provides environmental management and policy information to governments and businesses [Green Wombat blog, Mar 5]

RFID Economics. A recent report in The Wall Street Journal stated that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. isn't saving as much from using the wireless technology to manage its supply chain as had been expected. If true, that would be bad news for both Wal-Mart and the Dallas area in general, which has been trying to cultivate an image as a global destination for the technology. [Dallas Morning News, Feb 27]

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance issued a report "Localizing the Internet: Five Ways Public Ownership Solves the U.S. Broadband Problem." arguing for municipal ownership of new wireless and fiber-optic networks.

PreacherTom writes "Scientists at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, NJ are reporting that they have broken the speed of light. For the experiment, the researchers manipulated a vapor of laser-irradiated atoms, causing a pulse that propagates about 300 times faster than light would travel in a vacuum. The pulse seemed to exit the chamber even before entering it." This research was published in Nature, so presumably it was peer-reviewed. [slashdot.org, Mar6]

When Superconductors Were Hot. Twenty years ago this month, nearly 2,000 physicists crammed into a New York Hilton ballroom to hear about a breakthrough class of materials called high-temperature superconductors. [Kenneth Chang, New York Times, Mar 6]

Market Math. The problem with advanced math and science is that those with the education to teach it can make a lot more money not teaching it.   [Tom O'Neill, Cincinnati Post, Mar 5]   So the Kentucky legislature is thinking about cash for math - payments to teachers, schools, and students for success in advanced math and science. One student isn't impressed, Erica Deters isn't sure that's going to be effective. "There's already money (in taking AP classes) because you can opt out of certain colleges courses," said Deters, a senior in Chris Girard's AP calculus class at Simon Kenton High. Deters plans to major in history this fall.

Good Tech, Bad for Business. Diebold is looking to sell its e-voting subsidiary that's causing the company so much public relations grief. Every mistake and suspicion is magnified by the power at stake in elections. [MR Kropko, AP, reprinted in Wired News, Mar 5]

Christina Romer, professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, says economists can't predict recessions for the same reason stock market analysts can't accurately predict market crashes. "Both kinds of events, by their nature, are not predictable events,"

One Atom Thick. Scientists have created the thinnest material in the world and predict that it will revolutionise computing and medical research. A layer of carbon has been manufactured in a film only one atom thick that defies the laws of physics. ... It was created by scientists at the University of Manchester, working with the Max Planck Institute in Germany. [The Times (London), Mar 1

Tuesday's plunge in Chinese stocks and a continuing collapse in the demand for subprime mortgages in the U.S lead the field for indicators that risk is getting more respect. The more investors who share an opinion, the more dangerous it is when that opinion gets proved wrong. In this case, the opinion was that a diversified portfolio even of risky assets wasn't all that risky. On Tuesday, that opinion was left in tatters, and fund managers marched together to cut their exposure to those assets across the board [Wall Street Journal, Mar 1] Not to mention 20,000 casualties from taking on jihadists on their own turf in a foreign civil war.

Supporters on Wednesday will unveil GetGoMN.org, a new free service they hope will become the MySpace for Minnesota entrepreneurs and investors, just in time for "Entrepreneurs Week USA." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, Feb 25]

Innovators Matter Most  The U.S. in the midst of the most entrepreneurial era in its history, with more than 500,000 Americans involved in launching their own companies each year and an estimated 10% to 15% of all working adults engaged in some kind of entrepreneurial activity. [Robert Litan, Wall Street Journal, Feb 24] Litan wants some government action to foster innovators: a skilled work force (including immigrants), reforming health care (everybody's got a plan for that), promoting innovation, limiting costly regulation and liability litigation (an old standard business cry).

All the happy talk about uncarbonaceous nuclear power drove the global price of uranium to a new high of $85 per pound. an estimated 251 new reactors are being designed or planned across the globe. Each new reactor requires 600 tonnes of uranium to start the generating process and then it requires a further 200 tonnes a year.   [The Times (London), Feb 23, 07]. 

The engines developed by Brian H. Rowe (dead at 75) power jets from F-16 fighters to Boeing 777 widebodies, and also drove General Electric Co.'s aircraft-engine business to dominance in the international jet-engine market.  As president and chief executive of the subsidiary from 1979 to 1993, Mr. Rowe oversaw GE's sallies in the "Great Engine War" of the early 1980s with Pratt & Whitney over what engines would power America's most modern fighter aircraft. ... Mr. Rowe pushed both Boeing and GE to move ahead on the 777 design with two GE90 engines. He "had to convince Jack Welch it was something he could do and it wasn't too risky. He had to convince Boeing it was a bet worth making,"  [J. LYNN LUNSFORD, KATHRYN KRANHOLD, and STEPHEN MILLER, Wall Street Journal, Feb 24]

It is only when we look backward that history assumes a predictable pattern. Viewed the other way around, as it is lived, it abounds in inexplicable turns and strange surprises.  [Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves, 2004]

International Incubator. RPI's business incubator casts a wide net. Only a few vacant offices are left, and Tentnowski is already looking for additional space because of demand from places like China, Russia, Israel and India. ... Because of space limitations, about half of the members at the incubator building off Peoples Avenue are so-called "virtual members": They have their own space off campus but have access to the incubator programs and to RPI students. Other companies have come to RPI over the past year from New York City, New Jersey, Maine, Colorado and California.  [Larry Rulison, Albany Times-Union, Feb 22]

Improving Fluorescent Market. The Australian government announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs across the country. ...Last month, a California assemblyman announced he would propose a bill to ban the use of incandescent bulbs in his state.  [AP. Feb 20] Diehard US consumers will resist paying a lot more up front for a light bulb that will save money and energy in the future. One quick and effective incentive is to tax incandescent bulbs into economic inferiority but Americans don't like demand suppression taxes either in a political theater that tells them incessantly that they deserve tax cuts. 

There's a constant paradox in investing: Every decision is in some sense a bet on the future, which is inherently unknowable. -- James Stewart, financial pundit

Hook 'em Horns. The University of Texas is revamping its commercialization policies to make it easier for faculty to turn their research into products and companies — and to elevate UT's reputation as a top research university. [Lilly Rockwell, Austin American-Statesman, Feb 20]  Factoid: Harley Clark introduced the Hook 'em Horns sign in 1955. Clark was head cheerleader at the university, a position that was elected by the student body. "It was second only in importance to the Texas governor,"  [Wikipedia]

T-Rays for Airports. Qing Hu, a professor in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, has designed pinhead-size lasers that can produce 250 milliwatts at 4.3 terahertz, and slightly less than 100 milliwatts at 1.5 terahertz. That's enough power to send a beam over a distance of several meters, bounce it off an object, and use the return signal to create an instantaneous image. [MIT Tech Review, Feb 20] The breakthrough is enough ray power to make them useful as scanners.

 Silicon Forest News. Efforts to nurture Oregon's entrepreneurial ambition will continue Thursday at the yearly Angel Oregon conference, where organizers this year supersized the winning company's award. [The Oregonian, Feb 18]

Beating Entropy. Thermodynamics says you can't get much energy from lukewarm heat. But Berkeley scientists generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles through the Seebeck effect wherein a voltage is created when the junctions of two different metals are kept at different temperatures. What's new is getting Seebeck effect from organics (wonderful things, those organics) which could in principle dramatically cut the cost per unit of electricity from the Seebeck generators that use expensive metals. Sara Yang's story in UCBerkeley News .  Sounds like a great SBIR project to find the ways to make a new Seebeck business. There's probably even enough time left to develop something and have it in the hands of troops in Iraq before that curtain comes down, especially at the President's rate of even admitting that he has a serious problem.

Silicon Alley re-born?  Good for Google, good for tech world around Google's largest software engineering center outside California.  New York has the infrastructure -- the telecom networks, office space, lawyers, and other professional services -- and local schools keep the talent pipeline full. It also has the most direct flights to anywhere in the world. Not good news for the high-tech wannabes around the country's more remote capitals like Frankfort and Boise.  [John Foley, Information Week, Feb 17]

Science too safe? [Google founder] Page called scientists “great citizens,” but he stressed that they need to become more engaged in politics, business and the media if they are to “basically improve our lot in life by doing really great things.” [ AAAS 2007 Annual Meeting News Blog] Scientists like a world where solved problems stay solved and someone else if left to the dirty work of using science to improve society. Scientists also believe that their contributions deserve public support without their having to grovel to politicians.

"The typical company innovates by making their products bulkier," says Forrester Research analyst Bruce Temkin, who studies customer experience.

With Slow Vista Sales. Global sales of semiconductor-making equipment reached a six-year high in December. And orders in the pipeline will cause capacity to build for several months. ... Prices for [DRAM] have tumbled, falling 20% in the past two weeks alone. [by breakingviews.com, an online financial commentary site, Wall Street Journal, Feb 17]

For his genius in inventing a mini imaging device that can do everything from spotting cracks in the space shuttle's foam to detecting tumors in tissue, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student Brian Schulkin was awarded a $30,000 prize Friday [Troy Record, Feb 17]

Patents Good or Bad?  Of course, both. nadamsieee writes "Wired's Luke O'Brian recently reported about Congress' latest attempt to reform the patent system. In the article O'Brian tells of how 'witnesses at Thursday's hearing painted a bleak picture of that system. Adam Jaffe, a Brandeis University professor and author of a book on the subject, described the system as 'out of whack.' Instead of 'the engine of innovation,' the patent has become 'the sand in the gears,' he said, citing widespread fears of litigation. The House Oversight Committee website has more details. How would you fix the patent system?"  [slashdot.org, Feb 16]

in 2005, the total power consumption of US servers was 0.6 percent of overall US electricity consumption. When cooling equipment is added, that number doubles to 1.2 percent—the same amount used by color televisions, says a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory staff scientist Jonathan Koomey [Ars Technica, Feb 16]

According to some estimates, about $1 trillion in publicly traded shares vanished last year, mostly to private equity deals. [Scott Burns, Feb 18]

Seattle had the largest trade surplus of any city in the U.S. last year, $10.6B.  Thanks to Boeing planes. [Seattle Times, Feb 18]

Those hulking Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks bearing down on you on the interstates could be bringing R&D money.  Their parent Paccar just ponied up $2M to Gonzaga University to construct a new engineering center. ... towards building the Paccar Center for Applied Science, a 25,000-square-foot facility that will house robotics and artificial vision labs as well as classrooms and offices. [Seattle Times, Feb 18]

MattSparkes writes "One of the best-known stem cell papers describes adult cells that seemed to hold the same promise as embryonic stem cells. Now some of the data contained within the paper is being questioned, after staff at a consumer science magazine noticed errors. It shows how even peer-reviewed papers can sometimes 'slip through the net' and get to publication with inaccurate data."  [slashdot.org, Feb 15]

Why does the American economy keep confounding the Jeremiahs? It is the appetite for innovation, the extraordinary capital to support risk, and the political framework of freedom for the individual. ... Google is just one of the innovations which now make up the tissue of our everyday lives -- think of email, antibiotics, television, statewide banking, FM radio, personal computers, the uplift brassiere, helicopters, instant cameras, cell phones, synthetic fibers, radio tuners, MRI scanners, scheduled airmail, trans-Atlantic flights, fish fingers, microwave ovens, transistorized hearing aids, artificial insulin, lasers and jet planes, not to mention the container shipping that effectively initiated globalization.  [Harold Evans, Wall Street Journal, Feb 17]

Robert Adler, 93, co-inventor of the television remote control, which encouraged the proliferation of couch potatoes, shortened the attention span of viewers and prompted innumerable household disputes over who would control the television, died Feb. 15 [Washington Post, Feb 17]

It is impossible to produce a superior performance unless you do something different from the majority - Sir John Templeton (thanks to ChartoftheDay.com)

The AAAS 2006  award for online science writing went to four reporters from the Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer: Larisa Epatko, Leah Clapman, Rich Vary, and Katie Kleinman.  The 2005 award went to Daniel Grossman of WBUR Boston who has been a print journalist and radio producer for 17 years and holds the combination of a Ph.D. in political science and a B.S. in physics, both from MIT. He thus won the award for the second time in the award's first three years. He has also won the George Foster Peabody Award.

Ever More Competition. the world's business people and investors queue up to lavish money on India's talented engineers and computer scientists ... So far, reform in India has focused on setting its inventive private sector free from the world's most fearsome bureaucracy. This has unleashed entrepreneurial talent. [The Economist, Feb 3] Sadly, there is little chance that the American bureaucrats in DOD and NASA will put new emphasis on entrepreneurs in SBIR and fix the Not Performing criticism from OMB's review. DOD actually has in internal model of how it is done - the SDIO/BMDO SBIR through the whole decade of the 1990s. 

Mike Dunford's blog The Questionable Authority has a short paean to Charles Darwin on his 198th birthday.

Transmeta fell 11% to 92 cents. The licenser of chip technology said it will cut about 75 employees, mostly from its engineering-services unit, and may lay more people off, as it focuses on its intellectual-property development and licensing business.   [Wall Street Journal, Feb 6]

In 1980, wind-power electricity cost 80 cents per kilowatt hour; by 1991 it cost 10 cents, according to the International Energy Agency ... today 6-9 cents ... the cost of generating US electricity with solar panels is 26 to 35 cents .. fossil fuel is about 5.3 cents if the environmental damage cost is externalized (ignored). [Wall Street Journal, Feb 12]

Only about 1/30th of 1% of all the electricity produced in the U.S. is generated by solar power. [Stephanie Cohen, Wall Street Journal, Feb 10] And that is after a government subsidy of about half the installation cost. It is a lot like SBIR projects - without a government subsidy they would not exist.

Tech Talk FestEnergy, life sciences, nanotech and wireless are the focus of the Washington (state) Technology Center's conference, Apr 12. Here's the agenda  [Seattle Times, Feb 9]

Speak Finnish?   Nokia Corp., the world's largest maker of cellphones, is stepping up a commitment to its venture-capital activities, underscoring its efforts to expand into new and adjacent businesses such as mobile music and video and location-based services.... The $100 million fund, based in London and Menlo Park, Calif., invests in companies that are in the mid- or late-stage of financing and have a commercial product used by industry players such as Nokia.  ... the company is making an additional $100 million available to the fund [Cassel Bryan-Low, Wall Street Journal, Feb 10]

Many companies have also cut back on investment spending or redirected investment elsewhere rather than build new modern capacity in the United States. Blecker (2006) examines the impact of the overvalued dollar on U.S. manufacturing profits and investment spending. His estimates imply that the appreciation of the dollar from 1995 to 2004 lowered U.S. manufacturing investment and manufacturing capital stock by 61 and 17 percent, respectively, in 2004 relative to what the values would have been had the dollar remained at its 1995 level. Dollar appreciation has structurally weakened the U.S. industrial base and made the future task of trade deficit adjustment more difficult, as the United States may now lack the capacity needed to produce the manufactured goods that it now imports. [Thomas Palley, Levy Institute, Oct 06]

geography trumps personality.  the inescapable lesson of the iPod, Google, eBay, Netflix and Silicon Valley in general is that where you live often trumps who you are. ... No wonder venture capitalists, who finance bright ideas, remain obsessed with finding the next big thing in the 50-mile corridor [GP Zachary, New York Times, Feb 11] The politicians who try to redistribute such wealth to other states are mere politicians who try to slow the march of capitalism while pretending to enhance it. They have as much chance of success as George Bush and his neocons had of creating a liberal democracy in Iraq and the Middle East by invasion and occupation.

a Network World story that opens, "Ethernet is right up there with magnetic resonance imaging, the LP record, air bags, and soft contact lenses. So says the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which included Bob Metcalfe, inventor of the ubiquitous LAN technology, in its latest round of inductees." [slashdot.org, Feb 10] The Hall of Fame is in downtown Akron OH, a block or two from the hotel in the grain elevators.

Six sigma was designed to improve manufacturing processes, but has been well documented to quench innovation. ... Rather than investigating and addressing the fundamental etiologies of the problem and contrary to the readily available data in the business literature, the leadership plunges into the short-term fix and ego-satisfying drama of a merger, which is almost guaranteed to stifle innovation even further." [Liam Bernal, The Scientist]

Derek Lowe, drug discovery chemist and author of the In the Pipeline blog, says he is looking for a position in New England.

Are Profits the Greatest Good?  Pressures by media companies to generate ever-greater profits are threatening the very freedom the nation was built upon, former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite warned this week  [San Jose Mercury News, Feb 11]

Finding tomorrow's tech winners [for stock investing] begins with looking for disruptive products--products that can change industries or even create new ones. Seek out companies with double-digit net margins and both revenue and earnings growth of at least 30% a year. These are signs that customers want more and more of the product and are willing to pay more and more for it. [Jim Oberweis, Forbes, Feb 26]  His picks: Tessera Technologies, Acme Packet, SimpleTech, DivX. Yes, these stocks could suffer if a company missteps or is simply out innovated by someone else.

Innovation Wasn't Enough.  Martin Marietta abandoned its new composites when they failed to attract enough customers interested in replacing traditional steel and wood construction with composites of plastic resin and fiberglass. [Vicki Lee Parker, Raleigh News and Observer, Feb 9]

What Do They Want from Innovative Technology? Boeing is midway to achieving its goal of reducing the weight of its new 787 Dreamliner by 2%, CEO James McNerney said. [Seattle Times, Feb 7] Oh yes, not just light, it must also be super reliable and competitive cost because a new commercial airplane must substantially lower the airline's total cost per seat mile flown.

Tech Gives Way to Government as Austin readies an implosion of the uncompleted skeleton of Intel's R&D facility to make way for a new court house. 

Arthur Smith, a professor of physics at Ohio University, and postdoc Erdong Lu have grown manganese gallium, a metal, on gallium nitride, a semiconductor commonly used to make blue lasers and light-emitting diodes. Smith and Lu believe that the new material could lead to room-­temperature lasers that exploit the spin of electrons (spintronics). [MIT Tech review, J/F 07]

GoCanes writes "Salon's Scott Rosenberg explains why even small-scale programming projects can take years to complete, one programmer is often better than two, and the meaning of 'Rosenberg's Law.' After almost 50 years, the state of the art is still pretty darn bad. His point is that as long as you're trying to do something that has already been done, then you have an adequate frame of reference to estimate how long it will take/cost. But if software is at all interesting, it's because no one else has done it before."  [slashdot.org, Feb 3]

Brain Power Needed. "The accumulation and focusing of knowledge may be the noblest use or purpose of the internet. There are plenty of open or unsolved problems left for this generation. Why not spend some of your time in the dark of this winter working on one of the big problems facing humanity? Open problems exists in almost every field of study. Wikipedia maintains a small list of them and at least one international group called the Union of International Associations maintains a database of open problems."  [CexpTretical , slashdot.org, Feb 4] Note that there will be no government support. nor business support, for such solutions. And the finder of a great solution is likely to be roundly condemned by a shocking majority of society. Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" is instructive.

Change the Light Bulb. Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications, meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light, says California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine who wants to ban incandescent bulbs.

According to the president, ethanol is the magical elixir that will solve virtually every economic, environmental, and foreign policy problem on the horizon. In reality, it's enormously expensive and wasteful. CATO News item from Libertarians Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren.

Can't find the right word? Try inventing one. http://addictionary.org/

“A million dollars,” Mr. Hastings said.  With that, Netflix unwittingly started down the path of proving that today’s economy doesn’t have nearly enough prizes. ... BACK in the 1700s, prizes were a fairly common way to reward innovation. ... But grants also became popular for a less worthy reason: they made life easier for the government bureaucrats who oversaw them and for the scientists who received them.  [David Leonhardt, New York Times, Jan 31] Would SBIR produce more big paybacks from big prizes than from grinding away at government R&D contracts by hobby companies?

Start with free software, add falling prices for computing and data storage, toss in ever-cheaper distribution costs, and you can launch an online service for practically nothing. But now that many so-called Web 2.0 outfits have a couple of years under their belts, it's sinking in that it takes real money to turn those ideas into real businesses ... don't confuse doing the science experiment with building a large enterprise  [Business Week, Feb 5] If SBIR had an entrepreneurial genes, it would push the money toward companies and new ideas with real prospects of making a business of a technical success beyond a beautiful technical report and another proposal for continuation.

Moore Shrinkage. Transistors can be made smaller, potentially doubling the total number in a given area, their speed can be increased by more than 20 percent, or power leakage can be cut by 80 percent or more. Say Intel and IBM about their new hafnium transistors.

Tech stocks have become the darlings of the S.& P. 500,” said Mike Thompson, managing director of global research at Thomson Financial.  That comes as somewhat of a surprise, given that tech stocks appreciated only 7.7%last year, on average, versus the 13.6 % price gain for the broad S.& P. 500. [Paul Lim, New York Times, Jan 28]  Meanwhile, Silicon Valley added 33.000 jobs.

the United States, while still the world’s largest single economic power, is clearly no longer the sole superpower. From 2002 to 2005, the United States accounted for 35 to 40 percent of the world’s economic growth, according to Goldman Sachs. But in the second half of last year, Mr. O’Neill estimated, the BRICs’ contribution to global growth was slightly greater than that of the United States for the first time. In 2007, he projects, the United States will account for just 20 percent of global growth  [Daniel Gross, New York Times, Jan 28]

[Jan 25, 07]Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer adds his scoffing to the fuel fantasies: It is very American to believe that chemists are going to discover the cure for geopolitical weakness. It is even more American to imagine that it can be done painlessly. Ethanol for everyone. Farmers get a huge cash crop. Consumers get more supply. And the country ends up more secure. This is nonsense. [Washington Post, Jan 26]  And Politicians and Wall Street cheered when the ethanol industry went on a building binge. Now the distillers are waking up to the ugly possibility of a gasohol glut. [Forbes] And "The truth is: If ethanol has commercial merit, it doesn't need to be so heavily subsidized. If it doesn't have commercial merit, almost no amount of subsidy will make it economically viable." [Carpe Diem blog, Jan 27] As the Wall Street Journal reminds us, "ethanol is produced by mixing corn with our tax dollars."

We'd be better off accelerating battery, nuclear, and photovoltaics technologies. They'll eventually provide cheaper energy than ethanol. Plus, they'll use a much smaller land footprint and produce less pollution than ethanol produced from agriculture. [Randall Parker at FuturePundit]

Math Models Have the Answers. Thank God Football Isn't Played By Computers  From Real Clear Politics:Bad news for Chicago: the outcome of the Superbowl has been simulated more than 10,000 times by a computer using various game conditions and the Bears lose to the Colts by an average of 3.5 points." 

My first rule of quoting a statistic, which I admit I sometimes violate, is to make sure you understand how it is calculated.  Nothing could be truer than with manufacturing jobs statistics. ... The same populists who complain today about the shift from manufacturing to services complained a hundred years ago about the shift from agriculture to manufacturing. [Warren Meyer, The Coyote Blog - Dispatches from a Small Business]

miserableles writes "TomTom has admitted to a UK security journalist that a number of GO 910 satellite navigation units shipped with two Trojans installed on the hard drive. But still no sign of an official warning on the TomTom website."   [slashdot.org, Jan 28]

Male Yadda, Yadda.  Numbers recently released by Nielsen/NetRatings, the Internet traffic measurement firm, suggest that [newspaper] blogs are picking up readers. NetRatings said that traffic to newspaper blogs had more than tripled over the last year, reaching 3.8 million in December. (The total unique visitors to newspaper Web sites in December was 29.9 million.) Slightly more men than women read online newspapers, and that trend is more pronounced on newspaper blogs, 66 percent of whose readers are male.  [New York Times, Jan 29]

The buoyancy of global trade "is amazing. We have to keep telling ourselves: Careful, this can't last," she says. [Time, Jan 19]

Ready Fire Aim has a blog on what makes a successful entrepreneur. This is one of a three-part series (with references). [David Maister, Jan 22]

Which do you prefer - a low stable price or a secure supply? Managed or free markets? For energy, that is. a central issue as business and political leaders gather at the World Economic Forum -- springs from a broader-based fear than prices, .. Rather, the worry is that the geopolitical and economic equilibrium that long enabled the oil industry to smoothly supply customers is a thing of the past. Events in 2007 will test that view.  [CHIP CUMMINS,BHUSHAN BAHREE and PATRICIA MINCZESKI, Wall Street Journal, Jan 25] Or do you think it is government's role to see that you get all you want at a low (fair) price?

Innovation Prizes Proliferate.  InnoCentive, a company spun off six years ago by drug maker Eli Lilly, charges clients ("seekers") to broadcast scientific problems on a Web site where scientists ("solvers") are offered cash -- usually less than $100,000 -- for solutions; more than 50 challenges are now pending. Netflix, the mail-order movie company, is offering $1 million for an algorithm that does 10% better than its current system for predicting whether a customer will enjoy a movie, based on how much he or she liked or disliked other movies... One surprise: The further the problem was from a solver's expertise, the more likely he or she was to solve it. [David Wessel, Wall Street Journal, Jan 25] The first famous prize offer, equivalent to $5M today, was in 1714 for a sea clock, the story of which is told by Dava Sobel's Longitude.

Not Yet Ready for Prime Time. Boeing has abandoned its plan to install a wireless inflight-entertainment system on the 787 Dreamliner, one it had touted earlier as saving weight and complexity by eliminating wires. .. because of performance problems with the technology and the lack of bandwidth spectrum in some parts of the world. It would also have weighed 150 pounds more than the wired system. [Seattle Times, Jan 25]

coondoggie writes "For the second year running, no U.S. city has made the list of the world's top Intelligent Communities of 2007, as selected by global think tank Intelligent Community Forum. The ICF selects the Intelligent Community list based on how advanced the communities are in deploying broadband, building a knowledge-based workforce, combining government and private-sector "digital inclusion," fostering innovation and marketing economic development."  [slashdot.org, Jan 24]

Cheap, Patented, and Profitable. Drug giant Pfizer says it will step up its R&D investment in areas that are especially promising. In biotherapeutics, Pfizer will strengthen its capabilities in vaccines and antibodies. While cutting its costs : It is also dramatically simplifying the organizational structure of R&D to increase accountability, flexibility, innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition, the company will complement its accelerated internal efforts with business development activities that will secure new medicines as well as related products and services designed to enhance the value of its medicines. While most of that is evasive corporate blather, it does mean a permanent vacation for 10000 employees, some of which are in R&D, and three Michigan labs.

Ethanomics. The net profit of a 50-million-gallon ethanol plant today is about 7.2 cents a gallon of ethanol produced, down from 50 cents a gallon on Jan. 1, said Rick Kment, an ethanol analyst at DTN, an agricultural-commodities research firm.  That partly explains why shares of many ethanol producers have swooned. [Jeffrey Ball and Lauren Etter, Wall Street Journal, Jan 24] Profit of course depends on the price of the feedstock which rises with the demand. Robert Samuleson [Washington Post, Jan 24] reminds us that the ethanol solution may be a mirage, a politician's way of pretending to have a solution that prevents ordinary economics from raising the price of fuel.  Presidents since Nixon have pretended to offer low-cost fantasy recipes for oil "independence". Presidents still do it because we tell them we want to hear it.

Looking for the facts?  The Boston Globe is closing its overseas bureaus, reflecting a painful issue for larger metropolitan papers: Should they get out of international and national coverage and focus relentlessly on their local markets? [Wall Street Journal, Jan 24] In the age of blogs and "fair and balanced" TV news, where will all the opinionators get their facts when the news agencies have no boots on the ground?  I suppose they can use facts they wish were true.

Going Up. Things are booming in Silicon Gulch. The 55-story Austonian, a $200 million luxury condominium tower planned for Congress Avenue and Second Street, will set a new bar for height and unit prices amid downtown's residential building boom. The Austonian will rise 22 stories higher than downtown's tallest existing building. Construction is set to start later this year. [Austin American-Statesman, Jan 24] How many Dellionaires does it take to outshine the oil-funded luxury of Houston?

What the best R&D will achieve is a matter of judgment, but my research has convinced me that the benchmark $1.25 per gallon or cheaper cellulosic fuels are less than three years away....  I am so convinced this is real that I have invested in a number of companies in this area. ... We must empower these entrepreneurs  [Vinod Khosla, Wall Street Journal, Jan 23]

The net profit of a 50-million-gallon ethanol plant today is about 7.2 cents a gallon of ethanol produced, down from 50 cents a gallon on Jan. 1, said Rick Kment, an ethanol analyst at DTN, an agricultural-commodities research firm.  That partly explains why shares of many ethanol producers have swooned.

SeenOnSlash writes "Microsoft is working on a project they call 'immortal computing' which would let people store digital information in durable physical artifacts and other forms to be preserved and revealed to future generations, and maybe even to future civilizations. The artifacts would be designed to make the process of accessing the information clear with instructions in multiple languages or hieroglyphics. In one possible use, messages for descendants or interactive holograms might be stored on tombstones. The project was revealed when their patent application recently became public."  [slashdot.org, Jan 23]

Investment in Austin companies for the whole year was better: $602.8 million, a 46 percent increase from the previous year and the highest level since 2001.  But the theme continues: Money is scarce for startups. [Lori Hawkins, Austin American-Statesman, Jan 23]

MIT-led panel backs 'heat mining' as key U.S. energy source ...  "The Future of Geothermal Energy."

Lam Research lost 15%. The chip-equipment maker issued a bearish outlook for its fiscal third quarter. The outlook weighed heavily on just about every other chip-equipment stock. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 19]

Thrift, Horatio!  they are making the money last longer  ... Today's start-ups, by contrast [with the free spending dot.com bubble] , often hire just one or two new staffers a month, hoard their cash and find inexpensive ways to attract attention such as limited Internet advertising and more reliance on word of mouth through Web users. [Pui-Wing Tam and Rebecca Buckman, Watt Street Journal, Jan 18] SBIR mills don't have that problem because the government limits how much government money they can spend and what they can spend it on. But then SBIR mills aren't looking for the big kill anyway.

 When the locomotive falters. The semiconductor sector fell amid concerns about large-cap Intel's gross profit margins. [Wall Street Journal, Jan 18] Intel trickle-down to small company wonder-tech is paid for by profits.

Protecting Customers. Data thefts like one reported by TJX Cos. yesterday have put growing pressure on corporate America to protect customer data.  ... Hundreds of companies, universities, and other organizations have reported losing customers' names, Social Security numbers, or other information that can open the door to fraud. ... In response, more than 30 states have passed laws resembling a four-year-old California requirement that companies inform individuals if they lose control of data. [Ross Kerber, Boston Globe, Jan 18]

Burn Climate Heretics. The Weather Channel’s most prominent climatologist is advocating that broadcast meteorologists be stripped of their scientific certification if they express skepticism about predictions of manmade catastrophic global warming. [Senate EPW Committee, Jan 18] Narrow databases and necessarily simplified math models cannot give the certainty needed to bar any doubts. Unless the certainty comes from faith which is beyond the realm of science. 

Bubbly Margins. Arnie Berman, chief technology strategist at Cowen & Co. He calculates that many tech companies' margins are higher than they were during the late 1990s tech-stock bubble, which ultimately burst. Tech-sector margins are expected to average 11.3% in this year's fourth quarter, above the 10.6% margins in 2000, Mr. Berman says. These margins are "unsustainably high, [Wall Street Journal, Jan 17]

The world economy is poised for its fastest five-year growth streak in three decades, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday, adding that declining oil prices have helped make its forecast more certain. [Bloomberg News, Jan 17]

Iddo Genuth writes "Conventional Li-Ion batteries have been known to catch fire and explode. A new, safer type of Li-Ion nanobattery that might help prevent such mishaps has been developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University. These nanobatteries should prove useful for various micro devices used for medical, military, and a range of other applications. They are 2-4 years from commercial availability."  [slashdot.org, Jan 17]

Thou Shalt Not Bear Witness.  Scott writes "I'm submitting my own story on an important topic: Is it illegal to discover a vulnerability on a Web site? No one knows yet, but Eric McCarty's pleading guilty to hacking USC's web site was 'terrible and detrimental,' according to tech lawyer Jennifer Granick. She believes the law needs at least to be clarified, and preferably changed to protect those who find flaws in production Web sites — as opposed to those who 'exploit' such flaws. Of course, the owners of sites often don't see the distinction between the two. [slashdot.org, Jan 17]

Golden Egg Goose. Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, might tell investors this month it will trim annual spending by as much as $2 billion by firing 10 percent of its workforce and cutting the research budget. ... as it braces to lose sales by 2012 from medicines losing patent protection that account for nearly half its 2005 revenue.  [Bloomberg News, Jan 12] There is no free lunch; the whole patent system incentivizes expensive privately funded discovery by promising a monopoly. One alternative is letting the government pay for discovery in a system run by hobbyists and politicians and a bigger tax bill. A massive version of SBIR as practiced.

Peta Flops. What the [competitors for a $200 M computer] didn't figure on is that there might be no winner at all.  ... A delay--or worse--in the petascale computing competition is only one of dozens of unhappy scientific consequences of the current legislative train wreck for NSF ... The usual advocates said, "If America is going to continue to be the global economic leader ..."  [Science, Jan 5] If only there were infinite money to fund the infinite great ideas, then America would be an even greater economic miracle. What's not the least bit clear is the compelling economic advantage, not just the bragging advantage,  that would be lost without immediate outlays of big money for even bigger machines. Now if every scientist on the winning team were to volunteer for a 20% salary cut as a way to reduce the government tax requirement (yes, the goodies come from taxes) with a compensating bonus of a piece of the economic gain they claim, we could get a measure of the market value.

Raytheon invented the microwave oven - all 670-pounds. It didn't matter that no other company had a competing design. Ralph E. Grabowski , ticking off familiar names: Polaroid, Wang, Digital Equipment, were engineering companies that neglected "front-end marketing," ... Grabowski, concluded that  The most successful businesses had ratios of greater than 1, meaning they invested more than a dollar in front-end marketing for every dollar budgeted for engineering. Failures had ratios of 0.1 or lower. [Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, Jan 14]

HP says it found a way for an eightfold increase in the number of transistors that can be squeezed onto a variety of programmable chips, while bringing savings in energy consumption.  [Don Clark, Wall Street Journal, Jan 16]

Demand surges for [Cisco] equipment that directs Internet traffic. [AP, Jan 16] Thank you, YouTube which fosters video pollution for high bandwidth blogging.

Visitors to engineeringchallenges.org are invited to brainstorm on what "grand challenges" engineers should set for themselves in the 21st century; the top 20 suggestions will be unveiled in September. [Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal, Jan 16]

biotech blather: Several weeks ago I wrote about the risks of investing in small biotech stocks that have been bid up on the hope and hype surrounding late-stage-test results. Among the companies mentioned were Northfield Laboratories and Telik. Following the article, I heard from one broker bullish on Northfield whose clients had become nervous. "Fortunately," he wrote, "I was able to hold a few of my clients' hands and keep them from joining the Greenberg lemmings." Two days later Northfield reported disappointing results and its stock lost two-thirds of its value. The same thing happened a week later to Telik. Yet another reminder of the realities of risk [Herb Greenberg, Wall Street Journal, Jan 13]

Prognosis Fair. there are signs that the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical-device stocks that want to have a debut this year might not face a dire outcome. Some market observers believe this could be the year that investors shift toward more growth-oriented sectors, which would benefit these companies.  "I would expect health care and technology to be more active sources of IPOs. [Lynn Cowan, Wall Street Journal, Jan 16]  SBIR seems to have more of a role in bio companies that go public than in the rest of the government. No, I don't have conclusive data, only a much longer list of public companies that had some SBIR, especially when divided by the total amount of each agency's SBIR. The mission agemcies are much more likely to fund hobby shops.

Maybe They Will Rise. Goldman Sachs downgraded many of the technology sectors it covers, citing less compelling valuations after an end-of-the-year run-up. But others see reasons for tech to have a strong year. For starters, the typical tech company of today isn't the same type that caused so much buzz almost a decade ago. For the most part, these firms have healthier financial report cards, cash on their books and, more importantly, actual earnings.   [Rob Wherry, Wall Street Journal, Jan 16]

Bruce G Charlton writes "In three studies looking at the best institutions for 'revolutionary' science, MIT emerged as best in the world. This contrasts with 'normal science' which incrementally-extends science in pre established directions." [slashdot.org, Jan 15]

When Euros Buy More Dollars. A French-based technology company has opened an engineering center in downtown Austin to design specialized chips that can transport high-speed data streams. ... [VP] Carpenter said the company, based in Aix-en-Provence, France, wants to expand its North American operations to be closer to its customers.  [Austin American-Statesman, Jan 16]

A ranking by a prominent European business school found the U.S. by far the world's most innovative nation. ...  In other studies, the World Bank rated the U.S. third, behind Singapore and New Zealand, on ease of doing business. The U.S. was No. 3, behind Canada and Australia, in terms of starting a new business,  [Robert Matthews, Wall Street Journal, Jan 16]

Mitch Kapor is caught in a time warp. His self-funded project to create the ultimate organizer of personal information -- yours, mine and everyone else's -- has slipped further and further behind schedule since the first lines of code were written in 2002. [Paul Boutin reviewing Scott Rosenberg's bio of Mitch Kapor, WSJ, Jan 13]

Two electric car dealerships have opened in Austin in the past five months, Shock Value and Electric Cars, selling low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles. Cars such as the Xebra, the standard three-wheeler at Shock Value, can drive as fast as 40 mph with a range of up to 40 miles  and only a penny a mile to operate [Asher Price, Austin American-Statesman, Jan 12]

$10B a Year. The late Richard Smalley, nanomaterials researcher and 1996 Nobel Prize winner for his work on fullerenes ("buckeyballs"), argued for a $10 billion a year research effort on a wide range of energy technologies and believed such an effort would lead to big breakthroughs in cost and cleanliness of energy technologies. This effort is worth doing even if the global warming skeptics are correct. Lower energy costs, reduced flow of money to the Middle East, and a cleaner environment each by themselves will pay back the money spent. [Future Pundit, Jan 7] Never a shortage of ideas for spending a lot of someone else's money to solve a problem. One no-cost long term stable solution is for everyone to cut personal energy use. Brighten your Corner! Oh no, not in the world's richest ever country. We want government programs that spend money to seek phantom solutions while we decry our tax burden.  Looking for the problem? Get a mirror.

Thin and Fast. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have made ultrathin silicon transistors that operate more than 50 times faster than previous flexible-silicon devices.  [Kate Greene, MIT Tech Review, Jan 11]

"We're not at the mercy of our funders for what we believe. But we are dependent on them for funding to help promote our programs," was not said by an SBIR company looking for its fifteenth Phase 2. It was said by a think-tank that relies on Exxon to fund the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank that last year ran television ads saying that carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is helpful.  [Jeffrey Ball, Wall Street Journal, Jan 11]

The semiconductor and related equipment industries will both see slower growth this year following a robust 2006, as makers of electronics products use up excess inventories, and slower sales are forecast for key products such as cell phones. [San Jose Mercury News, Jan 9]

"PBS has posted three different pilots for a new science show, and they want viewers to weigh in and help choose one as the regular science feature. [slashdot.org, Jan 9]

Beware Economists relying on the stock market as proof of the economy. [Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture blog] Equally, beware administrations relying on the economy as proof of tax (or any other) policy. The stock market and the economy respond to an uncountable number of factors.

About 80 percent of us believe that our driving skills are better than average. [D Kahneman and J Rehnsen, Why Hawks Win (more arguments than they deserve), Foreign Policy, J/F07]

How Bad Is Mold? conflicts of interest can color debate on emerging health issues and influence litigation related to it. David Armstrong [Wall Street Journal, Jan 9] covers the issue of expert testimony in an area of unsettled medical science when faced with adversarial proceedings.

Booz Allen Hamilton has done two annual surveys of corporate research. The first discovered that there was no correlation between the amount of R&D spending at a company and its financial performance. The second study, just completed, discovered a number of "high leverage innovators" who spend less on R&D than their peers, but seem to get more product bang for their R&D buck.  [Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal, Jan 9] Said his interviewee, If your objective is more patents, more R&D spending will produce more patents. But there is no relationship between how many patents you generate and how well you perform financially. If SBIR's objective is downstream value, then counting patents and reports fails as a measure of productivity. For a decent evaluation, downstream value has to be measured as a percent of money invested (spent). If SBIR is just a jobs program for a favored constituency, then any measures will do.

Great tech answer. compact fluorescent light bulbs, hoping to make them a new lighting standard at home because they use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer and would save me $30 over the life of each bulb, I thought to myself, what’s not to like? ... Well, fluorescent light [William Hamilton, New York Times, Jan 7] is too cool and too associated with workplaces for home users and they have a big up-front cost of ten times a short- lived incandescent lamp.

Intel exited the race to the bottom in semiconductors and focused upon its profitable microprocessor business. That change of course is one of the many instances Tedlow underscores in his biography of Grove that illustrate his extraordinary abilities as a manager and leader. [Cecil Johnson reviewing Richard Tedlow's Andy Grove, Boston Globe, Jan 7]

Five Disruptive Technologies To Watch In 2007:  RFID, Web services, server visualization for free, advanced graphics processing, mobile security. [TechWeb Today, Jan 3]

Out the Immigrants?  About 25 percent of the technology and engineering companies launched in the past decade had at least one foreign-born founder, ... immigrants -- mostly from India and China -- helped start hundreds of companies with estimated sales of nearly $50 billion ... But .. Another study will be released next month by the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports low levels of immigration. That report says most specialty visa holders come to the United States to do low-level professional jobs for relatively low pay. [Krissa Williams, Washington Post, Jan 4] Which shows that immigrants create competition which disturbs established interests and delights seekers of progress.

New tech, old insurance.  While new genetic technology can tailor treatments to individual genetic traits, insurers cannot yet swallow the pill of changing its methods. The tech is good enough to predict whether an individual needs 0.1 or 5.0 times the "normal" dose, but at the initial expense of figuring out the right dose. Just another complication in figuring whether your great new technology has an economic future beyond government life support. [Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News, Jan 2]

Drug Blackjack. the "profound and persistent uncertainty," as Mr. Pisano calls it, "rooted in our current limited knowledge of human biological systems." But it becomes a staggeringly expensive gamble -- like playing blackjack at a table with a billion-dollar minimum [Andy Kessler, Wall Street Journal, Jan 3, 07]

helping small high-tech companies get from idea to market