The Harrow Technology Report

  http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com

Insight, analysis, and commentary on the 
innovations and trends of contemporary computing, 
and on its growing number of related technologies.

An ongoing journey towards understanding, 
and profiting from, a world of exponential 
technological growth!

Copyright © 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow.  All rights reserved.
Email: Jeff@TheHarrowGroup.com

 

Dust In The Wind.
April 15, 2002

 

  • LISTEN To This Issue.
        Give your eyes a rest, and listen to the soothing (or not)
         sounds of technology moving forward.
  • Quote of the Week.
         DNA computers are now working FAR
         more complex problems.

  • Dust In The Wind.
         The huge tiny rate of change; and our dusty future.

  • Storage Update.
          Would you like 100 gigabytes on a CD-like disk?

  • Tidbits...
         What's on the "leading edge;" and CDs that may
         really keep you healthy...

  • From Out of the Ether...
         The "egg" and I

  • Spaghetti?.
         Not your average Italian meal, even if it looks like it!

  • About "The Harrow Technology Report"


  • LISTEN To This Issue.

    Do you prefer to let your ears do the work of keeping you in-touch with, and thinking about where technology is taking us?  If so, "The Harrow Technology Report" is also available in an audio-on-demand, Web-based, MP3 version. 

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    So, if you wish, just click on the following link to listen to this issue!  http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020415/20020415.mp3 .

      

    Back to Table of Contents


    Quote of the Week.

     

    "Researchers are using DNA to develop truly miniscule computers that could someday surpass today's most powerful supercomputers.

    As fantastic as that sounds, scientists have already used computers made of DNA molecules to solve simple problems. Now comes word that University of Southern California professor Leonard Adleman, who first conceived of DNA computers eight years ago, has used DNA to solve a problem with 1 million possible answers!

    Whereas today's most complex computers use figures and formulas, a DNA computer's input, output, and software is made up of molecules that store and process encoded information in living organisms. And, unlike conventional computers, says Ravinderjit Braich, a postdoctoral student at the USC Laboratory for Molecular Science, a DNA computer can try millions of solutions simultaneously. Conventional computers dodder along one answer at a time.

    Then there's the DNA computer's footprint, if you will. Adleman says, "DNA has such a high information density that you can record the entire Library of Congress and encode it into DNA that weighs less than 1 gram." - Larry Greenemeier"

    InformationWeek Daily
    April 1, 2002
    Additional info at
    http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20020329S0007

    Better buckle your seatbelt!

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    Dust In The Wind.

     

    Investigating Nano.

    Supporting our growing number of discussions on "things nano" (such as at http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20020401/20020401.htm#_Toc5165660), reader Kimberly Allen who earned her PhD on "Buckyballs," the precursors to carbon nanotubes, points us to what she considers "the authoritative site on nanotube science."  It's the work of Professor David Tomanek at Michigan State, and the site carries a vast number of links to the world of the very tiny - http://www.pa.msu.edu/cmp/csc/nanotube.html .

    I believe that keeping up on ever-faster changing and evolving technologies such as nanotechnology is vitally important to our individual successes, and to the successes of our businesses.  Here, reader Roger Williams offers his perspective on the criticality of "looking ahead at change."

    "Change will always happen. The rate of change, the second derivative, makes it more difficult to judge just how that change might affect my own decisions. The time between needed decisions, if you will, has changed markedly, and in order to make rational decisions about change, I want a view that reaches farther into the future.

    The Harrow Report ... helps me get that longer-range view. It is not to say that your reports necessarily have to be true to the last syllable, it is the drift that is important. Informed prognostication is valuable; it raises the chances that you are a) right and b) have a reasonable and useful comment.  And that in itself becomes useful.

    Thanks very much for the work you do."

     

    Dust In The Wind.

    To Kimberly's point, "Dust in the Wind" is a phrase with some romantic cachet, ranging from the hauntingly beautiful song by that name from Kansas (http://hurl.content.loudeye.com/scripts/hurlPNM.exe?
    clipid=007503901020006550&cid=600100
      and http://members.tripod.com/kansasfreak/dustwind.mid), to NASA's Stardust probe that is collecting samples of the dust wafting in the interstellar wind that originates in the hearts of stars (http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/
    y2000/ast24apr_1.htm
    ). 

    But if work being conducted at the University of California Berkeley and in other labs comes to fruition, the "dust in OUR wind" won't be stardust -- it will be made up of cubic-millimeter sized computer dust motes containing power supplies, processors, sensors, and laser and radio-based networking capabilities!  These dust motes will create vast interconnected "computers" that sip energy at the infinitesimally small rate of picoJoules per bit.  (Yes, these days even the term "nano" isn't small enough -- "pico" (10E-12) is three orders of magnitude smaller than "nano!" (10E-9))

    Brought to our attention by reader Victor Panlilio, the April 5 EETimes (http://www.eet.com/story/OEG20020405S0015) describes how such "smart dust" could be scattered over a battlefield by a high-flying unmanned aircraft, or mixed into house paint, or even "...swallowed with  your breakfast cereal for health  monitoring."

    Image - Conceptual block diagram of Smart Dust and some of its potential uses.  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object.cgi?object=/chronicle/pictures/2000/11/20/mn_smartdust.jpg&paper=chronicle&file=MN62513.DTL&directory=/chronicle/archive/2000/11/20&type=science

    (click on the picture for a larger version)
    Conceptual block diagram of, and uses for, Smart Dust.
    From http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/11/20/MN62513.DTL&type=science

    This work is still in the "macro" test bed stage, but it holds fascinating potential for "changing the rules."  (Additional insights are available in the April 9 ZDNet.com article "Computing With A Pinch of Sand" at http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1103-879388.html.)

    Overall, according to Yury Gogotsi at Drexel University (http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/business/technology/2975921.htm),

    "Nanotechnology allows you to do things that are impossible in the macroscopic world.  Among the expected breakthroughs are order-of-magnitude increases in computer speed, enormous advances in health science, and the ability to create 'designer' materials [by] assembling atoms and molecules."

    And, of course, by assembling Smart Dust. 

    Consider this opportunity -- if Smart Dust DOES become prevalent, there might be an emerging market for personal vacuum systems, and for exceptionally good air filtration systems for our homes and offices, just to keep the dust, and its intrusive oversight, at bay!

    Hummm.  Perhaps if all this does come to pass, we might find the smart dust getting in our eyes!  Then, er, I guess I'd have to change my message to -- "DO Blink!"...

     

    Back to Table of Contents


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    I'd like to understand your interest in The Harrow Technology Report, how you make use of it, and the value you feel it provides to you, your career, and to your company.

    Please send your comments to me at  Jeff@TheHarrowGroup.com  .

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    And, if you know of other folks who might find value in "The Harrow Technology Report," I'd appreciate your letting them know that they can subscribe at http://www.theharrowgroup.com/signup.asp .

    Jeff Harrow

    Back to Table of Contents


    Storage Update.

     

    Today's common read-only DVDs hold a respectable 17 gigabytes of data, while read/write DVDs typically have a capacity of about 4.7 gigabytes -- even that lower figure would seem to be plenty of storage.  But as we increasingly want to store large databases, video files and more, a "mere" 4.7 gigabytes begins to feel surprisingly like its smaller 640 megabyte CD cousin -- not nearly big enough.  So what's a budding digital packrat to do?

    Brought to our attention by reader Tom Arav, we might be looking at storing data in far more dense "holograms," rather sooner than expected.  "InPhase Technologies," a Lucent spin-off, has now demonstrated its "Tapestry" write-once holographic video recorder, which can initially store 100 gigabytes, a tenth of a terabyte, on each removable disk!

    Now that sounds huge, but as is so often the case, our appetites for storage seem to grow exponentially.  While 100 gigabytes can store "20 compressed feature films [in standard video format] on one disk" (http://www.inphase-technologies.com/news/demotapestry.html), if we move to High Definition video that "huge" 100 gigabytes will store only 30 minutes of uncompressed HDTV video!  Again, we need more storage.  Happily, InPhase expects its technology to scale to "terabytes of storage on a single disk."

    How is this storage magic performed?  Like many a good magic trick, it's, um, done with mirrors (or more correctly, prisms).  Instead of simply recording patterns of ones and zeros on a disk as both CDs and DVDs do, Tapestry records a complex hologram of an entire "page" of data in each spot, thereby dramatically increasing the amount of data stored.  And then by varying the angle or wavelength of the hologram's "reference beam," MANY of those data pages can be recorded (multiplexed) in the SAME spot!  (Like I said, it's seemingly like magic, as are so many of today's technologies...) 

    This system has another very interesting feature:  because it's not reading a data stream of ones and zeros directly off of the disk, but instead it's reading "pages" containing MANY bits with each "read," each of those bits on a page is instantly available "in parallel."  Which raises the effective data transfer rate to "10s to 100's of megabytes/second." 

    There's a lot more to understanding this implementation of holographic data storage, such as the specialized media that had to be created, and insights are available at http://www.inphase-technologies.com/ .  Just click on the phrase "Learn more on our technology tour" at the bottom of the block labeled "Holographic Technology."

    By the way, don't expect storage to stop even at the terabytes size that InPhase plans to provide.  I remember when the 650 megabyte CD-ROM first came out, and many people said that "this would be enough storage forever."  Some technical publications began storing all their back issues, and related software, on one disk, simply adding the newest issue onto each cumulative monthly CD.  But I recall that in less than two years, the addition of newer, larger, more graphics-intensive content had them filling each month's CD with completely new content.  Which is how I expect the evolution of our storage needs to continue.

    Don't Blink!





    Back to Table of Contents


    Tidbits...

     

    ·        The Leading Edges -- One way to track the leading edge of today's and tomorrow's technology trends is to note the survey questions being directed at the developers who are honing those edges.  Reader C.W. Holeman II lists a few of the choices recently posed to hardware and software developers by IntelliQuest, as they attempt to find out which of these "leading edges" are being pursued:

    -        Nanotechnology (software for micro chips and devices) 

    -        Biotechnology (software for data management of life sciences) 

    -        Human-Computer Interaction (applications for interactive computing systems) 

    -        Energy Sources (power supply for technologies) 

    -        Sensors (environmental sensors that interact with software for monitoring activity)

    -        Voice technology (Voice over IP, VoiceXML)

    -        Autonomic computers (having computers heal themselves)

    -        Grid computing (high end clustering)

    -        Embedded systems (systems that are integrated)

    -        Locational technologies (integrating with GPS)

    Gee -- sounds like many of the foci that we explore right here in The Harrow Technology Report!

    Hopefully, we'll learn the results when the survey is completed.


    ·        Repurposing -- We're pretty familiar with clear spinning disks -- CDs and DVDs.  They provide a wonderful medium for consistently perfect reproductions of music, movies, and the like.  But if a new idea from BTI, brought to out attention by reader Don Lyle, makes it into the marketplace, then a variant of these plastic disks might soon be saving our lives!

    According to an article in Tape-Disk Business (http://www.tapediscbusiness.com/0601/0601tdb5.htm), Burstein Technologies Inc. (BTI) has demonstrated that by etching and boring tiny microfluidic channels in the disk and embedding various chemicals along some of those paths, a disk and a modified disk player can perform instant diagnostic blood tests! 

    A drop of blood is placed near the center of the disk  When the "player" spins the disk, centrifugal force first separates the whole blood from the plasma, and then forces the blood and plasma through various on-disk chemical reactions and tests.  The (specialized) CD-player's laser then reads the results of the various tests.

    BTI figures that they can incorporate 80% of existing clinical blood tests into their CD laboratories, replacing $150,000+ laboratory analysis systems with a $1,000 "Labtop" machines that could easily be used in doctors' offices, or in tents, to provide inexpensive and immediate test results.

    Talk about "thinking out of the box!"  What a fascinating "repurposing" of mostly existing technologies, pushed in new directions by some very innovative thinkers.  It's also a VERY good example of how previous disparate fields -- computers, entertainment, and medical technology in this case -- are Converging!  And there's room for a LOT more.

    Now if only they can get rid of the "stick" for that drop of blood...


    Back to Table of Contents


    From Out of the Ether...

     

    Tag, Your Egg Is "It!" -- It's "it," that is, if reader Jeff Daly's notion of embedded ID tags and the life cycle of certain food products come to pass:

    "I recall you covered the issue of "chipping" people and pets with imbedded identification chips (http://www.compaq.com/rcfoc/20000110.html#_Toc471710920), and I'd like to revisit that issue.

    An extreme example of one use of combining several technologies you have covered is in quality control of food production.  Imagine, if you will, a chicken with an imbedded ID chip.  As it lays an egg, a sensor in the nest or cage identifies the chicken and relays the information to a database, while a specialized ink jet printer sprays an invisible (to the naked eye) barcode-type marking onto the egg. 

    With specialized readers the egg can be tracked throughout the marketing process!   If, through marketing studies, that egg gets high marks for taste, size, shape & color, then the parentage that produced the egg can be identified.  That way, more flocks with those traits can be bred, improving the quality of the product. 

    Conversely, if the egg is objectionable in any way, those parent flocks can be phased out of production.  In the end, overall quality can be improved. Imagine applying similar techniques to other forms of livestock, like pigs and cattle.  

    Hmmmm  Although labor intensive variations of this are already being done, it is just a matter of time before the industry starts using the more innovative tools of technology.

    I continue to devour every issue and share/remind others of the useful tidbits of info found in it."

    Thanks Jeff.  And interestingly, the idea of tagging things is now moving into the automotive world.  According to a March 21 AP story from thewmurchannel.com (the link to that story is no longer active), Ford is planning to get its tire suppliers, General and Continental Tire, to vulcanize wireless (RFID) tags right into the tire's rubber!  These permanent information caches will detail where the tire was made, and the Vehicle Identification Number of the car they're put on.  Later, when the car is sold, the owner's name will be added to the data stored within the tire itself.

    These, I feel sure, are just two of the MANY new uses that we'll find for the extraordinary technological bits and pieces that we keep developing.  And remember -- it’s the "unintended consequences" of a development, or the serendipity between several of them, that often turns an industry on its ear! 

    So again, "Don't Blink!"

    But -- I just hope that they don't tag ME, considering that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has just ruled that an implantable grain-of-rice-sized ID chip called the VeriChip from Applied Digital Solutions,

    Image - Applied Digital Solutions' VeriChip - http://www.adsx.com/prodservpart/graphics/verichip.jpg

    is not a "regulated device," and so it can hit the market immediately (http://wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,51575,00.html)

    Shades of The Matrix…


    Back to Table of Contents


    Spaghetti?

     

    Image - carbon nanotubes synthesized from VODKA!

    Finally, this sure looks like a tangle of that favorite pasta, but this photomicrograph, brought to our attention by reader Michael Engle, depicts carbon nanotubes produced by Prof. Yoichi Hirose at Japan's Tokai University. (Originally at http://www3.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/20020404wo71.htm , but the link had gone dead at press time.)

    This wouldn't be of particular note, except that according to The Daily Yomiuri, these nanotubes were made by a new process that combines a heating element, a nickel target, and a little of this and that in a glass bottle to produce carbon nanotubes far more inexpensively than current techniques.

    Oh -- and what was put into the glass bottle with those other elements?  Ninety-six proof vodka, and fifty-four proof whisky! 

    I wonder what a good single-malt might produce...

     


    About "The Harrow Technology Report"

      

    "The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in the Knowledge Age. 

    "The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group. http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com .

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    Copyright (c) 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow. All rights reserved.

    Jeffrey R. Harrow maintains that all reasonable care and skill has been used in the compilation of this publication.  However, he shall not be under any liability for loss or damage (including consequential loss) whatsoever or howsoever arising as a result of the use of this publication by the reader, his/her/its servants, agents or any third party.

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