Researchers achieve a goal they’ve been after since the 1980s—the advance could make cars and airplanes lighter, and renewable energy more practical.
[ ]…Years of tinkering in the lab to find the right assembly techniques and ingredients have enabled researchers led by Rice materials science professors Pulickel Ajayan and Enrique Barrera to finally make carbon nanotube cables as good as copper cables. The group’s nano cables boast a combination of properties that’s so far unprecedented. They’re mechanically strong, yet flexible enough to be knotted or woven together into long lengths of wire. They carry about 100,000 amps of current per square centimeter of material, about the same amount as copper wires, but weigh one-sixth as much. They outperform copper on a metric called current density, which means they should be able to carry more electricity over longer distances without losing energy to heat—a problem with today’s electrical grid, and with computer chips. And because they’re made of carbon, not metal, they don’t corrode.
This might be one way that auto and truck makers can meet future mileage standards – the weight of wires within the vehicle and components such as the alternator would be lower. The new Airbus A380 contains 530 km (330 mi) of wiring and a 747-400 has 171 miles (274 km) of wiring and 5 miles (8 km) of tubing. Boeing is mentioned in the article as one of the backers of this research at Rice University along with Chevron and the U.S. Department of Energy. A statist or socialist or Marxist collaboration of sorts. Hopefully conservatives and libertarians will refuse to use any products made from this developing technology so they can say they had the courage of their pure free market convictions. Socialists should avoid it as well since free market actors were involved.
The following is from this book ( which you can read on-line at the link and is available for sale at $49.00) – Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research (1999), Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB)
Federal research funding has helped build the technology base on which the computing industry has grown. A number of important computer-related products trace their technological roots to federally sponsored research programs. Early mainframe computers were given a significant boost from federally funded computing systems of the 1950s, such as the U.S. Air Force’s Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) project. Although a command-and-control system designed to warn of attacks by Soviet bombers, SAGE pioneered developments in real-time digital computing and core memory (among other advances) that rapidly spread throughout the fledgling computer industry. Time-shared minicomputers, which dominated the market in the 1970s and early 1980s, exploited time-sharing research conducted in the 1960s under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s)1 Project MAC and earlier work sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the Compatible Time-Sharing System at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (see Chapter 4). The Internet, which came of age in the early 1990s, was derived from DARPA’s ARPANET program of the early 1970s, which created a packet-switching system to link research centers across the country, as well as from subsequent programs managed by NSF to expand and improve its NSFNET (see Chapter 7). Federal funding for relational databases helped move that technology out of corporate laboratories to become the basis of a multibillion-dollar U.S. database industry. The graphical user interface, which became commonplace on personal computers in the 1990s, incorporates research conducted at SRI International under a DARPA contract some 30 years earlier (Chapter 4).
The economic impact of federally funded research in computing is evident in the many companies that have successfully commercialized technologies developed under federal contracts. Examples include Sun Microsystems, Inc., Silicon Graphics, Inc., Informix Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Netscape Communications Corporation. Established companies, such as International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (AT&T), also commercialized technologies developed with federal sponsorship, such as core memories and time-sharing operating systems. Clearly, federally sponsored research was only one element in the success of these companies. Private firms had to dedicate tremendous resources to bring these technologies successfully to market, investing in their research and development, establishing manufacturing capacity, and setting up marketing and distribution channels. But new technology created the seed for continued innovation.
In the past two days I’ve read a couple of internet posters claiming the government has had nothing to do with the development of computing or the internet. As cited above the government has frequently been the driver behind basic research and the finished technology. Sometimes private players have developed or commercialized the technology, while at other times they have taken the whole package and tweaked it for the commercial consumer market. It has been a partnership between government, universities and private enterprise. Sorry for another excerpt but they say it so well,
4-The Organization of Federal Support: A Historical Review
Rather than a single, overarching framework of support, federal funding for research in computing has been managed by a set of agencies and offices that carry the legacies of the historical periods in which they were created. Crises such as World War II, Korea, Sputnik, Vietnam, the oil shocks, and concerns over national competitiveness have all instigated new modes of government support. Los Alamos National Laboratory, for example, a leader in supercomputing, was created by the Manhattan Project and became part of the Department of Energy. The Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation emerged in the wake of World War II to continue the successful contributions of wartime science. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are products of the Cold War, created in response to the launch of Sputnik to regain the nation’s technological leadership. The National Bureau of Standards, an older agency, was transformed into the National Institute of Standards and Technology in response to recent concerns about national competitiveness. Each organization’s style, mission, and importance have changed over time; yet each organization profoundly reflects the process of its development, and the overall landscape is the result of numerous layers of history.
Understanding these layers is crucial for discussing the role of the federal government in computing research. This chapter briefly sets out a history of the federal government’s programmatic involvement in computing research since 1945, distinguishing the various layers in the historical eras in which they were first formed.
[ ]…1945-1960: Era of Government Computers
In late 1945, just a few weeks after atomic bombs ended World War II and thrust the world into the nuclear age, digital electronic computers began to whir. The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), built at the University of Pennsylvania and funded by the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory, was America’s first such machine.
One aspect of developing technologies and research mentioned in this book and seldom mentioned elsewhere is the role of educating the inventors and innovators that created the technology – regardless of whether they worked directly for government, universities in partnership with government or a government plus private enterprise endeavor. I’m not a Bill Gates fan but he put in pretty well in a talk on basic research funding in medicine,
Bill Gates said at a mHealth summit in Washington “Capitalism has another systemic problem in that the needs of the poorest will not be prioritized the way they would if you put a more human-values-driven system in. Now, of course we have government that comes in and does its best to take, you know, the beauties of capitalism, which work for so many things and is so fantastic and whenever it can be used, it is better than government.”
“Government comes in for things that the market doesn’t work well on. So, for example, the lack of funding at the basic research level, the U.S. is exemplary in putting $30 billion through the NIH; putting money through other science programs. Now, you know, I’m sure probably the people here want it to be even more but at least that gets done and then that gets coupled with the drug companies who take that and try to turn it into products. The Gates Foundation tries to take the diseases of the poorest and fulfill that role that the market driven signals aren’t going to.”
Gates and CEOs and top executives from Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, and Kleiner Perkins test went in Washington in September of this year to argue for more funding in sustainable energy technology from the government. Conservatives and right-wing libertarians argue this is inefficient or just wrong for pure ideological reasons. Some of these big corporations say they cannot afford lots of basic research because it does not pay off fast enough. They need to show profits quickly otherwise investors are turned off by low profit margins.
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