Looking to handicap Apple Pay’s chances at success? Look elsewhere around the globe

Originally posted on PandoDaily:

Mobile Payments

Apple Pay officially launched today ushering the US squarely into the early 2000s when it comes to contactless mobile payments. I say this not to suggest that Apple Pay isn’t an innovative and potentially-transformative service – it is – but, rather, to illustrate that much of the rest of the world has been paying for goods and services using their phones for years now.

Case in point, while living in Seoul South Korea in 2005 and 2006, something very similar to Apple Pay was at the heart of my daily routine. No, Steve Jobs had not yet given the world the iPhone. There certainly was no app store, yet. And no, biometric security a la Apple’s TouchID was not something that the featured prominently on many consumer mobile devices. And yet, contactless mobile payments were already ubiquitous in this technologically progressive market. At the time, they were powered by NFC-enabled feature phones…

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How to Take Free Courses from Top Universities


Excellent source of Learning!!!!!!!!
Time to get back to college!!!!

Originally posted on TIME:

You can continue your education with some amazing and free online resources available from top universities. These institutions offer many of their courses in the form of video lectures, audio transcripts and online quizzes. And some universities give you access to the professor and let you interact with other students taking the class.

Want to give these free online courses a try? Here are the online education offerings from the top U.S. universities that we think are worth checking out.

Stanford Free Courses

Stanford University, located in Stanford, California, offers an especially rich bounty of material for its amateur online learners. Classes are offered on multiple platforms, letting you watch videos lectures, participate in discussion forums and chats, complete quizzes and even participate in group projects. A wide range of courses are available, from Cryptography to Game Theory to Writing in the Sciences. There are courses on stock market investing…

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Originally posted on PandoDaily:

degrees_pdThere used to be an old saying, “A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.” That was a great concept at one point in time, but now we must discard that outdated notion and admit that we live in an era when “experts” are on their way out.

Ron Johnson is an expert in retail — how is he doing at JC Penny?

Mark Hurd is an expert in hardware — and Oracle has had a miserable impact on my portfolio the last few days.

Arianna Huffington is an expert in journalism — what has she done to improve AOL’s branded content in the last two years?

I could spend the next two pages giving examples of so-called “experts” who have no idea how to run a company, but I’d rather approach this in a few different ways.

At various points, I ran the engineering, product, and revenue teams at Bleacher Report…

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Model Village………….Leaders as well as People Learn Something.

India is a leadership driven society—it suffices to look at Popatrao Pawar, the village head of Hiware Bazar in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. In the span of twenty years, he transformed his drought-struck poverty-ridden village into one of the best models India has seen.


Before he took over the reins, the village suffered many problems: there was hardly any agriculture in the village from a lack of water, causing villagers to migrate elsewhere as daily wage labourers; the school was non-functional; domestic violence and village fights punctuated lives as alcoholism was rampant; and the surrounding eco-system was seriously degraded.

So how does one actually make a village rise against such problems?
The first thing Pawar did was get rid of the 22 illicit liquor dens, ban consumption of liquor all together, and ban tobacco and gutka.

Then he inspired the villagers to pitch in to build dams and dig ponds to trap the little rain that came in. This new water management system helped immensely as the wells soon filled, allowing farming to begin anew with fields becoming lush and green.

Not wanting to take change for granted, Pawar got water audits done so that there was a close check on water availability. Water was never wasted, as selfless villagers built 52 earthen bunds, two percolation tanks, 32 stone bunds and nine check dams—All through the use of the same government funds available to any other village.

Before 1995, there were 90 open wells with water at 80-125 feet, whereas today, there are 294 open wells with water at 15-40 feet. To put this into context, other villages in the Ahmednagar district have to drill nearly 200 feet to reach water.

Farming flourished as Pawar got farmers to invest in milch cattle, making milk the new gold of the village. While milk production was only 150 litres per day in 1995, today, it has crossed the 4,000 litre threshold! All this helped reverse migration see over 60 families return with the desire of becoming farmers once again to live life with dignity.

Now there are decent-looking houses all over and villagers look content, glowing with happiness. The monthly per capital income has crossed Rs. 30,000, and in a village of 235 families and 1,250 individuals, there are 60 millionaires!

Today there are only three families who live below the poverty line, but the village is now working to help them improve their income with hopes that in another year, no villager be poor. All this is more amazing when taking into account that in 1995, there were 168 BPL families in the village.

But Pawar has not only tackled the economic needs of the village. With regards to the waning ecosystem, he facilitated the planting of over ten lakh trees to fuel languishing bio-diversity; even Babool trees that were earlier cut for fuel are now cared for, as villagers began harvesting its gum that sells for Rs. 2,000 a kilo.

One would think that these accomplishments already make Pawar one of the great leaders of India, but on top of everything, Hiware Bazar is spotlessly clean—all without sweepers; villagers take pride in keeping their home clean, and defecation or urination in public is unheard of. Best of all, now that cleanliness has overtaken the village there is a crucial benefit for the villagers: widespread disease has become a thing of the past.

In addition, to get children to learn the benefits of good governance, Pawar began a children’s parliament giving them specific roles to work under. The “Education Minister” for example, goes from house to house inquiring if the school is functioning well. Even the teachers themselves learn from their students and respect this monitoring to incorporate the childrens’ advice into their work!

But how did Pawar address caste and communal conflicts that often divide society into sparring aggressive groups? It was very simple: he relentlessly stressed that change could not be brought about without communal amity, and his efforts were so beautifully embodied when the village Hindu community built a mosque for the only Muslim family in the village for them to not have to pray in the open.

And how has Hiware Bazar brought a new respect to women in the face of strong gender inequality in India? First of all, Pawar has got the gram panchayat to take care of the education and marriage expenses of the second daughter of any family, but also, out of the seven-member panchayat, three are now women. In addition, Pawar has stepped down from the village headman’s position (remaining as deputy sarpanch) to allow a woman to replace him.

Finally, to bring in holistic change, Pawar is now motivating villagers to adopt family planning. A lot of stress is being put on health and hygiene as it is crucial for the future of the village. In fact, Hiware Bazar is also the first village in India to persuade couples take an HIV test before marriage.

Interestingly, none of Pawar’s suggestions or schemes are opposed as the village has full confidence in him as he goes about trying to better their lives.

Hiware Bazar has shown that stimulating change is easy.  All it requires is good leadership and the political will to empower others in rising to a better future.

Originally posted on TED Blog:

It’s a humbling day to be an Earthling. Just sixteen hours before the highly-anticipated flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14, the skies above the Chelyabinsk region of Russia were shattered by the explosion of an incoming meteor. Although fortunately nobody appears to have been killed by the blast, more than 1,000 people reported injuries, mostly from flying glass and debris.

We know that these objects are out there, but what are scientists doing to locate them? And how would we respond if one were found to be on a collision course with our planet?

At TEDxMarin, Dr. Ed Lu gave a fascinating talk highlighting the efforts that scientists like himself are making to detect and deflect near-Earth objects.

“You don’t need oil miners and Bruce Willis” to push an asteroid off course, says Dr. Lu. “Deflecting asteroids is not that hard. We have the technology to do…

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Harnessing solar energy – Novel approach yields both electricity and heat.

MIT researchers have designed an efficient, potentially low-cost system that will use the sun’s energy to produce electricity and hot water or steam simultaneously. Their design is based on a conventional solar thermal system but incorporates special features that make it more efficient and flexible. For example, it uses evaporation, condensation, and gravity to move the captured heat to the point of consumption — no need for an energy-consuming pump. It generates electricity using a solid-state technology that converts the captured solar energy directly to electricity with no moving parts. And depending on the materials used, the heat output can range from low-temperature water for household use to high-temperature process heat for industrial applications such as aluminum smelting. The researchers are now building a prototype of their system. 

As the world looks for new ways to fulfill its appetite for energy, there are many technologies that can produce either heat or electricity using the energy of the sun. For example, in many parts of the world, people get warm water for their homes from systems in which sunshine heats up water inside a glass tube or black tank. Such systems are simple and inexpensive, but in that configuration they provide only warm water, no electricity. For electricity production, much interest is focusing on thermoelectric (TE) devices. When a TE device is hotter on one side than the other, it generates electricity — no combustion and no moving parts involved. But until recently, solar-driven electricity-generating systems using TE materials have not proved very efficient. Now Evelyn Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the MIT Device Research Laboratory, and Nenad Miljkovic, graduate student in mechanical engineering, have designed a novel hybrid system that brings those two approaches together to produce electricity and hot water or steam at the same time, pushing up both the temperature of the water and the efficiency of the overall system.

Their system is based on a standard solar energy collector called a parabolic trough. In this type of device, a long parabolic mirror reflects sunlight onto a fluid-filled tube that runs its length at its focal point. A mechanical pump moves the heated working fluid through the tube to the point of consumption. There, it can be used directly for space heating or for running industrial processes, or it can be used to produce steam to drive an electricity-generating turbine.

Novel MIT hybrid solar-thermoelectric system

Novel MIT hybrid solar-thermoelectric system

In their version of the parabolic trough (shown above) Wang and Miljkovic use three concentric tubes. To maximize solar energy capture, they coat the outside surface of the middle tube with a selective absorber. Then, to keep the captured heat from escaping, they place that tube inside an outer glass tube, with a vacuum between them. The system thus absorbs as much sunlight and emits as little heat as possible.

They then incorporate two technologies that increase efficiency and decrease cost and complexity. To get rid of the energy-consuming mechanical pump, they move the captured heat to the point of consumption using a “thermosyphon” — the central tube in the diagram. In this arrangement, the tube is only partially filled with a specially selected working fluid that evaporates when heated by the sun. The vapor that forms rises and flows naturally through the tube until it reaches a cool surface, where it condenses, releasing its heat. Because the system is designed with an upward tilt, gravity then forces the condensed fluid to flow back down to the area of the hot solar absorber, where it undergoes the heat-gathering, heat-releasing cycle again.

The thermosyphon not only transfers the heat without mechanical assistance but also does it extremely efficiently. “In a thermosyphon, you utilize the phase change of a liquid — the vaporization and subsequent condensation — to move the heat to where you want it,” says Wang. “It’s as if it were a very, very good thermal conductor — much better than, say, diamond, which is one of the best solid conductors.”

The second technology they incorporate provides a simpler means of generating electricity than that used in a conventional parabolic-trough system. Instead of raising steam to run a generator, they use a TE material, strategically located to maintain the temperature difference that causes electricity to flow. As shown in the diagram, the TE material is incorporated in the form of “legs” that run between the absorber wall and the exterior surface of the thermosyphon, spaced at regular intervals with a vacuum in the gaps between them. In this configuration, heat from the absorber surface travels through the TE legs to the thermosyphon, where it is removed by the vaporization of the working fluid. As a result, each leg has one end attached to the hot absorber wall and the other attached to the constantly cooled exterior of the thermosyphon. The temperature difference is maintained, and current flows.

The thermoelectric advantage

TE devices are an attractive electricity-generating choice for several reasons. An obvious advantage is that they involve no moving parts, so they are simple, durable, and robust. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are likewise a solid-state system, and they are far more efficient at turning solar energy into electricity than TE materials are. But to work properly, PVs must be extremely pure and perfect, so making them involves carefully controlled and costly processes. In contrast, TEs actually work better when they are flawed; so even if rare materials are used, they can be fabricated using bulk manufacturing techniques.

Perhaps more important, while conventional PV cells do not operate well at high temperatures, TE materials thrive in the heat. “That’s an important advantage,” says Miljkovic. “We can use our system at high temperatures. And in mechanical engineering, high temperatures are generally good. Systems — especially any electric power generation cycle — are a lot more efficient when operating at higher temperatures.”

Efficiency and heat output of various system designs


Moreover, using a specially formulated computer model, the researchers found that by carefully choosing their TE material, they could tailor their system to operate efficiently while delivering waste heat at a wide range of pre-specified temperatures. The figure above shows heat-output temperature at the end of the thermosyphon versus the overall efficiency of the system (heat and electricity combined). Solar concentration measures the degree to which the solar energy is concentrated by the parabolic trough. Concentrations of 50 to 100 are typical of today’s technology, and higher concentrations bring higher operating efficiencies.

The curves show results for three TE materials, each of which has a distinct operating range where efficiency is maximized. Bismuth telluride works well at low temperatures, lead telluride at medium temperatures, and silicon germanium at high temperatures. “So each of these TEs has a distinct operating range where you maximize efficiency,” says Miljkovic. “And then, for each one correspondingly, there is a thermosyphon system that can operate in that range.”

Using their model, the researchers identified a thermosyphon working fluid and tubing material that can operate in the same temperature range as each of the TE materials. For example, conventional water inside a copper tube works well with bismuth telluride. That system’s output heat is 300–500 K — appropriate for residential heating or for low-temperature industrial processes. Mercury contained inside a stainless steel tube combines with lead telluride to produce heat appropriate for low-temperature industrial processes such as chemical drying. And liquid potassium inside a nickel tube works with silicon germanium to generate high enough temperatures for processes such as aluminum smelting. In each case, rising temperature brings an increase in efficiency, but eventually radiant heat losses — which increase more dramatically with temperature than efficiency does — dominate and efficiency drops back down.

The example of aluminum smelting demonstrates a major benefit of this new system. Generally, the extreme heat required for the aluminum smelting process is produced using electricity. “But this technology can help minimize electricity consumption. Instead of using electricity to generate the heat, our system can provide the heat by solar concentration from the sun during daylight hours,” says Miljkovic. “So you’ll use the heat to do the heating, and still have the electricity for other uses.” At the other extreme, a system designed for a single house could provide abundant heat along with enough electricity to meet the homeowner’s needs. The natural gas or oil now consumed for home heating could be used elsewhere for other applications.

Guided by their simulations and a series of optimization studies, Wang and Miljkovic are now building a prototype to demonstrate how their hybrid system could work. Practical implementation of their approach may be several years away, but they are optimistic about the ultimate outcome, in part because of related research activities under way in Wang’s Device Research Laboratory. “All of our projects focus on efficiently transferring heat and mass in various types of systems,” Wang says. And what is unusual, notes Miljkovic, is that they incorporate surface science into their work. For example, one project looks at how to structure surfaces to make the phase change process itself — the vaporization and condensation — more efficient.

“So within the design of our thermosyphon, we can actually introduce structuring of the surfaces to further enhance efficiency,” says Wang. By drawing on results from that and other projects, they will be able to continue improving the performance of their novel hybrid solar-thermoelectric system.

This research was supported by the MIT Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion(S3TEC) Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Varanasi selected as outstanding young manufacturing engineer by SME

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kripa K. Varanasi has just been selected to receive the 2013 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). Varanasi is one of only seven recipients of the award this year, which is conferred in recognition of Varanasi’s achievements and leadership in the field.

Most people do not give surfaces a second thought, but for Varanasi they form the basis of everything. His days working at General Electric taught him how crucial a surface can be.

“One of the areas where I saw significant challenges was surfaces and interfaces,” Varanasi says. “Every phenomena happens on a surface or an interface. Whether it be energy transport or mass transport, everything happens at an interface between two materials.”

When Varanasi came to MIT, one of the first things he did was address the classic 100-year-old problem of moisture-induced efficiency losses in steam turbines. To solve it, Varanasi developed a completely new class of highly non-wetting, super-slippery, multi-structured liquid coatings that repel water droplets that impact or condense on the surface, thus preventing moisture from forming on blades. He says that the coating can be applied using the existing coating equipment by simply modifying the processes and materials, thus opening up retrofitting opportunities at every level of the value chain.

Conversely, Varanasi’s super-wetting coatings combat the opposite problem of surfaces so hot that vapor forms over them and repels any water, such as that used for cooling purposes. It’s precisely the situation that can cause such powerplant disasters as the one that occurred in Fukushima, Japan, in 2010. Varanasi and his group have developed new nano-engineered, multi-structured highly wetting coatings to solve this problem. At temperatures greater than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, he is able to get the water droplets to anchor to the surface. Some of his other areas of work include coatings that prevent ice build-up on aircrafts or power lines, novel separation membranes,coatings that prevent hydrate plugs in deep sea oil wells for improved flow assurance, enhancing water recovery in desalination, power generation, agriculture, and oil and gas, as well as developing new approaches for scalable manufacturing of these nano-engineered surfaces and coatings.

“Coating manufacturing requires integration and collocation of various disciplines and helps de-commoditization of technology. It opens up a large scope for retrofit opportunities that can allow for tracking advancing frontiers and lead to continuous transformation of products and thereby create local jobs. It can also lead to reduced dependence on imported and expensive materials,” Varanasi says.

Varanasi has received several awards in recent years, including the DARPA Young Faculty Award and the NSF CAREER Award. His newest surface coating invention, LiquiGlide, a nontoxic, nonstick, super slippery coating for condiment bottles, has received international attention recently, and was named a best invention of 2012 byTime magazine.


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