Friday, March 27, 2009

Stimulus for Science & Technology

Now that Obama's $787B stimulus plan (ARRA -America Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009) has moved into action, let us take a look at the one time bonanza Science & Technology is getting. Depending on how you classify the various line items the amount allocated for Science & Technology can vary from $55 Billion to $65 Billion to be spent in the next two years.

The major items for scientific research are:

1. $10.4B to National Institute of Health (NIH)
2. $1.12B to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
3. $3B to National Science Foundation
4. $2B to the United States Department of Energy
5. $1.3B to University Research Facilities
6. $1B to NASA
7. $830M to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
8. $580M to National Institute of Standards and Technology
9. $140M to United States Geological Survey

Check the web sites for the above agencies to find out the details for usage of the funds.

The major items for Technology are: (I am not sure how one can track these - but check out which is supposed to provide the information related to AARA fund usage)

1. $19B for Health Information Technology (of which $17.2B will be incentives provided through Medicare & Medicaid)
2. $11B for an electric 'smart grid'
3. $7.5B for complete broadband and wireless access
4. $2.5B for energy efficiency research
5. $2 B for advanced car battery systems
6. $400M for electric vehicle technologies

Not only do these provide great opportunities for research, but also will result in signifiant benefit to the economy in the next few years.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indian Silk from Indus Valley?

Contrary to the belief that silk originated from ancient China only, researchers have found more compelling evidence for independent development of silk in the Indus Valley Civilization at Harappa (now in Pakistan).

A recent paper published in the Archaeometry Journal by I.L.Good, J.M.Kenoyer and R.H.Meadow, highlights new evidence based on microscopic analysis of archaeological thread fragments found inside copper alloy ornaments at Harappan sites that yielded silk fibres dating to 2400-2000 B.C. This important discovery challenges the notion of sericulture being an exclusive chinese invention.

The silk seems to have come from silk moths native to south east Asia (species of Antharaea), while chinese silk comes from the domesticated silk moth (Bombyx Mori)

For more details visit

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kindle 2 - Continuing Innovation

Amazon recently released the second version of their ebook reader - Kindle 2. Here are my thoughts on the device:

Kindle definitely got better with the new version.

Major improvements:
1. The vertical menu bar went away. A joy stick replaced it - can access all parts of the screen
2. Thinner, looks very pleasing
3. The 'Next' and 'Prev' page buttons got smaller and better - no more accidental page flipping

Remaining drawbacks:
1. Keyboard has not improved; the small keys are very frustrating
2. Screen could have been bigger - lot of real estate wasted
3. Closed system still - please open up an SDK for third party applications

Why not another version of Kindle 2 - say Kindle 2' with touch screen, wifi and multi-language support? It will be more expensive, but I am sure many users will love it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Michael Panzner hits back!

I guess when you dish it out, you have to take it back too.

I had posted the same review (my post of yesterday) in and the author Michael Panzer responded:

"Michael Panzner says:
It appears that the "reviewer" is the CEO of California Software Co, an India-based company whose share price has collapsed 84% since January 2008. Based on past history, a near total wipeout like that usually signals serious incompetence or malfeasance in the executive ranks. Or that those in charge have totally lost touch with reality. I wonder if that had anything to do with this "review" (I use the term loosely, since it's not clear the "reviewer" actually read the book)? "

I felt that since Mr.Panzner may not be aware of my blog, I should post his reply here also.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Roadmap to Nowhere

I normally hate to write bad reviews on books I read, but 'When Gaints Fall' by Michael Panzner raised my ire to a high degree.

The book predicts the fall of America (I guess not a difficult prediction now) and then paints a picture of doom and gloom in the United States and the rest of the world. About ten to fifteen points (Fall of the U.S, De-globalization, Increasing violence & wars, Fall of the Dollar, Changing Demographics, Energy crisis, Water shortage, Shortages of other natural resources and a few more) are repeated through out the book - the continuous repetitions making it a very difficult process to read the book. Extensive quotations are used - so much in fact that about 65 pages of the 260 page book are used up for bibliography!

Maybe the future predicted by Mr.Panzner is a possible outcome and he is entitled to his opinion. But the book claims to provide a economic roadmap for the future and also promises to show 'how the chaotic years of the future would present a singular opportunity for the reader to realize goals....' (quoted from the cover flap of the book). Here the author grossly misleads the reader. The book hardly provides any suggestions for the future except to 'focus, analyze, prepare well, network..' and to keep in mind that nothing will work out as planned!

The book is divided into two parts - Part 1 of 122 pages explaining the descent into chaos and Part II of about 60 pages supposedly to tell the reader how to prepare for the future. However Part II continues to repeat most of the points made in Part 1 with hardly a worthwhile suggestion. After some laborious effort, the author comes close to making a couple of positive suggestions (Invest in Canada, Invest in commodities & precious metals) but then immediately highlights why those steps are also fraught with danger!

The author completely misses out on Science & Technology and how today's challenges can be tomorrow's opportunities. A book written in haste - I guess to take advantage of the current pessimistic world outlook.