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TR: The Week in Review

Throughout the week, the TR editors scour newspapers, blogs, and journals to give readers a quick synopsis of what happened in the previous week in the field of emerging technologies.
February 16, 2005

Throughout the week, the TR editors scour newspapers, blogs, and journals to give readers a quick synopsis of what happened in the previous week in the field of emerging technologies.

The Core of Cell

Multicored is likely the next big buzzword in technology.

Last Monday, the trinity of IBM, Sony and Toshiba finally revealed the details of the Cell Chip, which has several mini-computing engines controlling eight processor units instead of one large processing running the whole show, according to the BBC.

This is big for two reasons.

First, while the Cell won’t tack on much clock speed (it could reach 4 GHz, versus Intel’s top of the line 3.8 GHz), it simultaneously runs ten instruction sequences instead of only two. This means computing flexibility such as juggling a few different operating systems, here. Why do it? Because that’s the kind of multitasking that it’s going to take to run tomorrow’s TVs, game systems, and PCs. Not to mention server systems.

Second, this is the biggest change in processor architecture since the Pentium, and it’s a safe bet that it won’t be compatible with older PCs. That’s a major threat to the fabric of today’s Intel/Microsoft reality. To counter, Intel is promising to unleash its own dual-core chips in this year’s second quarter.

The Cell chips will make their first appearance in HD TVs by year’s end, and then in Sony’s Playstation 3 in 2006.

Stairway to Heaven (Furnished by IKEA)

Someday, there really will be a Planet Starbucks.

Space.com reports that NASA has rolled out its highly incremental “spiral staircase” plan that begins with ditching the shuttle for a new Crew Exploration Vehicle and ends with a manned flight to Mars after 2020.

The plan, though, won’t be government funded. Instead, it relies heavily on private businesses to design and build the new technology – eventually cumulating in a new “competitive commercial launch industry.”

But why wait for NASA? MSNBC reports that Space entrepreneurs like SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan and Virgin Galactic’s Alex Tai have formed the Personal Spaceflight Federation. The group’s first task will be to set up the rules of the road for space tourism, focusing on safety standards and finding a way to work around the U.S.’s technology export restrictions and International Traffic in Arms Regulation.

For those wondering why NASA may look outside its engineers for these long-range plans, the answer lies in the Associated Press report that found mission specialists pouring through plans to insure that the next space shuttle flight comes off without a hitch.

Heads in the Clouds

Britain is taking its turn at leading the Group of Eight Rich Nations (the G8), and Reuters reports that Prime Minister Tony Blair wants to use that power to make the environmental better. The only problem:  he wants help from President Bush – the only G8 leader who doesn’t really believe in global warming.

Blair told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that he is hopeful that the United States will re-engage in talks about cutting CO2 emissions and bolstering research into renewable energy and fuel efficient technologies.

The AFP reported Wednesday that the European Commission has issued a statement criticizing the European Union for not putting enough into new clean technologies, but more so for not trying harder to convince the United States to do the same.

Reuters reported Thursday that U.S. financial and insurance firms aren’t signing on to the U.N. Environmental Program Financial Initiative – a plan to sink money into the development of clean technologies and policies instead of paying out insurance for damage caused by the severe storms, draught, and flooding spurred from global warming.

The backdrop for all of this bickering over the Earth’s environs: NASA scientists warn that the build up of greenhouse gases could turn 2005 into the hottest year ever recorded.

How Much is that Doggy in the Test Tube?

Welcome to Waunakee, Wisconsin. We clone cats.

Genetic Savings and Clone, the business that will clone a cat for $50,000 (they’re going to offer dog cloning soon), is expanding to Cheeseville, opening its doors in one of the town’s more innocuous brick buildings, according to Madison.com.

Good choice. Their office space might have been closed down in California, where Reuters reports Assembly Member Lloyd Levine has introduced a bill to outlaw the sale of cloned pets. Across the pond, Ian Wilmut – cloner of Dolly the sheep – is tired of messing with fuzzy animals, and has just been granted a license to clone human embryos for medical research.

Bugged?

Businesses love radio frequency ID (RFID tags) for tracking inventory. Consumers and school kids – not so much.

The BBC News reported Wednesday that 55 percent of Europeans surveyed were worried that RFID tags on grocery items could be used to track them after they have left the store. The AP reported on Thursday that parents of school children at Brittan Elementary School in Sutter, Calif., were worried that RFID badges worn by students were an invasion of privacy – mostly because they believe that the devices could be used to monitor the kids’ exact position every moment of the day.

Experts in both instances are still trying to explain that RFID is not GPS.

Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

On a sad note, as Salon.com reported its first profitable quarter ever, it’s founder, editor-in-chief, and CEO Dave Talbot announced that he would be stepping down. Salon, under Talbot’s leadership, is widely held as a proof-of-concept that real journalism can be practiced online.

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