2010 August

Peak Helium

In an article from the New Scientist, Nobel Price Winner Robert Richardson discusses the reasons for a shortage of Helium which may run out within 25 years from now for purely politial reasons. In summary, Helium is used in technical applications like MRI scanners where it cools superconducting magnets. This works since there’s no substance with lower boiling point (4.22 K). While it is, after Hydrogen, the most abundantly available substance in the universe, accounting for about 24% of the elemental mass of our galaxy, it is relatively rare on our planet – about 0.00052 % by volume in the atmosphere. Extracting it from the air would make its price rise by 10,000 times. Nevertheless, Helium is “sold out” by the U.S. government who holds about 50 % of the Earth’s helium stocks in a national Helium reserve – about a billion cubic metres in a facility near Amarillo, Texas:

In 1996 Congress passed an act requiring that this strategic reserve […] be sold off by 2015. As a result, helium is far too cheap and is not treated as a precious resource.

By mnott on 2010/08/21 | Politics | A comment?

Globalization works…

According to the German newsletter “Der Spiegel“, quoting the “Financial Times“, the salaries in the U.S. have declined to such a degree that Indian Call Center operators displace jobs from India to the U.S. where wages have gone down so dramatically that they can actually compete with those in India.

Pramod Bhasin, the chief executive of Genpact, said his company expected to treble its workforce in the US over the next two years, from about 1,500 employees now. Suresh Vaswani, joint chief executive of Wipro Technologies, forecasts that half of his company’s overseas workforce will be non-Indians in two years, from the current 39 per cent.

By mnott on 2010/08/20 | Politics | A comment?

Intel acquires McAfee

By now, everyone has heard about this story. It could have come in as a surprise, which in fact it isn’t. The more technically oriented know that any “Windows” system they’ve had the complete lack of a pleasure not to be able to avoid using (or having had to admire the patience of users using it) that had Antivirus installed felt like at least 3 times slower than without Antivirus. Which means that the synergy is obvious. Antivirus slows down the average computer so dramatically that the user will want a new Intel-CPU.

By mnott on 2010/08/19 | Computer | A comment?

U.S. Military afraid of their own personnel knowing the truth

According to The Huffington Post, the U.S. Military has banned their own personnel from accessing WikiLeaks even from their private computers. Money quote:

USMC Personnel (Marines/Civilians/Contractors) are hereby cautioned and directed to NOT access the WIKILEAKS website from a personally owned, publically owned or US Government computer system.
By willingly accessing the WIKILEAKS website for the purpose of viewing the posted classified material – these actions constitute the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an UNAUTHORIZED computer system not approved to store classified information. Meaning they have WILLINGLY committed a SECURITY VIOLATION.

Now how shaming is that? Not only that they try to do whatever they can to remove things from the public domain, they also try to keep their own people away from knowing the truth. We’ve had this before. Many times. Last time I remember, this was Eastern Germany.

Here’s a suggestion. Let’s print out the whole lot of documents and publish it as a book. Send loads of them to the average american household. Did I hear someone say Fahrenheit 451?

By mnott on 2010/08/07 | Politics | A comment?