Search This Blog

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Nuclear plants emit carbon

As energy sorce carbon is becoming more important than ever.
Many observers of the conversation on viable new energy sources point to an outdated source of electrical production — nuclear power. After a commentary was published in the Sept. 23 edition of the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus, I felt compelled, with the aid of many sources including the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, to respond and clarify a number of points in this area.

The article points to the concern of carbon dioxide emissions, saying this source does not emit carbon dioxide and, therefore, does not contribute to the greenhouse effect. This is a perpetuation of a myth. It is with great amusement that I read, only occasionally, how someone convinces friends or relatives that commercial nuclear generation is somehow magically without pollution.

While atomic reactors are not surrounded by clouds of carbon smoke, the nuclear fuel chain is a major contributor to global warming. The nuclear fuel pellet fabrication process and the gaseous diffusion enrichment plants consume enormous amounts of carbon-producing, global-warming-contributing energy. In addition, krypton-85 builds up proportionately and causes modification of the atmosphere's electric field, which could affect the hydrologic cycle. So the next time you see a pretty picture of our local nuclear plant without carbon smoke above it, picture many plants miles to the southwest producing pollution soon to be drifting over our Green Mountains.

The article continues with comparisons to other countries. Stephen Thomas is a senior research fellow at the Public Services International Research Unit in the University of Greenwich, London. From 1979-2000, he was a member of the Energy Policy Programme at SPRU, University of Sussex. He is a member of the editorial board of Energy Policy (since 2000), the International Journal of Regulation and Governance, and he is a founding member of a network of academies in Northern European countries (the REFORM group) examining policy aspects of the energy systems. He was a member of the team appointed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to carry out the official economic due diligence study for the project to replace the Chernobyl power plant.

He points out, worldwide, the ordering rate for new nuclear stations has been at a low ebb for at least 20 years. One of the reasons behind this is the poor economic performance of many existing plants. This has occurred mainly because moves in the past decade to competitive electricity markets, which favor low-capital-cost generation options that are quick to build and for which the performance can be guaranteed, have characteristics that nuclear designs do not possess. He states further that nuclear generation capacity in Britain will continue to fall sharply in the next decade, reducing its contribution from about 25 percent of power needs to less than 10 percent. Also a number of major countries have actual or de facto nuclear phase-out policies, including Sweden, Italy, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.

There are also three reasons why forecasting the cost of power from a nuclear plant is difficult:

All experience of nuclear power suggests that unproven processes — decommissioning and waste disposal — have not been proven on a commercial scale and could easily cost more than expected, therefore incurring the strong risk that forecasts of these costs could be significantly too low.

There is no clear consensus on how provisions to pay for decommissioning should be arranged.

Perhaps most important, there is a lack of reliable, up-to-date data on actual nuclear plants. Utilities are notoriously secretive about the costs they are incurring.

Finally, he spoke to the issue of spent fuel disposal, which Vermont may soon have to deal with. The issue of spent fuel is difficult to evaluate. Reprocessing is expensive, but most importantly, the plutonium produced may be used for weapons-grade material. This is relevant in that recent Defense Department statements claim the "U.S. is awash in plutonium." A deadly thought! Reprocessing merely splits the spent fuel into different parts and does not reduce the amount of radioactivity to be dealt with.

In addition, reprocessing creates a large amount of low- and intermediate-level waste because all the equipment and material used in reprocessing becomes radioactive waste. The collapse of British Energy and our own West Valley, N.Y., facilities are good examples.

The author talks about "passive" safety features. Many in the scientific community, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, feel we are being lulled into a false sense of security by such claims. These new designs for nuclear power plants are susceptible to other types of serious accidents that could potentially lead tot he dispersal of radioactivity. This possibility is increased by the fact that, in order to save money, these reactors are proposed to be built without strong secondary containment structures that could serve as an additional barrier to radionuclide release.

The author mentions tests where the reactor has been shutdown, not an accident scenario. One such accident is the ejection of a control rod. As stated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, in the event a control rod was rapidly ejected from the pressurized reactor core, the sudden rapid rise in reactivity due to its loss, combined with the loss of gas coolant out of the hole where it used to be, could lead "to a very large release of radioactivity to the environment."

It is very imprudent to rush ahead with this whole generation of nuclear power plants, simply because we have investors clamoring for federal tax dollars. Renewables and conservation, not efficiency to be semantically accurate, remain the best viable options for global warming.

Yahoo Announces 2008-2009 PhD Student Fellowship Program

Yahoo announced Yahoo!’s PhD Student Fellowship Program for the 2008-2009 academic school year. Supporting the academic community is a top priority at Yahoo! The Yahoo! PhD Student Fellowship Program was created to recognize outstanding graduate student researchers who we believe have exceptional potential to make significant contributions and become thought leaders in their research fields.

Our fellowship program sponsors candidates conducting advanced research in the following areas: search (information retrieval, web analysis, graph theory, data mining, and recommender systems), machine learning, community systems (large-scale databases and distributed systems), media experiences research, and computational microeconomics (online markets, prediction markets, sponsored search auctions, and query incentive networks). We strongly encourage students working in any of the above or related areas to apply. Yahoo! Fellows will not only benefit from our comprehensive financial support but will also have access to top Yahoo! researchers in their fields and exclusive invitations to important research events.

The highlights of each recipient’s award benefits include full tuition and fees for two academic years, a $1,000 gift to the recipient’s academic department, an optional summer internship, and mentorship from our distinguished scientists.

We will begin accepting applications on October 5th, 2007. All professor nominations and corresponding applications must be received by December 14th, 2007. Fellowship award winners will be announced in mid January 2008. Please refer to our website for more details about the application process and eligibility requirements.

If you have any questions, please contact at

Microsoft research

In 1991, Microsoft Corporation became the first software company to create its own computer-science research organization. Microsoft Research has developed into a unique entity among corporate research labs, balancing an open academic model with an effective process for transferring its research to product-development teams. Microsoft recognizes that to create the foundation for future technology breakthroughs, it is necessary to maintain independence from product groups, which enables Microsoft Research to focus on long-term (10-15 years out) computer-science research and vision that is not bound by product cycles. Today, the world-renowned scientists of Microsoft Research constitute one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most highly respected software-research organizations in the world—one that will help define and redefine the computing experience for millions of people for decades to come.

The Goals of Microsoft Research

“We’re focusing more on research than ever. We’re building the technology that will enable computers to see, listen, speak, and learn so people can interact with them as naturally as they interact with other people.” — Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect

For 15 years, Microsoft Research has been pivotal in helping fulfill Microsoft’s evolving vision for the future of computing: a new era of personal, business, and intellectual communication supported by computers that are always available, vastly easier to use, and far more powerful than those of today.

The computers of tomorrow will employ a unified interface that moves transparently between smart devices, software, and systems that people use, forming a connected, unified system that works on their behalf and under their control, and creating an environment of seamless computing. Seamless computing enhances personal and business connections through rich communication and powerful, flexible collaboration tools; helps diverse technologies, groups and organizations work together; and is flexible and intuitive enough to adapt to the ways people and companies want to work.

People are beginning to rely less on typed text as they gain the freedom to interact with computers in more natural ways, such as by using voice, handwriting, and touch. Microsoft envisions a time when people’s personal and business information will be stored securely on the Internet, synchronized automatically and available instantly to them—anytime, anyplace, and on any device.

The industry has made amazing progress in recent years, but many underlying challenges remain to be solved before technology is as interactive and interconnected as Microsoft’s vision entails. Microsoft Research is dedicated to solving these challenges in a number of ways:

Looking 10-15 years beyond current product-development cycles to identify and invent key technologies that will shape users’ experiences in the future.
Collaborating with the entire research community to advance the state of the art in each area of computer science.
Maintaining an informal atmosphere in which researchers freely share their short-term results with Microsoft product-development groups and help incorporate the latest innovations into the company’s products
Building relationships with key universities worldwide to enhance teaching and learning experiences, inspire technological innovation, and strengthen computer-science and engineering education
Continuously recruiting world-class researchers from a diversity of backgrounds—psychologists and sociologists to anthropologists and mathematicians—to find answers to computer science’s grand challenges. This mixture of the social and the technical strikes the right balance for the delivery of game-changing innovation.

Current research projects range from inventing more intuitive, productive ways of interacting with computers to improving programming languages, enhancing software-development tools, and applying sophisticated mathematical theories to as-yet-unsolved computational challenges. No matter what end of the spectrum they inhabit, all Microsoft Research projects focus on advancing the state of the art in computing, from increasing programmers’ productivity and helping enterprises operate more efficiently to enriching people’s experiences with technology at work and at home.

Breakthroughs, Large and Small

While some people believe that being innovative or making a breakthrough means “getting there first,” Microsoft takes a much broader view. A technology breakthrough or innovation can take years to evolve, and its impact may not be fully realized until years later—as in the case of Internet technology or even e-mail. Microsoft believes that a combination of invention and popularization makes a technology or product innovative, so today’s researchers must have the freedom to advance computer science and invent new technologies over the long term.

Microsoft researchers work across more than 55 disciplines in an atmosphere with minimal bureaucracy and broad opportunities to exchange ideas. Although most of them pursue long-term goals that extend far beyond current product cycles, they also work closely with other groups at Microsoft to transfer knowledge and help turn their discoveries into functional offerings. Nearly every Microsoft product in the marketplace today — including Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT), Xbox 360, Xbox Live, Windows Server™ 2003, Office 2003, MSN® 8, SQL Server™, Windows® XP, Office XP, and Windows Media® Player 9 Series—has been influenced by Microsoft Research. Occasionally, researchers involved with a project even transfer to the product-development group to assist as their initial ideas take shape.

No matter how far-reaching or abstract their projects might be, Microsoft researchers consistently strive for results that eventually will solve computer science’s grand challenges. In many cases, their results are shared and applied across multiple research areas. Examples of the challenges Microsoft Research is dedicated to solving and some of the current projects that target these challenges:

Making Computers Easier to Use and Better Able to Understand the User

Users’ interactions with technology would be much more natural if they could speak directly to a computer and write directly on the screen instead of being limited to the technical language of a PC or a handheld device. Microsoft researchers are enabling computers to interpret their surroundings more accurately and, as a result, to understand better and thereby assist in what he/she intends to do.

Examples of this research:

Machine learning: The goal of this research is to enable computers to do a better job of understanding users and tasks, and to do a much better job of managing information, computing resources, assistance, and user attention.
Natural language processing and speech recognition: Designing computer systems that can analyze, understand, and generate languages that humans use naturally is intended, eventually, to enable users to talk with a computer as though communicating with another person.
Vision technology: Projects that range from image-based rendering and animation to human tracking and 3-D scene reconstruction will be important components of future user interfaces.
Telepresence: This research focuses on enabling computer users to feel as if they or others are present at an event—even while they are physically in another place or time—through the use of digital media such as video, audio, images, and animation.

Helping Developers Improve Software, Reduce Costs and Go to Market Faster

Issues of performance, quality, manageability, and productivity are crucial to developers as they strive to create software in an increasingly complex, competitive market. Microsoft Research is inventing new programming tools, methodologies, and techniques to help developers meet the challenges of building better software, bringing it to customers faster, and offering it at lower prices.

Key projects supporting research in this area include:

Development tools: This research is aimed at advancing the design, the development, the debugging, and the testing of software in ways that enable programmers to be more creative, imaginative, and productive.
Programming principles and tools: Formal techniques and models are being developed for understanding programs, programming abstractions, and languages.
Software engineering: Improving the methods, notation, and tool support for high-level system design and analysis are the goals of this research.

Improving How Systems Store, Retrieve, and Present Information

Business and personal technology users alike rely on an ever-growing sea of data from the Internet, e-mail, business transactions, and other sources to conduct their daily lives. As computers become capable of storing greater volumes of data, they also require increasingly intelligent tools for protecting, extracting, and analyzing that information. From there, users also expect the systems to present the data faster, more intuitively, and in a wider variety of formats. Computer scientists at Microsoft Research are exploring ways to design operating systems, architectures, and components that can meet these demands, as well as those of the future.

Related Microsoft Research projects include:

Data exploration, mining, and management: This work is geared toward exploring richer, more flexible ways to interact with stored information, as well as making database systems self-tuning and self-administering to reduce the total cost of ownership.
Cryptography and anti-piracy: Projects include researching new encoding methods and applications to enhance privacy and security, working with standards bodies to develop security protocols, and providing internal security consulting on Microsoft products.
Hardware devices: Highlights of this research include experimenting with new forms of mobile computing, such as wearable computers, and sensor technologies that give mobile devices a greater awareness of their surroundings.

Exploring and Solving Tomorrow’s Most Complex Computing Problems

Even a casual glance at the progress of computing over the past 30 years—from early mainframe systems that filled an entire room to today’s PCs that fit in a shirt pocket and powerful Web servers that can process millions of page requests per second—shows how rapidly the boundaries of technology are expanding. But many significant challenges remain in such areas as safeguarding computer networks from break-ins, creating software that can accurately execute spoken commands, and enabling computers to convert signals—whether from a human or from another machine—into useful information.

Microsoft Research tackles some of the toughest problems in computer technology through its efforts in:

Algorithms and other mathematical methods: Microsoft Research is devising novel formulas and procedures to advance the state of the art in such areas as natural language processing, speech recognition, handwriting recognition, and time-series prediction.
Theory: Researchers apply the principles of mathematics, statistical physics, theoretical computer science, and other disciplines to probe the limits of computational speed, and of problem-solving and decision-making capabilities.

Enhancing Alliances with Microsoft Product Groups Through Applied Research

Unlike basic research, which is geared toward visionary discoveries that may or may not end up in actual products, and product development, which is feature-focused and geared toward solving tactical engineering problems, applied research studies the relationship and the applicability of theories or principles to the solution of a problem or an actual product or service.

Microsoft Research recently formed two collaborative lab efforts with the MSN product team with goals of assisting innovation and rapidly creating prototypes of cutting-edge technologies:

Live Labs: Live Labs is a dedicated group of researchers from MSN and Microsoft Research that will work with researchers across Microsoft and the academic research community. Live Labs will focus on Internet-centric applied-research programs, including rapidly prototyping and launching of emerging technologies, incubating entirely new inventions, and improving and accelerating Windows Live™ offerings. This complements the company’s continuing deep investment in basic research at Microsoft Research and in product development at MSN.
AdLab. The Microsoft adCenter Incubation Lab (adLab) is a joint effort between MSN’s adCenter and Microsoft Research to form a state-of-the-art lab in Beijing with a mission to research and incubate advanced technologies for MSN’s adCenter, designed to improve advertisers with rich targeting capabilities. Early incubation projects include ad bar-code readers, social-network mining, and video and large-display ads.
Fostering Innovation in Academia

Launched eight years ago, Microsoft Research External Research & Programs (formerly known as University Relations) has recognized since its inception the inherent value of the academic research community and the need for collaboration between academia and industry to advance state-of-the-art computer science. The foundation for all External Research & Programs efforts is respect for the “virtuous cycle” created when university and industry researchers work together closely.

For academia, Microsoft has an important role to play in helping university researchers set the research agenda by communicating real-world issues and concerns, and by helping universities provide training that prepares students for the job market. Microsoft also offers assistance in the form of tools, technology, and financial support. The benefits academia offers to the industry are equally important: Universities are a fundamental source for independent, original research and a critical training ground for the talented young men and women who will create tomorrow’s technology.

New Programs and Initiatives to Meet the Changing Needs of Academia

Through ongoing dialogue with colleagues in academia, Microsoft has gained important insights that are helping External Research & Programs refine its mission and develop new programs that will deepen relationships and strengthen the benefits to both parties.

One result of that dialogue is a concerted effort to expand the range of contacts between Microsoft Research and the academic world. In the past, External Research & Programs has concentrated on working with faculty and students from a relatively small group of the world’s top academic institutions. By expanding programs to a much broader set of schools, External Research & Programs unearths opportunities for Microsoft to work with researchers who are doing innovative research and would like to develop a new collaborative relationship.

Support takes a number of forms. Microsoft will provide research and curriculum-development grants through an open request-for-proposal model. External Research & Programs also sponsors workshops and symposia, continues to develop research tool kits, and supports efforts to expand the Microsoft Curriculum Repository. In addition, External Research & Programs launched the Microsoft Research New Faculty Fellowship Award and expanded the Microsoft Research intern program.

Initiatives to Foster Technical Innovation

Working closely with colleagues at colleges and universities across the globe, External Research & Programs has identified three key domains in which support from Microsoft is likely to enable university researchers to achieve the greatest progress: the emerging computing environment, transformation of science through computing, and advancing computer-science curricula. Within each area, specific initiatives will serve as the framework for Microsoft’s efforts to support research.

The Emerging Computing Environment: With computing becoming increasingly pervasive at work and in people’s personal lives, a thoughtful, informed approach to technology development and the implications of that technology is increasingly important. Initiatives for fiscal year 2006 include programming systems, computational science, digital inclusion, Trustworthy Computing, and technology-enabled solutions to improve teaching and learning.
Transformation of Science Through Computing: Across the sciences, computation has become a central tool in the discovery process, enabling deeper collection and analysis of data while democratizing access to that data. Specific initiatives include e-science and bioinformatics.
Advancing Computer-Science Curricula: Industry’s needs sometimes outpace computer-science curricula. External Research & Programs works with faculty members to accelerate curriculum development, ensuring that it remains state-of-the-art, and works with educators to enhance student learning by carefully and thoughtfully introducing technology into classrooms and other learning environments. Initiatives in this area include software engineering, technology-enhanced classrooms, robotics, gaming, and Trustworthy Computing.
Extending Support to the International Community

Another important component of the new direction Microsoft Research is taking is an emphasis on international programs. Microsoft has its External Research & Programs group in Redmond, Wash.,; its External Research Office in Cambridge, U.K.; and its University Relations group in Beijing; each focused on local concerns of research and teaching communities in their respective regions. In addition, the Redmond group provides direct programmatic support for Latin America and India. Microsoft Research looks forward to making these groups as international and diverse as the academic community itself.

Building a Global Think Tank

Microsoft Research has more than 700 employees, including some of the world’s finest computer scientists, sociologists, psychologists, mathematicians, physicists, and engineers. While most of its researchers are based at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters, Microsoft Research has expanded globally to ensure that it can attract the richest pool of talent. Microsoft Research currently operates labs in four additional locations:

Microsoft Research Asia: The Beijing lab was founded in 1998. As with the other Microsoft Research labs, the talents of its researchers will largely guide the research focus of the Beijing lab. More than 150 researchers are developing next-generation multimedia applications and Asia-specific computing technologies such as adapted user interfaces and language-conversion systems.
Microsoft Research Cambridge: Research at the facility in Cambridge encompasses programming languages, security, information retrieval, operating systems, and networking. Established in July 1997, the lab has grown to more than 80 researchers.
Microsoft Research Lab India Private Ltd.: Opening in January 2005, Microsoft Research India’s mission is to conduct basic and applied research in computer science and to develop innovative solutions based on societal and cultural needs. The lab focuses on multilingual systems, technologies for emerging markets, geographical-information systems, sensor networks, and software productivity.
Microsoft Research Silicon Valley: Established in August 2001 on the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, Calif., the lab employs more than 25 researchers who focus on distributed computing, including privacy, security, resource location, protocols, the Internet as a platform, reliability, availability, scalability, management, and related theory.

Solving Software Challenges

ajamani, a senior researcher for Microsoft Research India who heads the Rigorous Software Engineering (RSE) group, has an extensive history of making the process of software development more robust, and his move from Microsoft Research Redmond back to India two years ago provided a more faceted perspective on that effort.

“The particular significance the group has in the Indian context is because a large portion of the Indian IT economy is about building software,” he says. “India as a country is exposed to much more of the software life cycle than anybody else, and that’s a good test bed to study the whole cycle.”

At the same time, the RSE efforts can help lift computer-science research in the subcontinent to world-class levels.

“Most people in India don’t have access to the research methods of the Western world,” Rajamani says. “They don’t have money to travel to conferences. They don’t publish in world-class conferences. To use a metaphor, they never compete in the Olympics.

“Because we are there, we give them a venue to compete in the world Olympics. People want to be the best that they can be. Our India lab gives Indian researchers an opportunity to compete in the Olympics, which they never had before.”

While based in Redmond, Rajamani managed the Software Productivity Tools team. He moved to Microsoft Research India, located in Bangalore, and instituted RSE in September 2005. The group is charged with bringing vigor and formality to software-engineering efforts.

“Software engineering is the process of building software, including things like design, coding, implementation, testing, and validation—the whole shebang of building software,” he says. “The goal of our group is to bring rigorous techniques that help the entire spectrum.”

Two years on, it appears that RSE has made significant traction.

“It’s going well,” Rajamani says. “We have recruited good people. We have a few really good projects off the ground. Our papers are getting into good conferences. Technology coming out of our group is getting into Microsoft products.”

By external measures, too, the team is making its presence felt. In 2006, a paper entitled SYNERGY: A New Algorithm for Property Checking—co-authored by Bhargav Gulavani of the Indian Institute of Technology [IIT], Bombay; Thomas Henzinger of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; and Microsoft Research India’s Yamini Kannan, Aditya Nori, and Rajamani—was named the best paper of the fifth joint meeting of the European Software Engineering Conference and the Association of Computing Machinery’s SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering. This year, another RSE paper, Programming Asynchronous Layers with CLARITY, was short-listed for the same award.


The SYNERGY paper represented work on one of the RSE team’s three areas of focus: code understanding. The project from which the paper stemmed, called Yogi, aims to build a scalable software-property checker by direct analysis of program binaries, using a new algorithm for property checking that combines software testing with verification.

“Code-understanding tools take code and try to give information to the programmer about problems,” Rajamani explains, “getting an understanding about the root cause of an error in a simpler way. We want to make that process easier, to find bugs before they reach the customer.”

While in Redmond, Rajamani worked with colleague Tom Ball on a project called SLAM, which used static analysis to compare real code with a mathematical model to attempt to identify potential bugs. Yogi tries to take that effort a step further by using a couple of different techniques.

“SLAM is a static-analysis tool, which means that it never runs a program, it inspects a program and tries to understand it,” Rajamani says. “A lot of people have been building testing tools. Some of them run a program and observe what happens. Others use static analysis, which, without running the program, tries to construct a model of what the program should do and to analyze what it actually does.

“With Yogi, we came up with a new algorithm that combines both of those things. Tools like SLAM, they’ll find all bugs of a particular kind, but when they find a bug, you’re not really sure if it’s a true bug or not. When they find what appears to be an error, it’s only a possible error. But they get good coverage.

“On the other hand,” he continues, “testing tools run the program for a few scenarios, and they define real bugs, but if you test the program for 10 days and you haven’t found anything, you don’t have a guarantee. Testing tries to hit the set of bugs in a program from below. Verification starts from above. We thought it was natural to combine both the projects, which is why we started Yogi. The idea has been very well received.”


Another RSE focus is configuration analysis, examining the effect metadata—such as access-control policies, registries, and deployment details—on how programs perform.

“Every file you own has permissions on who can read them, who can write them, who can execute them,” Rajamani states. “There are many others in your computer. They’re everywhere.

“How does somebody know that they have set all these permissions correctly? That’s an interesting question.”

To pursue answers, the RSE team developed Netra, a tool to identify potential configuration errors. The tool has been adopted by the Secure Windows Initiative, and its effect is far-reaching.

“When Microsoft ships a product,” Rajamani says, “it first is run through a security audit: All the configurations, all the information they touch, all the files they create, all the DLLs they create … are they configured correctly? Netra is used to do that check.”


The third RSE concern is with software design, an informal process that has lacked a mechanism to record design and architectural decisions that would enable them to be managed, along with code, as a project evolves. Enterprise applications, in particular, could benefit from such an approach, and, the RSE Web site declares, “Allowing software engineers to operate at higher levels of abstraction will improve the productivity of the industry as a whole.”

“If you were to write code differently,” Rajamani asks, “could you avoid a certain number of bugs from ever even happening? Design is about things that happen before coding even starts—the methodology used to write the code: Was it the right one?”

The Clarity project, a new programming language developed by Rajamani in collaboration with Joseph Joy, development manager for Microsoft Research India, is designed to address such issues, many of which result from the challenges in writing operating-system code able to cope with a bombardment of asynchronous, concurrent requests.

“We thought about a new way by which we can think about these things,” Rajamani says, “so that, from a programmer’s perspective, [such a flood of concurrent requests] will look sequential.

“Typically, you do certain things, and then you might have to wait for somebody else to finish, and then you have to do certain things. When you wait for somebody else to finish, the context just goes away. You get a request, you want to do something, you wait for somebody else to finish, and then, when you resume, you have to reload your context, and that’s a very hard thing to do.

“We came up with a way that, when you wait for somebody else to finish, you can logically keep your state the same way. This simplifies the programmer’s job.”


As should be obvious, such work requires the talents of exceptional researchers, able to conceptualize the software-engineering process at a lofty level of abstraction, then transform their observations and hypotheses into tools that work in real life. When it comes to the RSE team, Rajamani extols the individuals’ contributions with excited exuberance. A brief synopsis:

Aditya Nori, researcher: “His Ph.D. was in a different topic: coding theory. But he was very interested in programming languages. We just looked at him based on his raw smarts and decided to hire him. He just picked up the research area very quickly. He’s been doing extremely well.”
Ganesan Ramalingam, senior researcher: “Rama was at IBM Research in the U.S. for more than 10 years, and then he wanted to return to India. We were lucky to be at the right place at the right time to hire him. He is my cohort in running this team.”
Krishna Mehra, assistant researcher: “Krishna was part of the India intern program in 2004, and I had already met him even before I knew I was going to come to the India lab. When I was asked to come to India, I began to think about who I would hire. And Krishna … he was so smart, it was quite clear. When I went to India, one of the first things I did was call him.”
Prasad Naldurg, researcher: “Prasad got his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He contacted me around the time I was moving back [to India] and said he wanted to go back. His expertise is security. Netra is Prasad’s project.”
Kapil Vaswani, researcher: “Kapil was an intern with us last year from the Indian Institute of Science. He worked with Aditya and Trishul Chilimbi, from Microsoft Research Redmond, on a path-profiling project, and their paper got into POPL [Principles of Programming Languages], one of the premier conferences. Now, he has finished his Ph.D., and we are glad to have him with us full-time.”
Venkatesh-Prasad Ranganath, researcher: “Venkatesh finished his Ph.D. from Kansas State and spent a year working for a startup in Silicon Valley. He has experience in building and deploying programming tools, and we are happy to have him.”
Kanika Nema, assistant researcher: “She was recommended by Professor Supratik Chakraborty, our collaborator from IIT Bombay. She wanted to spend some time in a research lab and gain more breadth and practical research experience before choosing her Ph.D. topic, and the assistant-researcher program is precisely for this purpose.”
In addition to its full-time people, RSE has had several interns, from India, the United States, and Europe.

“We have had interns from Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania, and Copenhagen, as well as from Indian universities,” Rajamani says, “and they have all been very productive. For the interns from the U.S. and Europe, an additional attraction has been the cultural experience in India and the opportunity to travel in India. They enjoyed that aspect, as well.”

Not only are Rajamani and his colleagues pursuing valuable work in a conducive environment, but they’re also expanding the reach of Microsoft Research as a whole.

“This is one of the things I was thinking about when I moved here,” Rajamani recalls. “I didn’t want to just do more depth. I consciously wanted to pursue more breadth and depth, because of the richness it would bring to Microsoft Research as an organization. I don’t think depth is a problem for Redmond at all, so I explicitly wanted to concentrate on breadth.”

So far, that choice seems to be working.

“The configuration-analysis and design projects are in areas that people in Redmond haven’t really worked on,” he says. “India is just this huge economy where people do a lot of maintenance. People take over code [they didn’t write,] and there’s a huge number of challenges that come from working in that environment. I wanted to be inspired by that environment and work on different kinds of problems.”

It’s clear that inspiration continues to keep Rajamani’s batteries charged.

“If I had spent the last two years in the United States,” he says, “I would have probably written more papers. I would have gotten more projects off the ground. But what we’ve created in our lab is diversity. There are different kinds of people who think differently about problems, and that diversity will pay off in the long run.

“It’s a long-term investment. If you put the same energy in Redmond, I am sure you would get the same return, but you wouldn’t get the diversity. I think that’s what we provide, and that’s what I’m proud of.”

MX Air , actually half mouse and half remote control.

Logitech has created a computer mouse called the MX Air that’s actually half mouse and half remote control.

The MX Air is made to be used “on the desk” or “in the air.” It works like a regular, wireless mouse when you push it on a flat surface.

But, it also works like a combination laser pointer and video remote controller when you wave it in the air and point it towards your TV.

It is made to let you control – from near or far - the latest breed of multimedia Windows PCs. Especially new media computer units which require placement close to those shiny, flat-screens, high-definition televisions.

The MX Air looks like many other modern wireless laser mice. It’s black and steel colored with stealth backlighting that quietly appears when you move the mouse. There are also a lot of extra control buttons that you normally don’t find on a mouse.

On top is a very large, touch-sensitive scrolling bar that runs down the middle. On either side are the left and right “click” buttons. And below the scroll there are buttons for ‘Back’. ‘Select’, ‘Play/Pause’ and ‘Volume so you can take charge of your computer’s digital audio and video media.

The secret weapon inside is called Freespace Motion Control technology. It translates raw sensor data into precise on-screen interactions by using a combination of micro-electromechanical sensors (tiny motors), digital signal processing and radio-frequency technologies. That means it can accurately interpret the mouse’s movements regardless of its orientation.

The MX Air wirelessly connects to your computer via a USB dongle, which looks like a very small memory stick. The wireless radio controller has a range of 30 feet. It’s powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery which should be good for up to five days use per charge.

Of course, good looks and promises don’t always translate into a better user experience. In this instance I’ve had mixed results.

When used as a wireless mouse on a flat surface, the MX Air is a great performer – once you adjust it properly. Right out of the box I found the controls to be very twitchy until all the motions were slowed down almost to their minimum settings. The scroll bar seems to move way too quickly whatever settings I choose. It took a few tries to get most everything set to my liking.

Logitech’s MX Air has a suggested retail price of $149.99.

I found the mouse to be somewhat less endearing when used “in the air”. The cursor is larger and easier to see in this mode, but its motions are somewhat more difficult to control. I found that it takes a little time to get used to using the MX Air across the room – but really like the idea of having only one device control everything that a Windows Media Center mouse and remote control needs to do.


        Want to be my roomie?

Global MIT

What is MIT doing globally?

MIT is truly a global university.

At MIT, we harness streams of converging ideas by creating new interdisciplinary centers, programs and labs with global participants - working together to solve the world's problems.

MIT's global involvement takes place on nearly every continent, and transpires at many levels-from individual faculty collaborations to institutional partnerships; and it materializes in many forms-from teaching and research, to internships and work, to public service and outreach efforts.

Some examples:

To learn more about the ways MIT is engaged globally, search the global MIT database by keyword, region, country, or type of initiative.

How can I get involved?

At MIT, we believe that the best way to learn is by doing.

Literally dozens of international opportunities are available, from study abroad and public service projects to internships or research.

A few ideas:

If you are a member of the MIT community, add your international activities to the database. Whether it's building wheelchairs in Ghana or teaching in Taiwan, we want to know how you're sharing knowledge with the world.

Add your activity to the database, or email us with your questions. We encourage you to think of all of your educational and scholarly work in a global context, and in a way that supports the open sharing of ideas and information in support of common goals.

Technorati : ,

Find here

Home II Large Hadron Cillider News