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Posts Tagged ‘technology

Film Can Change the World…

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And Produce Better Outcomes


I hardly know where to start or what to write coherently. I have so many thoughts running through my mind as a result of my studies of history and my current fondness for So. Korea and love of its people as well as the current American political scene that I hardly know where to begin.


I guess I should start off by saying that I will never forgive Obama, Geithner, and Holder for allowing all the banksters who perpetrated the 2008 financial meltdown. Those bankers, both those who headed their financial companies and those who conned the public, should have been held responsible, regardless of how long the investigation continued. I lost a quarter million dollars in my retirement funds as a result of financial institutions greed and lies at a time when I was nearly ready to retire. I’ve never recovered. As a society, we should never have stood for what happened to us at the hands of a bunch of greedy, amoral bankers. As a Democratic voter, I can honestly say Obama’s Admin was wrong!


If I’d been younger, I might have recovered…but at 61 already? Not bloody likely. Added to my anger and frustration were the actions of Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner following the passage of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill. The bill itself was relatively meek, but Wall St, nevertheless, hated it because it required them to be more responsible for their actions, ie. larger reserve amounts, better reporting, etc. Hoping to win major donations from Wall St. firms, McConnell and Boehner went to Wall St. They specifically said we’ll overturn Dodd-Frank if you donate to the Republican Party. Pure quid-pro-quo.


Republican Teddy Roosevelt, the first progressive president, witnessed the political corruption that infected politics. He wrote in his autobiography his experience in the NY Legislature, looking around at his fellow lawmakers either bribing companies for funds (if you don’t give to me, I’ll vote for this bill against you) or being blackmailed (if you don’t vote as we want, we’ll use our resources to defeat you). As a result of his changing views, TR believed the entire system…among many other areas of the economy to benefit workers…needed to be reformed. Although a firm believer in capitalism, he understood that the rules of road could and would be violated by greedy miscreants which could and would create revolution as they had in Europe. For example, he brought into being monopoly laws that stopped the consolidation of entire industry sectors into the hands of one or two companies. Moreover, he grasped that capitalism could not survive if workers revolted against the entire system as a result of their poor treatment by companies.


He understood what Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, wrote in his two books. Being a great reader, he also understood the theses of Edmund Burke. Using both of their ideas, he set about changing American society in a way that reduced greed as well as increased workers’ ability to demand respect for their labor, working conditions, and lives. History books and writers of that era filled libraries with the conflicts of workers against greedy employers…and newspapers of that era were filled with reports of the failure of employers to protect workers.


All of this leads us to what occurred prior to the last election in So. Korea. Many commentators stated that So. Koreans were so used to corruption that they, by the millions, weren’t holding protest vigils against the corruption of the Park Administration so much as its incompetency. Nevertheless, So. Koreans voted en masse against the conservative government led by Park. Since Moon Jae-In became president, he and his government have worked tirelessly to root out corruption, bribery, and influence buying. I applauded the Moon Administration for its efforts, even as I worried that the change in Administrations signaled another governmental purge that became almost institutionalized throughout Korea’s [Joseon’s} history. But the Moon Administration, thus far, has proven itself to stand by the rule of law (most of which accords to and has been adopted from the USA). In previous generations, those who had money and power could bend the law in their favor. But, I posit, the modern Korean dramas helped changed that dynamic.

Modern Korean dramas highlight, even as a subtext, the corruption of a system that failed to protect ordinary people in favor of the greedy and wealthy. I must add that greed as defined by Korean culture is not just greed for money but also greed for power, prestige, influence, recognition, and overwhelming personal and ego driven desire. Thus, the dramas highlighted the conflict between honest, compassionate people against corrupt, greedy people. In every case, greedy people failed in their schemes, even with the often painful help of their children to overthrow the evil greed of their fathers and family. The essence is that honor and respect for everyone wins over selfish greed, regardless of whether the drama was a historical drama or a modern drama.

What is little noted is how that subtext of continuous and historic corruption has influenced So. Koreans thinking today. In the 1930s, Hollywood produced many movies plainly showing how the corruption on Wall St, added and abetted by government, led to the Great Depression and its’ devastating affects on average Americans. As a result, Americans were broadly supportive of FDR’s policies, including Ronald Reagan.


That is not the case today. While So. Korea dramas, especially over the last decade, exhibit how greed affected its’ society and eventually changed how people thought, American TV has perpetuated the comic book myth of a strong leader who would save society from the bad guys. Pure insanity!

There is no strong man who will save average Americans from the depredations of a greedy, self-serving corporate America and their abettors in Congress, much less bring justice to all. Super Man, Batman, and all the other comic book heroes are pure myths. The only thing that will save America is the hard work of rooting out greed in all its forms…and returning the nation to its roots: a nation founded on the belief that governments are “for and by the people”. Yes, everyday people who work hard, save, struggle to survive, have compassion for those less fortunate, and believe in equal justice and the rule of law.


Today’s So. Korea struggles to achieve those honorable, equitable ends even as much of the USA marches backwards in ways that would stun Teddy Roosevelt….


Written by Valerie Curl

June 12, 2018 at 4:31 PM

Electric Forecast Calls for Increasing Blackouts

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Energy BlackoutPacific Standard’s Lisa Margonelli reports the US power grid is failing:

Since the early 1990s, according to data gathered by Massoud Amin, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, the number of power outages affecting more than 50,000 people a year has more than doubled, and blackouts now drain between $80 billion and $188 billion from the U.S. economy every year. The power grid is slipping backwards to a time when infrastructure was unreliable, and more and more people are talking about going “off the grid” with solar, batteries, and generators as a result. Will this doom the greater grid, and by extension the greater good?

It’s not easy to keep 450,000 miles of high voltage lines up and humming. But the situation has gotten worse over the years because the U.S. has increased the load on its lines while investing less in the system. By Amin’s reckoning, since 1995 the power industry has taken more from its infrastructure than it’s invested; research-and-development spending in the power sector has fallen to just 0.17 percent of revenue. In effect, the power industry has behaved like a low-tech industry—and so it’s becoming one.

Across the power and wonkish sectors, though, there’s a fair amount of agreement that the U.S. needs to make massive investments in the backbone of the grid, as well as in a self-healing grid that can better handle outages (and hackers), and in information technology to make the grid “smart.” Amin estimates this will cost $17 billion to $24 billion over the next 20 years, but will save perhaps $49 billion in outage costs per year and increase energy efficiency to save another $20 billion a year. In other words, as a nation the U.S. would almost make money on the spending.

But in the political climate of the last decade, Americans have not gotten their act together. “We have wasted 10 years arguing about the role of the public and private sectors,” says Amin, “and our competitors have moved ahead of us.” He believes we need a leader who, like Kennedy, can pitch a big investment as a “moonshot,” but laments that “we’ve got gridlock on policy and uncertainty with investment.”

Here’s the takeaway:

Two scary things stand out about America’s failure to shore up its grid over the last 15 years. The first is that the grid’s frailties are getting worse as our weather is getting weirder. The second is that the U.S.’s inability to sort out the right mix of public and private investment and get on with the process of building the grid we need reflects that we no longer quite believe in the common good. It’s not just a power failure, it’s also an optimism failure.

The US used to pride itself as being the first in technology. The first to imagine, solve and create the seemingly impossible. The country that led in research and design and expanding the nation’s capabilities. A country where rich, poor and everyone in between believed they had a stake in the nation’s success: building it; creating new businesses as opportunities arose; expanding opportunities – with federal and state assistance – for everyone who had vision and determination; and in pulling their equitable (affordable) share of the load via taxes.

The current debate over taxes reflects, as Lisa Margonelli writes, that we no longer quite believe in the common good. For the last 20 years or so, the argument has been what am I getting and why should I have to pay for the common good. Perhaps those of us who still take pride in the US need to be asking, if not me…and you, then who?

She Really Was Unique

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Hedy Lamarr, an Inventor well ahead of her time...and too little known or appreciated for her stunning contribution to technology and science“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”

The film star belied her own apothegm by hiding a brilliant, inventive mind beneath her photogenic exterior. In 1942, at the height of her Hollywood career, she patented a frequency-switching system for torpedo guidance that was two decades ahead of its time.

Hedy Lamarr was one of the most glamorous women in Hollywood during the 1940s. An Austrian, trained in music and math, who immigrated to the US to work for MGM in 1937 where Louis B. Mayer gave her a new name and starred this beautiful women in numerous films. But she has never received the wide-spread acclaim – and historic notoriety – for her technology changing, inventive, patented design during WWII that caused the technology we use today even possible.

During the height of WWII, Lamarr and her partner, George Antheil, both develop a torpedo guidance system that was decades ahead of its time.

They began talking about radio control for torpedoes. The idea itself was not new, but her concept of “frequency hopping” was. Lamarr brought up the idea of radio control. Antheil’s contribution was to suggest the device by which synchronization could be achieved. He proposed that rapid changes in radio frequencies could be coordinated the way he had coordinated the sixteen synchronized player pianos in his Ballet Méanique. The analogy was complete in his mind: By the time the two applied for a patent on a “Secret Communication System,” on June 10, 1941, the invention used slotted paper rolls similar to player-piano rolls to synchronize the frequency changes in transmitter and receiver, and it even called for exactly eighty-eight frequencies, the number of keys on a piano.

Lamarr and Antheil worked on the idea for several months and then, in December 1940, sent a description of it to the National Inventors Council, which had been launched with much fanfare earlier in the year as a gatherer of novel ideas and inventions from the general public. Its chairman was Charles F. Kettering, the research director of General Motors. Over its lifetime, which lasted until 1974, the council collected more than 625,000 suggestions, few of which ever reached the patent stage. But according to Antheil, Kettering himself suggested that he and Lamarr develop their idea to the point of being patentable. With the help of an electrical engineering professor from the California Institute of Technology they ironed out its bugs, and the patent was granted on August 11, 1942. It specified that a high-altitude observation plane could steer the torpedo from above.

In the United States Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil, shunned by the Navy, no longer pursued theirHedy Lemarr on looking towards the future, rather than the past, leads to new, creative innovation and a brighter future invention. But in 1957, the concept was taken up by engineers at the Sylvania Electronic Systems Division, in Buffalo, New York. Their arrangement, using, of course, electronics rather than piano rolls, ultimately became a basic tool for secure military communications. It was installed on ships sent to blockade Cuba in 1962, about three years after the Lamarr-Antheil patent had expired. Subsequent patents in frequency changing, which are generally unrelated to torpedo control, have referred to the Lamarr-Antheil patent as the basis of the field, and the concept lies behind the principal anti-jamming device used today, for example, in the U.S. government’s Milstar defense communication satellite system.

    “Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That’s the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me… and still is.”

    “All creative people want to do the unexpected.”

In addition, the science presented in this duos’ patent serves as the basis for the technology we use today in cell phones, pagers, wireless Internet, defense satellites, and a plethora of other spread-spectrum devices.

Following the outbreak of World War II, Lamarr, a passionate opponent of the Nazis, wanted to contribute more to the allied effort. As Mrs. Fritz Mandl, she had closely observed the planning and discussions that went into attempting to design remote-controlled torpedoes. These never went into production, because the radio-controlled guidance system was too susceptible to disruption. She got the idea of distributing the torpedo guidance signal over several frequencies, thus protecting it from enemy jamming. The only weak point was how to employ the synchronization of the signal’s transmitter and receiver.

In 1940, Lamarr met the American avant-garde composer George Antheil of “ballet mécanique” fame. She described her idea to him, and asked him to help her construct a device that would enable this signal to be synchronized. Antheil laid out a system based on 88 frequencies, corresponding to the number of keys on a piano, using perforated paper rolls which would turn in sync with one another, transmitting and receiving ever-changing frequencies, preventing interceptance and jamming.

In December of 1940, the “frequency hopping” device developed by Lamarr and Antheil was submitted to the national inventors council, a semi-military inventors’ association. Lamarr and Antheil went on to file for a patent application for the “Secret Communication System,” June 10, 1941. The patent was granted by the United States patent office on august 11, 1942.

Lamarr and Antheil immediately placed their patent at the disposal of the US military. Though the us government did not deploy the “secret communication system” during World War II, the US Navy commissioned a project to acoustically detect submarines using sonar buoys remote-controlled from airplanes employing “frequency hopping” in the 1950s.

Twenty years after its conceptualization, during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the first instance of large-scale military deployment of Lamarr and Antheil’s frequency hopping technology was implemented– not for the remote-controlled guidance of torpedoes, but to provide secure communications among the ships involved in the naval blockade. The early ’60s saw the development of reconnaissance drones based on frequency hopping, which were later deployed in Vietnam. With the emergence of digital technology and the military’s release of frequency hopping for public use in the 1980s, Lamarr and Antheil’s invention took on new significance. Instead of “frequency hopping,” today’s term is “spread spectrum” but the basic idea is the same. The FCC recently allotted a special section of the radio spectrum for an experiment using the spread spectrum idea in a test designed to make cell phone calls more secure. A lot of corporate dollars have been invested in this process which has allowed more cell phone users to use the existing frequency spectrum.

Soon, Hedy finds out a way how to hide radio signals sent from a ship to its torpedo. She notices that when a ship flips quickly from one radio channel to another, it is impossible for another ship to detect the signals it is sending. On the other hand, she has an alternative solution to the problem regarding the already sent signals reaching the torpedo’s radio – the radios of the ship and the torpedo have to change channels simultaneously. Together with her neighbor, George Antheil, a composer who has experimented with automated control of musical instruments, she submits her idea of a secret communication system in June 1941. As a result, in 1942 Hedy and George receive a U.S. Patent 2,292,387 for their invention. They name it the Secret Communication System.

The patent itself is little-known until 1997, when The Electronic Frontier Foundation acknowledges Lamarr’s contribution to the invention of frequency (channel) hopping and gave her an honorary award – the Pioneer Award.

The tech world really deserves to honor Hedy Lamarr for her ground-breaking invention. But even more, all women, and girls, should recognize that gender is not a limitation on creative technological innovation or intelligence. Hedy Lamarr proved gender – and beauty – do not control creative intelligence.

Ted Talks: Game Changing Ghandian Engineering

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Disruptive innovation: doing more for less for more and more people.

The United States needs these kinds of Game Changers as we move further into the 21st Century. We can’t live in the past. 1950 will never return. We will not and cannot lock our borders to goods and people and hope to thrive. We’ll just get left behind.

Instead, we have to innovate our way out of structural unemployment. Take existing problems and challenges and think about them a new way with new low cost requirements. Then let the imaginations of the best and brightest go to work.

Watch the video:

Written by Valerie Curl

October 26, 2010 at 3:19 PM

Politicians Could Take A Lesson From These Two Opposing Camps

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Post Partisan PowerIn a rare but fruitful collaboration, the American Enterprise Institute and Brooking Institute joined together with Breakthrough Institute to develop a new energy policy recommendation that could lead the country towards a sound, efficient and effective energy policy that could satisfy both Republicans and Democrats.

The Breakthrough Institute was founded in 2003 by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus to modernize liberal-progressive-green politics. Pulling together the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal leaning think-tank, The Brookings Institute, the three organizations worked collaboratively to create a white paper, “Post-Partisan Power” – Summary of Recommendations, that lays out an energy policy for a 21st Century United States.

It is time to hit the reset button on energy policy, according to scholars with American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution and the Breakthrough Institute, who are today releasing a new report, “Post-Partisan Power,” which calls for revamping America’s energy innovation system with the aim of making clean energy cheap.
Writes David Leonhardt in today’s New York Times, “the death of cap and trade doesn’t have to mean the death of climate policy. The alternative revolves around much more, and much better organized, financing for clean energy research. It’s an idea with a growing list of supporters, a list that even includes conservatives — most of whom opposed cap and trade.”

Mark Muro of Brookings tells Politico the proposal’s four parts “are broadly popular, provide a very broad and appealing American vision of economic transformation and are certainly far more doable than a global pricing system at this point.” Added Steve Hayward of American Enterprise Institute, “The entire climate and energy agenda that we’ve been talking about for several years now has hit a dead end, so it’s time to hit the reset button.”

The energy policy these three think tanks propose focuses on research and development to encourage and create cost effective innovation that the private market can manufacture and deploy here in the U.S. as well as sell abroad.

Taking a market based approach, such as was used by DARPA in the 1960s and ’70s, the recommendations do not rely upon taxes or “cap and trade” to force innovation. Instead the authors recommend using the capacity of the federal government in collaboration with scientists, universities and private industry to spur innovation and develop highly cost effective and efficient market oriented products that can be manufactured in the US and sold worldwide.

As the Politico article states:

The authors blame lawmakers on the left and right for getting wrapped up in the “climate wars” of the last decade while doing little to advance clean energy.

“The choice is not, as liberals often maintain, between global warming apocalypse or mandating the widespread adoption of today’s solar, wind, and electric car technologies,” they write. “Nor is the choice, as conservatives have argued, between an economy wrecked by liberal global warming policies or expanding drilling and nuclear power.”

Instead, they’re proposing a middle ground. And they think the country might have a bigger appetite for compromise after the demise of energy and climate legislation this year.

To read the entire report, download the white paper here.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 13, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Dumb Down of America, as Espoused by Rush Limbaugh

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Even as the U.S. faces enormous global economic competitive challenges to our standard of living, high school and college graduation rates are falling. Per capita, China has more college graduates in science and technology than the U.S., according to recent statistics. U.S. graduation rates already behind the small, third wold county of Kazakhstan. And the U.S. has fallen to fourth place in worldwide innovation statistics.

Not that long ago, the U.S. led in high school and college graduation rates and was the world leader in scientific discoveries and technological innovation. It’s what made America economically strong and vibrant…the world class leader. That is who we’ve been since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Every American knows gloomy these statistics. We’ve heard them over and over again. But just when we need to boost our national science and educational standards, the great leader of the far right, Rush Limbaugh, has taken aim against science and education.

The four corners of deceit: government, academia, science and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.

Our country cannot afford to allow this anti-science, technology and education rhetoric to continue while still expecting to support a vibrant middle class and entrepreneurial society far into the future.

Is a truly uneducated, ignorant America how we want our children are to compete in a globally competitive economy that requires superior knowledge of science, technology, and creative innovation?

After Limbaugh’s rant against science, Nature Magazine commented with a strong riposte against Limbaugh’s anti-science, anti-education rant in favor of ignorance.

If we, as a proud forward-leaning, innovative country, do not fight against this propagation of ignorance by right wing media pundits, our children and grandchildren truly will find themselves living in the world’s largest third world country. Is that what you seek for your children and grandchildren?

Science scorned

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.

“The four corners of deceit: government, academia, science and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.” It is tempting to laugh off this and other rhetoric broadcast by Rush Limbaugh, a conservative US radio host, but Limbaugh and similar voices are no laughing matter.

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research. Take the surprise ousting last week of Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator for Alaska, by political unknown Joe Miller in the Republican primary for the 2 November midterm congressional elections. Miller, who is backed by the conservative ‘Tea Party movement’, called his opponent’s acknowledgement of the reality of global warming “exhibit ‘A’ for why she needs to go”.

The right-wing populism that is flourishing in the current climate of economic insecurity echoes many traditional conservative themes, such as opposition to taxes, regulation and immigration. But the Tea Party and its cheerleaders, who include Limbaugh, Fox News television host Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who famously decried fruitfly research as a waste of public money), are also tapping an age-old US political impulse — a suspicion of elites and expertise.

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”. The Tea Party’s leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution and to stem-cell and embryo research — which Beck has equated with eugenics. The movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government. Under the administration of George W. Bush, science in policy had already taken knocks from both neglect and ideology. Yet President Barack Obama’s promise to “restore science to its rightful place” seems to have linked science to liberal politics, making it even more of a target of the right.

US citizens face economic problems that are all too real, and the country’s future crucially depends on education, science and technology as it faces increasing competition from China and other emerging science powers. Last month’s recall of hundreds of millions of US eggs because of the risk of salmonella poisoning, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, are timely reminders of why the US government needs to serve the people better by developing and enforcing improved science-based regulations. Yet the public often buys into anti-science, anti-regulation agendas that are orchestrated by business interests and their sponsored think tanks and front groups.

In the current poisoned political atmosphere, the defenders of science have few easy remedies. Reassuringly, polls continue to show that the overwhelming majority of the US public sees science as a force for good, and the anti-science rumblings may be ephemeral. As educators, scientists should redouble their efforts to promote rationalism, scholarship and critical thought among the young, and engage with both the media and politicians to help illuminate the pressing science-based issues of our time.

Trains, taxes, health care and other thoughts

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Yesterday NPR aired a brief report on high-speed rail travel. The report explained that most of Europe, Japan and China have high speed rail which they chose to spend the money to build.

A couple living in Brussels commute daily to France to work. The commute each way on high speed rail from Brussels to Paris is 1 hour and 20 minutes. The drive time is close to a day. The point was that Europeans and other countries chose to spend the money from their taxes to build these rail lines.

As I was listening, I kept thinking, “Why is the U.S. so far behind? Why are we not leading the way as President Kennedy challenged us to do in the Space race?”

Then, the answer came to me. Oh, yeah, we spend all of our spare tax dollars – 58% of the federal budget – to support a huge military-industrial complex which these other countries don’t. Except perhaps for China, these other countries don’t spend the greatest amount of tax dollars on military expenditures.

Then, I started fuming. I do not want the U.S. to be second-class in any area. I want the U.S. to be the leader in every technology. I want advances to begin here. But being the technology leader, and building an infrastructure that leads the world, takes tax dollars. Those same tax dollars that some say should never be collected. They say no taxes are good taxes.

But would we have the national highway system or NASA without those tax dollars? However, they have no problem with the 58% that goes to the military-industrial complex rather than to domestic expenditures. Apparently, domestic expenditures are a waste of money in their minds.

As Americans, we have to decide what is in the best interests of our nation long-term. That’s why when I hear the far-right fringe spouting off with such obvious fear tactics and lies I can’t help but fear for our nation. I’m not afraid for myself or my children. I fear for the nation my grandchildren will inherit. Not just a nation badly in debt, but a nation that has lost its pride in its uniqueness. A nation that is no longer on the leading edge of invention, productivity, and competitiveness, but a nation that has fallen behind the rest of the world. A nation that has become second-class.

That’s why, too, health care reform that really does reduce costs for both families and businesses is vital. Without fiscally healthy businesses, free of the huge health care costs they currently pay, employment will not grow at the pace that is required. Without healthy employment, tax revenues will continue to be depressed. Without tax revenues, the nation cannot implement innovative, technological changes that will escalate the U.S. into the lead again. And without a change in our policy towards the military-industrial policy, the country will never see the innovative, technological changes that will catapult American competitiveness to number one in every area.

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