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November 24, 2017


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Technology Review
March 30, 2011

Using Heat to Cool Buildings

Novel materials could make practical air conditioners and refrigerators that use little or no electricity.
It could soon be more practical to cool buildings using solar water heaters and waste heat from generators. That's because of new porous materials developed by researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. These materials can improve a process called adsorption chilling, which can be used for refrigeration and air conditioning. Adsorption chillers are too big and expensive for many applications, such as use in homes. Peter McGrail, who heads the research effort, predicts that the materials could allow adsorption chillers to be 75 percent smaller and half as expensive. This would make them competitive with conventional, compressor-driven chillers.
Technology Review
March 30, 2011

Amazon Beats Apple to Music Streaming

Cloud Drive could signal a change in the way music is delivered.
Amazon has launched a service that lets you store music on its cloud servers and access it from anywhere through a Web browser or app. The service marks the first time a major digital music retailer has allowed users such flexibility. Amazon Cloud Drive offers users five gigabytes of storage for free with the option to upgrade (the highest level is 1,000 gigabytes of storage for $1,000 per year). Music stored in the Cloud Drive can be accessed via a Web browser, or using a Cloud Player app for Android mobile devices.
Technology Review
March 30, 2011

Can Google Reinvent Web Video?

The company's free video format is set to be baked into phones and other gadgets.
An ambitious attempt by Google to shift the Web over to a new, royalty-free video format has taken significant strides. New software has been released that can build the format into dedicated chips for cell phones and other gadgets, perhaps the most crucial step before it can displace the proprietary video format that currently dominates. Google's video format is known as WebM. It was created by combining the preëxisting audio format Vorbis with VP8, a video format that Google bought last year with the intention of making it free for all to use in WebM. Google wants WebM to become the default for Web video and join the wave of new, powerful, and, crucially, free-to-use Web technologies such as HTML5 that enables Web pages to act like desktop applications.
Technology Review
March 30, 2011

Managing the Chaos of a Thousand Voices

How the Drupal community is scaling up its collaborative vision.
Whitehouse.gov, along with millions of other sites on the Web, is based on Drupal—free, open-source software, built by a global community of volunteers, that enables users to build websites even if they have little to no programming skill. The project has grown steadily since Dries Buytaert founded it in 2001, and more than a thousand people participated in creating Drupal 7, which was released in January. As the community gears up for work on Drupal 8, it is working to preserve an environment that will remain friendly to collaboration now that the project has outgrown the informal systems that have served it to date. "Initially, I was able to understand all the code," Buytaert says. "Now, that's not necessarily possible for one person." So community leaders are putting formal systems in place that they hope will make Drupal feel more accessible to new participants while giving potential users a clear sense of the project's direction. Part of the challenge facing Drupal is that even though it is created by a group of volunteers, it must present a united front to the many companies and institutions that have entrusted their websites to the software—Warner Brothers Records, Penn State University, AOL, and Symantec, among others. (Drupal users also can pay for support from companies such as Acquia, which was co-founded by Buytaert in 2007 and helps enterprises with Drupal the way that Red Hat does for Linux.)
Technology Review
March 29, 2011

Making Smart Handoffs

SAP's "follow the sun" approach speeds software development by linking teams in Europe, the U.S., and Asia.
When SAP, the large business software provider, needs to complete a project quickly, it takes advantage of its global reach, along with collaboration tools that make it easier than ever for people in disparate areas to work together. The approach is called "follow the sun." As the name implies, it's an around-the-clock operation. At the end of the workday in Germany, where SAP is headquartered, software developers and other project experts hand off work to counterparts in California. Eight hours later, the California teams hand the work over to teams in Asia. It's not ideal for every situation—such as when SAP is developing an application for use in one market. But it can be useful when time is short and SAP has to develop software that works all over the world.
Technology Review
March 29, 2011

A Genetic Test for Organ Rejection

Rising levels of donor DNA in recipients' blood could mean the organ is in danger.
A new test could provide a noninvasive way of monitoring heart transplant patients for organ rejection. The test, which relies on DNA sequencing to detect fragments of the donor's DNA in the recipient's blood, still needs to be validated in clinical trials. But physicians hope it will ultimately offer an easy way to detect the signs of organ rejection in all types of transplant patients, perhaps earlier than other approaches. Organ rejection is still a common problem after a heart transplant—only 50 percent of patients are alive 10 years after the procedure—and transplant recipients must undergo constant monitoring for signs of organ rejection. For people with donor hearts, this typically means an invasive cardiac biopsy weekly for the first few months, then two to three times a year after that. The procedure is uncomfortable, costly, and somewhat risky.
Technology Review
March 29, 2011

Robots to the Rescue in Japan

They may help efforts to bring the Fukushima plant under control, but are generally expensive and problematic.
Last week, U.S.-based iRobot sent four robots to help with recovery efforts at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, damaged as the result of a 9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Workers' efforts to bring the plant's reactors under control have been hampered by high radiation levels, and it is hoped the robots could help inspect and even repair parts of the reactors by working in areas too dangerous for humans.
MIT Research News
March 29, 2011

A New Spin on Superconductivity?

Scientists produce a crystal that could help unlock the mystery of high-temperature superconductors.
MIT scientists have synthesized, for the first time, a crystal they believe to be a two-dimensional quantum spin liquid: a solid material whose atomic spins continue to have motion, even at absolute zero temperature.

The crystal, known as herbertsmithite, is part of a family of crystals called Zn-paratacamites, which were first discovered in 1906. Physicists started paying more attention to quantum spin liquids in 1987, when Nobel laureate Philip W. Anderson theorized that quantum spin liquid theory may relate to the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, which allows materials to conduct electricity with no resistance at temperatures above 20 degrees Kelvin (-253 degrees Celsius).
Read Full Article at MIT News Office
Technology Review
March 28, 2011

New Protocol Turbocharges the Web

Websockets lets the Web handle complex communications in real time.
Over the past 15 years, Web-based applications have gradually replaced those based on other networking protocols for everything from personal communications to home electricity meters. But there's a major shortcoming in the hypertext transfer protocol—HTTP—the system used to communicate over the Web. HTTP was originally designed for serving up simple documents and files to Web browsers, not for complex, real-time interaction. Under the original HTTP protocol, a client, such as a Web browser, must open a connection to a server, make a request, wait for a response, and then close the connection. If the client needs more data, it must open a new connection. It's like hanging up the phone and redialing after every sentence of a conversation. And if the server has new info for the client, it must wait until the client requests it rather than sending it over instantly.
Technology Review
March 28, 2011

Engineered Organisms for Making Cheap Sugar

One company's method for low-cost, high-yield sugar production could help biofuels compete with fossil fuels.
In a bid to make biofuels cheaper, a startup called Proterro, based in Princeton, New Jersey, is developing a way to cut the cost of making sugar, a basic building block for ethanol. The company is engineering photosynthetic microorganisms to secrete large amounts of sugar, and it is designing a bioreactor for growing the organisms using small amounts of water. Photosynthetic microorganisms, such as algae, are usually prized for their ability to produce oils. Proterro chose to focus on sugar production because that's the source for biofuel ethanol, and it's also the starting point for new processes for making other types of biofuels.
Technology Review
March 28, 2011

SharePoint Tries to Keep Up

Why any new collaboration tool will run up against competition from Microsoft.
The collaboration tools discussed this month in Business Impact all have one thing in common. One way or another, they will run up against the market leader: Microsoft's SharePoint software, which is used by more than 100 million people around the world. SharePoint's success can be attributed to several factors. One, it does a lot: among other things, it lets employees share documents, search internal files, coördinate tasks, and send each other instant messages through a central portal. Second, customers like the fact that it works well with other widely used Microsoft products, such as Exchange e-mail and the Office software package. Third, Microsoft offers a basic version of SharePoint free to companies that run servers with Windows software.
Technology Review
March 28, 2011

Crisis Mapping Meets Check-in

New features could make a Web tool that has helped track events in Japan and the Middle East even more useful.
From Libya to Japan, a Web-reporting platform called Ushahidi has helped human rights workers and others document and make sense of fast-moving crises. The platform allows reports from cell phones and Web-connected devices to be collected and displayed on Web-based maps. Now Ushahidi is adding a concept borrowed from location-based social networking, as well as layers of private access—functionality that could make the service more efficient and useful in politically charged circumstances. It could allow groups like aid workers or election monitors to keep track of one another, note their progress in deploying resources, or enter notes that can be formalized later, without making that information public.