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First, NIH employees will no longer be allowed to have certain side jobs at pharmaceutical and biotech companies that donate billions in research money (called “payolla” by some) every year. The initial response from the staff scientists is mixed, but it seems to be pleasing advocacy groups.

Second, researchers using NIH funding are being pushed to make their findings available in any of the for-profit science journals available on the organization’s free PubMed Central web site within a year. This raised the hackles of many not-for-profit publishers who say that the “request” won’t be enough to open all NIH research to the public.

The not-for-profit proposal: require the papers to be published on one of their journals. That way, the NIH wouldn’t have to spend money expanding its own database, and people looking for a published paper could just use a search engine like Google Scholar to peruse all published scientific papers at once.

The $100 Laptop

MIT’s own Nicholas Negroponte was seen at the World Economic Forum toting around a laptop that uses a $25 display that’s similar to what’s in rear-projection TVs. It’s part of Negroponte’s mission to make computer technology available to everyone, especially children in developing countries. According to The New York Times, Negroponte was inspired by his experience giving laptops to children in Cambodia.

Past Moore’s Law

With Moore’s Law expected to be repealed sometime in the next 15 years, everyone’s looking to become the next Hammurabi of the computing world. Hewlett Packard has unveiled a replacement for the transistor that works on a molecular size scale. The “crossbar latch” uses crossing nanowires for a device that only takes up two nanometers. But, the latches can only switch off a hundred or so times a second, six orders of magnitude too slow to be of any use.

The HP team says that it can get the switches running fast enough by 2012, which may make it a graceful segue into the world of quantum or all-optical computing.

The New FCC

It looks like FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin is poised to take Chairman Powell’s place, but exactly what would that mean? Martin is generally more conservative than Powell, has shown himself to be less aggressive at deregulating, especially when it comes to Internet providers. Some are most concerned about the possibility that Martin will make a big push to set up some sort of standardized VoIP (and in a way that can be easily tapped by the FBI).

Star Gazing

Yes, Hubble is nice. It is also God-awfully expensive.

Last Monday, NASA presented a controversial budget to congress that didn’t include the extra $1 billion or so to keep up repairs on the orbiting satellite. Instead, NASA is looking toward cheaper, more specialized satellites like the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) – which is undergoing it’s final review this year.

If approved, the array will be snapping high-energy X-ray pictures that would be 1,000 better than any previous device at scoping out black holes and the origins of the universe’s heavy elements.

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