- GENERAL ELECTRIC’S health-care laboratory in Bangalore has developed a hand-held electrocardiogram (ECG) that is "small enough to fit into a small backpack and can run on batteries as well as on the mains. This miracle of compression sells for $800, instead of $2,000 for a conventional ECG, and has reduced the cost of an ECG test to just $1 per patient."
- Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has developed a water filter that uses rice husks to purify water. "It is not only robust and portable but also relatively cheap, giving a large family an abundant supply of bacteria-free water for an initial investment of about $24 and a recurring expense of about $4 for a new filter every few months."
- "Tata Motors has produced a $2,200 car, the Nano.
- "Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing, one of India’s oldest industrial groups, has developed a $70 fridge that runs on batteries, known as “the little cool”.
- "First Energy, a start-up, has invented a wood-burning stove that consumes less energy and produces less smoke than regular stoves.
- "Anurag Gupta, a telecoms entrepreneur, has reduced a bank branch to a smart-phone and a fingerprint scanner that allow ATM machines to be taken to rural customers."
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Dr. Guy Stever died recently at the age of 93. His was a most distinguished career. I can do no better to summarize it than to quote the description from his book, In War and Peace: My Life in Science and Technology:
Science came into Guy Stever s life as a pure and peaceful pursuit. It was only later, as he walked through the wreckage of wartime London that he began to see science as central to a desperate struggle to survive.I knew Dr. Stever through his service to the Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID) of the National Academies in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time he was the Foreign Secretary of the National Academy of Engineering, and I was the project manager of the USAID grant that funded BOSTID.
Past president of Carnegie Mellon University, former Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, one-time Director of the National Science Foundation, professor at MIT for 20 years, member of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, and science advisor to two presidents Guy Stever was a central figure in twentieth century science consistently on the front lines, changing the fate of a nation.
In this thoughtful and candid memoir, Stever recounts an extraordinary life that reveals as much about the man as about the major scientific and technological events of his day. Born of humble origins and orphaned at an early age, Stever journeyed from a small town in New York to work alongside British comrades who were developing and refining the critical radar technology that was to turn the tide of the war against the Germans. As a technical intelligence officer, these harrowing wartime years took him from the beachheads of Normandy to the German slave-labor factories responsible for building the V-2 rockets.
Stever returned home committed to serving his country. He became intimately involved in America s nascent guided missile program and was to remain a key player in the anti-ballistic missile defense program that heralded the era of the Cold War. As the decades passed, Stever continued to exert lasting influence on countless scientific endeavors. He was instrumental in the formation of new institutions, from the creation of NASA in the post-Sputnik years to the merging of Carnegie Tech and the Mellon Institution, giving birth to Carnegie Mellon University. As Presidential Science Advisor to both Nixon and Ford, Stever shaped the very structure of contemporary presidential science advising. And he was to chair the oversight committee that redesigned the space shuttle boosters after the Challenger explosion.
Guy Stever s life offers remarkable insight into the twentieth century. Through his eyes, we relive the history of the past 50 years, witnesses to a tale of science and technology that is revealing in its scope and sweep.
I came to have great respect for his wisdom, his courtesy and his skill in the provision of scientific advise. Only later did I come to wonder at the willingness of this very important and very famous man to devote so much time and effort to helping develop science in poor nations and helping to make the fruits of science available to the poor in those nations. I was very fortunate to come to know the gentleman!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
- The administration took very rapid action to revive the economy, and the stock market is half way back to pre-crisis levels while employment is beginning to revive.
- The health care reform law is a historic achievement, one that several previous administrations had failed to obtain.
- There seems to be progress on nuclear disarmament.
- We seem to be phasing out of Iraq in a reasonable manner.
- The Bush administration's war on science, science education and family planning have been reversed.
- There seems to be progress in foreign policy with regards to China and Israel, not to mention a radical change from the global anger at Bush to wide spread favorable opinion about Obama.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
This is an interesting article. I quote one of many interesting paragraphs:
The double, inside/outside relationship of the modern university to society meant that the university was both a social institution and a relatively independent standpoint from which the whole (of society, history and nature) could be represented in the form of knowledge. The end of the double relationship means that the university is in danger of being subsumed within society to become exclusively, one-sidedly, a servant of social interests. We can see emerging a university thoroughly immersed in socio-technical networks identical with those of the society as a whole. This indistinction between university and society implies the end of a standpoint from which one can represent the whole in the form of knowledge and the beginning of the production of forms of knowledge that have a directly social function. Knowledge-production becomes an action alongside other actions rather than a representation of the whole field of action.The author points out, correctly I believe, that the role of the university is changing, both as higher education becomes far more common and as the evolving global information infrastructure results in changes in information and knowledge systems.
He seems especially concerned with the changing role of the university in the creation of technological knowledge. I suggest that technological knowledge has always been created primarily in industry, but now there are increasing efforts to utilize technological departments in universities for the creation of technological knowledge.
He is also concerned that the public university is increasingly facing competition from private universities (and I suppose that public financing is increasingly being supplemented by private financing of higher education).
He is most concerned I think with what he perceives to be a decline in the role of the university as a producer of public knowledge. I suggest that it is important to think about this phenomenon in terms of a classification of knowledge.
- Technological knowledge that is best utilized within private industry probably should not be "public" in the sense of being placed in the public domain, but rather should be protected by intellectual property rights to enhance the probability that corporations will invest in its commercialization.
- Policy relevant knowledge, such as that from much of social science research, should be made available to policy makers and its import conveyed to the general public.
- There is also a large component of knowledge that is probably neither suitable for commercialization nor potentially improving policy, and this body of knowledge might be seen as common property knowledge.
- Increased public support for the creation of policy relevant knowledge in institutions of higher education.
- New modalities for the popular dissemination of policy relevant knowledge, especially new ways to finance the translation and transmission of such knowledge.
- Ways to better acknowledge the value of contributions to common property knowledge.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
- “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
- “The universe began with a huge explosion.”
Findings: "In all developing countries, public financing of health in constant US$ from domestic sources increased by nearly 100% (IMF 120%; WHO 88%) from 1995 to 2006. Overall, this increase was the product of rising GDP, slight decreases in the share of GDP spent by government, and increases in the share of government spending on health. At the country level, while shares of government expenditures to health increased in many regions, they decreased in many sub-Saharan African countries. The statistical analysis showed that DAH to government had a negative and significant effect on domestic government spending on health such that for every US$1 of DAH to government, government health expenditures from domestic resources were reduced by $0·43 (p=0) to $1·14 (p=0). However, DAH to the non-governmental sector had a positive and significant effect on domestic government health spending. Both results were robust to multiple specifications and subset analyses. Other factors, such as debt relief, had no detectable effect on domestic government health spending."
Friday, April 09, 2010
The United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) has called on the Senate and the Obama Administration to move quickly to ratify international agreements that safeguard peace, security, human rights and the environment.
Observing that the U.S. poor record on treaty ratification has increasingly isolated the country from the growing world wide codification of international norms and from our democratic allies in particular, the Association called for a concerted effort to review and accept the many outstanding treaties that serve America’s interest and values.
In May 2009 the Administration formally asked the Senate to ratify 17 treaties, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Almost a year later, not one of these treaties has been ratified or scheduled for a Senate vote.
“To protect and strengthen rule-based international order, and secure the cooperation abroad needed to solve global problems, America should support treaties” observed UNA-USA President A. Edward Elmendorf. “The President should continue to lead, and the Senate must rise to its responsibilities to grant its advice and consent.”
The Association statement accompanied its release of a report entitled “Renewing America’s Commitment to International Law” by Lawrence C. Moss, a member of the Association’s Task Force on Human Rights. The report stresses that American participation in international treaty regimes is essential to induce other nations to join in cooperative action on the great many global challenges America faces. Treaties on nuclear arms, international justice, human rights, biologic diversity, organic pollutants, climate change, and regulation of the oceans have been adopted by much of the world but have languished without ratification by the United States.
The report notes that trade treaties have been “fast-tracked” and adopted by majority votes with amendments and filibusters barred. It observes that human rights treaties have been unable to win a 2/3 majority in the Senate and suggests a similar “fast track” treatment for human rights treaties. To access the report, click here.
Comment: Let me add my support for rapid ratification of these treaties. If the United States wants to be credible on issues of human rights, we should be leaders in the ratification of human rights treaties.
Of course the problem is that we still have real domestic human rights problems. We enlist 17 year olds in the military, there are still states that impose the death penalty, and prostitution is still legal in Nevada. We are going to have to clean up our act if the federal government is going to be able to ratify all the human rights conventions. JAD
- coordination with subordinates in State, and in other executive branch departments which have substantive interests in the programs of international agencies -- a lot of decisions are made at this level
- the roles of the Assistant Secretary, the Deputy Secretary and Secretary (a significant responsibility was keeping issues contained so as not to require their attention)
- budget negotiations with the Office of Management and Budget
- participation of National Security Council staff and others in the White House in major policy decisions
- discussions with Congressional staffers
- inputs from the public, including officials of civil society organizations
- The Soviet Union,
Thursday, April 08, 2010
My friend Julianne pointed out this article. As the title suggests, the U.S. Government is taking action to see that research it funds will be made freely available on the Internet when it is published in a peer-reviewed journal. "(T)wo parallel efforts from the US government could see almost all federally funded research made available in free, publicly accessible repositories:"
The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bill reintroduced in the Senate in June last year by Joseph Lieberman (Independent, Connecticut) and John Cornyn (Republican, Texas), would apply to all research funded by federal agencies with annual research budgets of more than $100 million, with a few exceptions such as classified research. The House could consider the bill within months.The article also notes:
Meanwhile, a six-week public consultation on whether and how public-access policies might be implemented ended on 21 January. Organized by the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the consultation has sparked intense speculation that President Barack Obama might soon sign an executive order bringing a policy covering similar ground to the FRPAA into force. That order might also dispense with the $100-million budget cap, but, being an executive order, it would be more vulnerable than a federal law to being overturned by a future administration.
Public access was boosted in late 2007, when the US Congress passed a bill making it compulsory for scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to deposit their papers in the agency's PubMed Central archive within 12 months of publication.
Source: "Guinea worm a greater challenge than smallpox," Madison Park, CNN, April 6, 2010
Guinea Worm is a parasitic disease which is quite debilitating to its victims. The Carter Center has led a program for three decades to eradicate the disease and it is now predicted that the disease will be gone for good for the entire planet by 2015.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
From his article "Expert Systems Fight Poverty" in the April 2010 Scientific American:
On a recent trip to Africa, I saw two simple but powerful examples of lifesaving protocols enabled by mobile phones. In the Ghanaian village of Bonsaaso, part of the Millennium Village Project, a simple phone-based system is lowering maternal mortality during childbirth. Community health workers (CHWs) with basic training, a skilled midwife, an ambulance driver and a receiving hospital use mobile phones to coordinate as a team. Ever more deliveries now take place in the clinic rather than at home; in the event of complications, the mother is whisked to a receiving hospital about 10 miles away. Mobile phone connectivity among community, clinic, ambulance and hospital makes possible a once unthinkable degree of coordination.
In the Kenyan village of Sauri, also part of the Millennium Village Project, CHWs are pioneering the application of expert systems for malaria control. In the past, suspected malaria patients had to walk or be carried to a clinic, often miles away, have a blood smear read under a microscope by a trained technician and, if positive, receive a prescription. With clinics few and far between and with trained technicians and microscopes even scarcer, untreated, lethal malaria ran rampant.
In the new approach, CHWs visit households on the lookout for fevers that may signify malaria. They carry rapid diagnostic tests that examine a drop of blood for the presence of the malaria pathogen. Then they send an SMS (short service message) text with the patient’s ID and the test results. Seconds later an automated text response informs the health worker of the proper course of treatment, if any. The system can also send reminders about any follow-up treatments or scheduled clinic visits for the patient. The new system of malaria control includes insecticide-treated bed nets made to last for five years and a new generation of combination drugs based on a traditional Chinese herbal treatment, artemisinin.
In the electricity business, it was the invention of something called the “rotary converter” and other transformers that led to the rise of the power utility. It allowed power from different generators to be pooled and distributed over the grid. The analogous technology in cloud computing is virtualisation. This separates software from hardware, allowing many programs to run on any machine, and indeed to switch between them. Although hardware stays in one place, “virtual machines” consuming processing power can jump around, even between far-flung data centres. Virtualisation has also given rise to big “cloud providers”, which offer computing power on demand, such as Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of the eponymous online-shopping giant.
It took decades for electrical power to become a tradable commodity. Computing seems to be getting there faster. Standards bodies are working on rules that would make it easier to move virtual machines around, and a raft of start-ups are making this their business.
Monday, April 05, 2010
- share knowledge and beliefs that differentiate them from non-scientists, and indeed share an approach to knowledge itself which is special to science;
- share practices in their work and knowledge acquisition that are not shared by non-scientists.
- share values specifically on knowledge and information, but others as well that are not widely shared by non-scientists;
- participate in institutions which we may characterize such as scientific institutions, including professional societies, research laboratories and schools of science that are specific to their community.
- share a language not understood outside of the community of scientists, including mathematics and statistics, as well as scientific nomenclature and jargon.
- utilize tools and approaches in their work which are not widely used nor understood outside of science;
- have a social structure with defined stratification of both prestige and leadership roles specific to science;
Saturday, April 03, 2010
One of the ways cultures change is that the meanings of words change. Some time ago I posted some thoughts on the changes of the meaning of the word "culture" since UNESCO was created in 1945. This posting is on the changes in the meaning of "science" since UNESCO was created.
I perceive from the Wikipedia article on Science that there would be little difference from the beginning to the end of the 65 year history of UNESCO in the decision as to whether a specific individual in a specific activity was a scientist doing science. While the term "scientist" dates only from the first half of the 19th century, and while there continues to be debate on exactly what constitutes the scientific method, "(b)y the twentieth century (1900s), the modern notion of science as a special kind of knowledge about the world, practiced by a distinct group and pursued through a unique method, was essentially in place."
Since Thomas Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, achieved such wide distribution and acceptance it has been recognized that science is a social enterprise with scientists working in communities defined by common paradigms. In this sense it is possible to consider "science" as the term labeling the collection of these communities and their paradigms.
- There are many more scientists today.
- The geography of science has changed radically. The period encompassing World War I and World War II had seen science change from a Eurocentric enterprise to one in which probably half of the world's scientists worked in North America. Since 1945, European science has returned to comparable strength with that of North America, Asian science is moving toward that status, and scientific communities have developed also in Latin America and Africa.
- Not only have there been paradigm shifts in many if not all of the communities existing in 1945, new paradigms such as genomics and computer science have been developed.
- New scientific institutions have been created, including not only new formal scientific organizations and societies, but informal institutions such as Internet mediated scientific networks.
- The linkages of science and the wider society have strengthened, including a much stronger linkage of science and technology and a growing linkage of science based policy.
The other night in my UNESCO seminar we discussed some ethical issues raised in the context of that organization. I perceived among the students what might be a common problem -- discussing discussing decision making by an organization using the model of the individual's decision making. There are better ways.
UNESCO's Secretariat is charged with the implementation of some conventions. These multinational treaties are created by a process of negotiation among the foreign ministries of member nations and come into force when ratified by a sufficient number of states parties. The ratification usually requires legislative approval within the member nations. There exist approaches from political science and the study of international affairs which help to understand how agreement is reached in such legislative contexts.
Similarly, UNESCO's governing bodies, the 58 member Executive Board and the 193 member General Conference can be understood as legislative bodies, albeit complicated by the fact that the members of these bodies represent sovereign states, separated by the full spectrum of global cultural diversity.
UNESCO's Secretariat can be understood through the lens of organizational theory, since it is in fact a bureaucratic organization. Thus decisions are taken within the Secretariat by subgroups of the members of the staff, according to formal and informal processes, usually acting with incomplete information and influenced both by the rules set down by the governing bodies and the interests of the individual members of the Organization.
It may seem that UNESCO's program would be likely to present few ethical issues. Who would be opposed to education, science or culture? Indeed, for the vast majority of staff members most of the time will not be faced by any greater ethical issues than were they to be working in a supermarket or a bank.
There are counterexamples. Consider UNESCO's theme of HIV/AIDS education. The Secretariat was instructed by its governing bodies to deal with this issue, including helping member states develop capacities for such education. Since high risk groups for HIV infection include sex workers, homosexuals and young people engaging in sexual activity, educational approaches to high risk groups may be expected to raise ethical issues for some members of the Secretariat, especially when they are working with cultures quite different from their own. Indeed, similar examples could be raised for the science and culture programs.
We have come full circle. For the international civil servant working in the UNESCO Secretariat facing an ethical decision, the entire structure of theory of ethical and personal decision making can be brought to bear.