Be on the wave or under it
The News – 09/12/02
Getting a Rise Out of Nanotechnology
The second part of the Why
You Need to Get Hip to HIPAA series will appear in a future
Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm sent along an article about a private
group that’s planning on building an elevator reaching from
Earth to orbit using nanotubes, a substance made from carbon
rings that is100 times stronger than steel. Nanotubes were discovered
in 1991 by Japanese researcher Sumio Iijima.
This item is startling
enough. Such a space elevator has been the stuff of science
fiction ever since 1895, when Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
suggested a fanciful “Celestial Castle” tethered to a tower
on earth. Arthur C. Clarke developed the idea significantly
in his book, The Fountains of Paradise, way back in 1979.
What’s even more startling, however, is the fact that the plans
were announced at the First International Space Elevator Conference,
held August 12-13. Whoa! A whole conference!
As recently as 2000, when David Smitherman of NASA/Marshall's
Advanced Projects Office compiled space elevator plans in Space Elevators:
An Advanced Earth-Space Infrastructure for the New Millennium,
scientists figured such a development was decades off in the
future. Smitherman himself said the technology is not feasible
today but could be toward the end of the century. “First we'll
develop the technology,” said Smitherman. “In 50 years or so,
we'll be there. Then, if the need is there, we'll be able to
do this. That's the gist of the report.” In fact Clarke, when
asked when the elevator might be feasible, said, “Probably about
50 years after everybody quits laughing.”
Now I’ve yammered on before
about Ray Kurzweil’s concept of the exponentially accelerating
pace of change. Kurzweil asserts that we’re doubling the rate
of progress every decade, which will result in a century’s worth
of technological change in only 25 calendar years. He says that
we tend to think of the rate of change as constant, and adjust
to this acceleration automatically, hence an estimate, just
two years ago, that a space elevator will take 50 years to develop.
When people make predictions about how long it will take to
accomplish some innovation, they unconsciously base their estimates
on a constant rate of change. Although the company planning
the space elevator, HighLift
Systems, isn’t saying how long it will take, it’s not likely
to be 50 years.
Brad Edwards, co-founder of HighLift Systems says, “What we're
doing here is using the Earth's rotation. Because of that rotational
acceleration, a space elevator cable is pulled outward. It has
an upward tension, with gravity pulling down on the bottom.
The cable is balanced and it hangs there…stable and vertical
If you’ve ever swung a ball on a string in a circle, you know
the principal. A space elevator would be a long cable extending
into space with its center of mass at geostationary Earth orbit
(GEO), 35,786 km in altitude. Vehicles could travel along the
cable like a high tech railroad. In a 1998 report, NASA
applications of molecular nanotechnology, researchers
said that since the maximum stress on the cable occurs at geosynchronous
altitude, the cable must be thickest there. The real challenge
is tapering the cable exponentially as it approaches Earth.
This engineering requirement has stumped researchers in the
past to the point that they have dubbed the material meeting
Any potential material for the cable must have an acceptable
taper factor – the ratio between the cable's radius at geosynchronous
altitude and at the Earth's surface. This factor depends in
large part on the material’s inherent strength. For example,
the taper factor for steel is tens of thousands and for diamond,
is 21.9 including a safety factor. Diamond’s taper factor seems
doable, but the material is brittle and thus not that suitable
due to the potential for cracks. Carbon nanotubes have a tension
strength similar to diamond, but should resist cracking.
Space scientists have figured the strength of the cable material
needs to be 62 GPa (Giga-Pascals, a unit of measurement for
tensile strength). Carbon nanotubes alone among all other materials
appear to have a theoretical strength far above this desired
Once built, the space elevator would transport materials and
people into space for dollars per pound. The journey into orbit
is estimated to take 7.5 days. Construction of the elevator
could cost between $7 and $10 billion.
Of course, the project faces many challenges beyond the search
for the proper materials and construction techniques: lightning,
wind, the degrading effects of atomic oxygen on the cable, radiation,
wearing down of the ribbon by sulfuric acid droplets drifting
in the upper atmosphere, meteoroid hits, space junk, collisions
with satellites, terrorist attack, and possible public health
risks of ingesting tiny carbon nanotubes into the lungs.
If nanotubes are the right stuff, though, our grandkids will
wonder why we never rode the 'tube to the sky. Now if we only
could get those flying cars we’ve been promised for 50 years
. . .
- Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I’ve
put up the Nanotechnology
Resources directory I promised last November.
Also, check out the article I wrote for
the Taylor Harkins newsletter entitled, Do you hate your customers?
It continues the theme from my earlier article, analyzing
the media industry’s response to file sharing.
Finally, and at long last, the CTOMentor wireless white
paper, You Can Take It with You: Business Applications
of Personal Wireless Devices
, is available at ITPapers
Sports As Broadband Killer App?
Alert SNS Reader Todd Mortenson sent along an article that
proposes sports as the killer app for broadband adoption.
Analyst Mark Kersey says since 2001, MLB.com has been offering
fee-based baseball content and now boasts 150,000 paying subscribers
to its live audio game broadcasts and an additional several
thousand to 20-minute condensed game video streams launched
early this year.
The next step happened August 26, with the first live broadcast
of a full baseball game (Yankees vs. Rangers) over the Internet.
The game was free and 30,000 fans logged in to watch it. Of
course, MLB will charge when the service rolls out for real
next season. Kersey dubs this SOD (Sports On Demand) and declares
it broadband’s killer app.
While I believe sports will represent a significant app for
broadband, not everyone’s a rabid sports fan (although I’d
pay to watch the Duke Blue Devils play basketball if they
weren’t on national TV pretty much every game.) Remember my
of a killer
app: If your mom wouldn’t use it, it ain’t killer enough.
Spotlight on Broadband
Wayback Machine – A Year Ago in SNS
Enlightening and Frightening for Nearly a Fifth of a Decade!
lead article in the September 10, 2001 SNS
was The Right to Privacy?, which examined whether Americans
really have a right to privacy. Given all that’s happened
post-9/11, the question is more relevant than ever. The article
pointed out that the word privacy doesn’t appear in the Constitution,
a fact that has obviously not escaped Attorney General Ashcroft.
He would do well to read the 1998 White House memorandum on
Privacy and Personal Information in Federal Records, which
states: “Privacy is a cherished American value, closely linked
to our concepts of personal freedom and well-being. At the
same time, fundamental principles such as those underlying
the First Amendment, perhaps the most important hallmark of
American democracy, protect the free flow of information in
article ended with Sun CEO Scott McNealy’s quote: “You have
no privacy. Get over it.” Is this our fate?
in that issue, Web Site Liability took a look at the
liability you might face if your site is hacked. While such
an event is a concern for your business due to lost productivity
and costs of restoration, Margaret Jane Radin, director of
Stanford's Program on Law, Science and Technology said, “there
is a 'significant risk' that in the near future targeted Web
sites will be held liable to their customers for harm arising
from distributed denial-of-service attacks.”
the time, I should have pointed you to an excellent article
written in 2000 by M. E. Kabay called Distributed Denial-of-Service
Attacks, Contributory Negligence and Downstream Liability.
Kabay, who is not a lawyer, sums up his point thusly: “Simply
put, whom would you rather sue: some impecunious wretch sitting
in a basement cackling over his latest DDoS attack or a real
business with assets?” You can learn more about DDoS attacks
‘Em While They’re Young was about a plan by Microsoft
and the State of Arizona to offer MS Office applications to
850,000 students in all 1,200 Arizona schools using an Application
Service Provider (ASP) model. Cable provider Cox Business
Services, hoping that education is broadband’s killer app,
planned to push high-speed cable modem service to the home
to provide students with the required bandwidth. (In an irrelevant,
but funny note, the Interim Executive Director of the Arizona
School Facilities Board is named Ed Boot.)
is offering a long list
of software titles via ASP, many of which use Excel or other
Office programs to demonstrate techniques. Kids may have better
luck using these apps at home than at school, however. There’s
some sort of dispute with Qwest that has stalled network installations
at many schools. Also it turns out that Cox is the ASP provider
in addition to being a provider of home connectivity. You
can get a tour of what they offer here.
It’s pretty impressive.
A Sneaky Way to Increase Wireless Revenue, I bemoaned
a mistake by an Australian wireless provider: sending ads
for their services to the cell phones of their users, and
charging them for the delivery. For more on this topic, stay
tuned for an article in an upcoming TaylorHarkins
newsletter on Short Messaging Service (SMS) advertising.
Signs You Live in the
Year 2001 could easily be retitled Signs You Live
in the Year 2002.
article, New Times, New Art, concerned the Surveillance
Camera Players and speculated as to whether they were still
a going concern. Apparently the New York branch is. In a post-9/11
essay, they decried the proliferation of surveillance cameras
and citizens’ blind acceptance of their worth. They point
out about the innumerable cameras in the WTC area that:
of these surveillance cameras did what they were supposed
to do: anticipate or prevent another attack; provide security;
keep thousands of people safe from harm. Like the NSA's orbiting
satellites, surveillance cameras are a colossal waste of money.
[. . .] 11 September 2001 wasn't the first time that surveillance
cameras failed to do anything but violate basic human rights.
In countries such as England, where the authorities keep accurate
and complete records of the number of arrests and convictions
that can reliably be ascribed to the use of surveillance cameras,
the results are clear. Either the criminals simply move out
of the sight of the cameras or the police arrive on the scene
too late to make an arrest.
tends to support this contention.
Loudcloud Makin’ Some Noise, I repeated my opinion
that telecom companies will make lousy ASPs and won’t succeed.
The article was about ASP Loudcloud and Baby Bell Qwest inking
a five-year co-marketing deal. Despite my misgivings, I called
it a smooth move for Qwest.
a lot can happen in a year. Loudcloud (a stupid name) is now
OpsWare (a bit better) and their focus has changed to Internet
operations automation. The company, which had seen its debut
stock price of $6 fall to $2 a year ago, now trades at 76
cents. (BTW, finance.yahoo.com
now has this very irritating ad that flies a little arrow
around your screen for about 20 seconds, during which you
can’t do anything. Great idea! Prevent me from working while
you advertise to me! I’ve no idea what was even being advertised.)
Loudcloud sold its hosting biz to EDS and, along with it,
I suppose, went the Qwest relationship. A year ago Qwest had
a 1 percent share of the hosting business (EDS had 12 percent),
in part due to hosting Loudcloud’s clients. Wonder what the
EDS sale does to those numbers?
article, VoiceXML 2 held up for intellectual property issues,
chided the Voice XML Forum participants for not figuring out
how to cross-license technology to one another. The problems
were apparently hammered out by October 23, 2001, and Voice
XML 2.0 is available for download at the Voice XML Forum Web site.
Report from Burning Man chronicled Alert SNS Reader
Andy Stevko’s trip to the Burning Man festival in the middle
of a stinking desert. Unfortunately, the photos are no longer
Return to Mike’s
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Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003