Welcome to the ITBHU Chronicle, January 2011 Edition Chronicle Extra Section.
Photo Gallery
Viral Victory: Homeless Man With The Golden Voice Gets a Dream Job
@ Jan 12, 2011
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By: Megan Gibson (21 hours ago, January 05, 2011)

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A viral video of Ted Williams led to an abundance of job offers. Image via YouTube.

Chalk it up as another win for the power of the Internet. 

A YouTube video of Ted Williams, a homeless man in Columbus, Ohio, revealed that he had the "golden voice," perfect for radio or television announcements, a gift he often tried to maximize while panhandling.

(More on TIME.com: The Feds' Homeless Prevention Program)

Watch Video on YouTube (over 12 million hits):

Homeless man w/golden radio voice in Columbus, OH (Update-FINAL)


Williams was once trained in radio, but a bout with hard luck and drugs and alcohol left him jobless and homeless. The video, which shows the Brooklyn-native panhandling by the side of the road, went viral after the newspaper Columbus Dispatch posted it on their site on Monday.

Williams, who says he's been clean for two years now, was then invited to be a guest on radio and television shows (including CBS's Early Show) and the offers started flooding in. A listener called in to a radio show on WNCI and offered Williams a full-time job doing voiceover work for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their parent company, as well as a free home in Cleveland. An offer which clearly thrilled a stunned Williams.

"The Cleveland Cavaliers just offered me a full-time job and a house! A house! A house!," he marveled.

So it just goes to show you what an interesting YouTube video--and a smooth-as-butter voice--can do. (via New York Post)


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Watch 200 years of history in 4 minutes
@ Jan 12, 2011
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Thu Jan 6, 10:40 am ET

By Liz Goodwin

We just stumbled on this BBC video of a very enthusiastic Dr. Hans Rosling explaining the past 200 years of world progress in only four minutes using a fascinating graph. He compares the income potential of different countries/continents with the life expectancy of the people.

You can check it out below:


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Oymyakon in Russia records minus 61.2 degrees Celsius
@ Jan 12, 2011
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PTI, Jan 8, 2011, 02.21pm IST

VLADIVOSTOK: Air temperatures of minus 61.2 degrees Celsius were reported last night in the settlement of Oimyakon in Russia's republic of Yakutia, known as the cold pole.

Daytime temperatures here rose to minus 53.9 degree Celsius. An intense spell of cold weather will stay in Oimyakon with a population of 500 for several days more, according to weather forecasts.


Air temperatures of minus 61.2 degrees Celsius were reported in the settlement of Oimyakon in Russia's republic of Yakutia, known as the cold pole

Heavy frosts were reported in neighbouring settlements as well. Thus, air temperatures in the settlement of Ust-Nera, the Oimyakov district administrative centre, were minus 54.7 degrees Celsius. Ust-Nera's population is 8,500 people. The city of Yakutsk is "lucky" to have much "warmer" air temperatures of 35.7 degrees below zero.

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The record low air temperatures of minus 67.7 degrees Celsius were registered in Oimyakon in 1933. In the 21st century, the lowest temperature was 64.5 degrees below zero. It was registered in 2002.



Through the Northern Pole of Cold

Sibiriak's 2007 edition of the most unique adventure trek through the coldest area in the northern hemisphere.

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Map of Oymyakon, Russia



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Topics- Business & Economy
Vibrant Gujarat scores for Modi: Over Rs1.8L crore committed for investment
@ Jan 13, 2011
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PTI, Jan 12, 2011, 06.08pm IST

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Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi with industrialist Mukesh Ambani at the inaugural ceremony of Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit 2011 in Gandhinagar on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

GANDHINAGAR: In a boost to the Narendra Modi government, top corporate houses, including Anil Ambani-led Reliance and the Adani Group, today committed to investing over Rs 1,80,000 crore in Gujarat in various sectors.

As top business leaders descended at the Mahatma Mandir, in the state capital here for the two day biennial event, Ahmedabad-based Adani Group led the pack announcing an investment of over Rs 80,000 crore in port, power generation and infrastructure in Gujarat.

"While two new ports -- one each at Hazira and Dholera are being developed, we are also expanding the existing ports at Mundra and Dahej. With this we have a goal to create 200 million tonnes per annum of port handling capacity by the year 2015," Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani said.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group also said it will invest Rs 50,000 crore in the state in the next 5-7 years on various projects in power and cement.

"We are committing to invest Rs 50,000 crore in the state of Gujarat in gas-based and coal-based power projects in the next 5-7 years," Ambani said, adding that the investments would include very large investments in the cement sector in areas like Kutch, Porbandar and Junagadh.

Similarly, diversified conglomerate Essar Group said it will invest Rs 30,000 crore in Gujarat for projects in various sectors, including power and refinery.

"Essar has committed to invest in Gujarat Rs 30,000 crore in power, refinery, ports and water infrastructure," Essar Group Chief Executive Prashant Ruia said.

Engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro also committed an investment of Rs 15,000 crore in Gujarat on infrastructure projects.

Farm equipment-to-software group Mahindra & Mahindra also signed six MoUs with the state government to invest Rs 3000 crore to step up presence in the hospitality and real estate sectors in the state.

As a slew of announcements on investments continued, infrastructure major Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) also said it will invest Rs 1,200 crore to set up a renewable energy project in Gujarat in the next two to five years.


Vibrant Gujarat 2011: State may get 1/3rd of India's GDP in two days


12 Jan, 2011, 11.20AM IST, Shramana Ganguly Mehta & Himanshu Darji,ET Bureau

AHMEDABAD: Over the next two days, India will see its industry pledge investments in one state that may add up to $450 billion, or one-third of the country’s GDP. Top names from Corporate India will announce projects they plan to start in Gujarat at the two-day Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit beginning Wednesday.

When the CEOs rise, one after the other, to commit investments at the fifth edition of the summit, a few hundred crores will look like small change and only those in multiples of thousands of crores will generate an applause.

“Seldom have incoming dollars been so shocking,” remarked a B-school faculty when Indian companies committed 12.44 lakh crore in January 2009, the peak of global recession. The economics professor with Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad was not surprised at doubts over the actual number of projects getting off the ground, but said, “Even if 10% of these investments materialise, it is still a big number”.

Since the first summit in 2003, the state has bagged investments worth $370 billion. Critics have been dismissive of these figures and term the agreements or memoranda of understanding a hype created by one man who aspires for the nation’s top post.

100% rise in investments expected

Chief Minister Narendra Modi came up with the idea of an investment summit to divert attention from the 2002 communal carnage that claimed 2,000 lives in Gujarat. The first summit attracted proposals worth Rs 66,068 crore. The figures kept multiplying since then: Rs 1 lakh crore in 2005, Rs 4.6 lakh crore in 2007 and Rs 12.44 lakh crore in 2009. This time, there may be a 100% rise and the host, the chief minister, has once again tried to take the focus away — this time from investments to knowledge-sharing.


“We want to highlight investment opportunities in the country as a whole, not just Gujarat. If you don’t want to invest in Gujarat, you can think of Orissa, or may be Karnataka, but stay in India,” says Modi, who was described as prime minister material by industrialists such as Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal and ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani .

The public statements coming from the industry captains further endeared Modi to businesses who agree with the state’s USPs such as investment climate, proactive government machinery, good roads, uninterrupted power supply and a 1,600-km coastline, the longest in the country.

The Vibrant Gujarat model, now being replicated by states such as Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, thus helped in Modi’s image makeover — from a Hindutva hardliner to a state CEO. This year, the industry chieftains will return — the Ambani brothers, Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd Vice-Chairman & Managing Director Anand Mahindra , Larsen & Toubro Chairman & Managing Director AM Naik, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, ICICI Bank Managing Director & CEO Chanda Kochhar, Britannia Industries Managing Director Vinita Bali, former ICICI Bank MD & CEO KV Kamath, and Bharti Group Chairman Sunil Mittal. Adding glam quotient would be Bollywood actors Preity Zinta, Anupam Kher, Paresh Rawal and Manoj Joshi.

The big-ticket investments during the current summit would be by Reliance Industries , Adani Group and Essar.

It was the same platform from where Ratan Tata famously said, “You are stupid if you are not in Gujarat”, and subsequently, in 2008, relocated the Nano project to Sanand near Ahmedabad from trouble-torn Singur in West Bengal.

The Rs 2,000-crore project has acted more as an image booster for the state among business houses than bringing any real economic gains. If Tata’s gesture was not enough, Modi quickly roped in Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan as the state’s brand ambassador to hardsell Gir lions and Kutch’s salt desert.

Modi’s attempt to breathe life into Gujarat’s non-existent tourism is working and tourists are gradually coming in, but his claims on investments continue to be questioned. Opposition leader Shaktisinh Gohil of the Congress has claimed that a mere 5% of investments proposed in 2009 summit have materialsed so far. Lavasa developer Hindustan Construction Company signed a Rs 40,000-crore MoU for a water city near Dholera in 2009.

“The company is yet to visit the site. Similarly, Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia promised to set up a Rs 30,000-crore Nano City , but has not proceeded anywhere,” he claims. Gohil has even demanded a joint legislative committee to probe into the alleged irregularities behind the gala event and alleges the state’s energy sector in the state has become an epicentre of corruption. “There is no progress on any of the 31 MoUs signed in the 2009 summit that promised to invest Rs 2,11,895 crore,” he says.

The state government routinely defends the allegations on inflated investments saying these are long-term projects and may take between three and six years to come up. To further silence the critics, the state has set up a website with updates on the status of each project. Of the Rs 12 lakh crore committed in 2009, 43.27% investment has already come to the state, while of the Rs 4 lakh crore promised in 2007, 68.7% has been invested, officials tell ET.

Independent observers, who refused to be drawn into the inflated investment charges, say the event has facilitated land-grabbing by corporate houses. An academician specialising in infrastructure says, “The state needs to be transparent in such transactions considering land-grabbing by industrialists is a major area of concern.” He believes that ongoing agitations by locals against large projects such as Nirma (in Bhavnagar) and Adani (in Mundra) could play spoilsport.

But the state government says investment plans coming through Vibrant Gujarat are streamlined. The projects are monitored at every juncture and help is provided to the promoter, a claim that was accepted by a plastic pipe maker who recalls receiving phone calls from the state government every month and says government agencies are prompt in clearing hurdles. “A transparent policy along with good infrastructure has drawn investors to the state,” adds Minister of State for Industry Saurabh Patel.

Karnataka Principal Secretary VP Baligar oversees a similar event in his state and asserts that the southern state was the first to devise such a model in 2000. “When you sign an MoU at such a forum, you make a public commitment. Owing to the format, the state keeps such proposed projects on fasttrack,” he says.

The 2010 summit in Karnataka drew close to Rs 4 lakh crore in investments. A marketing expert too says the summit has evolved into a ‘special channel’ to enable industries enter Gujarat. The projects signed during the event are viewed as having the blessing of the leader of the state, a special privilege that few industrialists would want to miss, he says requesting anonymity.

Indeed there are few who would like to miss the corporate congregation. “All flights to Ahmedabad from the evening of January 11 to January 12 and the night of January 13 to January 14 are packed,” says Sanjeev Chhajer of Cox and Kings, a travel operator.

With all roads leading to Mahatma Mandir, the event venue in the capital Gandhinagar, the state machinery has ensured that Gujarat looks very a much part of the globe. The hullabaloo of vendors is missing as the entire state police force gets on road.

With participants from close to 100 countries expected to be present at the inauguration on January 12, those in the hospitality industry are working round-the-clock to accommodate them.

And for those who may not make it, information is available on BlackBerrys and iPhones.


Vibrant Gujarat


Vibrant Gujarat - 2011 The Vibrant Gujarat Summits, held biennially since 2003, have been a major success, attracting investment proposals worth over US$ 370 billion. On January 12th and 13th, 2011 the 5th Vibrant Gujarat Summit is scheduled to take place at the new purpose-built Mahatma Mandir, in the State capital, Gandhinagar. It promises to be the biggest and best yet.

The Vibrant Gujarat Summits aim to facilitate investment alliances for the participating countries; they are the ideal platform to explore business opportunities in Gujarat, in India and across the world.

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Topics- PC, Internet & Information Technology
5 tips for controlling your privacy online
@ Jan 13, 2011
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By Mark Milian, CNN

December 13, 2010 4:42 p.m. EST |

Editor's Note: This is part of CNN's End of Privacy series. Join the conversation on Twitter by following @cnntech and #endofprivacy.

(CNN) -- Losing control of your personal information can be all too easy online. But by taking some precautions, you can maintain privacy while surfing the Web.

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Managing your privacy online can be tough, but there are some simple precautions you can take.

We've got five tips for protecting yourself:

1. Adjust social-network privacy settings

Facebook has made strides in simplifying its privacy settings, but their many options can still seem like a labyrinth. Still, it's worth going in there every once in a while and familiarizing yourself with how much of your information is shared with the world.

To get there, log in to Facebook, and type "privacy settings" into the search box. Facebook recently shrunk that feature to be accessible from a smartphone.

The settings page now offers quick toggles to decide whether your profile is shared just with approved friends, with their friends, too, or publicly. Because many people draw privacy lines differently, you can also fine-tune individual switches.

Taking a leap further, you can give the "super-logoff" trick a try. It's especially popular among young people.

Twitter, another popular social network, also lets you lock your account from public view. In settings, there's a feature called "protect my tweets."

2. Ensure personal data is sent over a secure connection

When sending credit card numbers, banking information and passwords, verify that there's an image of a padlock on the address bar of the browser. This denotes a secure connection to the site. This technology encrypts the data you send and receive, so it's difficult for anyone snooping on the line to access your info.

3. Consider opting out of ad tracking

Online ad networks often install a small file on the computers of people who visit certain websites. These so-called cookies can log your surfing habits, allowing advertisers to tailor ads to your interests.

But what if we don't want to be tracked?

For starters, many Web browsers have a feature in their settings panel that lets you disable cookies from third-party websites. This will stop many ad networks from gaining a fast track into your computing activities.

A couple of organizations offer systems for opting out of popular ad networks. The Network Advertising Initiative and PrivacyChoice.org let you opt out of ad networks with a few clicks. You'll need to activate this on every computer you use. But be warned: Some ad companies may continue to track you even though you've elected to opt out.

Like commercials on TV, advertising provides the cash to keep many websites running. Opting out of tracking won't make ads go away, but tracking advocates say it makes them more annoying because they're less relevant to the user.

4. Use private Web browsing features or install a VPN

Most modern Web browsers provide an extra layer of protection. Called either "private" or "stealth browsing," these sessions keep out cookies and don't log site history.

For stronger protection, you can install what's called a Virtual Private Network. This encrypts practically everything you do on the Web while the VPN is enabled. Many companies offer this feature to their employees, which sends the data back to corporate-owned servers. There are a number of free VPNs available for download.

Another handy program, Little Snitch, will report whenever software may be doing something fishy. Anytime an app on your computer tries to send information over the internet without your permission, an alert will pop up.

5. Think before you post

This may sound obvious to some, but if you're posting information to a company's server, you have little guarantee that it won't find itself elsewhere.

Even if all of your privacy settings are in order, a social network might change its policies later. The system might spring a hole vulnerable to search bots or hackers. A trusted friend might see one of your party photos and decide to pass it on.

Use your brain. If you don't want something sailing into the public domain, don't put it on the boat.


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Inkjet, laser, Memjet? Fast color printers on tap
@ Jan 13, 2011
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POSTED: Friday, Jan. 07, 2011

By PETER SVENSSON - AP Technology Writer

LAS VEGAS For a long time, the two choices in desktop printers have been inkjet and laser. This year, a significant twist on the inkjet is hitting the market and promises high speed - think one color page per second - at relatively low cost.

The company behind the new technology, Memjet, hopes to snag a significant share of the $250 billion-per-year worldwide printing market.

"We're bringing revolutionary change to the industry," said Len Lauer, Memjet's CEO.


Memjet can be several times faster than a regular inkjet because instead of having a small print head that sweeps across the page, over and over, Memjet's head is as wide as the page and doesn't move. As the paper travels underneath it, 70,000 microscopic nozzles spurt ink all at the same time.

High-end laser printers can match Memjet's speed but they cost more, both to buy and to use. Lauer expects Memjet-equipped printers to hit the market this year for $500 to $600. The ink will cost about 5 cents per page, compared with 12 cents to 25 cents per page for laser toner or consumer inkjet ink.

The page-wide heads and tiny nozzles are made possible by advances in micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS. These are parts made out of silicon using many of the same techniques that go into making computer chips, so manufacturers can create tiny and very precise mechanical assemblies. MEMS are also used in digital cinema projectors and in the sensors that capture the motion of the Nintendo Wii's remotes and such smart phones as the iPhone. Other companies have demonstrated wide inkjet heads, but Memjet appears to be the first to make it a finished desktop product.

The inventor of the Memjet head is Kia Silverbrook, an Australian, but the privately held company is based in San Diego. Lauer comes from another San Diego-based company, wireless technology developer Qualcomm Inc., where he was chief operating officer.

The first Memjet for the office market will be sold by computer maker Lenovo Corp. in China early this year and by other partners in Taiwan and India, the companies announced this week. Memjet hasn't announced a partner for the U.S., but Lauer said the printer would be sold here this year as well.

In a demonstration this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a prototype of the office printer churned out color pages, one per second, of a quality indistinguishable from a good inkjet printer.

"It's a disruptor in that it's very fast for a very low price," said Keith Kmetz, a printing industry analyst for IDC. The technology "has had the market abuzz," he said, but he added that there's more to market success than technology. Memjet has still has to prove that its partners can market the printers effectively. Memjet has talked about its technology for years while it straightened out some kinks, so it won't catch well-established players such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Lexmark International Inc. and Canon Inc. by surprise.

"I haven't noticed in my conversations with them that they're gravely concerned," Kmetz said.

Memjet isn't targeting consumers with its printers, at least for now. The home printer market is even tougher than the office market, because manufacturers such as HP subsidize their products heavily, then make the money back from sales of ink cartridges. Fast printing isn't as important to consumers, who are also printing less and toting more information and pictures around on their smart phones.

Memjet is targeting commercial printing applications, such as photofinishing, with a unit that prints page-wide glossy photos. The goal is to replace drugstore minilab prints, which are still mostly created using light-sensitive paper and noxious chemicals. Memjet's unit is smaller, cheaper and faster. Prints from a prototype shown this week weren't as vividly colored as regular minilab prints, but Lauer said the technology is still being tweaked.

Label printers with Memjet's heads are already in use. This means that a company such as FedEx Corp., for example, that prints millions of barcode labels every day could now add color to them, perhaps for its logo or other information that should stand out, Lauer said. The technology could also be used in cash registers, which would let retailers print out coupons in color on receipts. However, the 8.5-inch wide Memjet head is too broad for a cash register, so Memjet would have to make a smaller one.

One customer, Lauer said, uses the label printer to print tens of thousands of personally addressed direct-mail envelopes every day, without needing to pre-print the color with standard, high-volume "offset" printing.

"Yes, you can now get your junk mail in color," Lauer said.


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Topics- Science & Technology
A Physicist Solves the City
@ Jan 13, 2011
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Photo Illustration by Hubert Blanz


Published: December 17, 2010

Geoffrey West doesn’t eat lunch. His doctor says he has a mild allergy to food; meals make him sleepy and nauseated. When West is working — when he’s staring at some scribbled equations on scratch paper or gazing out his office window at the high desert in New Mexico — he subsists on black tea and nuts. His gray hair is tousled, and his beard has the longish look of neglect. It’s clear that West regards the mundane needs of everyday life — trimming the whiskers, say — as little more than a set of annoying distractions, drawing him away from a much more interesting set of problems. Sometimes West can seem jealous of his computer, this silent machine with no hungers or moods. All it needs is a power cord.

For West, the world is always most compelling at its most abstract. As a theoretical physicist in search of fundamental laws, he likes to compare his work to that of Kepler, Galileo and Newton. “I’ve always wanted to find the rules that govern everything,” he says. “It’s amazing that such rules exist. It’s even more amazing that we can find them.”

But the 70-year-old West, who grew up in Somerset, England, is no longer trying to solve the physical universe; he’s not interested in deep space or string theory. Although West worked for decades as a physicist at Stanford University and Los Alamos National Laboratory, he started thinking about leaving the field after the financing for the Texas superconducting supercollider was canceled by Congress in 1993. West, however, wasn’t ready to retire, and so he began searching for subjects that needed his skill set.

Eventually he settled on cities: the urban jungle looked chaotic — all those taxi horns and traffic jams — but perhaps it might be found to obey a short list of universal rules. “We spend all this time thinking about cities in terms of their local details, their restaurants and museums and weather,” West says. “I had this hunch that there was something more, that every city was also shaped by a set of hidden laws.”

And so West set out to solve the City. As he points out, this is an intellectual problem with immense practical implications. Urban population growth is the great theme of modern life, one that’s unfolding all across the world, from the factory boomtowns of Southern China to the sprawling favelas of Rio de Janeiro. As a result, for the first time in history, the majority of human beings live in urban areas. (The numbers of city dwellers are far higher in developed countries — the United States, for instance, is 82 percent urbanized.) Furthermore, the pace of urbanization is accelerating as people all over the world flee the countryside and flock to the crowded street.

This relentless urban growth has led to a renewed interest in cities in academia and in government. In February 2009, President Obama established the first White House Office of Urban Affairs, which has been told to develop a “policy agenda for urban America.” Meanwhile, new perspectives have come to the field of urban studies. Macro­economists, for instance, have focused on the role of cities in driving gross domestic product and improving living standards, while psychologists have investigated the impact of city life on self-control and short-term memory. Even architects are moving into the area: Rem Koolhaas, for one, has argued that architects have become so obsessed with pretty buildings that they’ve neglected the vital spaces between them.

But West wasn’t satisfied with any of these approaches. He didn’t want to be constrained by the old methods of social science, and he had little patience for the unconstrained speculations of architects. (West considers urban theory to be a field without principles, comparing it to physics before Kepler pioneered the laws of planetary motion in the 17th century.) Instead, West wanted to begin with a blank page, to study cities as if they had never been studied before. He was tired of urban theory — he wanted to invent urban science.

For West, this first meant trying to gather as much urban data as possible. Along with Luis Bettencourt, another theoretical physicist who had abandoned conventional physics, and a team of disparate researchers, West began scouring libraries and government Web sites for relevant statistics. The scientists downloaded huge files from the Census Bureau, learned about the intricacies of German infrastructure and bought a thick and expensive almanac featuring the provincial cities of China. (Unfortunately, the book was in Mandarin.) They looked at a dizzying array of variables, from the total amount of electrical wire in Frankfurt to the number of college graduates in Boise. They amassed stats on gas stations and personal income, flu outbreaks and homicides, coffee shops and the walking speed of pedestrians.

After two years of analysis, West and Bettencourt discovered that all of these urban variables could be described by a few exquisitely simple equations. For example, if they know the population of a metropolitan area in a given country, they can estimate, with approximately 85 percent accuracy, its average income and the dimensions of its sewer system. These are the laws, they say, that automatically emerge whenever people “agglomerate,” cramming themselves into apartment buildings and subway cars. It doesn’t matter if the place is Manhattan or Manhattan, Kan.: the urban patterns remain the same. West isn’t shy about describing the magnitude of this accomplishment. “What we found are the constants that describe every city,” he says. “I can take these laws and make precise predictions about the number of violent crimes and the surface area of roads in a city in Japan with 200,000 people. I don’t know anything about this city or even where it is or its history, but I can tell you all about it. And the reason I can do that is because every city is really the same.” After a pause, as if reflecting on his hyperbole, West adds: “Look, we all know that every city is unique. That’s all we talk about when we talk about cities, those things that make New York different from L.A., or Tokyo different from Albuquerque. But focusing on those differences misses the point. Sure, there are differences, but different from what? We’ve found the what.”

There is something deeply strange about thinking of the metropolis in such abstract terms. We usually describe cities, after all, as local entities defined by geography and history. New Orleans isn’t a generic place of 336,644 people. It’s the bayou and Katrina and Cajun cuisine. New York isn’t just another city. It’s a former Dutch fur-trading settlement, the center of the finance industry and home to the Yankees. And yet, West insists, those facts are mere details, interesting anecdotes that don’t explain very much. The only way to really understand the city, West says, is to understand its deep structure, its defining patterns, which will show us whether a metropolis will flourish or fall apart. We can’t make our cities work better until we know how they work. And, West says, he knows how they work.

West has been drawn to different fields before. In 1997, less than five years after he transitioned away from high-energy physics, he published one of the most contentious and influential papers in modern biology. (The research, which appeared in Science, has been cited more than 1,500 times.) The last line of the paper summarizes the sweep of its ambition, as West and his co-authors assert that they have just solved “the single most pervasive theme underlying all biological diversity,” showing how the most vital facts about animals — heart rate, size, caloric needs — are interrelated in unexpected ways.

The mathematical equations that West and his colleagues devised were inspired by the earlier findings of Max Kleiber. In the early 1930s, when Kleiber was a biologist working in the animal-husbandry department at the University of California, Davis, he noticed that the sprawlingly diverse animal kingdom could be characterized by a simple mathematical relationship, in which the metabolic rate of a creature is equal to its mass taken to the three-fourths power. This ubiquitous principle had some significant implications, because it showed that larger species need less energy per pound of flesh than smaller ones. For instance, while an elephant is 10,000 times the size of a guinea pig, it needs only 1,000 times as much energy. Other scientists soon found more than 70 such related laws, defined by what are known as “sublinear” equations. It doesn’t matter what the animal looks like or where it lives or how it evolved — the math almost always works.

West’s insight was that these strange patterns are caused by our internal infrastructure — the plumbing that makes life possible. By translating these biological designs into mathematics, West and his co-authors were able to explain the existence of Kleiber’s scaling laws. “I can’t tell you how satisfying this was,” West says. “Sometimes, I look out at nature and I think, Everything here is obeying my conjecture. It’s a wonderfully narcissistic feeling.”


City freeways

Not every biologist was persuaded, however. In fact, West’s paper in Science ignited a flurry of rebuttals, in which researchers pointed out all the species that violated the math. West can barely hide his impatience with what he regards as quibbles. “There are always going to be people who say, ‘What about the crayfish?’ ” he says. “Well, what about it? Every fundamental law has exceptions. But you still need the law or else all you have is observations that don’t make sense. And that’s not science. That’s just taking notes.” For West, arguments over the details of crustaceans were a sure sign that it was time to move on. And so, in 2002, he began to think seriously about cities.

The correspondence was obvious to West: he saw the metropolis as a sprawling organism, similarly defined by its infrastructure. (The boulevard was like a blood vessel, the back alley a capillary.) This implied that the real purpose of cities, and the reason cities keep on growing, is their ability to create massive economies of scale, just as big animals do. After analyzing the first sets of city data — the physicists began with infrastructure and consumption statistics — they concluded that cities looked a lot like elephants. In city after city, the indicators of urban “metabolism,” like the number of gas stations or the total surface area of roads, showed that when a city doubles in size, it requires an increase in resources of only 85 percent.

This straightforward observation has some surprising implications. It suggests, for instance, that modern cities are the real centers of sustainability. According to the data, people who live in densely populated places require less heat in the winter and need fewer miles of asphalt per capita. (A recent analysis by economists at Harvard and U.C.L.A. demonstrated that the average Manhattanite emits 14,127 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide annually than someone living in the New York suburbs.) Small communities might look green, but they consume a disproportionate amount of everything. As a result, West argues, creating a more sustainable society will require our big cities to get even bigger. We need more megalopolises.

But a city is not just a frugal elephant; biological equations can’t entirely explain the growth of urban areas. While the first settlements in Mesopotamia might have helped people conserve scarce resources — irrigation networks meant more water for everyone — the concept of the city spread for an entirely different reason. “In retrospect, I was quite stupid,” West says. He was so excited by the parallels between cities and living things that he “didn’t pay enough attention to the ways in which urban areas and organisms are completely different.”

What Bettencourt and West failed to appreciate, at least at first, was that the value of modern cities has little to do with energy efficiency. As West puts it, “Nobody moves to New York to save money on their gas bill.” Why, then, do we put up with the indignities of the city? Why do we accept the failing schools and overpriced apartments, the bedbugs and the traffic?

In essence, they arrive at the sensible conclusion that cities are valuable because they facilitate human interactions, as people crammed into a few square miles exchange ideas and start collaborations. “If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons,” West says. “They’ve come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That’s why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.”

It’s when West switches the conversation from infrastructure to people that he brings up the work of Jane Jacobs, the urban activist and author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs was a fierce advocate for the preservation of small-scale neighborhoods, like Greenwich Village and the North End in Boston. The value of such urban areas, she said, is that they facilitate the free flow of information between city dwellers. To illustrate her point, Jacobs described her local stretch of Hudson Street in the Village. She compared the crowded sidewalk to a spontaneous “ballet,” filled with people from different walks of life. School kids on the stoops, gossiping homemakers, “business lunchers” on their way back to the office. While urban planners had long derided such neighborhoods for their inefficiencies — that’s why Robert Moses, the “master builder” of New York, wanted to build an eight-lane elevated highway through SoHo and the Village — Jacobs insisted that these casual exchanges were essential. She saw the city not as a mass of buildings but rather as a vessel of empty spaces, in which people interacted with other people. The city wasn’t a skyline — it was a dance.

If West’s basic idea was familiar, however, the evidence he provided for it was anything but. The challenge for Bettencourt and West was finding a way to quantify urban interactions. As usual, they began with reams of statistics. The first data set they analyzed was on the economic productivity of American cities, and it quickly became clear that their working hypothesis — like elephants, cities become more efficient as they get bigger — was profoundly incomplete. According to the data, whenever a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity, from construction spending to the amount of bank deposits, increases by approximately 15 percent per capita. It doesn’t matter how big the city is; the law remains the same. “This remarkable equation is why people move to the big city,” West says. “Because you can take the same person, and if you just move them to a city that’s twice as big, then all of a sudden they’ll do 15 percent more of everything that we can measure.” While Jacobs could only speculate on the value of our urban interactions, West insists that he has found a way to “scientifically confirm” her conjectures. “One of my favorite compliments is when people come up to me and say, ‘You have done what Jane Jacobs would have done, if only she could do mathematics,’ ” West says. “What the data clearly shows, and what she was clever enough to anticipate, is that when people come together, they become much more productive.”

West illustrates the same concept by describing the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary research organization, where he and Bettencourt work. The institute itself is a sprawl of common areas, old couches and tiny offices; the coffee room is always the most crowded place. “S.F.I. is all about the chance encounters,” West says. “There are few planned meetings, just lots of unplanned conversations. It’s like a little city that way.” The previous evening, West and I ran into the novelist Cormac McCarthy at the institute, where McCarthy often works. The physicist and the novelist ended up talking about Antarctic icefish, the editing process and convergent evolution for 45 minutes.Of course, these interpersonal collisions — the human friction of a crowded space — can also feel unpleasant. We don’t always want to talk with strangers on the subway or jostle with people on the sidewalk. West admits that all successful cities are a little uncomfortable. He describes the purpose of urban planning as finding a way to minimize our distress while maximizing our interactions. The residents of Hudson Street, after all, didn’t seem to mind mingling with one another on the sidewalk. As Jacobs pointed out, the layout of her Manhattan neighborhood — the short blocks, the mixed-use zoning, the density of brownstones — made it easier to cope with the strain of the metropolis. It’s fitting that it’s called the Village.

In recent decades, though, many of the fastest-growing cities in America, like Phoenix and Riverside, Calif., have given us a very different urban model. These places have traded away public spaces for affordable single-family homes, attracting working-class families who want their own white picket fences. West and Bettencourt point out, however, that cheap suburban comforts are associated with poor performance on a variety of urban metrics. Phoenix, for instance, has been characterized by below-average levels of income and innovation (as measured by the production of patents) for the last 40 years. “When you look at some of these fast-growing cities, they look like tumors on the landscape,” West says, with typical bombast. “They have these extreme levels of growth, but it’s not sustainable growth.” According to the physicists, the trade-off is inevitable. The same sidewalks that lead to “knowledge trading” also lead to cockroaches.

Consider the data: When Bettencourt and West analyzed the negative variables of urban life, like crime and disease, they discovered that the exact same mathematical equation applied. After a city doubles in size, it also experiences a 15 percent per capita increase in violent crimes, traffic and AIDS cases. (Of course, these trends are only true in general. Some cities can bend the equations with additional cops or strict pollution regulations.) “What this tells you is that you can’t get the economic growth without a parallel growth in the spread of things we don’t want,” Bettencourt says. “When you double the population, everything that’s related to the social network goes up by the same percentage.”

West and Bettencourt refer to this phenomenon as “superlinear scaling,” which is a fancy way of describing the increased output of people living in big cities. When a superlinear equation is graphed, it looks like the start of a roller coaster, climbing into the sky. The steep slope emerges from the positive feedback loop of urban life — a growing city makes everyone in that city more productive, which encourages more people to move to the city, and so on. According to West, these superlinear patterns demonstrate why cities are one of the single most important inventions in human history. They are the idea, he says, that enabled our economic potential and unleashed our ingenuity. “When we started living in cities, we did something that had never happened before in the history of life,” West says. “We broke away from the equations of biology, all of which are sublinear. Every other creature gets slower as it gets bigger. That’s why the elephant plods along. But in cities, the opposite happens. As cities get bigger, everything starts accelerating. There is no equivalent for this in nature. It would be like finding an elephant that’s proportionally faster than a mouse.”

There is, of course, a very good reason that animals slow down with size: All that mass requires energy. Because the elephant has to eat so much to feed itself, it can’t afford to run around like a little rodent. But the superlinear growth of cities comes with no such inherent constraints. Instead, the urban equations predict a world of ever-increasing resource consumption, as the expansion of cities fuels the expansion of economies. In fact, the societal consumption driven by the process of urbanization — our collective desire for iPads, Frappuccinos and the latest fashions — more than outweighs the ecological benefits of local mass transit.

West illustrates the problem by translating human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”

The historian Lewis Mumford described the rise of the megalopolis as “the last stage in the classical cycle of civilization,” which would end with “complete disruption and downfall.” In his more pessimistic moods, West seems to agree: he knows that nothing can trend upward forever. In fact, West sees human history as defined by this constant tension between expansion and scarcity, between the relentless growth made possible by cities and the limited resources that hold our growth back. “The only thing that stops the superlinear equations is when we run out of something we need,” West says. “And so the growth slows down. If nothing else changes, the system will eventually start to collapse.”

How do we avoid this bleak fate? Constant innovation. After a resource is exhausted, we are forced to exploit a new resource, if only to sustain our superlinear growth. West cites a long list of breakthroughs to illustrate this historical pattern, from the discovery of the steam engine to the invention of the Internet. “These major innovations completely changed the way society operates,” West says. “It’s like we’re on the edge of a cliff, about to run out of something, and then we find a new way of creating wealth. That means we can start to climb again.”


City skyscrapers

But the escape is only temporary, as every innovation eventually leads to new shortages. We clear-cut forests, and so we turn to oil; once we exhaust our fossil-fuel reserves, we’ll start driving electric cars, at least until we run out of lithium. This helps explain why West describes cities as the only solution to the problem of cities. Although urbanization has generated a seemingly impossible amount of economic growth, it has also inspired the innovations that allow the growth to continue.

There is a serious complication to this triumphant narrative of cliff edges and creativity, however. Because our lifestyle has become so expensive to maintain, every new resource now becomes exhausted at a faster rate. This means that the cycle of innovations has to constantly accelerate, with each breakthrough providing a shorter reprieve. The end result is that cities aren’t just increasing the pace of life; they are also increasing the pace at which life changes. “It’s like being on a treadmill that keeps on getting faster,” West says. “We used to get a big revolution every few thousand years. And then it took us a century to go from the steam engine to the internal-­combustion engine. Now we’re down to about 15 years between big innovations. What this means is that, for the first time ever, people are living through multiple revolutions. And this all comes from cities. Once we started to urbanize, we put ourselves on this treadmill. We traded away stability for growth. And growth requires change.”

While listening to West talk about cities, it’s easy to forget that his confident pronouncements are mere correlations, and that his statistics can only hint at possible explanations. Not surprisingly, many urban theorists disagree with West’s conclusions. Some resent the implication that future urban research should revolve around a few abstract mathematical laws. Other theorists, like Joel Kotkin, a fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, in Orange, Calif., argue that the working model of Bettencourt and West is already obsolete and fails to explain recent trends. “In the last decade, suburbs have produced six times as many jobs,” Kotkin says. And these aren’t just unskilled service jobs. Kotkin says the centers of American innovation are now low-density metropolitan areas like Silicon Valley and Raleigh-­Durham, N.C. “For a supposedly complete theory” of cities, Kotkin says, “this work fails to explain a lot of what’s happening right now.”

The theoretical physicists aren’t discouraged by these critiques. While they admit their equations are imperfect, they insist the work remains a necessary first draft. “When Kepler found the laws that govern planetary motion, he didn’t get the laws exactly right,” West says. “But the laws were still good enough to inspire Newton.” In the meantime, West and Bettencourt continue to search for new statistics (they have just received a data set from the I.R.S.) that they hope to feed back into the model. Nevertheless, West says they believe that their essential theory — those superlinear and sublinear laws — will remain intact. The math is scientifically sound.

In fact, West is so satisfied with his urban research that he’s already becoming a little restless. Recently, he and Bettencourt, led by this impatience, began exploring yet another subject: the corporation. At first glance, cities and companies look very similar. They’re both large agglomerations of people, interacting in a well-defined physical space. They contain infrastructure and human capital; the mayor is like a C.E.O.

But it turns out that cities and companies differ in a very fundamental regard: cities almost never die, while companies are extremely ephemeral. As West notes, Hurricane Katrina couldn’t wipe out New Orleans, and a nuclear bomb did not erase Hiroshima from the map. In contrast, where are Pan Am and Enron today? The modern corporation has an average life span of 40 to 50 years.

This raises the obvious question: Why are corporations so fleeting? After buying data on more than 23,000 publicly traded companies, Bettencourt and West discovered that corporate productivity, unlike urban productivity, was entirely sublinear. As the number of employees grows, the amount of profit per employee shrinks. West gets giddy when he shows me the linear regression charts. “Look at this bloody plot,” he says. “It’s ridiculous how well the points line up.” The graph reflects the bleak reality of corporate growth, in which efficiencies of scale are almost always outweighed by the burdens of bureaucracy. “When a company starts out, it’s all about the new idea,” West says. “And then, if the company gets lucky, the idea takes off. Everybody is happy and rich. But then management starts worrying about the bottom line, and so all these people are hired to keep track of the paper clips. This is the beginning of the end.”

The danger, West says, is that the inevitable decline in profit per employee makes large companies increasingly vulnerable to market volatility. Since the company now has to support an expensive staff — overhead costs increase with size — even a minor disturbance can lead to significant losses. As West puts it, “Companies are killed by their need to keep on getting bigger.”

For West, the impermanence of the corporation illuminates the real strength of the metropolis. Unlike companies, which are managed in a top-down fashion by a team of highly paid executives, cities are unruly places, largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners. “Think about how powerless a mayor is,” West says. “They can’t tell people where to live or what to do or who to talk to. Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.”

Jonah Lehrer is the author, most recently, of "How We Decide."


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Technology That Breaks the Car Industry Mold
@ Jan 13, 2011
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    * JANUARY 6, 2011


As the auto industry faces tougher fuel-economy standards, engineers are working on longer-term fixes for what ails today's models: too much weight, inefficient engines, a troubled fuel source for gasoline-powered cars and recalcitrant batteries in electric ones. Here's a look at four technologies that could make cars more environmentally friendly.

Carbon Fibers to Trim Vehicle Weigh

Cutting a car's weight is one of the best ways to boost fuel economy. And one way to reduce weight is to replace some of the steel in a car's body with a material called carbon fiber.

Advances That Will Change the Car Industry

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Viktor Koen

But carbon fiber is too expensive for widespread use—it costs at least four times as much as steel by weight. That's why its use has been limited to luxury vehicles such as the Audi R8 and racing cars, along with some airplanes and golf clubs.

Now, researchers hope to make automotive-grade carbon fiber using a process similar to how knitting yarn is created. The development could lower the price of carbon fiber by as much as 25%.

And reducing weight in one vehicle part can cut weigh elsewhere by allowing the use of lighter-weight supporting parts. "For every pound you take out of a vehicle, there is usually a corresponding 30% reduction in the need for weight in other areas of the vehicle," said Jay Baron, the director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., who is a materials expertCarbon fiber is a thin strand of repeating carbon molecules lined up in parallel, an arrangement that makes them incredibly strong. These tiny filaments are wound into strands that are subsequently turned into a fabric. The fabric is then combined with a glue-like chemical and hardened into the final shape of a car part, such as a hood or trunk lid.

The knitting-yarn breakthrough was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Researchers later persuaded a yarn factory in Lisbon, Portugal, to set up a portion of its plant to produce the product, said David Warren, the manager of transportation materials at Oak Ridge Lab.

Carbon fiber and acrylic yarn both are made from a chemical called polyacrilinitrile. The chemical is treated and screened into strands that are used to make fiber. Mr. Warren's team found that auto-grade carbon fiber could be made by altering the process at the knitting-yarn factory by adding additional screening and chemicals, but not at a great expense, he said.

Meanwhile, another part of the cost is turning the carbon fiber into fabric. Much of that comes in energy use and the length of time needed to treat the materiald in a sort of baking process, Mr. Warren said. BMW AG is trying to overcome the issue by producing carbon fiber at plant near Spokane, Wash., where inexpensive electricity is created by hydropower. BMW has a contract to buy power at three cents per kilowatt hour, about a third the going rate across the U.S. and much cheaper than in Europe.

The carbon fiber fabric made there is shipped to Germany to be formed into car parts. BMW is doing the work in a partnership with SGL Carbon SE of Germany.

Ultracapacitors Aim at Batteries' Shortfalls

The first electric vehicles now on the road are limited by the immense cost and weight of their giant battery packs, which are needed to store huge amounts of energy. Scientists working to improve batteries face the fundamental limitations of battery chemistry.

But there is another energy-storage device that could radically cut the cost of electric and hybrid vehicles while improving their performance.

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Battery technology curbs driving range in electrics such as Nissan's Leaf

The device is called an ultracapacitor. Related to the tiny capacitors long used in electronic products such as TV sets, they can absorb large amounts of electricity quickly, and then discharge it just as fast.

Ultracapacitors function in very cold or very hot air without the temperature-related problems batteries can experience. They also can be recharged millions of times before failing, compared with a few thousand times before a battery goes bad.

On top of that, ultracapacitors are made of inert and abundant materials such as carbon, compared with the rarer metals like cobalt and lithium used in batteries. There's also no chance an ultracapacitor could overheat and cause a fire, as some batteries have done.

The devices work by capturing electrons in a field between carbon-coated metal plates contained in an electrolyte solution. Batteries, in contrast, rely on a chemical process that builds up electrons between an anode and cathode.

The big limitations in using ultracapacitors in cars have been their cost and limited amount of energy storage by weight compared with batteries. But that's changing.

"Five years ago, they were considered too expensive and there were questions about our ability to mass-produce them," said Mike Sund, vice president of investor relations for ultracapacitor maker Maxwell Technologies of San Diego. "Our manufacturing costs have been reduced by two-thirds over the past three years."

Researchers believe ultracapacitors could replace batteries entirely in hybrid vehicles and be paired with much smaller batteries in all-electric vehicles, cutting costs while improving the driving range.

Already, a few vehicle makers use ultracapacitors. PSA Peugeot Citroën SA of France has begun deploying Maxwell's ultracapacitors instead of batteries in its diesel cars in Europe, where they run the car's electronics as part of a fuel-saving "start-stop" system that shuts off the engine at stop lights. Chinese bus companies also are putting ultracapacitors in some hybrid buses.

Toyota Motor Corp., the largest maker of hybrid vehicles with the Prius, has been investigating ultracapacitors and found them too expensive and difficult to manage with the electronic system that controls the flow of current into and out of the car's batteries, said spokesman John Hanson. But Panasonic Corp., which works closely with Toyota on batteries, is one of the leading producers of the technology and is making advances.

Anu Cherian, a power and energy analyst with research firm Frost & Sullivan, said ultracapacitor technology is tantalizing. "But it has to be shown that it can work with batteries, because they can't be used by themselves" in pure electric cars, she said.

Research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory aims to show that pairing ultracapacitors with batteries could allow electric-car makers to cut the size of batteries in half and lengthen their lives.

BMW aims to mass-produce a carbon fiber interior shell for its MegaCity electric vehicle that will lower the car's weight by about 772 pounds, or roughly 20%. Lighter electric vehicles can use smaller batteries, and batteries are even more expensive than carbon fiber.."The processing cost of manufacturing carbon fiber is very high," said Tom Kowaleski, a BMW spokesman. "We've taken on the task to try to break that."

Start-Ups Make Gasoline From Wood

There are reasons why gasoline has been the dominant motor-vehicle fuel for a century: It's packed with energy, noncorrosive, easily transported and readily available.

As the world looks for alternatives to counteract global-warming gasses and other pollution, as well as boost energy security, almost all the proposals require major tradeoffs or an entire new infrastructure, such as charging stations for electric vehicles.

But what if you could make gasoline out of readily available plants? Not ethanol, which requires huge amounts of water and energy to produce and is corrosive. Real, actual, gasoline.

It's not science fiction. A number of start-ups are working on technologies that produce oil substitutes or the base products of gasoline from wood chips or other so-called biomass through a process called pyrolysis.

One firm, KiOR Inc., has pledged to build five plants in Mississippi to create "Re-Crude," a crude-oil substitute that can be refined into diesel fuel or gasoline. Another, Annellotech, is working to build a demonstration plant to make gasoline compounds directly from biomass.

KiOR declined to comment. The company already has a small plant that it previously said produces 15 barrels of crude oil a day. The factory uses a reactor that breaks down the biomass plant materials using a chemical called a catalyst.

Annellotech, meantime, uses a similar process to make biomass into the base chemicals of gasoline. Its system is based on research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The technology is intriguing because it creates oil and other petrochemicals like benzene, from cellulose—but without most of the troubling drawbacks that other biofuels have.

"We're making gasoline. The molecules we make are exactly the same as what is made in petroleum today," said George Huber, the UMass chemist who created the process used by Annellotech.

Most plant material can be used, but wood chips or sawdust are best. This material is first dried and ground up, then fed into a device called a fluidized bed reactor, where it is heated and put under vacuum.

An inexpensive chemical catalyst called a zeolite is introduced to the mixture, which turns it into a hydrocarbon gas. The gas, in turn, can be transformed into gasoline.

Meantime, the catalyst is recycled and fed back into the reactor to process more.

One of the reasons the technology is so intriguing is that other biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, require a time-consuming fermentation process to break down the molecules in plant material. Then, a huge amount of heat and water are required to make alcohol from the results, and more heat to distill it into ethanol.

Most biofuel companies envision building plants in rural areas near large supplies of biomass, like wood chips, corn stalks or other wood waste that is often burned or composted today. For Annellotech, the process produces about 85 to 100 gallons of liquid from each ton of biomass.

Annellotech says the process is so inexpensive that a plant should be able to make a profit on the gasoline as long as crude oil sells for $30 a barrel or more—it was above $90 Wednesday.

"We have to be competitive with oil on a dollar for dollar basis," said David Sudolsky, the CEO of Annellotech. "We know we can't count on this business working as just a 'green' business."

KiOR has pledged to build five plants in Mississippi with state aid, including a $75 million loan. The plants don't need to be large or expensive to make money, the company says. It says it will invest $500 million in Mississippi for three of the five plants in the next five years.

The technology has limits, however. The raw biomass is so heavy it can't be transported efficiently, capping the size of any plant.

A typical oil refinery can produce two million gallons of petroleum products a day. Annellotech is proposing a plant that could make up to about 250,000 gallons a day.

Chevron Corp. is researching various forms of creating fuels from biomass, but the oil giant casts doubt on how well it can be cost-effectively scaled up to large volumes and how sustainable using wood feedstock is.

"This is a very good idea—similar research was conducted in the 1980s and early 1990s, but there was not that much interest because of the price of crude oil," said Stefan Czernik, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Still, he said, "I'm not that optimistic that it would be implemented very soon" because of the need to make the process work on a large scale.

New Engine Seeks 50% Economy Boost

The auto landscape is littered with variations on the internal combustion engine that fell by the roadside. But one is gaining notice with its promise of a 50% boost in fuel economy.

The technology makes what seems like a minute change in when the gasoline ignites inside an engine. But that split-second twist has a big impact on how efficiently the engine operates.

Nearly every gas engine today shoots a mist of fuel into the engine's cylinder and, as the piston squeezes the fuel and oxygen into a hot, high-pressure environment, a spark is created and…KABOOM! The piston is sent the other direction and drives gears that eventually move the wheels. But the explosion actually happens a moment before the piston comes all the way to the top of the cylinder.

A start-up called Scuderi Group has developed an engine that causes combustion to occur after the piston reaches the top of the cylinder. That change could result in a 50% fuel economy improvement when the engine is paired with a turbocharger and a small air-tank, Scuderi says.

Scuderi Group, founded by a thermodynamics engineer and his family, is nearly finished testing the engine design to see how it performs under thousands of scenarios. The tiny company in West Springfield, Mass., says its design may be the fastest route for vehicle makers to meet tough new U.S. fuel economy standards.

Car makers must get their corporate average fuel economy to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. To reach that they are counting on using high-compression engines that are turbocharged or supercharged—two existing ways of getting more power out of a small, fuel-thrifty motor.

But the Scuderi method changes the mousetrap.Scuderi splits the compression and fuel intake into one cylinder and the combustion and exhaust into another. Existing engines use the same cylinder to do all the work, but combustion only occurs every other revolution of the piston.

The split-cycle engine isn't a new idea and, by itself, in lab testing shows only a modest improvement in fuel use. But with the small air tank that effectively stores energy and helps to maintain high compression, the engine produces large improvements in fuel economy.

The engine has received interest from Honda Motor Co. and Daimler AG, among others, and the company expects to license the technology to its first auto maker in the first half of 2011, said Sal Scuderi, son of the founder and president of the company. Representatives from both companies declined to comment.

Mr. Scuderi, the son of Carmelo Scuderi, who died in 2002, said the company has signed nondisclosure agreements with nine auto makers that have expressed interest, though the agreements prevent him from naming them. The company also has been able to raise $65 million in private investment capital, he said.

Some experts say the Scuderi design has merit. "It's a promising technology in theory," said Larry Rinek, a senior power train and technology analyst for Frost & Sullivan. But he said that until the engine is put in a vehicle and tested it is difficult to know how it performs.

Mr. Rinek said the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, which is assisting Scuderi in designing and testing the engine, is a respected engine-testing facility. If their results show the engine can perform as advertised it will add a new level of legitimacy.

Southwest Research Institute has built a 1-liter, two-cylinder test Scuderi engine and has been testing it for nearly a year. Among its findings is that it generates 135 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, Mr. Scuderi said. That's similar to the output of Honda's bigger and presumably more fuel-hungry 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, which generates 140 horsepower at 6,300 RPM. The third-party testing facility doesn't comment on its projects other than to verify things that its customers report.

"They've shown real progress," said Lindsay Brooke, senior technology editor for the Society of Automotive Engineering magazine. "But it becomes very difficult to convince the world that has billions of dollars invested" in one technology "to turn to something else."


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Hold that Megawatt!
@ Jan 13, 2011
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January 7, 2011, 8:18 am


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AES Energy Storage

As ordered by a computer, the AES Energy Storage plant in Johnson City, N.Y., absorbs or delivers energy to the grid at intervals of five seconds with thousands of lithium-ion batteries.

“Frequency regulation,” an esoteric but increasingly important element of the electric system, is getting a new competitor.

Frequency regulation is as critical as voltage control or generating capacity but is not something that most customers notice, at least until it goes catastrophically wrong. It means fine-tuning the system to keep supply and demand in balance.

The problem is that the North American electric grid is supposed to run at 60 cycles, meaning that the electrons change direction 60 times each second. In practice, if electricity supply and demand are not perfectly matched at every instant, the system runs just a little bit too fast or too slow.

If the pace strays too far from 60 cycles per second, equipment like pumps and motors run too fast or too slow and a variety of equipment will shut down to avoid getting damaged. A sharp decline in frequency was one reason that the blackout of August 2003 spread as far as it did.

Traditionally utilities maintained the balance on a gross level by adding or subtracting generation and then fine-tuning by running a steam turbine, usually at a plant that runs on coal, a little faster or a little slower. Those turbines, which have a great deal of inertia at any given moment, could deliver or supply large amounts of energy promptly. But as more electricity generation has shifted to gas turbines, which resemble jet engines and have less inertia, or to wind generators, which tap the fickle breeze, the fraction of plants that can accomplish frequency control has declined.

But on New Year’s Eve, AES Energy Storage, the subsidiary of a company based near Washington that operates power plants around the world, opened a plant in Johnson City, N.Y., near Binghamton, that sells frequency regulation. It absorbs or delivers energy at intervals of five seconds, as ordered by a computer at the New York Independent System Operator, which runs the state’s grid.

It does so with thousands of lithium-ion batteries, which AES selected for the same reason that electric vehicle manufacturers like them: they have the ability to absorb or deliver large amounts of current promptly and can change direction easily. The batteries were built by A123, which also builds batteries for automobile use.

Batteries are a better bet than turbines, said John M. Zahurancik, vice president of operations and deployment at AES. “You’re not revving these big engines up and down, you’re running a device that doesn’t care if it’s run up and down,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, in Stephentown, N.Y., near Albany, Beacon Power is working on a plant that will do the same work but while using flywheels.

Providing frequency regulation from coal plants adds somewhat to plants’ emissions; but using a flywheel or a battery is cleaner, proponents say. The flywheel system loses about 15 percent of the energy, and the batteries lose about 10 percent, the companies involved report.

The AES project has a federal loan guarantee of $17.1 million, which is close to 80 percent of its cost, according to Mr. Zaharuncik; he declined to give a precise number. The project will eventually be able to absorb or deliver 20 megawatts for a period of up to 15 minutes, although typically it is making much smaller adjustments in each direction, he said.

While the technology could eventually be used to store energy for use at different times of day – say, capturing energy from wind machines at night, when electricity is in surplus, and delivering it during the day, when prices are higher – the regulation market looks like a surer route to profit for the moment. The AES project will eventually use 800,000 batteries, each roughly the size of a D cell, installed in 53-foot shipping containers.

Many places could use frequency regulation, but New York State is drawing these early plants because its system provides for payment to third-party providers of the service.

Wind and solar plants “introduce some additional variability that you don’t have with traditional thermal units,’’ Mr. Zaharuncik said. With a system that has a lot of renewable energy generators, he explained, “you need some other kind of resource that complements it. ‘’


Advancing the Flywheel for Energy Storage and Grid Regulation


January 25, 2010, 12:20 pm

721c-flywheel storage.png

Beacon Power A Massachusetts company is betting that a bank of carbon-fiber flywheels will be a boon for grid regulation.

Beacon Power has begun construction in Stephentown, N.Y., near Albany, on a plant that stores energy in flywheels — essentially rotating wheels or cylinders whose inertia is used to store power or deliver it quickly.

The aim is to use the flywheels to help in power-grid regulation, quickly balancing the second-by-second discord between electrical supply and demand.

Such regulation has always been needed because demand varies from minute to minute. Now, with more solar panels and wind turbines, which only produce electricity when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, supply varies too, making grid regulation even harder.

The flywheel concept for energy storage and regulation, of course, is not new, but Beacon’s design uses newer materials. “It’s a composite, made out of carbon fiber, like golf clubs or tennis rackets,” said Bill Capp, president of the company, which is based in Tyngsboro, Mass.

Each wheel is connected to a single device that can function both as a motor, taking current from the grid and spinning the wheel faster, and as a generator, taking momentum from the wheel and converting it to electricity.

In moments when supply exceeds demand, the extra energy can be stored in the flywheel array, and when demand exceeds supply, it can quickly deliver the power back to the grid.

Mr. Capp pointed to computer storage by way of analogy. A DVD, he said, stores a huge amount of data in a cheap medium. A hard disk, meanwhile, is more expensive but easier to fill and empty.

Beacon’s flywheels, Mr. Capp said, are akin to a third sort of computer storage that is in constant flux. “We’re like the RAM,” he said.

Beacon is building 200 flywheels, each weighing about 2,000 pounds and spinning at 8,000 to 16,000 revolutions per minute. With packaging, each is about the size of a water heater.

Almost all storage systems lose some of the energy they store, but this one will give back about 85 percent as much energy as was put into it, which is considered very efficient. One result is that regulation with flywheels will result in less conventional pollution and less carbon dioxide than using a power plant to do the job.

The plan is to charge the grid operator for use of the battery system, a service that Mr. Capp said his company could provide at lower cost than a conventional generator. That is how it will work in New York, he said.

Mr. Capp said the system was tested in California and approved by technical experts there, but that the electric market in that state is not set up to allow payments to non-generators, a regulatory problem the company hopes will be solved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


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Topics-Art, Literature, Politics. Life Style, etc.
How to Be Liked Instantly
@ Jan 13, 2011
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Lisa Haisha

Founder, Whispers From Children's Hearts Foundation

Posted: December 31, 2010 08:49 AM

It's been said that everyone can light up a room -- some when they enter, and others when they leave. Which type of person are you?

Have you ever wondered why certain people can walk into a room and light up the atmosphere with their presence? Or why when certain individuals speak, their listeners become spellbound, while someone else talking about the same subject is met with yawns?

If you want to be the kind of person whom others instantly like, trust and listen to, you need to understand some of the keys to communication, magnetism and listening.

Three Levels of Communication

Every time you communicate with someone, you are sending three distinct messages. They are:

  1. Verbal Messages: the words you say
  2. Paraverbal Messages: the way you say your words
  3. Nonverbal Messages: your body language

It doesn't matter whether you are communicating in a business or personal setting, these three communication factors are always present. The better you manage each, the more likely that people will be drawn to you.

Verbal Messages

The exact words you use will determine how someone reacts to you. Words that are critical, blaming, judgmental or accusatory turn people off and tend to create a negative mindset in the listeners. To draw people toward you, use uplifting language that is succinct, clear and truthful. The more positive your words are, the more people will like being around you.

Paraverbal Messages

How you say your words -- your tone, pitch and pacing -- sends a clear message to people, regardless of the actual words. In fact, research shows that paraverbal messages account for approximately 38 percent of what is communicated to someone. In other words, your feelings and how you say something can change the meaning of your words. Therefore, monitor your feelings as you talk to others. In general, when people are angry or excited, they tend to speak faster and with a higher pitch. When bored or feeling depressed, people tend to speak very slowly and monotonous. When feeling defensive, people tend to speak abruptly. Even more important, listeners believe your paraverbal messages more than your verbal ones.

Nonverbal Messages

Your nonverbal messages include your posture, gestures, facial expressions and spatial distance. These subtle but powerful messages account for 55 percent of your communication, so they have the ability to either draw people toward you or repel them from you. When you speak and have a facial expression that is filled with enthusiasm, energy and approval for the other person, he or she will feel compelled to listen to you. Additionally, when your posture and gestures reflect inclusion, such as facing someone directly, making sustained eye contact and keeping the upper body "open" without crossed arms, you create a feeling of unity.

Have a Magnetic Presence

In addition to being adept at verbal, paraverbal and non-verbal communication, people who are liked instantly tend to possess a magnetism so potent that they can effortlessly make a dynamic impact. The fact is that nothing reveals more about you to others than your vibratory frequency that radiates from your being.

We each have a magnetic field that draws us to the people, experiences and things that mirror our state of consciousness -- our thoughts, perceptions, opinions and beliefs. This relates to the old saying that we become what we think about most. Realize that everyone is creating their outcomes in their life, either consciously or unconsciously.

To improve your magnetism so that you can draw people toward you, you need to recognize the inherent talents you have that make you unique. This helps you better understand your purpose in life, which is necessary for any kind of success.

With your purpose firmly in place, you can begin to visualize the perfect scenario -- how you want people to react when they are with you. Visualization is key to manifesting the desired outcome in your life. Once you have the image clear in your mind, meditate on it. Meditation enables you tap into your authentic self. At that point, your magnetism instantly improves.

Listen to Learn

Finally, to be instantly liked, it's vital that you listen to others. Constantly talking about yourself, interrupting when people are talking and seeming uninterested in the other person with your gaze wandering will cause people to avoid you. Remember that most people (whether a friend, family member, co-worker or even a dissatisfied customer) want nothing more than to be heard. That's why those people who are skilled listeners are often the most liked.

Realize that listening involves more than just hearing someone's words. True listening means that you are attempting to understand the other person, that you respect his or her thoughts even if they are different from your own, and that you are willing to see things from the other person's point of view (even if just for a moment). Yes, doing all this demands a high degree of mental focus on your part. But if you suspend judgment and listen with your heart, you can overcome many communication challenges and forge true friendships.

So the next time you are listening to someone, resist the urge to interrupt. Don't listen with the intent to rebut someone's remarks. Rather, listen to get the whole story, reflect on their words and then formulate your response. The more you can thoughtfully listen, the more people will be willing to open up to you.

Make People Feel Special

Because most people enjoy talking about themselves, encourage them to do so. Find out the other person's interests, and make it a point to talk about those things. For example, if you're going to a party at a filmmaker's house, study up on filmmaking. Go see one or two of his or her movies, or at least Google the person to learn more about his or her projects.

The bottom line is that most people like you when you make them feel special. And that's exactly what these communication, magnetism and listening techniques will enable you to do -- make others feel special and important. As Cavett Robert, founder of the National Speaker's Association, said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." The more you show people you care about them, the more they will like you.

 Follow Lisa Haisha on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisahaisha


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Wonder Irrigation Pump Goes A Long Way
@ Jan 13, 2011
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By Manipadma Jena

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A woman farmer using the treadle pump in Orissa.

Credit:Manipadma Jena/IPS

BHUBANESWAR, India, Dec 22, 2010 (IPS) - Just two years ago, Ratha Majhi was at his wits’ end trying to eke out a decent living from his modest vegetable farm.

"It did not matter how long I spent at the farm," he recalls. "Even after borrowing 54,000 rupees (1,200 dollars), my trying days seemed never-ending."

But since then he says his life has changed, adding with pride, "The farm is now my own patch of green paradise."

It’s all thanks to a simple and cheap micro-irrigation tool. Indeed, since 1994, the treadle pump has been changing the lives of millions of farmers in this country, where some 60 percent of the population are estimated to be directly involved in farming.

Made of iron, the treadle pump is similar in principle to a hand pump. But instead of the latter’s single barrel or cylinder and the use of hands to pump water, the treadle or pedal pump has two cylinders and uses foot power to lift water from underground.

"Most farmers in India are able to grow just the monsoon crop," says Amitabha Sadangi, the man behind this wonder pump. "If they have a reliable irrigation system throughout the year, they could, even on their small patch of land, grow up to three crops annually."

The treadle pump is, in fact, one of two micro-irrigation gadgets developed by the Sadangi’s Delhi-based International Development Enterprises, India (IDEI) specifically for marginal farmers who tend to crops that occupy less than a hectare.

The other is the drip irrigation tool that was designed for use in southern and western India, where the water table is usually found only below 30 metres.

The treadle pump, meanwhile, is suited to regions with high water tables, such as here in eastern India. To use it, one drops the attached pipe into a dug well, or a river or hill spring, and then starts pedaling. An hour’s pedaling can pump out as much as 5,000 litres of water. Two hours’ pedaling would be enough to irrigate half a hectare of dry season vegetables.

Sadangi, 51, comes from a poor family here in Orissa state. Knowing firsthand the hardships subsistence farmers in these parts go through while trying to keep their crops irrigated, he says he became interested in manually operated treadle pumps in Bangladesh. Pretty soon, he had adapted the technology to suit local requirements.

One nifty feature of IDEI’s treadle pump, for example, is that it is foldable. At 18 kilogrammes, it is also portable – a necessity for most small farmers who have non-contiguous farmland holdings.

Tapan Pattanayak, IDEI’s chief general manager for the firm’s eastern India operations, says that operating the pump is "so easy that even a child, (female) elders, and even disabled people" can do it "by manipulating the body weight on two foot pedals or treadles and by holding a bamboo or wooden frame for support".

"One may even sit and pedal," he says.

Nabin Amanatya, 35, can attest to the pump’s user- friendliness. Afflicted with polio, he struggled for years farming his family’s spit-sized plot that reached a mere tenth of a hectare. Then in 2006, he bought a treadle pump.

His neighbours teased him when they saw him trying to make a go with the pedals. But he was soon tending a thriving garden of cucumber, ridge gourd, and lady’s finger – vegetables that are very popular in the local market. Within two years, Amanatya had repaid his father’s loan and had switched to better seeds and fertilisers.

"Now my family eats fresh vegetables and household expenses are met out of the income from vegetable sales," he says. "I have plans to purchase a bicycle after constructing the house. I have also decided to get an electricity connection for our house."

IDEI, which is a non-profit venture, made it a point to make the treadle pump as well as the drip irrigation affordable for marginal farmers. While the pump costs between 550 to 2,000 rupees (12 to 44 dollars), the drip irrigation is priced at 4,000 rupees (88 dollars).

Commercial irrigation equipment would costs much more. A diesel pump, for example, goes for at least 40,000 rupees (880 dollars). And then there would be the recurring diesel expenses.

Says Sadangi: "Affordability is crucial. Marginalised farmers cannot invest much more than their labour. We keep the cost and maintenance as low as possible."

But Pattanayak admits that some farmers are still finding the treadle pump and the drip irrigation beyond their means.

"With bankers’ loan ticket size not less than 10,000 rupees, farmers are facing difficulty getting loans to buy these equipment," he says. "Steel prices, too, have trebled the original treadle pump’s price tag over the last few years."

Sadangi, however, is poised to disburse loans to half a million farmers by next year. The scheme would involve a nano-finance (smaller than a micro-finance) company with 20 million dollars from U.S.-based financier JP Morgan.

IDEI has also tied up with JP Morgan up to 2014 to sell carbon credits at seven cents annually per unit from the fuel-saving treadle pumps. It sold 1.7 million tonnes carbon equivalent between 2004 and 2007 alone, and has received 87,000 dollars in total so far from the arrangement.

Sadangi is now busy working on low-cost sprinklers and water storage tanks, as well as looking into solar and wind pumps – still with the small farmers in mind. (END)


IDEI (International Development Enterprises (India),




"To improve equitably the social, economic and environmental conditions of families in need, with special emphasis on the rural poor, by identifying, developing and marketing affordable, appropriate and environmentally sustainable solutions through market forces."

About IDEI

IDEI is an Indian not-for-profit organization, registered in India in 2001 under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, and working in cooperation with the global family of IDE organizations. IDEI was established in 1991 as a representative office and subsequently in 1993 as a liaison office of IDE International.

At IDEI We are engaged in development of small scale irrigation and rural mass marketing of simple, affordable appropriate and environmentally sustainable technologies to small and marginal farm families through private marketing channels. We use donor funds to stimulate a sustainable and free market by creating demand for affordable technologies and ensuring a sustainable supply chain. Committed to providing long-term solutions to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, presently IDEI has operations in selected districts of 15 states.



Treadle Pump Programme

Since 1991, we have been implementing a programme of mass marketing of Treadle Pumps in East India (earlier called the KB East Programme). The expanded the programme to cover almost all the areas where treadle could have some potential. The main thrust of this phase was to promote and market a branded treadle pump (brand name KB). KB stands for Krishak Bandhu, meaning "farmer's friend".

Treadle Pump is a foot operated water lifting device that can irrigate small plots of land of small holders in regions that have higher water table (not deeper than 25 feet) A low cost system, simple in design and easily manageable it appropriately answers the irrigation need for the small farmers .with an internal rate of return of 100% and a benefit cost ratio of 5, treadle pump is an ideal investment for small land holders whose savings are as small as $12 to $15. Click here to visit Treadle Pump gallery.


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Centre may have take a call on only two options on Telangana
@ Jan 13, 2011
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PTI, Jan 6, 2011, 07.14pm IST

NEW DELHI: With the Srikrishna Committee itself finding four out of the six options suggested as not workable, the Centre may have to take a call on the remaining two options -- keeping Andhra Pradesh united and creation of a separate Telangana state -- in the next few weeks.

In his opening remarks at the meeting with political parties of Andhra Pradesh, home minister P Chidambaram declared government's intention to find a "just, honourable and practicable solution that has the widest measure of support among all stakeholders."

Asking all concerned to give the report of the panel "most careful, thoughtful and impartial consideration" and read it with an "open mind", the home minister counselled everyone to be prepared to persuade, and to be persuaded by, people who hold another point of view.



Chidambaram pointed out that the Committee itself has rejected the first three options suggested by it as "non-practicable". On the fourth option "it may be difficult to reach a political consensus in making this solution acceptable to all," the Committee has said.

The first three options are: (a) Maintaining Status Quo, (b) Bifurcation of the state into Seemandhra and Telangana; with Hyderabad as a Union Territory and the two states developing their own capitals in due course and (c) Bifurcation of the state into Rayala-Telangana and Coastal Andhra Regions with Hyderabad being an integral part of Rayala-Telangana.

The forth option is: Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Seemandhra and Telangana with enlarged Hyderabad Metropolis as a separate Union Territory. This Union Territory will have geographical linkage and contiguity via Nalgonda district in the south-east to Guntur district in coastal Andhra and via Mahaboobnagar district in the south to Kurnool district in Rayalaseema.

The home minister said another meeting of all political parties of Andhra Pradesh is likely to be convened later this month to discuss the options given by the panel.

Sources said the next meeting is likely to be held before the Republic Day -- January 26.

The government would like to take a decision on the recommendations of the panel possibly before the Budget session of Parliament starting in February-end, they said.

Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh government, which was represented in the meeting by chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, will translate the entire report of the Srikrishna committee and upload in the state government website for the convenience of the people of the state


Full text of Srikrishna Committee Report (505 pages)




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Map of proposed Telangana-Andhra

White area = Telangana; Yellow area = Andhra Pradesh



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Report: Chinese troops cross into Indian territory
@ Jan 13, 2011
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By NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press Nirmala George, Associated Press – Mon Jan 10, 9:13 am ET

NEW DELHI – Armed Chinese soldiers infiltrated Indian territory and threatened construction workers near a disputed border in September, Indian media reported Monday.

The Chinese incursion took place in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, the Press Trust of India said without citing a source for the information.

Chinese soldiers threatened an Indian contractor and his workers who were building a bus station near Demchok in India's Leh region along the so-called Line of Actual Control that divides India and China. Construction work has been halted since then, the report said.

China has made similar incursions previously, the most serious in 1962 when the two sides fought a brief border war. The incident underscores the tensions that exist between the Asian giants stemming from India's swift economic growth and the increasing challenge it poses to China's dominance of the region.

On Monday, India's army chief, Gen. V. K. Singh, played down the incident saying it may have occurred over "a difference in perception" of where the border lies. Singh said the Line of Actual Control as perceived by India "runs in a particular direction, while the Chinese have a different alignment of the Line."

India's External Affairs Ministry in a statement later said the media reports were baseless and did not conform to fact.

"They are, therefore, not a cause for concern. It will be recollected that there are differences in perception, between India and China, on the Line of Actual Control in this area," the statement said.

Calls to the Chinese Foreign Ministry late Monday rang unanswered.

India and China — neighbors with more than 1 billion people each — have shared chilly relations since the 1962 war.

New Delhi says China is illegally occupying 15,000 square miles (38,000 square kilometers) of its northwestern territory, while Beijing claims a 35,000 square mile (90,000 square-kilometer) chunk in northeastern India. The countries have conducted 14 rounds of talks to resolve their decades-long border dispute.

China is a longtime ally and weapons supplier to Pakistan, India's bitter rival. The presence in India of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile, headed by the Dalai Lama, and 120,000 exiles from Tibet also remains a source of tension between New Delhi and Beijing. China is also suspicious of New Delhi's growing ties with the United States.

Despite the tensions, trade between the two sides, estimated at about $60 billion in 2010, has been booming and is expected to reach $100 billion in the next three years.


Video: Chinese troops enter Indian territory again



India will take revenge for China incursion in Ladakh in summer: Farooq Abdullah


TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES, Jan 10, 2011, 08.53pm IST

SRINAGAR: Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has threatened China of revenge in Leh during summer amid reports of "incursions" into Indian territory in J&K's Ladakh region. Abdullah said China had "betrayed the concept of friendship".

Farooq Abdullah told reporters in Jammu on Sunday that India will show its strength during summer as there is extreme cold this time in Leh.

"China has betrayed the concept of friendship despite the fact that the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had promised friendship during his visit to India," Abdullah said on the sidelines of a function in Jammu on Sunday night.

"Those hopes have been belied by the incursion of Chinese troops into the border area of Leh," the minister said, replying to a question on reports of incursion by Chinese troops and halting of work at Demchok, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), in October last year.

Farooq suggested that India should not demilitarize its borders touching China and said that prime ministerial level talks between the two countries late year has not yielded results, even though talks between prime minister of China Wen Jiabeo and PM Manmohan Singh were held in congenial atmosphere.

"We already had a bitter experience with our neighbouring country China and I think India should not lower its guard from the borders touching China and simultaneously vigil should also be intensified," said Farooq.

The former CM said the incursion issue is being discussed by the Indian defence minister and external affairs minister. Farooq also said that India must attach full importance to security considerations along its borders with the neighbouring country.

Abdullah, the minister for new and renewable energy and former J&K chief minister, had visited Leh on Sunday to review reconstruction work undertaken in the aftermath of the devastating cloudburst and flash floods there in August last year.

A newspaper, Greater Kashmir, published simultaneously from Jammu and Srinagar, has published an interview of Chering Dorjee, former chief executive councillor of Leh Autonomous Hill Development Council, quoting him as saying that Demchok villagers were scared and had fled their homes.

"Currently, many villages in Demchok are empty as there is no security provided to the residents to save them from the haunting shadow of the Dragon," Dorjee said. "Recently, I along with some administrative officials went to Demchok. But the entire community has left from some villages there."

He said Demchok residents are now living in Koyul area of Ladakh.

"During my interaction with residents there, I was told that the Chinese army harasses them regularly and nobody is providing them security," the newspaper quoted Dorjee as saying.

"The worried residents are feeling insecure. They said nobody is securing them from Chinese soldiers and that is why they have fled from the villages."

Dorjee also alleged that the residents of Demchok had complained to the army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posts about the Chinese incursions, but "they turned a blind eye towards the grave issue".

"I also came to know that a hydrotherapy centre there has been barred for Demchok residents," Dorjee said. "The hydrotherapy centre is now used by Chinese soldiers. They take a bath there and leave. They do not allow the residents to use it."

Dorjee alleged that the "ITBP is not doing anything to stop the problem. "The Chinese soldiers barge into Indian territory and issue orders. Our army instead of taking action against the PLA (Chinese army) restricts us from our areas".


About Demchok


Demchok or "New Demchok" is a small village and military emcampment in the Indian-administered part of the disputed Demchok sector south of Aksai Chin, in the Ladakh district of India. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) passes along the southeast side of the village, following a wadi just upstream from the nearby Indus River. Across the wadi, less than a kilometer away, is the Chinese-administered village, called Dêmqog, in the Ngari Prefecture within the Tibet Autonomous Region. This village was on an old route linking Ladakh and Tibet, currently closed.[1] The village lies 36.5 km east of Ukdungle.

Though the Kailash Mansarovar is 300 km away, the route there is mostly through plains [2] and there is demand to improve and open a road linking China and India through Demchok.

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Map of Damchok, Leh District, Jammu & Kashmir (bottom right)


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Topics-Health & Life Sciences
Coming Soon: Blood Test That Finds Single Cancer Cell
@ Jan 13, 2011
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Monday, January 3, 2011 7:47 AM

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A blood test so sensitive that it can spot a single cancer cell lurking among a billion healthy ones is moving one step closer to being available at your doctor's office.

Boston scientists who invented the test and healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson will announce Monday that they are joining forces to bring it to market. Four big cancer centers also will start studies using the experimental test this year.

Stray cancer cells in the blood mean that a tumor has spread or is likely to, many doctors believe. A test that can capture such cells has the potential to transform care for many types of cancer, especially breast, prostate, colon, and lung.

Initially, doctors want to use the test to try to predict what treatments would be best for each patient's tumor and find out quickly if they are working.

"This is like a liquid biopsy" that avoids painful tissue sampling and may give a better way to monitor patients than periodic imaging scans, said Dr. Daniel Haber, chief of Massachusetts General Hospital's cancer center and one of the test's inventors.

Ultimately, the test may offer a way to screen for cancer besides the mammograms, colonoscopies, and other less-than-ideal methods used now.

"There's a lot of potential here, and that's why there's a lot of excitement," said Dr. Mark Kris, lung cancer chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He had no role in developing the test, but Sloan-Kettering is one of the sites that will study it this year.

Many people have their cancers diagnosed through needle biopsies. These often do not provide enough of a sample to determine what genes or pathways control a tumor's growth. Or the sample may no longer be available by the time the patient gets sent to a specialist to decide what treatment to prescribe.

Doctors typically give a drug or radiation treatment and then do a CT scan two months later to look for tumor shrinkage. Some patients only live long enough to try one or two treatments, so a test that can gauge success sooner, by looking at cancer cells in the blood, could give patients more options.

"If you could find out quickly, 'this drug is working, stay on it,' or 'this drug is not working, try something else,' that would be huge," Haber said.

The only test on the market now to find tumor cells in blood — CellSearch, made by J&J's Veridex unit — just gives a cell count. It doesn't capture whole cells that doctors can analyze to choose treatments.

723a-cancer test.png

Interest in trying to collect these cells soared in 2007, after Haber and his colleagues published a study of Mass General's test. It is far more powerful than CellSearch and traps cells intact. It requires only a couple of teaspoons of blood and can be done repeatedly to monitor treatment or determine why a drug has stopped working and what to try next.

"That's what got the scientific community's interest," Kris said. Doctors can give a drug one day and sample blood the next day to see if the circulating tumor cells are gone, he explained.

The test uses a microchip that resembles a lab slide covered in 78,000 tiny posts, like bristles on a hairbrush. The posts are coated with antibodies that bind to tumor cells. When blood is forced across the chip, cells ping off the posts like balls in a pinball machine. The cancer cells stick, and stains make them glow so researchers can count and capture them for study.

The test can find one cancer cell in a billion or more healthy cells, said Mehmet Toner, a Harvard University bioengineer who helped design it. Researchers know this because they spiked blood samples with cancer cells and then searched for them with the chip.

Studies of the chip have been published in the journals Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, and Science Translational Medicine. It is the most promising of several dozen that companies and universities are rushing to develop to capture circulating tumor cells, said Bob McCormack, technology chief for Veridex.

The agreement announced Monday will have Veridex and J&J's Ortho Biotech Oncology unit work to improve the microchip, including trying a cheaper plastic to make it practical for mass production. No price goal has been set, a company official said, but the current CellSearch test costs several hundred dollars.

The companies will start a research center at Mass General and will have rights to license the test from the hospital, which holds the patents.

In a separate effort, Mass General, Sloan-Kettering, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston will start using the test this year. They are one of the "dream teams" sharing a $15 million grant from the Stand Up to Cancer telethon, run by the American Association for Cancer Research.

Already, scientists have been surprised to find that more cancer patients harbor these stray cells than has been believed. In one study, the test was used on men thought to have cancer confined to the prostate, "but we found these cells in two-thirds of patients," Toner said.

This might mean that cancer cells enter the blood soon after a tumor starts, or that more cancers have already spread but are unseen by doctors.

Or it could mean something else entirely, because researchers have much to learn about these cells, said Dr. Minetta Liu, a breast cancer specialist at Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. She led a session on them at the recent San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and has been a paid speaker for Veridex. She hopes the cells will some day aid cancer screening.

"The dream is, a woman comes in for her mammogram and gets a tube of blood drawn," so doctors can look for cancer cells in her blood as well as tumors on the imaging exam, she said.

That's still far off, but Mass General's test already is letting doctors monitor patients without painful biopsies, like Greg Vrettos, who suffered a collapsed lung from a biopsy in 2004, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

"It had spread to both lungs and they couldn't operate," said Vrettos, 63, a nonsmoker and retired electrical engineer from Durham, N.H. Tests from the biopsy showed that he was a good candidate for the drug Iressa, which he has taken ever since. He goes to Boston every three months for CT scans and the blood test.

"They could look at the number of cancer cells and see that it dropped over time. It corresponded with what the scans were showing," Vrettos said of doctors looking at his blood tests.

The test also showed when he had a setback last January and needed to have his treatment adjusted.

"I think it's going to be revolutionary," he said of the test.

© 2011 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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