Top Secret: CIA explains its Wikipedia-like national security project
For any company moving to embrace Enterprise 2.0, some resistance to the tools that first gained traction within the consumer space is often inevitable.
But when some in the CIA began pitching Intellipedia, a Wikipedia-like project for its analysts and spies, they were met with some fierce critics.
“We were called traitors, [and were told] we were going to get people killed,” Don Burke, Intellipedia’s doyen in the CIA, said today at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference here. Sean Dennehy, the CIA’s Intellipedia evangelist, added that selling superiors on the use of such tools for collaboration was especially tricky.
“We still call spies collaborators,” he noted. “We’re trying to encourage collaboration, but there is still a negative connotation with that word.”
Despite the early challenges, the CIA now has users on its top secret, secret and sensitive unclassified networks reading and editing a central wiki that has been enhanced with a YouTube-like video channel, a Flickr-like photo-sharing feature, content tagging, blogs and RSS feeds.
Underscoring how vital Intellipedia has become to the agency, the CIA has been providing briefings about data posted on the wiki since October 2007, according to the pair. They did not provide details on who or what agencies they were briefing based on content from the project.
Burke noted than Intellipedia includes instructions from a 1944 CIA field manual for sabotaging companies. The manual suggests that agents encourage companies to use channels to make decisions, and when possible refer matters to committees for further study and consideration. Companies will face further strife when spies within encourage haggling over the precise wording of communications.
Ironically, many companies now follow such policies, which today discourage the use of Web 2.0 tools. “In big organizations, there is always someone who can say no,” Burke said. “It is really hard for organizations to change because everyone is looking for someone else to say its OK. Web 2.0 has allowed us to create new avenues of dialogue, to allow new ideas to emerge.”
Military Supercomputer Sets Record
An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, has reached a long-sought-after computing milestone by processing more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.
The Roadrunner supercomputer costs $133 million and will be used to study nuclear weapons.
The new machine is more than twice as fast as the previous fastest supercomputer, the I.B.M. BlueGene/L, which is based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
The new $133 million supercomputer, called Roadrunner in a reference to the state bird of New Mexico, was devised and built by engineers and scientists at I.B.M. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, based in Los Alamos, N.M. It will be used principally to solve classified military problems to ensure that the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons will continue to work correctly as they age. The Roadrunner will simulate the behavior of the weapons in the first fraction of a second during an explosion.
Before it is placed in a classified environment, it will also be used to explore scientific problems like climate change. The greater speed of the Roadrunner will make it possible for scientists to test global climate models with higher accuracy.
Have we underestimated total oil reserves?
Black gold might not be as scarce as we thought. This week oil prices escalated to a record $139 per barrel, but that may partly be because the amount of available oil in known reserves has been significantly underestimated.
So says Richard Pike, a former oil-industry adviser and chief executive of the UK Royal Society of Chemistry, who blames flawed statistical calculations.
Oil companies produce a bell-shaped probability distribution for how much each oil reservoir might hold, and then quote as an indicator of the reservoir’s capacity a figure they are 90 per cent certain they can exceed. When publishing a result for multiple reservoirs, they simply add up the figures for each one. And this is where the problem lies.
“They should be combining the bell curves for each reservoir,” says Pike. Adding the numbers for each reservoir ignores statistical information about the extremes of the distribution, giving a result which underestimates the true total figure for all the reservoirs.
According to published estimates, there are 1200 billion barrels still to be extracted, but Pike says there could in fact be twice as much. “The figures are almost meaningless and just provide a conservative estimate for shareholders.”
Pike claims that most oil companies do calculate statistically accurate estimates of the combined capacity of their oil reserves, but no one can access this information to work out how much oil there really is in total. “All companies keep their internal probabilistic estimates quiet,” he says.
Honda rolls out fuel cell car
Japanese automaker’s hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity promises twice the efficiency of gas-electric hybrids
Honda has been flooded with requests for the new car and has had to draw lots even though leasers will be paying $600 (£300) a month, plus about $4.99 per kilogram for the hydrogen fuel (the FCX delivers an energy equivalent fuel consumption of 81 imperial mpg). Actresses Jamie Lee Curtis and 24’s Laura Harris will be among the first drivers.
The striking four-door car was driven by Motoring last year (November 17 and 24, 2007). It is fuelled with 171 litres of gaseous hydrogen stored in a single tank at 5,000psi. The V-Flow fuel cell is Honda’s own design and produces electricity for the 134hp front-wheel drive electric motor.
The range is quoted at 270 miles, with a top speed of 100mph and 0-60mph in 10 seconds. Honda’s Ben Knight says that in well-to-wheels CO2 efficiency terms, the FCX Clarity is on a par with a battery car using electricity generated from burning natural gas. Honda plans to build up to 300 FCX Clarity models in the next three years.
NASA Plans to Visit the Sun
For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there. “We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time,” says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. “This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts.”
The name of the mission is Solar Probe+ (pronounced “Solar Probe plus”). It’s a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun’s atmosphere where it can sample solar wind and magnetism first hand. Launch could happen as early as 2015. By the time the mission ends 7 years later, planners believe Solar Probe+ will solve two great mysteries of astrophysics and make many new discoveries along the way.
IP traffic to ‘double’ every two years
Web traffic volumes will almost double every two years from 2007 to 2012, driven by video and web 2.0 applications, according to a report from Cisco Systems..
Increased use of video and social networking has created what Cisco calls ‘visual networking’, which is raising traffic volumes at a compound annual growth rate of 46 per cent.
Cisco’s Visual Networking Index (PDF) predicts that visual networking will account for 90 per cent of the traffic coursing through the world’s IP networks by 2012.
The upward trend is not only driven by consumer demand for YouTube clips and IPTV, according to the report, as business use of video conferencing will grow at 35 per cent CAGR over the same period.
Cisco reckons that traffic volumes will be measured in exabytes (one billion gigabytes) by 2012 and will reach 552 exabytes by that time.
Soon after 2012 we will have to adopt zettabytes (one thousand billion gigabytes) to express traffic volumes.
The report is based on Cisco’s own predictions and aggregates analysis from several market research firms.
AMD Stream Processor First to Break 1 Teraflop Barrier
At the International Supercomputing Conference, AMD introduced its next-generation stream processor, the AMD FireStream 9250, specifically designed to accelerate critical algorithms in high-performance computing (HPC), mainstream and consumer applications. Leveraging the GPU design expertise of AMD’s Graphics Product Group, AMD FireStream 9250 breaks the one teraflop barrier for single precision performance. It occupies a single PCI slot, for unmatched density and with power consumption of less than 150 watts, it delivers an unprecedented rate of performance per watt efficiency with up to eight gigaflops per watt.
Ultra Low-cost Plastic Memory Developed
Researchers at the Zernike Institute of Advanced Materials at the University of Groningen have developed a technology for a plastic ferro-electric diode which they believe will achieve a breakthrough in the development of ultra low-cost plastic memory material.
The newly developed technology is similar to that used in Flash memory chips. In both cases, the memory retains data without being connected to a power source. Flash memory chips are used in memory sticks, MP3 players, cellular phones and in the memory cards of digital cameras. The researchers at the Zernike Institute of Advanced Materials expect the new technology to lead to the development of comparable products possibly even more significant.
One product they have in mind is an electronic price tag which could be read radiographically at the cash desk of retail stores, replacing the bar codes currently in use. Another possible application is for the material to be used in packaging material which could warn consumers when a product is nearing its expiration date.
3-D Viewing without Goofy Glasses
Philips’s new displays bring high-quality, 3-D images a step closer to your living room. With the release of a new set of 3-D video screens next week, Philips Electronics is bringing a sci-fi cinema standby a little closer to everyday use. Philips’ WOWvx displays–which allow viewers to perceive high-quality 3-D images without the need for special glasses–are now beginning to appear in shopping malls, movie-theater lobbies, and theme parks worldwide.
The technology uses image-processing software, plus display hardware that includes sheets of tiny lenses atop LCD screens. The lenses project slightly different images to viewers’ left and right eyes, which the brain translates into a perception of depth. For now, the screens are expensive and not yet marketed for home use. But Philips, which first released the technology in 2006, is working on technical improvements that will make the screens better suited for the home.
“We think this is a huge leap,” says Wolf-Nils Malchow, production manager for the Munich-based Kuk Filmprodukion, an early producer of content for the displays and of promotional films for clients such as Deutsche Telekom. “It is a bit like a few years ago, when [high-definition video] kicked in. Everyone is excited about it.”
Virtual Walt Disney World Added To Google Earth
A virtual tour of Walt Disney World on Google Earth may help plan a vacation, or it might substitute for the real thing. All the theme parks and 20 Disney Resort hotels have been placed in Google Earth. Even small details of Mickey Mouse’s amusement park have been included in the online Google Earth tour.