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EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES AND THEIR IMPACT

December 2005/January 2006 Imaging China’s Should You


www.technologyreview.com
Brain Great Trust Gmail?
Disorders Experiment By Simson Garfinkel p76
By Paul Raeburn p70 By Horace Freeland
Judson p52

The Internet
Is Broken
It’s time to replace it.
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Contents
Volume 108, Number 11

Features
52 The Great Chinese Experiment
China is betting its economic health on becoming a world leader in the
sciences. But will it succeed? By Horace Freeland Judson

62 The Internet Is Broken


The Net’s basic flaws cost firms billions, impede innovation, and threaten
national security. It’s time for a clean-slate approach. By David Talbot

70 MRI: A Window on the Brain


Advances in brain imaging could lead to improved diagnosis of psychiatric
ailments, better drugs, and help for learning disorders. By Paul Raeburn

Cover illustration by Laurent Cilluffo

7 From the Editor Q&A 80 A Tangle of Wires


10 Letters Could Washington’s approach to
38 Leonard Guarente
cybersecurity be worse? Possibly,
11 Contributors The skinny on the fountain of youth
if it had an approach.
16 From the Web Editor By David Rotman
By Bryant Urstadt

Forward Notebooks Demo


26 Traffic Avoidance 40 Newer Math? 82 Sensing Success
New prediction service crunches road Needed: a systems framework MIT’s Scott Manalis shows off his
sensor data, weather, history, and more By Rodney Brooks ultrasensitive biomolecule detector.
27 Cooler on a Chip 40 Molecularly Driven By David Rotman
Beating the PC heat The way to a new detector
By Anita Goel
28 Refrigeration Unplugged Hack
A cooler powered by flames 42 Material Alert
Smart clothes to aid soldiers 86 The iPod Nano
28 Ceasing Amniocentesis We voided the warranty so you
By Edwin L. Thomas
Noninvasive test for fetal genetic don’t have to. A look inside Apple’s
defect reaches clinical studies flashy new toy.
29 A Helping Arm
Photo Essay By Daniel Turner
Robotic physical therapy moves 44 Dirty Oil
toward commercialization Oil companies are, to the chagrin of 10 Years Ago in TR
30 CT Scan to Go environmentalists, mining a rich
source of bitumen in Canada. 88 Click “Oh yeah?”
First portable scanner for heads could How the Web’s inventor viewed
fit in emergency room By Katherine Bourzac
security issues a decade ago
31 Detecting Blood Loss Reviews By Katherine Bourzac
Software monitors patients
76 In Google We Trust
31 Wee Walker
Internet users should think carefully
Molecule moves in a straight line for
before relying on Gmail.
nanomanufacture
By Simson Garfinkel
32 Game Boy Rock
78 The Small Screen
Turning blips and beeps into music
Mobile TV is a new technology with
And more... an old business model.
By Brad King

2 CONTENTS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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Editor in Chief and Publisher Corporate Advertising Sales Japan
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opinion on emerging technologies. It also produces live events such as
the Emerging Technologies Conference. The views expressed in
De Technologia non multum scimus. Scimus autem, quid nobis placeat. Technology Review are not necessarily those of MIT.

4 T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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From the Editor

We’re Changing
Technology Review and the future of publishing

T
his issue of Technology Review represents a depar- These trends have a�ected almost all publications
ture. Oh, it looks much the same, I know. And save a except celebrity and fashion magazines. Even scholarly
few, largely cosmetic changes, it is the magazine you journals or publications like the Economist with relatively
are accustomed to reading. As has been our custom since little advertising face an increasing demand from their
1899, we describe emerging technologies and analyze their readers for electronic publication. In short, the time when
likely impact. Indeed, if readers �nd any alteration in our publishers could rely on print magazines is �nished.
pages, they might note a stricter policing of that mission: we But the realignment of the publishing industry has hit
have eliminated coverage of technology business and �nanc- Technology Review very hard. In part, this is because our
ing because surveys suggested that you didn’t want it. technologically savvy readers and advertisers are unusually
But observant subscribers will have noticed that they attracted to the Web; in part, it is because we are an inde-
did not receive an issue of Technology Review in Novem- pendent company, unattached to any larger media com-
ber. More, anyone who visited technologyreview.com on pany, and therefore unprotected by any economies of scale.
November 4 saw an entirely new website. The events are Whatever the reason, our numbers told a stark story: our
related. We are becoming a very di�erent kind of publisher. print circulation and advertising revenues were falling.
The details are described for subscribers, advertis- Online, though, was something else. Even though our
ers, and the MIT alumni in letters attached to the Decem- website did little more than republish magazine stories,
ber/January issue. (They can also be read online at www more people visited it every month than read our print
.technologyreview.com/dearsubscriber or dearadvertiser publication: in one year, millions of people were reading
or dearalum.) In brief, we will print the magazine half as stories on technologyreview.com. And online advertis-
often, although existing subscribers will receive as many ing, while still relatively small, was growing faster than we
issues as they are owed. Our website will now post could manage: sometimes, adver-
three news analysis stories a day, and also o�er The Internet has tisers demanded more impressions
blogs, text-to-speech audiocasts, RSS feeds, and discomforted than we could deliver.
a variety of media like Flash. Content that is only many industries, With the encouragement of MIT
available online will be free; premium content will (which owns Technology Review
Review),
but traditional
be available to subscribers and the MIT alumni. we have done what many publish-
Why these changes? Why mess with a good
publishing is ers yearn to do, but dare not: we have
thing? In September, the board of Technology particularly un- turned our business upside down.
Review, Inc. asked me to take on the additional happy. Readers Technology Review has been a print
responsibilities of publisher. They encouraged me are spending magazine with a website; from now
to consider innovative solutions to some of the dif- more time online. on, we will be an electronic publisher
�culties of contemporary publishing. that also prints a magazine.
The Internet has discomforted many industries, but To be clear: we love print. Most people still prefer to
traditional publishing is particularly unhappy. Readers see longer, investigative stories or colorful photographs in
(especially young readers) are spending more time online: a magazine. And we still receive more revenue from print
increasingly, they want their information to be timely, than online advertising. So we will continue to publish a
searchable, personalized, and part of a social network. At thoughtful and beautiful magazine. But we know the future
the same time, advertisers are spending more money on of Technology Review is also electronic and interactive.
interactive media: they are demanding e�ciency, account- Please visit our new website and see what Brad King,
ability, and a measurable return on their investments. The the site’s Web producer and senior editor, and Wade
former’s preferences would matter less were it not that the Roush, its editor, have made. If you read Technology
latter has sponsored the costs of print publication. Thus, Review because we write with unembarrassed geekiness
at the very time when the costs of acquiring and retaining and intelligence about emerging technologies, you’ll �nd
print readers are growing, when hiring the writers, edi- the same thing online every day. Once you’ve visited, write
MAR K O STOW

tors, and designers has seldom been so expensive, publish- to me at jason.pontin@technologyreview.com and tell me
ers face the contraction of advertising revenues. what you think. Jason Pontin

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FROM THE EDITOR 7


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Letters

Digital Cartography Food Fight Kunstler’s popular tome offers the


Your excellent cover story (“Killer I read your editor’s letter on sous vide worst-case scenario of the world minus
Maps,” October 2005) captured the and other new cooking techniques with cheap oil, the production of which was
developing landscape of competition interest (“Technology and Hypercui- long predicted to peak between 2000
between the likes of Google, Microsoft, sine,” October 2005). But I think Dry and 2010 by the late geologist M. King
and Yahoo over new location-based Creek Kitchen chef Michael Voltaggio is Hubbert. But Urstadt’s muddling-
browsing, searching, and visualiza- mistaken when he says, “But chefs and through scenario is hardly an adequate
tion. It’s appropriate you began the diners got bored....Now that people can response. He himself admits that the
article by describing the highly inter- buy restaurant-quality grills and ovens, bell-shaped curve of fossil fuel availa-
active nature of Google Earth and its anyone can braise veal cheeks. I want bility may well spell trouble, including
3-D interface for showing the earth. people to ask, ‘How did he do that?’” social unrest of unprecedented propor-
Although mapping applications like The question is really, Why did he tions. The trouble may turn out to be
Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and Yahoo do that? I have eaten at Chez Panisse serious, indeed. It may lead to a bell-
Maps have APIs for customization, on a regular basis since its open- shaped curve of human population,
Google Earth uses a standardized ing 25 years ago and have yet to see too. The �exibility and creativity of
XML-like interface allowing both the same menu twice. Its chefs have humanity, which Urstadt invokes in his
simple and complex database enhance- come and gone, but as Pontin says review, may be of little solace to those
ments, which tens of thousands of in his column, what has remained is at the tail end of that curve, let alone
people have used to share many new founder Alice Waters’s insistence on to those at its collapsing bulge.
innovative data sources, among them the use of “fresh, seasonal foods” that Ranko Bon
3-D �ight tracking, spread of avian �u, are “simply but perfectly prepared.” Motovun, Croatia
and collections of panorama images. I might stop at Voltaggio’s restaurant
Frank Taylor one of these days, but I won’t make a The U.S. government has recently
Raleigh, NC special trip, even though I often bicycle announced that it would use some or
in that neighborhood. I will, however, all of our strategic oil reserves to alle-
Digital cartography, because it o�ers be eating at Chez Panisse tonight, and viate the shortages that have been
the ability to give title to land, may I anticipate a wonderful dinner, one brought upon us by Hurricane Katrina.
prove especially bene�cial to the poor. derived from an aesthetic of simplicity I am writing to suggest that this should
The principal havens for illicit activi- rather than one of complexity. only be a �rst step in the managing of
ties are, after all, poor nations, where David Nasatir the strategic reserve.
criminals and terrorists frequently take Berkeley, CA What better time could there be
land that is not theirs. Modern car- than now to focus our long-range plan-
tography technology could be used in As the holder of a food handler’s license ning by taking advantage of existing
places like Afghanistan, Colombia, and in Multnomah County, OR, I can tell technology and funding its improve-
Peru to better see how land is being you that if an inspector from the state ment? Using a test portion of our 400-
used. This would aid not only in help- of Oregon came into a restaurant and year supply of coal and/or the 600-year
ing to establish basic rule of law but found food being kept “hot” at 58 °C, supply of shale, we could re�ll, say,
also with e�orts to move farmers away he would cite the establishment for not 25 percent of the reserve by means of
from cultivating narcotics, since new maintaining a temperature of 60 °C or technologies created by Germany dur-
cultivations could be detected within greater for hot food. Until the law is ing World War II, and used by South
days, if not hours. changed to re�ect sous vide, I do not Africa after the war.
Walton Cook think the inspector would be swayed While in the 1970s the cost of such
Boalsburgh, PA to approve that temperature. a conversion process was not competi-
Michael Kay tive with the price of crude (around
Multnomah County, OR $14 per barrel), the cost of a barrel
How to contact us has now reached $70. Cost discrep-
E-mail: letters@technologyreview.com The End of Cheap Oil ancy, therefore, should no longer be
Write: Technology Review
Review, One Main Street,
Bryant Urstadt’s review of James an issue, and thus immediate attention
7th Floor, Cambridge MA 02142
Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emer- would be invaluable to our country for
Fax: 617-475-8043
Please include your address, telephone number, gency pits one man making a living both the short and long term.
and e-mail address. Letters may be edited for from writing against another (“The Gerard Mosseri Marlio
both clarity and length. Get-Ready Men,” October 2005). Marion, MA

10 LETTERS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Contributors

Horace Freeland Washington University’s Center for the same is true for many other par-
Judson says he History of Recent Science. Of his piece ents and families.” Raeburn is the
approached his in this issue, Judson says, “Several of author of Acquainted with the Night
Night,
feature on sci- the interviews were among the best a memoir about raising children with
ence in China (see I’ve ever secured.” depression and bipolar disorder.
“The Great Chinese
Experiment,” p. 52) “as a skeptic, a Paul Raeburn, a Laurent Cilluffo,
doubter, ready to question all the cur- former senior edi- who illustrated this
rent Western received opinions about tor at BusinessWeek month’s cover, lives
China’s economic miracle and scien- and the Associated in northern France,
ti�c aspirations.” Judson, the author of Press, was person- where he recently
The Eighth Day of Creation, a history ally motivated to completed the
of molecular biology whose �rst three write this issue’s story about advances pilot for an animated TV show and a
chapters appeared in the New Yorker in magnetic resonance imaging (see graphic novel that will be released in
in 1978, has two books in the works: “MRI: A Window on the Brain,” p. 70). April. Cillu�o was not, at �rst, excited
one a collection of essays, the other a “I’m fascinated by the way researchers by our assignment: “I thought, Damn:
follow-up to The Eighth Day
Day. Judson can take a technique like MRI scan- another Internet piece.” But he came
is, by his own accounting, “a writer by ning and extend it into new realms,” around. “My main concern was to
trade, an academic by accident.” From he says. “As the parent of children who come up with the right color design,
1965 to 1972, he �led arts and science have su�ered psychiatric illnesses, I something that’d give a sense of
stories from London and Paris for know how di�cult it is to get an accu- depth, which I’d usually do with the
Time. More recently, he has held aca- rate diagnosis. My kids went through line drawing itself. This time around
demic appointments at Johns Hopkins a series of diagnoses before they were it felt like I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, else
TechReview
and Stanford,(New
and AMP) Dec 10/11/05
he founded George 10:29 am
properly Page and
assessed 1 treated. And the piece’d get overdetermined.”

Business education at the University of Oxford www.execed.oxford.edu

18 June–15 July 2006

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Letters

Debating Immortality 3. Gravity problem: This one’s easy.


Statement required by 39 U.S.C. 3685 showing the
ownership, management, and circulation of Technology In February 2005, we published “Do You Move the pig to Phobos, one of the
Review, published monthly (11 issues), for October 3,
Review
2005. Publication No. 535-940. Annual subscription
Want to Live Forever?,” a cover story by low-gravity satellites of Mars, where
price $34.00. physician and writer Sherwin Nuland people are going anyway.
1. Location of known office of publication: that took a skeptical view of the claims 4. Can’t climb trees: Who says
MIT, One Main Street, Cambridge, Middlesex, MA 02142
of Aubrey de Grey, a theoretical biolo- pigs cannot climb trees? Because so
2. Location of headquarters or general business office gist at the University of Cambridge who far most of their food has been placed
of the publisher:
MIT, One Main Street, Cambridge, Middlesex, MA 02142 believes human aging can be “fixed.” in troughs or in the undergrowth of
3. The names and addresses of the publisher, editor, What follows is a letter to de Grey, care French forests, pigs have not previ-
and managing editor: of our editor, from Richard Miller, a pro- ously been motivated to climb trees.
Publisher: Jason Pontin, MIT, One Main Street, Cambridge,
Middlesex, MA 02142. fessor of pathology at the University of 5. No feathers: The Drosophila
Editor: David Rotman, MIT, One Main Street, Cambridge,
Middlesex, MA 02142.
Michigan and a biogerontologist. antennapedia gene (for which a Nobel
Managing Editor: Nate Nickerson, MIT, One Main Street, Prize was recently awarded) allows the
Cambridge, Middlesex, MA 02142.
Dear Aubrey, transformation of bristles into legs or
4. The owner is
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts
I saw you on TV the other day and was antennas.
Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. hoping that now that the aging problem 6. Lack of motivation: Easy—LSD.
5. Known bondholders, mortgages and other security has been solved, you might have time 7. Tweet problem: Implantable
holders owning or holding one percent or more of total
amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities:
to help me in my publicity campaign to helium sacs, just under the armpits, so
None. solve a similar engineering challenge: whenever they �ap their wings helium
6. Extent and nature of circulation: the problem of producing �ying pigs. gets squirted into their vocal cavities.
Average number Number of
of copies of copies of single
A theoretical analysis of the problem Although each of these strategies
each issue issue published shows that there are only seven reasons is based upon sound scienti�c prece-
during preceding nearest to
12 months filing date
why pigs cannot, at present, �y: dent or fantasy, nonetheless some of
1. They do not have wings. my conservative critics here on the
A. Total number
of copies: 346,774 304,608 2. They are too heavy to get o� local faculty have argued that no one
the ground. has yet proven that any one of these
B. Paid and/or
requested circulation: 3. The so-called “law” of gravity. methods has been shown to convert
1. Paid/requested
outside-county
4. They cannot climb trees. porkers to parakeets. But no one has
mail subscriptions 261,274 249,449 5. Hair, instead of feathers. yet tried all seven of them together,
2. Sales through dealers 6. They do not wish to �y. don’t you see!
and carriers, street
vendors, counter sales, 7. They do not tweet. Amazing though it may seem, I
and other non-USPS
Although I have been too busy in my believe that we are now at what I call
paid distribution: 44,015 15,175
day job to �nd time to work in a labo- a “cusp” in the history of either porki-
C. Total paid and/or
requested
ratory, I have been able to show clearly culture or -aviation or both. Pigs born
circulation: 305,289 264,624 that these problems can be solved, before April 14, 2009, will be des-
D. Free distribution using an approach I call Plan for Engi- tined to a life on the ground, rooting
by mail: 2,391 576 neered Porcine Aviation, or PEPA. about for scraps, grunting unpleas-
E. Free distribution 1. No wings: Genetic engineering antly, and constantly getting their
outside the mail: 4,776 3,763
will be used to alter Hox-box promot- curly little tails entangled in low-lying
F. Total free ers and micro-RNA gene enhancers shrubs. Pigs born after April 15, 2009
distribution: 7,167 4,339
to reactivate the pre-wing somite pro- (or perhaps a few days later), will in
G. Total distribution: 312,457 268,963 gram. A dab of stem cell therapy might contrast waft lazily through the lam-
H. Copies not help here, too. bent skies, tweeting merry greetings
distributed: 34,317 35,645
2. Too heavy: Although the aver- to one another, nibbling at the occa-
I. Total: 346,774 304,608 age pig cell is a chunky 20 microns in sional air tru�e, and enjoying pan-
J. Percent paid
diameter, microbiologists have recently oramic views of either Cambridge or
and/or documented free-living organisms as Phobos, depending.
requested
circulation: 97.7% 98.4% small as .8 microns in diameter. By the
inverse-cube law, a reduction in mean Aubrey de Grey declined our offer to print
7. I certify that all information furnished on this form is
true and complete: cell diameter of 25 will lead to a reduc- a short response. Find his full response
(Signed) Heather Holmes, Director of Circulation
tion in volume of 253 = 15,625, with a at www.technologyreview.com/.biotech/
corresponding drop in pig weight. wtr_15941,312,p1.html.

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Special Ad Section

Canary Islands Wind Farm

Wind Power in Spain


Spain’s installed wind-power capacity makes it the second-largest wind-energy producer in the world, and Spanish com-
panies lead the global wind-power market. This is the first in an eight-part series highlighting new technologies in Spain
and is produced by Technology Review’s custom-publishing division in partnership with the Trade Commission of Spain.
By Cynthia Graber

For governments and companies committed to the idea of Furthermore, Spanish companies, both turbine manufac-
powering our technological age with clean, renewable energy, turers and wind-farm operators, are among the leaders in the
wind power is a natural fit. Wind-powered technology has global wind-power market. Some examples are Gamesa Eólica
matured over the past two decades, driving down costs and driving (world’s second largest turbine manufacturer), Iberdrola (world’s
up efficiency. largest wind-farm owner and operator) and Acciona Energía
Today, countries like Denmark and Germany have (world’s largest wind-farm builder and developer).
demonstrated that integrating a power source such as wind into What’s more, from the dense industrial base already present in
the grid can easily provide more than 20 percent—sometimes Spain, many companies have sprung up to develop technologies
significantly more—of the power needs of a given region. befitting the needs of the wind industry, in fields such as compos-
Now, Spain has joined them as a wind-energy powerhouse. ites, steel, electrical components, and wind-data loggers.
With 9,000 megawatts of installed capacity, Spain ranked With 30 percent annual growth in the sector, and a clear
second in the world in 2005 in total installed capacity, commitment from the Spanish government to encourage pri-
behind Germany (16,000 megawatts) and ahead of the United vate investment, technological advances, and grid development,
States (6,500 megawatts). Spain is poised to continue this trend toward powering its

www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind S1
20

10 Special Ad Section

0
to other countries in the OECD and the European Union, Spain is
Top Five Countries with Highest Total much more dependent on foreign oil,” said Javier Garcia Breva,
Installed Wind Capacity until fall 2005 director general of the Spanish Institute for Energy
Diversification and Saving (IDAE), part of the Spanish government.
The top five countries listed below account for over 67 percent “The country is very vulnerable to variations in the oil market.
of total wind energy installation worldwide.
So, at the first analysis, the renewable energy plan has focused on
increasing energy independence in Spain.”
GERMANY 16,629 The second goal, according to Garcia, is equally important:
MW reducing carbon dioxide emissions in line with the goals of the
SPAIN 8,263 MW
European Union. According to IDAE figures, if Spain meets
U.S. 6,740 MW its goal of generating 30 percent of its electricity needs from
DENMARK 3,117 MW renewable power by 2010, with half of that amount coming
from wind power, it will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by
INDIA 3,000 MW
77 million tons.

Source: 2004 American Wind Energy Association


A Global Trend
The rapid growth in wind-generated power in Spain reflects a
economic and technological growth with the strong winds that
global trend. According to the Global Wind Energy Council
sweep over the country’s mountains and plains.
(GWEC), wind-power capacity has been increasing at least 20
percent each year between 2000 and 2005, and wind turbines
Wind Power Is an Economic Winner in Spain
today can produce 200 times more power than equivalent
One reason Spain stands out from other European leaders in wind
turbines two decades ago.
power, according to Corin Millais, head of the European Wind
The wind-power sector is coming of age. Its energy is
Energy Association, is that environmental issues have not been the
relatively cheap to produce, some of its technologies have
major driving force behind this expansion.
matured—even though there are several breakthrough tech-
“It’s much more a story about regional growth, economic
nologies being developed in Spain—and more countries and
deployment, driving an economy that requires increasing amounts
of energy,” said Millais. “There’s more of a fundamental value of communities are turning to wind to reduce both their
wind power to an economy in Spain than in northern Europe.” dependency on foreign fuel and their contribution to global
And the figures in Spain support this claim. When the first warming. The GWEC expects the costs of power from wind to
renewable energy plan was enacted in the late 1990s, energy be competitive with those from conventional fuel within a decade.
demand was predicted to increase by 1.2 percent per year. In- In many areas, wind power is still more expensive than other
stead, demand has grown by around 3 to 4 percent. In addi- conventional fuels, though costs have plummeted since the 1980s
tion, wind power has grown much more rapidly than expected, (when wind power was in its infancy). Today, according to the
with installed capacity increasing by about 30 percent per year. American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in the windiest sites,
Currently, the government estimates that 300 to 400 Spanish wind power may sell for around 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour,
companies are involved in wind power, supporting about 30,000 which compares well with energy prices in new coal or gas-fired
jobs, with that number expected to double by 2010. This healthy plants. Recent fluctuations in steel prices have kept wind power
job growth experienced as well in other industries has been crucial: prices steady, rather than continuing this downward trend; but
a decade ago, the unemployment rate in Spain was more than 20 natural gas costs have risen in the same period, making wind
percent; it has since fallen to 8.5 percent in 2005. increasingly attractive.
In addition to economic and technological development, Today there are more than 50,000 megawatts of installed wind-
wind power in Spain has transformed the countryside. All along power capacity around the world, up from only 17,000 megawatts
northern Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way), a decade ago.
an ancient Christian pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees, plains,
and along the coastline, ending at the burial site of the martyr St. Surpassing Goals in Spain
James in Santiago, pilgrims travel past modern-day windmills. But The Spanish story reflects those dramatic changes. In 1999, the
the transformation has been more than visual, for the income that government set a goal for wind power at 9,000 megawatts of
wind farms bring to poorer rural areas has literally saved some capacity by 2011. By midway through 2005, however, more than
communities. that amount of wind power had already fed into the Spanish grid,
The goals of the Spanish government in promoting wind are compared with only 800 megawatts in 1999–2000.
twofold. First, to reduce dependency on imported oil. “In relation In response, in August 2005, the Spanish government once

S2 www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind
Special Ad Section

Spain’s Installed Wind Capacity by Region

Wind Power in Spain


Market Snapshot Economic Growth

• Total capacity by end of 2005* 9,500 MW Employment

• Total capacity target for 2011 20,000 MW • Total jobs in wind industry in 2004 30,000

• Growth rate 2003–2004 33% • Jobs projected for 2011 60,000

• Contribution to national power supply 6.5% Top Growth Regions

• Peak contribution to Spanish electricity supply 24% • Castile La Mancha 731.5 MW

• Equivalent number of households supplied 4 million+ • Castile and Leon 576.9 MW

• Peak generation in 2004 86,775 MW • Galicia 511.5 MW

• Aragon 178.3 MW
Source: AEE/IDAE/REE *Trade Commission of Spain

www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind S3
Special Ad Section

power needs. “We’re talking about a sector today that is one


Spanish Market Share of the most dynamic parts of Spanish industry,” said Garcia.

Turbine Suppliers Creating and Developing the Wind-Power


12.23% Made 8.68% Neg Micon (Vestas) Market in Spain
(Gamesa Eólica) Spain has created some of the world leaders in this industry. In
7.79% Ecotecnia
51.63% the early 1980s, turbine manufacturer Ecotecnia was one of the
Gamesa first companies to install a wind-power generator in Spain. The
Eólica
company began in the renewable energies sector, then focused
7.13% General
Electric on wind generation when Director Antoni Martinez decided to
follow the examples of Denmark and California.
3.67% Others
3.26% Izar-Bonus According to Martinez, interest and business in wind-power
(Siemens) began to pick up in 1992 and took off in 1997, when the Spanish
2.89% Vestas government instituted a new electricity act. With the act, the
.85% Ingetur
government set a fixed premium every year according to the
.84% Enercon
baseline cost of power from electric utilities, with a premium to
.67% Desa
ensure profitability for wind farms. In addition, utilities are
.45% Lagerwey
Source: 2004 AEE
obligated to buy any wind power produced and integrate it into
the national grid.
Wind-Farm Developers Ecotecnia is still a major player in the Spanish wind-power
market, selling turbines in Spain and around the world. What’s
8%
6% Genesa 10% more, the market has expanded to create international power-
Danta y Preneal Endesa
houses like Gamesa Eólica, major national energy companies
11% such as Iberdrola, and Acciona Energía, the renewable energies
Acciona Energía 6% Others
subsidiary of the Acciona Group, a major Spanish business group
Enerfin 5% with thousands of employees.
Iberdrola set up its first wind farm in 2000; already by 2005, it
Desa 4%
had become the largest owner of wind farms in the world.
Cesa 3% Meanwhile, Acciona Energía is the largest wind-park
Dersa 3% constructor and developer in the world. The company credits
Energi E2 3% its success to its beginnings in the region of Navarra in 1994. “We
UF ENEL 2% 38% were pioneers with a plan of implementing wind power in Navarra
Iberdrola
Gamesa Eólica 1% when wind wasn’t yet looked on as an important economic sector,”
said the company’s director of marketing, Jose Arrieta.
Source: 2004 AEE
“This is giving real corporate credence to the industry. It’s
again reconsidered its goals. More ambitious numbers were need- bringing in capital and financial sophistication,” said Godfrey
ed to reflect the reality of the sector and to assure businesses that Chua, principal analyst of Emerging Energy Research, an inde-
the government remained committed to this growth. As a result, pendent organization that provides market research about wind
a new goal of approximately 20,000 megawatts was set, a leap of power. “It’s also bringing a level of scale to the industry that it has
almost 50 percent. never seen before.”
“I believe this is achievable for a very fundamental reason,” Most helpful in Spain, according to companies and the
said Garcia. “In Spain right now there is social and political government, has been the stable environment created by govern-
consensus in favor of wind power. And that, together with the ment laws first passed in 1997 and updated as needed. The Span-
private-sector initiative, makes us very optimistic regarding the ish government sets the cost of wind power each year, based on the
future of wind power.” costs of power from conventional sources, with an added premium
Today, wind power fulfills about 6 percent of the coun- for wind to ensure a return on their investment.
try’s electricity needs (in the United States, for instance, the Wind-power operators have two options: to sell electricity
AWEA’s goal is to reach the 6 percent level by 2020). In Navarra, at a fixed rate that includes a tariff, or to sell freely in the market
one of the autonomous regions that hosts a great deal of wind- and receive a special premium on top of the market price.
power development, wind can fulfill nearly half of the region’s Each year, this premium is adjusted appropriately.

S4 www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind
Special Ad Section

The Spanish Model effective and reliable is the three-bladed vertical model.
Similar to other pricing models in Europe, the Spanish model Improvements in design and efficiency have allowed
is different from the one pursued by the U.S. government. In manufacturers to construct larger, more powerful models, so that
the U.S., a national production tax credit provides a tax break from a few hundred kilowatts of power years ago, turbines can
for companies for 10 years after a wind farm is established. now generate several megawatts.
This production tax credit must be renewed in Congress “The fact that you have much taller wind turbines allows
—and often expires before it can be renewed. Thus, you to put the blades where the wind speeds are higher and
the market in the United States is subject more stable,” explained Christine Real de
to fluctuations, as developers and manufac- “The Spanish model Azua, a spokesperson for AWEA. “A larger
turers, on renewal years, wait to see what guarantees the profit- blade means you have a larger swept area.
Congress will decide. These factors mean that, though the cost of
ability of Spanish com-
This dynamic played out in 2004, when a single turbine is higher, the output is so
only about 400 megawatts came on line panies investing in wind much greater.”
in the United States. The U.S. market has power, and because of The standardized shape of wind tur-
since picked up speed once again, and this, major companies bines today, and the general trend towards
projected U.S. wind developments for 2006 larger and more powerful individual tur-
in Spain have bet on
are at about 2,500 megawatts. The tax credit bines, demonstrates the maturity of the
is set to come up for renewal again at the wind power.” technology, said Chua of Emerging Energy
end of 2007. Research. It also means that individual
“The Spanish model guarantees the profitability of Spanish companies distinguish themselves by incremental developments
companies investing in wind power,” said Garcia. “Because of in technology that allow them to keep costs down, such as reduc-
this, major companies in Spain have bet on wind power. Those ing the weight of the turbines and increasing their efficiency.
two factors together—the premiums and the investment from In Spain, Gamesa Eólica has grown to become the country’s
major companies—have contributed to what I would describe as largest turbine manufacturer and the second largest in the world.
the spectacular development of wind power.” Company sources say that a number of factors have led the com-
pany to take the lead. For one, they say, they have vertically in-
Evolution of the Turbine tegrated within Spain, designing the individual components and
Over the past two decades, turbine manufacturers have experi- overseeing the manufacture of nearly all of them in the country.
mented with different ways of transforming the energy from To edge ahead of the competition, Gamesa Eólica has
wind into power. Although models produced have ranged widely focused on pitch technology, in which blades can rotate by frac-
in size and shape, the one that has caught on and proved most tions of a degree to best take advantage of the wind speed, or to

Spanish Companies at the Top of the Global Market


Company Specialty Currently Operating in Expansion Plan

Acciona Energía • Wind-farm operation Australia, Canada, France, China, Ireland,


Largest wind-park constructors in • Manufacturing of turbines Germany, Morocco, Spain, United Kingdom
the world • Developing wind-power United States
www.acciona.es facilities

Ecotecnia • Manufacturing turbines Cuba, France, India, Japan, China, Italy


Second largest manufacturer in Spain Portugal, Spain
www.ecotecnia.es

Gamesa Eólica • Manufacturing turbines China, Egypt, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Taiwan,
Second-largest turbine manufacturer • Wind-farm operation Italy, Japan, Korea, Portugal, United Kingdom
in the world Spain, United States
www.gamesa.es

Iberdrola • Wind-farm operation Brazil, France, Greece, Italy, Continuing to expand


Largest wind-farm operator in the world Mexico, Portugal, Spain, in Europe and Latin
www.iberdrola.com United Kingdom America

www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind S5
Special Ad Section

slow down to prevent a power overload. In addition, the company


integrates variable speed into all turbines.
Generator Gamesa Eólica believes that Spain’s unique geography also
Larger blades increase the provides a benefit to Spanish companies competing in the
power produced by generator. international market. As one Gamesa Eólica source put it, “Spain
is a complex terrain, so our turbines have been reinforced to cope
with that. Spain has many more mountains or hilly areas than
100-Meter central Europe, and this has helped us to design robust turbines
Blade
that we can build anywhere in the world.”
Longer, lightweight,
and flexible to Although it is a much smaller company, Ecotecnia, Spain’s
maximize second-largest turbine manufacturer, is highly competitive, fo-
wind lift.
cusing on reducing the weight of its turbines. They are currently
developing a three-megawatt turbine with 100-meter blades, the
largest of its line, that will be installed in early 2006. This giant
turbine is designed for flat plains, where the increased height
Hub allows the turbine to take advantage of stronger winds. Like
Nacelle Gamesa Eólica, Ecotecnia is expanding around the Mediterra-
nean region and into Asian and American markets.
Ecotecnia director Martinez says they’re also research-
Increased ing new technologies that take advantage of minute changes
Height in the wind and can cope with split-second outages in power.
Allows the turbine In the past, such dips in voltage, caused by brief failures in a
to take advantage
traditional power plant or a disturbance such as a tree fall-
of stronger winds.
ing on a power line, would cause a wind turbine to disconnect
from the grid.
Among the other manufacturers, MTorres stands out for its
Lift innovative technology. Its gearless and pitch-controlled wind-
When wind hits
the blades on the mills claim to increase performance and reliability, reducing
downwind side of maintenance costs. Furthermore, their offshore projects merge
the blade, a low-
Blade clean power resources with seawater desalination.
Wind pressure pocket
is formed, called lift.
Challenges Ahead
Hurdles remain in the effort to make wind power even more
successful in four main areas: variability, grid issues, centralized
control center, and meteorological prediction.
Critics of wind power point to the inherent variability of the
Innovative Turbines energy source as one of the main stumbling blocks to integrating
Spanish companies are leading the way in turbine it into the existing system. Yet the integration of wind in Spain
innovation by increasing the size of turbines while has proven that variability is not such an impossible challenge.
reducing turbine weight. The new longer (100- “It’s something of a red herring,” said Real de Azua of
meter) blades can reach halfway down the length AWEA. “No matter what new technology you bring on, a new
of the tower and help to maximize wind lift. Newer nuclear plant or anything else, there’s always the possibility
blades are also made of lighter, more flexible that it’s going to break down at some point, or be taken off the
material, and in many turbines the blades shift angle, line for repairs and maintenance. No matter what, you have to
or pitch, either to catch more wind or to angle away have some margin of safety, of different types of plants that can
meet the supply.”
in winds that are too strong. Spanish researchers
Godfrey Chua of Emerging Energy Research acknowledges
are also developing new technologies to take
that variability is a hurdle that wind power must overcome around
advantage of wind changes and split-second
the world. “The point is that wind power was never presented as
power outages. the one power source, replacing all nuclear or coal. It’s really
meant to be complementary,” said Chua.
In fact, while Spain has already reached 6 percent of energy
S6 www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind
Special Ad Section

needs supplied by wind power, on certain windy days the sector in France, Spain exports power to meet that need, and vice versa.
can meet almost one-quarter of the country’s power demand. But the transmission lines between the two countries are not yet
Former IDAE director general Garcia said: “The whole system adequately reinforced to support this two-way movement to its
has improved a great deal, including how it deals with peaks in full capacity.
the winter and the summer. In the peaks of the summer, wind Because a great amount of wind power is generated in northern
energy has represented sometimes up to 15 to 16 percent of the Spain, a stronger connection to France and the rest of Europe to
energy distributed on the grid. And the stability of the system has better manage power surges and dips is paramount.
improved a great deal as well.” “It’s similar to the situation of Denmark and Germany,” said
Beyond the variability of the resource, Garcia. “When wind is blowing in Den-
grid issues remain. Traditional power sources mark, they export it to Germany. And when
are large power plants, sited relatively close While Spain has already wind doesn’t blow in Denmark, Germany
to the demand. Current transmission lines reached 6 percent of en- exports energy to Denmark. The European
reflect this reality. Wind turbines, however, ergy needs supplied by energy systems have to be interconnected.”
may incorporate a number of smaller gen- Another challenge that needs to be ad-
wind power, on certain
erators (an entire wind farm may have a few dressed before the country can reach these
hundred megawatts of power, while a new windy days the sector can ambitious goals, said Garcia, is creating a
nuclear plant may contribute a thousand meet almost one-quarter control center for all the wind farms around
megawatts). In addition, wind turbines may of the country’s power the nation, similar to the control center that
be farther from population centers (such demand. exists for conventional power plants. Also,
as proposed wind farms in the midwestern the technological challenges addressed by
United States) that necessitate upgrades the turbine companies, such as technologies
and changes to the transmission lines. that deal with minute dips in voltage from the grid, will further
In Spain, this issue has presented challenges as well. The Span- the ability to meet the 20,000 megawatt goal.
ish grid has had problems absorbing the amount of wind power Another factor that could increase efficiency is more-detailed
generated, according to Garcia. Upgrades to the transmission prediction. Meteorological information allows electric companies
system are a top priority, according to the Spanish government, and wind-farm operators to predict with a high level of accuracy
in reaching the stated goal of 20,000 megawatts by 2011. In par- when wind will pick up and slow down. With this hourly informa-
ticular, reinforcing and strengthening the power-sharing mecha- tion, electric companies know when to expect more power from
nism between Spain and France—and thus Spain and the rest of wind farms, and when to pick up the slack from other sources.
Europe—is of primary importance. When there is an energy need To reduce the inaccuracy in wind-power predictions, Spanish
www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind S7
Special Ad Section

wind farm operators are joining with sys- supply half of Spain’s needs.
tem operators to determine the best prac- Spanish companies are seeing steady Resources
tices for implementing improvements in demand and markets in Spain, and they
predictions. According to Alberto Ceña, look forward to supplying the power to ICEX (Spanish Institute for
director of the Spanish Wind Energy Asso- meet the country’s ambitious goals. At Foreign Trade)
ciation (AEE), “Every day wind farms are the same time, the rest of the world of- www.us.spainbusiness.com
offering power to the market. They need to fers a much wider market for these com-
reduce deviations—the difference between panies, many of whom are already at AEE (Spanish Wind Energy
Association)
forecast and the real production.” the forefront of the industry. Gamesa
www.aeeolica.org
Using seven different models, statisti- Eólica, for instance, opened a wind farm
cal and physical, the companies are refin- in Illinois (Mendota Hills) in 2004 and AEH2 (Spanish Hydrogen
ing prediction tech- recently opened its Association)
niques. So far, in new North American www.aeh2.org
the first year since
Financial analysts are rec- office in Philadel-
the project began, ognizing the strength of phia. Today, it also APPA (Association of Producers
of Renewable Energies)
the accuracy has the Spanish industry. In sells its largest share
www.appa.es
improved. “If we the U.S., Ernst and Young of turbines in China,
can reduce the de- a market all com- APPICE (Spanish Fuel Cells
in 2005 placed the Span-
viation,” said Ceña, panies are eyeing as Association)
“then we don’t have ish wind market at the top that country’s rapid www.appice.es
to have conventional of its index of long-term industrialization de-
ASIF (Spanish Association of the
power plants on “country attractiveness.” mands more energy.
Photovoltaics Industry)
standby for produc- Meanwhile, Iberdro- www.asif.org (in Spanish only)
ing power when we la is already operat-
don’t produce the power with wind. This ing or plans to operate wind farms around CIEMAT (Center for Research
also reduces penalties on the market.” Europe and Latin America, and Acciona in Energy, the Environment,
With all these advances in place, Energía is working on an industrial proj- and Technology)
Garcia believes that the goals of supply- ect in China. Overall, Spanish wind-power www.ciemat.es
ing 15 percent of Spain’s energy needs via companies are present in the United States,
IDAE (Institute for Energy
wind power and reducing the nation’s de- Portugal, France, Italy, India, Australia, Diversification and Savings)
pendence on fossil fuels by 2010 is achiev- Japan, Cuba, and China. www.idae.es
able. “We wouldn’t have proposed these Financial analysts are also recognizing
goals if we didn’t believe they could be the strength of the Spanish industry. In the PSA (Almeria Solar Platform)
met,” he said. United States, Ernst and Young this year www.psa.es
placed the Spanish wind market at the top
To find out more about New
Expanding Global Markets of its index of long-term “country attrac- Technologies in Spain, visit:
According to the AEE, Spain has enough tiveness,” as assessed by their Renewable www.technologyreview.com/
wind potential to meet 30,000 megawatts Energy Group. spain/wind
installed capacity—even without offshore Corin Millais, head of the European
wind farms, although a number of offshore Wind Energy Association, says that Spain For more information visit:
projects are in the planning stage. has not only influenced the current growth www.us.spainbusiness.com
Of course no one expects wind power of wind power in neighboring coun-
Contact:
to replace all other forms of energy, tries—France, Portugal, and Italy, which Mr. Enrique Alejo
but rather to be part of a diverse group of have all increased wind-power targets— Trade Commission of Spain
energy options. If Spanish wind-power de- but Spain provides a model for countries in Chicago
velopers and turbine manufacturers meet around the world looking to implement 500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1500
the government’s goal of 20,000 mega- stronger legislation and encourage the Chicago, IL 60611, USA
T: 312 644 1154
watts by 2010, wind would supply around development of wind power. “Wind pow-
F: 312 527 5531
15 percent of the country’s energy needs. er is a dynamic market, and it is rapidly chicago@mcx.es
Even that figure is somewhat misleading, growing into a mainstream power,” said
however, since natural fluctuations in wind Millais. “Spain shows how it can be done
mean that when wind is plentiful, it could in a sustained fashion.”

S8 www.technologyreview.com/spain/wind
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T E C H N O LO GY R E V I E W D E C E M B E R 2005/J A N UA RY 2 0 0 6

S O F T WA R E

Traffic
Avoidance
New prediction service crunches
road sensor data, weather,
history, and local events

I
n the interminable battle against
tra�c, a growing number of gov-
ernment and private initiatives of-
fer U.S. drivers high-quality real-time
tra�c data and even short-term pre-
dictions of travel time from, say, one
freeway intersection to the next. But
most of the forecasts don’t extend be-
yond 15 or 20 minutes. Though a veri-
table tra�c jam of companies has
sprung up to o�er data, they generally
inform commuters of snarls as they
occur, which is often too late for driv-
ers to change their plans.
Now, actual tra�c prediction—
forecasts of congestion levels hours
and even days in advance—is on the
horizon. It’s coming from Kirkland,
WA–based Inrix, founded in 2004 by
former Microsoft executives Bryan
Mistele and Craig Chapman and for-
mer Expedia executive Seth Eisner.
The company uses algorithms that
originated in the labs of Microsoft
Research; its technology is the �rst
fruit of Microsoft’s initiative to license gets installed on highways, including ing and delivery companies. These
H E N R I K S O R E N S E N / G ETTY I MAG E S

intellectual property to venture capi- toll-tag readers, cameras, radar units, vehicles e�ectively act as mobile sen-
talists and startups. and magnetic sensors embedded in sors, and Inrix buys the data they col-
The Inrix software starts with a the pavement. Inrix then adds speed lect. Finally, Inrix adds up to two years
mass of data obtained from govern- and location data from computers of historical tra�c �ow data, weather
ment agencies—real-time tra�c �ow and Global Positioning System (GPS) forecasts and conditions, and even
and incident information from gad- units in vehicles owned by truck- local road construction schedules,

26 FORWARD T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Forward

school calendars, and dates of events city’s highways show up as green, yel- companies.” In fact, Inrix already
like concerts and athletic contests. low, red, or black, depending on the received $6.1 million in �rst-round
The company’s proprietary statis- level of congestion. The phones also venture funding in April from August
tical models combine all this data to display estimated times until roads will Capital and Venrock Associates. If
provide not only a snapshot of cur- either clear or become jammed. The Bünger’s forecasts hold up, tra�c
rent tra�c �ow but also predictions company says that the service correctly prediction and dynamic routing will
about expected congestion and road color-codes routes about 88 percent of begin to make an impact in the mar-
conditions over the next several hours the time when forecasting conditions ketplace within about �ve years. And
and even days. Each city requires its up to 48 hours in advance. if drivers have any luck, those predic-
own unique model; the model for San The goal, says Mistele, is to pro- tions will mean they spend less time
Francisco alone contains about half a vide drivers with truly useful infor- in gridlock. E R I KA JON I ETZ
terabyte (500 gigabytes) of data, says mation about tra�c, such as the best
Oliver Downs, Inrix’s chief scientist. route for a delivery van, the ideal time H A R DWA R E
Inrix plans to have models for the to leave work, how to reroute a trip to
30 largest U.S. cities available by the avoid an accident, or even an estimate Cooler on a Chip
end of 2005 and to provide tra�c pre- of travel time from a New York City
dictions to drivers through partner- hotel to Newark Airport next Thurs- As computer chips become faster and
ships of various kinds. It announced day evening. And while the cost to smaller, they also get hotter, and the fans
its �rst partnership, with digital- individual consumers will be set by used to cool PCs and keep their chips
mapping company Tele Atlas, in Sep- resellers, current tra�c services range from slowing or failing can’t keep up. To
tember. Tele Atlas will o�er Inrix in price from $20 to $120 a year. solve this problem, Thar Technologies in
services to all of its customers, which Without doubt, there is a market Pittsburgh, PA, has developed a microre-
include companies such as MapQuest for the kind of service Inrix has cre- frigeration system that uses carbon diox-
and T-Mobile Tra�c. Inrix plans ated, says Mark Dixon Bünger, who ide to rapidly and effectively cool chips.
additional partnerships, with compa- covers telematics as a principal ana- Thar’s key innovation is a microcompres-
nies such as cell-phone operators, tra- lyst for Forrester Research. But pre- sor only 1.25 centimeters by 5 centime-
ditional and satellite broadcasters, and dicting how well the company will ters by 5 centimeters that compresses
in-car navigation services. do may be even trickier than predict- gaseous carbon dioxide into a “super-
Approximately 3,000 drivers in the ing the tra�c. “What is easy to say critical” state, where its properties hover
Seattle area have been using a pro- is that they’ve got great backing and between those of a liquid and a gas. The
totype service based on Inrix’s tech- they’ve got great �nances. They’re in system cools the carbon dioxide through
nology. Tra�c information is delivered a much better starting position—but it expansion and pipes it through an ultra-
via smart phones, and sections of the is a starting position—than most other thin heat exchanger. Just 125 microme-
ters thick, the exchanger sits directly on
the microchip, drawing heat through the
Tally of Traffic Technology chip’s packaging and cooling the elec-
tronics inside. This converts the carbon
The 19,455 miles of freeways in the 108 largest U.S. metropolitan areas are
dioxide back into a gas; the gas is recir-
being loaded with technologies for sensing and controlling traffic. Some of those
culated to the microcompressor, and the
technologies provide the foundation for traffic prediction services. The chart below
heat bleeds off by convection in a sec-
shows the percentage of the freeways’ lengths covered by a given technology.
ond heat exchanger. Lalit Chordia, Thar’s
35%
founder and CEO, says the system can
30%
Drivers can access cool chips to lower temperatures than
25%
short-range AM other technologies that use water or liq-
radio providing
Traffic is sensed, local traffic information uid metal; these lower temperatures
20%
mostly by magnetic- Traffic conditions
are monitored Access ramps translate into longer chip life. And the sys-
15% loop detectors in
the road surface by closed-circuit are controlled by tem is small enough to be used not only
TV cameras traffic lights
10% 32% in desktop computers but also in laptops.
29% 19%
5% Thar is now working to scale up manu-
9%
0%
facturing to produce the microrefrigera-
Source: Federal Highway Administration tors reliably and cheaply enough for the
computing industry. E R I KA JON I ETZ

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FORWARD 27


Forward

DESIGN

Refrigeration
Unplugged
Almost two billion people live without
a reliable source of electricity, but they
may not have to live without refrig-
eration. In a simple, rugged twist on
the gas-fired refrigerator, a prototype
gadget uses heat from fire to create a
cheap source of cooling. The cylindri-
cal device, 10 centimeters in diam-
eter and 20 centimeters long, has a
chamber on each end—one made of
steel and the other of aluminum. The
chambers are separated by a ceramic
insulator fitted with two valves. To
charge the unit, a user places its steel B I OT E C H

side on a fire for 30 minutes. A liq-


uid coolant in the steel chamber turns
Ceasing Amniocentesis
into gas and passes through a one- Noninvasive test for fetal genetic defect reaches clinical studies
way valve into the aluminum cham-

P
ber. After removing the device from
regnant women seeking prena- Xenomics is now conducting human
the fire, the user lets it sit to allow the
tal tests for genetic defects face clinical studies with two U.S. hospi-
gas to condense, then inverts it and
di�cult choices. Either they ac- tals and hopes to submit the test for
cept less-than-reliable blood tests or U.S. Food and Drug Administration
ultrasound interpretations that leave approval in mid-2007.
them anxious and guessing, or they The basic technique could work for
choose amniocentesis, which punc- certain other genetic disorders; ones
tures the embryonic sac and has a that result from a mutation in a sin-
small risk of causing miscarriage. Re- gle gene are likely to have their own
searchers have long envisioned the methylation markers, researchers say.
day when a test of the mother’s blood Farideh Bischo�, a reproductive genet-
or urine could conclusively detect a icist at Baylor College of Medicine in
genetic defect in her baby. Xenomics, Houston, says scientists have identi�ed
Coolant chamber (left) is charged by
heating, then placed in storage pot. a New York City–based biotech �rm, the mutations that cause cystic �bro-
is now conducting the �rst clinical sis, Huntington’s disease, beta-thalas-
slides the aluminum end into a 38-liter studies of a urine test that, it says, can semia, and other ailments. Although
ceramic food-storage pot. The coolant detect Down syndrome in the fetus. DNA tests for these diseases have been
C O U RTE SY O F W I LLIAM C RAWFO R D (R E F R I G E RATI O N); J O TYLE R

chills the food by absorbing heat and A pregnant woman’s blood and developed, says Bischo�, they require
moving as a gas through the second urine both contain fragments of her full strands of DNA found only in
valve—which opens when the device fetus’s DNA. Xenomics’ advance is cells, not just the fragments that can be
is inverted—back to the steel cham- based on its discovery of speci�c DNA most easily found in maternal blood or
ber. The device can keep food cooled markers, called methylation sites, urine. “Clinical trials using DNA frag-
to 4 °C for 24 hours. A prototype was that may indicate whether a fetus has ments haven’t been pursued to validate
demonstrated in 2005 by an industrial a chromosome abnormality related [them],” she says. But Bischo� predicts
designer, William Crawford, at London’s to Down syndrome. The Xenomics clinical trials will begin within �ve
Royal College of Art. He says it could test under development uses stan- years and lead to new prenatal tests.
be built for as little as $18 per unit. dard DNA ampli�cation technology “I think noninvasive testing is going to
TRACY STAE DTE R to spot the markers in a urine sample. take over,” she says. LAU R E N G RAVITZ

28 FORWARD T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Forward

R O B OTS sor on a computer screen toward tar-

A Helping Arm gets. The computer regularly shows


patients how well they are doing.
Robotic physical therapy moves toward commercialization Stanley Scha�er, of Scarsdale, NY,
who enjoyed playing classical piano
until a stroke paralyzed one of his

E
ach year, two million Amer- Unlike physical-therapy treat- arms, says seeing his progress inspires
icans su�er brain injuries or ments that simply move a patient’s him to keep trying. “You’re competing
strokes that can impair their limbs repeatedly in a pattern, the against yourself,” says Scha�er, who in
ability to move their limbs. Tradi- arm robot enlists the patient’s partici- a smaller-scale trial this year used the
tional physical therapy can help pa- pation in the therapy, providing help arm robot and a similar one for the
tients compensate for the damage, only when needed. wrist. With traditional therapy, he had
but many patients tend to reach a pla- The robot’s software adjusts to stopped seeing improvements. But
teau in performance after several the patient’s progress. People start- the robots have helped improve his
weeks. Since the early 1990s, how- ing out may not even be able to move mobility. “I feel that this is de�nitely
ever, a few patients have been able to their arms; at this stage, the robot going to help me get back to playing
continue their progress thanks to an fully impels and guides their move- my piano with two hands,” he says.
experimental robot built for arm re- ments. As patients improve, the robot Interactive Motion’s exercising
habilitation. It never tires, adjusts as gradually reduces the assistance it pro- robots are not alone. Companies
the patients improve, and precisely vides. At some stage, it may no longer working to commercialize therapeu-
measures and monitors their per- help them move, instead only guiding tic robots that focus on walking and
formance. Now, that machine—plus movements along certain paths. Or it balance include Chicago PT of Evan-
three similar ones—are moving into might wait before lending a hand, giv- ston, IL; Hocoma of Volketswil, Swit-
large-scale tests equivalent to late- ing patients more of a chance to per- zerland; Robomedica of Irvine, CA;
stage drug trials, the �rst such trials form movements on their own. and Yaskawa Electric of Tokyo, Japan.
for therapeutic robots. The device also has a video game Taken together, corporate e�orts and
Run by the Veterans Health component that directs the therapy the latest clinical trials mean robots
Administration, the new clinical and helps keep the patients motivated. could eventually �nd widespread use
study will involve approximately 200 The patients’ movements guide a cur- in physical therapy. KEVI N B U LLI S
patients. The randomized trials, set
to begin next year and run for three
years in an as-yet-undetermined num- A robotic arm assists
stroke patients, who
ber of hospitals, will test the robots view a video game
that helps direct
head-to-head with traditional therapy. physical therapy.
If all goes well, it “could provide the
evidence needed to adopt the robot’s
clinical use throughout the VA sys-
tem and possibly beyond,” says Albert
Lo, a Yale University neurologist and
principal investigator in the trials.
The robots were built by MIT
mechanical engineers Neville Hogan
and Hermano Igo Krebs, who
founded Interactive Motion Technolo-
gies of Cambridge, MA, to commer-
cialize their work. The pair’s �rst and
most extensively tested device is a
two-jointed motorized arm that glides
parallel to a desktop. Patients grasp a
handle and attempt to move it in and
LEAH FASTE N

out, and left and right, giving their


shoulders and elbows a workout.
Forward

Clockwise from left: the


CT scanner’s compact
power and control sys-
tems; company found-
ers Bernard Gordon
and Eric Bailey; one of
the machine’s scans.

MEDICINE that is rugged and can be worked

CT Scan to Go by people with far less training than


most radiologists.” By 2005, a year
First portable scanner for heads could fit in emergency rooms and a half after NeuroLogica was
founded, it had developed a machine
suitable for emergency rooms and

T
he tremendous imaging power lem in cases of brain trauma or stroke, obtained U.S. Food and Drug Admin-
of computed tomography (CT) when speedy treatment is critical. istration clearance for it; the company
has helped transform medi- NeuroLogica, a startup in Danvers, expects to deliver its �rst product this
cine. But to date, CT scans have been MA, believes its small, rugged, and winter. It is now working on a version
beyond the reach of battle�eld med- portable machine will make CT that could �t in ambulances.
ics, ambulance crews, and even many scans more accessible. “Our pri- The traditional CT scanner is
emergency-room doctors. That’s be- mary emphasis was on getting a a behemoth that looks like a giant
cause conventional high-resolution CT machine in an ambulance and point-and-shoot camera, with a hole
CT scanners weigh almost 4,000 ki- emergency-room setting for heads in the middle instead of a lens. As
lograms, require high-voltage power only,” says Bernard Gordon, the com- a patient is conveyed through the
supplies for massive cooling systems, pany cofounder, who estimates that 15 hole, the machine continually shoots
and must be installed in climate- to 20 percent of CT scans are for the x-rays, and software combines the
AS IA K E P KA

controlled radiology suites. The lack head and neck. “We need a machine resulting images. After Gordon and
of quick access is a particular prob- they can a�ord all over the world two cofounders started NeuroLogica

30 FORWARD T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Forward

in 2004, they set out to shrink the at room temperature in order to pre- N A N OT E C H

power supply and cooling system so


they could use smaller x-ray-emitting
serve image quality, NeuroLogica’s
machine is designed for temperatures
Wee Walker
tubes. In whole-body CT scanners, ranging from slightly less than Molecule moves in a straight
these tubes can be 30 centimeters in 0 °C to 38 °C. It also includes a touch- line for nanomanufacture
diameter and 50 centimeters long. screen interface that walks the opera-
NeuroLogica’s engineers used tubes tor through the scanning steps. All

I
about 10 centimeters in diameter this in a 340-kilogram machine, light f each bit of digital data could be
and 15 centimeters long. They cre- enough to be pushed by one techni- represented by a single molecule,
ated a power system about the size cian and small enough to �t through memory devices could shrink by more
of a microwave oven, with a small a standard doorway. “Neurologists than three orders of magnitude. But
fan to cool the tubes. The combined are dying for a machine like this, manufacturing such devices requires a
simple way to keep molecules straight
miniaturizations let them reduce especially in ICUs [intensive-care
and organized. A team led by University
the diameter of the donut-shaped units],” says Walter Koroshetz, a
of California, Riverside, chemist Ludwig
machine to 44 centimeters, while the neurologist and head of stroke and
Bartels has come up with a possible
“donut hole” stayed at 32 centimeters, neurointensive-care services at Massa-
solution: molecules that walk in a straight
large enough for a human head. The chusetts General Hospital in Boston. line, without guides or templates.
machine delivers the same resolution “We need to be able to scan these Called 9,10-dithioanthracene, or DTA,
as large machines, but the scanning patients in the unit, not 10 �ights the new molecule sports two sulfur atoms
speed is slower: a head scan can take away, dragging along nurses and doc- protruding from a central structure made
up to two minutes, considerably lon- tors and wires and equipment.” of linked benzene molecules. The River-
ger than with a traditional machine. Eric M. Bailey, another of the com- side researchers deposited DTA molecules
The second problem was how to pany’s founders, says building the on a smooth copper surface and cooled
make the machine move when scan- machine didn’t involve developing them to about -223 °C; they found that the
ning a stationary patient. The solution new technology so much as essen- molecules would then form rows and begin
was a novel set of tanklike tracks. “I tially solving a complex packaging to move in straight lines—almost as if they
needed an electrical guy to give me a problem. It represents a leap beyond were walking. “Effectively, [the molecule]
motor and drive, and a robotics guy to the previous best e�ort, heads-only kind of rotates around each of the feet and
make sure it could cantilever properly CT scanners shrunk enough to �t into wobbles forward or wobbles backward,” says
Bartels. Biomolecules such as DNA and
over rough surfaces, and a software some ICUs but not portable or able to
proteins have exhibited similar behaviors, but
guy to guide it through its steps,” says produce images that are up to today’s
they’ve generally required some kind of mo-
Gordon. Finally, the device needed standards. Says Bailey, “Frankly, it’s
lecular guide to align them. By contrast, all
to be very rugged and simple to use. just stupid people haven’t thought of
Bartels’s molecule needs is a bit of heat.
Whereas big scanners must operate it sooner.” TOM MAS H B E RG The wobbly molecules won’t show up in
the next Dell computer, but Bartels believes
S O F T WA R E that similar molecules could ultimately be

Detecting Blood Loss useful in making molecular memory devices.


“The work is amazing,” says Rice University
chemist James Tour, a leader in the field of
Patients who lose too much blood during surgery can suffer heart attacks. But mea- molecular transport devices. The major chal-
suring blood volume requires either inserting a catheter into the pulmonary artery, lenge, he cautions, will be to tailor mole-
ordering an expensive echocardiogram, or resorting to guesswork. Kirk Shelley, an cules to move in the same way on surfaces
anesthesiologist at Yale University, has devised a way to noninvasively measure other than copper. E R I KA JON I ETZ
blood loss using a pulse oximeter, a finger-clip device commonly used to measure
pulse rate and blood oxygen levels in hospital patients. The pulse oximeter mea-
sures how much light of different wavelengths the blood absorbs. After gather-
ing pulse oximeter data from operating rooms for more than seven years, Shelley
C O U RTE SY O F LU DW I G BARTE LS

developed an algorithm that translates subtle absorption changes into accu-


rate estimates of blood volume. Shelley says the algorithm can detect when blood
loss exceeds one pint, information that can be used to guide transfusions. Shelley
is negotiating with manufacturers that might license or buy the technology. If all
goes well, the technology could reach operating rooms in 2006. KEVI N B U LLI S Sulfur atoms (red) pro-
pel a custom-designed
molecule across copper.
T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006
Forward

N A N OT E C H

Nano Antenna
Gold nanospheres show path to all-optical computing

V
ast amounts of data zip across verted back into light when it reaches
the Internet each day in the another nanosphere.
form of light waves conveyed Variations on the gold nanosphere
by optical �bers. But our comput- might make it possible to exploit
ers still rely on electrical signals trav- materials already used in computer
eling through metal wires, which chips, such as copper and aluminum,
have much lower bandwidth. Op- as superfast optical interconnects,
tical interconnects that could guide says Mark Brongersma, a materi-
H AC K I N G light through the labyrinth of a cir- als scientist at Stanford University.
cuit board would increase computing A light wave encoding data would
Game Boy Rock speed and save power, but so far they hit a metal nanosphere, generating
haven’t made it out of the lab. New a plasmon wave that would travel

I n music clubs and dorm rooms around


the world, intrepid geeks are transforming
Nintendo’s handheld Game Boy system
research, however, may enable en-
gineers to build nanoscale antennae
through a metal strip or wire, carry-
ing the data with it. A huge bene�t
that turn light into a di�erent sort of of the approach, Brongersma says, is
into a do-it-yourself musical instrument. wave that can move through metal; how much easier the spheres are to
The device can be made to sequence the result could be data transmission make than other specialized antennae
its embedded sounds—digital blips and
speeds that are orders of magnitude whose manufacture requires complex
bleeps of the Donkey Kong sort—as if it
higher than today’s. and expensive optical-lithography
were a synthesizer. First you find a pro-
The key to the approach is a gold techniques. “The beautiful thing is
grammable Game Boy flash memory
sphere just 50 nanometers in diame- you can make them in large quan-
cartridge and hook it up to your PC. Then
you download a “chiptunes” music pro- ter. A Rice University team led by tities,” Brongersma says. The Rice
gram, some of which are freely available, Peter Nordlander and Naomi Halas team’s next step: using hollow gold
and transfer it to the cartridge. Once your has shown that such a sphere, when “nanoshells” rather than solid spheres
Game Boy is loaded, you hit its controller positioned within a few nanometers to expand the range of wavelengths
buttons to arrange its signature sounds. of a thin gold �lm, will behave like of light they can use. And to further
The results sound like computer game a tiny antenna that can transmit or examine the practicality of using the
music of unusual complexity. Online, Game receive light. Light of speci�c wave- systems as optical interconnects in
Boy musicians have posted their arrange- lengths excites particles called plas- computer chips, they have begun a
ments of songs ranging from “Let It Snow” mons inside the nanosphere. This series of experiments with nanopar-
to “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. in turn induces a “plasmon wave” in ticles and thin wires rather than thin
Game hacking is nothing new. Enthu- the gold �lm, which could be con- �lms. E R I KA JON I ETZ
siasts of classic computers such as the
Commodore 64 continue to churn out
new uses for old systems. But chiptunes A spectro-
graphic image
is the hot trend these days. In 2005, the shows the opti-
AN DY P OTTS; C O U RTE SY O F R I C E U N IVE R S ITY (NAN O ANTE N NA)

alternative rock artist Beck embraced the cal interaction


between a 50-
medium, releasing Game Boy remixes of nanometer gold
four of his songs. sphere and a
thin gold film.
Nintendo won’t comment on the trend.
But silence doesn’t necessarily mean con-
demnation. “If it doesn’t affect bottom line
and [does] create interest in the platform
in unique and novel ways,” says Michael
Gartenberg, a vice president at Jupiter-
Research, “companies like Nintendo are
comfortable with it.” DAVI D KUS H N E R

32 FORWARD T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


9:18 P.M.
Builder in Shanghai refines technical
plans with engineer in Seattle.

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Forward

S O F T WA R E

Changeable
Fingerprint
Your fingerprints are yours and yours
alone, and that makes them a use-
ful tool for confirming the identity of
people doing things like conducting
Philip Linden, secure banking transactions or passing
Philip Rosedale’s through corporate security checkpoints.
online avatar
Trouble is, it’s theoretically possible
for a hacker to break into the software
Q&A of, say, an employer, steal a copy of

Virtual Economics
your stored fingerprint, and later use
it to gain entrance. So researchers at
Philip Rosedale: founder and CEO, Linden Lab IBM have come up with “cancelable
biometrics”: if someone steals your fin-
gerprint, you’re just

M ore than 70,000 people par-


ticipate in San Francisco–based
Linden Lab’s Second Life, the first
are convertible into real dollars if the
players so choose, in an online market
at prices they set. A recent exchange
issued a new one, like
a replacement credit
card number. The IBM
online virtual community built around rate was 252 Linden dollars to one U.S. algorithm takes bio-
economics. The company’s founder dollar. The GNP of Second Life in Sep- metric data and runs it
explains how a capitalist model fuels tember 2005 was L$906,361,808 or through one of an infi-
interest in a virtual world. U.S.$3,596,674, based on the recent nite number of “trans-
Q: How does Second Life’s virtual world L/U.S. exchange rate. form” programs. The
work? I see. People really buy into this? features of a finger-
A: Our residents create avatars. My The residents are creating a world print, for example,
Second Life avatar is “Philip Linden”— which will be thousands of times more might get squeezed
spiky hair, muscular tattooed arms, and compelling than we could create our- or twisted. A bank
sometimes a black T-shirt emblazoned selves. They also create and sell just could take a finger-
with bright red Rolling Stones–style about anything you can imagine— print scan when it A software
lips. Then they buy and sell land and spectacular clothes, prefab houses, transformation
enrolls a customer, (bottom) differs
use programming tools to develop it— fun things like ray guns. Many of our run the print through subtly from the
original finger-
homes, businesses, whatever you like. residents already create scripts and the algorithm, and then print (top).
What’s the economic model? objects that can be hacked and im- use only the trans-
If you want to own land, you pay a proved upon for everyone’s benefit. On formed biometric data for future veri-
monthly fee of $9.95, which increases a server/architectural level, we do po- fication. If that data is stolen, the bank
C O U RTE SY O F LI N D E N LAB S (E C O N O M I C S); C O U RTE SY O F I B M (F I N G E R P R I NTS)

if you buy more land. But transactions tentially see open source and peer-to- simply cancels the transformed bio-
aren’t taxed. In 2003, we had a tax peer on the horizon. metric and issues a new transforma-
revolt. Our version of the Washington Assuming a continuing supply of peo- tion. And since different transformations
Monument was replaced by a giant ple with too much time on their hands, can be used in different contexts—one
tower of tea crates. We got the mes- how big could it get? at a bank, one at an employer—cross-
sage: there are no taxes now. We’re Hardware and bandwidth would be matching becomes nearly impossi-
running about 1.4 million transactions big issues, but in theory, Second Life ble, protecting the privacy of the user.
a month, both goods and services— software could offer everyone on the Finally, the software makes sure that
things like specialized programming. Internet a 3-D presence. When we say the original image can’t be reconsti-
And those transactions are in virtual Second Life is the next evolutionary tuted from the transformed versions.
money? step after the Web, we really mean it. IBM hopes to offer the software pack-
The currency is Linden dollars, which S PE NCE R R E I SS age as a commercial product within
three years. DAVI D TALBOT

34 FORWARD T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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Q&A

Leonard Guarente available again. And now there is some


evidence that this is in fact the case.
The skinny on the fountain of youth Is this also true in humans?
It is a good hypothesis that some-
thing like this will be true in mam-

L
enny Guarente has spent much calories you would be taking in to get mals. And there are hints. But I would
of the last two decades patiently the bene�ts is rather a severe diet, say there is no conclusive evidence
chipping away at the genetic and about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day. yet. But we know that the mamma-
biochemical underpinnings of the ag- And most people who have tried this lian version of SIR2, which is a gene
ing process, an area of research often diet �nd it unpleasant. It makes them call SIRT1, has at least some of the
plagued by extreme hyperbole and ex- cold, it makes them hungry, they’re activity in cells that one would antici-
travagant claims. The MIT biologist irritable, and I think compliance pate for a life-extending function.
is particularly focused on one tantaliz- would be very di�cult. So, the idea is What needs to be tested is whether it
ing clue: for about 70 years, research- to understand what this diet does in a�ects aging in the whole organism.
ers have known that rats tend to live an e�ort to develop drugs that would How large is this effect of calo-
longer when fed a diet that is ade- hit at least some of the targets and rie restriction on aging in rodents?
quate in nutrition but very low in cal- deliver at least some of the bene�ts. Studies show this diet could
ories. While biologists are still unsure You’re talking about treating spe- extend life up to 50 percent. So,
whether severe calorie restriction will cific diseases, not the aging process. it is pretty substantial. But there
have the same antiaging e�ect on hu- The big idea here is that there are people out there claiming sci-
mans, Guarente believes he and his is a close connection between ence will allow people to live thou-
fellow researchers have found the aging itself and diseases of aging. sands of years. I tend to believe that
genes and a mechanism responsible If one had a favorable impact on is a lot of bunk. But the opportunity
for delaying the aging process—at least the underlying aging process, dis- we do have is nothing to sneeze at.
in lower organisms. eases of aging would also be fore- I think it is the major opportunity
stalled. And those diseases would that Mother Nature has given us to
TR: If all goes well with antiag- include cancer, diabetes, cardiovas- intervene in the aging process. And
ing research, what might be pos- cular disease, and neurodegenera- by intervene I mean not just to pro-
sible in five to 10 years? tive diseases—really major diseases. mote longevity but to �ght diseases.
Guarente: I hope in 10 years How did you find this antiaging gene? Other researchers are testing the
that we are way down the road This gene came out of studies antiaging effects of calorie restric-
of drug discovery in �nding com- of aging in yeast. We started those tion in monkeys, aren’t they?
pounds that will deliver at least some studies in 1991, and the question Those studies have been going
of the bene�ts of calorie restric- we wanted to answer was, Do yeast on for some 15 years now. I know of
tion. And I think SIR2 is going to cells age? And if they do, are there two studies, and both are reporting
be one of the important targets that one or a small number of genes that that the diet induces the same physi-
we want to go after with drugs. are particularly important in dic- ological changes as in rodents, which
That’s a gene you have identified tating the life span of these cells? is a very good indicator. There’s no
as being involved in aging, isn’t it? For four or �ve years we published report yet on whether it makes the
We de�nitely think it is involved nothing because we were just bang- monkey live longer, because that
in the aging process. In particu- ing away at the problem. It took data takes a long time to be available.
lar, it seems to be involved in sens- eight years before we could come to But I think we’ll know quite soon.
ing caloric intake and asserting the conclusion that this one gene, Is all the hype a good or bad
e�ects on cells to adjust life span. SIR2, in�uenced the life span. thing for antiaging research?
We think calorie restriction is a tre- The gene also promotes longev- It cuts both ways. The good part is
mendous opportunity for us to inter- ity in worms and fruit flies. What where there is public interest, there
vene pharmacologically and have a seems to be its common role? is funding available for the research.
positive impact on human health. The idea would be that when food The bad thing is that if the work
So people won’t be going on a spe- is scarce it is an advantage to be able to does get overhyped in the media it
cial diet to get the effects of calo- recognize the scarcity and slow down raises false expectations. I get asked
rie restriction, they’ll take a drug? aging and reproduction, to postpone a lot, “What is taking so long?”
I think so, because the amount of reproduction for when food becomes DAVI D ROTMAN

38 Q&A T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


MAR K O STOW
Notebooks

I N F O R M AT I O N T E C H N O LO GY when the rate of �ow �uctuates with age spikes. We try to impose a com-

Newer Math? the amount of water still in the tank.


The list goes on: Boolean algebra
puter metaphor on a system that was
not intelligently designed in that way
Needed: a systems framework is the core tool for analyzing digital but evolved from simpler systems.
By Rodney Brooks circuits; statistics provides insight into My guess is that a new mathemat-
the overall behavior of large groups ics for complex adaptive systems will
that have local unpredictability; emerge, one that is perhaps no more

W
hile prognostications about geometry helps explain abstract di�cult to understand than topology
“the end of science” might problems that can be mapped into or group theory or di�erential cal-
be premature, I think most spatial terms; lambda calculus and pi- culus and that will let us answer
of us expect that high-school mathe- calculus enable an understanding of essential questions about living cells,
matics, and even undergraduate math, formal computational systems. brains, and computer networks.
will remain pretty much the same for Still, all these tools have provided We haven’t had any new household
all time. It seems math is just basic only limited help when it comes to names in mathematics for a while, but
stu� that’s true; there won’t be any- understanding complex biological whoever �gures out the structure of
thing new discovered that’s simple systems such as the brain or even a this new mathematics will become an
enough to teach to us mortals. single living cell. They are also inade- intellectual darling—and may actually
But just maybe, this conventional quate to explaining how networks of succeed in designing a computer that
wisdom is wrong. Perhaps some- hundreds of millions of computers comes close to mimicking the brain.
time soon, a new mathematics will work, or how and when arti�cial evo- Rodney Brooks directs MIT’s Computer Sci-
be developed that is so revolutionary lutionary techniques—applied to �elds ence and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
and elegantly simple that like software develop-
it will appear in high- ment—will succeed. B I OT E C H N O LO GY
school curricula. Let’s
hope so, because the
These are just a few
examples of what are Molecularly
future of technology—and
of understanding how the
sometimes referred
to as complex adap-
Driven
brain works—demands it. tive systems. They The way to a new detector
My guess is that this have many interact- By Anita Goel
new mathematics will be ing parts that change
about the organization in response to local

M
of systems. To be sure, over the last inputs and as a result change the global ore than 10 years ago, as a
50 years we’ve seen lots of attempts at behavior of the complete system. The physics undergraduate at
“systems science” and “mathematics relatively smooth operation of biologi- Stanford University, I fell in
of systems.” They all turned out to be cal systems—and even our human- love with the way the molecular mo-
rather more descriptive than predic- constructed Internet—is in some ways tors known as polymerases read and
tive. I’m talking about a useful mathe- mysterious. Individual parts clearly write information from and into
matics of systems. do not have an understanding of how DNA. Experimental tools like optical
Currently, many di�erent forms other individual parts are going to tweezers were just emerging, making
of mathematics are used to model change their behavior. Nevertheless, it possible to manipulate individual
and understand complicated systems. the ensemble ends up working. biomolecules. I joined the lab of No-
Algebras can tell you how many solu- We need a new mathematics bel laureate Steven Chu, who was pio-
tions there might be to an equation. to help us explain and predict the neering biological applications of such
The algebra of group theory is crucial behavior of these sorts of systems. In technologies. In his lab, I became fas-
in understanding the complex crys- my own �eld, we want to understand cinated with the prospect of visualiz-
tal structures of matter. The calculus the brain so we can build more intelli- ing in real time the single-molecule
of derivatives and integrals lets you gent robots. We have primitive models dynamics of the polymerase motors.
I LLU STRATI O N S BY E LVI S SW I FT

understand the relationships between of what individual neurons do, but we I hypothesized that the dynamics
continuous quantities and their rates get stuck using the tools of informa- of a molecular motor depend not only
of change. Such a calculus is essential tion theory in trying to understand the on the sequence of the DNA it is read-
to predicting, for example, how long “information content” that is passed ing but also on the milieu in which
a tank of water would take to drain between neurons in the timing of volt- it operates. Simply put, the environ-

40 NOTEBOOKS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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Notebooks

ment changes the way cells pro- the shortcomings of current sensors, ture. Fink and Joannopoulos chose
cess the information encoded within enabling detection down to the single- the amorphous semiconductor arsenic
DNA. Perhaps cancer-causing muta- molecule level. It is a personal interest selenide for the �ber core, with paral-
tions could be the result, in part, of of mine to make our technology avail- lel contacting wires made out of tin,
environmental stresses on the motor able in the developing world, where surrounded by the mechanically tough
as it reads DNA. the lack of infrastructure, such as elec- insulating polyethersulfone polymer.
My quest to bridge physics and bio- tricity and running water, can pre- These materials are used to create a
medicine brought me to a joint MD- clude e�ective diagnostics. “preform” that is tens of centimeters
PhD program at the Harvard-MIT Anita Goel, a physician and physicist, long and a few cen-
Division of Health Sciences and Tech- founded Nanobiosym in 2004. timeters in diame-
nology and the Harvard Department ter. The preform is
of Physics. I found an inspirational N A N OT E C H N O LO GY inserted into a spe-
mentor in Nobel laureate Dudley
Herschbach, a Harvard chemist. A sig- Material Alert cially built “draw
tower,” and a much
ni�cant part of my thesis was devoted Smart clothes to aid soldiers smaller-diameter
to using concepts from physics and By Edwin L. Thomas �ber is drawn out. It’s tens of meters
chemistry to theoretically elucidate long but has a cross-section architec-
how various changes in the molecular ture identical to that of the preform.

S
motor’s environment could in�uence oldiers have to be on top of The �bers can be designed to
its actions along the DNA template. what’s going on around them; detect a speci�c color of light. The
Since my Stanford days, I had their lives depend on it. Tech- team incorporates a dielectric stack–
dreamed of harnessing these molecu- nology helps: for example, night-vision re�ecting layer into the �ber, a layer
lar motors for various nanotechnology goggles that amplify the ambient light that is concentric with and surrounds
and biotechnology applications, such either in the visible or near-infrared the core semiconductor device. The
as controlled synthesis, molecular ranges. A great gadget, except for its re�ector has a cavity in it that allows
manufacturing, and reading and writ- weight, bulk, and need for batteries. only light of a speci�c wavelength
ing information on the nanoscale. Nanotechnology may provide some to pass through to the semiconduc-
Then some folks in the U.S. Depart- new great gadgets that are smaller, tor core; that a �ber has been illumi-
ment of Defense invited me to brain- lighter, and more integrated. nated by a particular color of light is
storm how emerging nanoscale What if you could integrate capa- detected via a drop in the semicon-
technologies could be used to reduce bilities into soldiers’ kits and cloth- ductor’s electrical resistance. Simply
the threat of biological terrorism. One ing that would dramatically enhance changing the thickness of the cavity
evening, I had an epiphany about how their ability to monitor themselves in the re�ecting layer makes the �ber
to improve the accuracy and their surroundings? sensitive to a di�erent color of light.
and sensitivity of biosen- At MIT’s Institute for The same approach works for
sors using nanoscale plat- Soldier Nanotechnologies temperature sensing, only the core
forms. This led me to (ISN), researchers are semiconductor material is chosen so
found Nanobiosym. With developing new materi- that temperature variations change
funding from the Defense als that can sense changes its resistance, enabling body surface
Department, we have in a soldier’s body sur- temperature to be monitored and
managed to establish the face temperature and even mapped. A fabric that can see in color
feasibility of nanoscale tell whether he or she is and feel heat and cold can be made
approaches to pathogen being targeted by a laser. through the cross-weaving of only a
detection, which enables Designing clothes that few thousand �bers. Inputs and out-
molecular diagnostic assays to be can “see and feel” is a goal of ISN puts for power and control are still
scaled down to the size of a chip. materials scientist Yoel Fink and physi- needed. But since the clothing has
Ultimately, we envision develop- cist John Joannopoulos, who are fab- these �bers woven into it, it will pro-
ing handheld pathogen detection ricating novel sensor �bers arranged vide 360 degrees of sensing in a pack-
devices to address not only the needs from a semiconductor, metals, and age that is small and lightweight.
of the biodefense market but also insulators. The concept is to choose
Edwin L. Thomas is Morris Cohen Professor of
those of the biomedical industry. Our materials that become soft and highly Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and
approach compensates for some of deformable at a particular tempera- directs the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.

42 NOTEBOOKS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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Dirty Oil
As oil has become scarcer and more expensive, oil
companies have begun seriously pursuing a politically
charged method of oil extraction in Canada. The world’s
second-largest oil reserve lies under Alberta in the form
of oil sand, which must be processed extensively to
yield bitumen, a hydrocarbon mixture related to asphalt
that can be turned into crude oil. It is estimated that 174
billion barrels of oil of varying quality could be recovered
from the sands. Development is speeding ahead: so
far, 34 billion Canadian dollars have been spent devel-
oping the oil sands, and another 45 billion in develop-
ment projects will be completed by 2010 by companies
including Petro-Canada, Syncrude, and Suncor.
Oil companies use large machinery and pipelines to
transport the sand and rely on welling technologies to
LARA S O LT / DALLAS M O R N I N G N EWS /C O R B I S

extend their reach to the bitumen buried far below the


surface. With production at about one million barrels of
oil per day in 2005 and expected to double by 2010,
environmental groups worry that oil-sands develop-
ment is speeding ahead too quickly. The following
photos illustrate the process—and impact—of getting
oil from sand. Katherine Bourzac

44 PHOTO ESSAY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005/january 2006


A grain of oil sand consists
of a mostly quartz particle
enveloped in a film of water,
which is surrounded by
bitumen, a thick, heavy oil. It
takes roughly two metric tons
of this sticky sand to produce
one barrel of crude oil.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december /january 2005 PHOTO ESSAY 45


46 PHOTO ESSAY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december /january 2005
Photo Essay

drained of wetlands and stripped


LE FT: G R E G S M ITH /C O R B I S. TO P: C O U RTE SY O F S U N C O R E N E R GY I N C. R I G HT: C O U RTE SY O F P ETR O-CANADA

of boreal forests, which play an


important role in climate
regulation and carbon storage.
Their destruction contributes to
the greenhouse effect.
Left: About 80 percent of
Alberta’s oil sand is too far below
the surface to dig up. The most
common method for getting the
bitumen out is through two par-
allel horizontal wells lined with
perforated pipe. Heat from high-
temperature steam injected
down one of the wells softens
surrounding bitumen—which
Opposite and top: Where the oil in oil sand form normally flows
sands lie close to the surface, about as easily as Crisco—caus-
mostly near the town of Fort ing it to separate from the sand
McMurray in Alberta, they can be and flow down into the second
mined. In the effort to get at well, from which it is pumped to
these sands, areas have been the surface.

PHOTO ESSAY 47
Above: Equipment used by
oil-sand miners includes trac-
tors with top-mounted radia-
tors and cooling fans to protect
their engines from oil particles
and sludge, thousand-metric-ton
shovels, and the Caterpillar 797.
This colossal dump truck weighs
more than 500 metric tons
when empty. When its tires wear
out after about a year, they are
TO P: C O U RTE SY O F S U N C O R E N E R GY, I N C. AB OVE: C O U RTE SY O F SYN C R U D E CANADA LTD. LE FT: HAN S-J U E R G E N B U R KAR D / B I LD E R B E R G
reused as cattle feeders.
Producing crude oil from the
Alberta sands is an energy-
intensive process. Giant digging
and transportation machines use clumps of bitumen, sand, and
commensurately large amounts water begin to loosen.
of fuel. Refining and welling Above and right: The sand-
technologies consume roughly and-water slurry is dumped into
300 cubic meters of natural gas tanks with hot water, where it
per barrel of recovered oil. Envi- separates into three layers: sand,
ronmental watchdogs estimate bitumen froth (impure bitumen),
that, as a result, producing a bar- and a middle layer that is fur-
rel of oil from the Alberta sands ther treated to extract bitumen.
releases two to three times the Bitumen froth is also treated to
volume of greenhouse gases that remove impurities.
traditional oil production would.
By 2015, production from the oil
sands is projected to release 94
megatons of greenhouse gases.
Oil sand retrieved from sur-
face mining is crushed and
then moved to a processing
plant via “hydrotransport.” As the
sand, mixed with water, tumbles
through transport pipes, the

48 PHOTO ESSAY
Photo Essay

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december /january 2005 PHOTO ESSAY 49


50 PHOTO ESSAY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005/january 2006
Photo Essay

Left: Oil companies create ponds


in which to dump millions of
cubic meters of the sandy, toxic
by-product of oil-sand process-
ing. These “tailings ponds” are
characterized by salt and acids.
Here, a worker installs a scare-
crow to keep birds away.
Right: Bitumen is a viscous
mixture of long hydrocarbon
chains—strings of as many as
thousands of carbon atoms
bonded to hydrogen atoms.
These molecules must be
“upgraded” to shorter molecules
before they can be refined into
petroleum products.
Purified bitumen is heated to
break its long hydrocarbon chains
into lighter molecules, such as
naphtha, that can be refined.
This process is called coking and
takes place in large towers. The
high-carbon by-product of the
process, called coke, in turn fuels
the coking furnaces. Distillation
and a hydrogenation process are
the final steps.
Below: The extensive process-
ing of oil sand generates “sweet”
crude oil, so called because of
its low levels of sulfur and other
impurities. Crude oil can be refined
into gasoline of different grades
and chemicals for making plastics.
LE FT: HAN S-J U E R G E N B U R KAR D / B I LD E R B E R G. R I G HT: C O U RTE SY O F SYN C R U D E CANADA LTD.

PHOTO ESSAY 51
By Horace Freeland Judson
Illustrations by Brian Cronin

The Great
Chinese
Experiment
China is betting its economic health
on becoming a world leader in the
sciences. But will it succeed?

C
hina is an economic catastrophe waiting to hap- year. Poverty is not con�ned to the countryside. In the main
pen. China is poised to become the world’s larg- streets and glossy shopping malls of Beijing in summer, slim
est economy by 2025. Both these statements are young women are stepping out in gauzy short dresses and
true. They provide the context we must under- frivolous shoes, but a block or two away are ancient alley-
stand in order to evaluate rightly what the Chi- ways—in Beijing called hutong
hutong—lined with low crumbling
nese are attempting to do in the sciences. buildings, rows of minute cavelike shops open to the street
When Deng Xiaoping came to power in the early 1980s, with no lights lit, middle-aged and older men and women
China was a Third World country, its vast population mired sitting idle, smoking, sullen on the stoops.
in poverty, trapped by massive economic failures and struc- Pollution is pervasive, environmental degradation devas-
tural rigidities. Deng decreed that China must have the tating. Smog in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities reduces
bene�ts of capitalist modes of investment and competition. visibility most summer days to less than half a mile: when
He declared, also, that the foundation of economic and so you drive along one of the elevated highways that cut through
of national greatness is science and technology. A quarter- Shanghai, o�ce and apartment towers emerge spectrally
century later, the dynamism of the Chinese economy is with- from the haze and then dissolve away. Seventy-�ve percent
out precedent—steel, automobiles, toys, textiles, household of China’s lakes are said to be polluted; the lower reaches
appliances, on and on. O�cial statistics put the year-on-year of major rivers run dry many days of the year. The problem
growth of gross domestic product at 7.5 percent in 2001, 8.3 most publicized is energy. China is already second only to
percent in 2002, 9.3 percent in 2003, 9.5 percent in 2004. the United States in energy use. Domestic oil or natural-gas
Some Western economists think the real rates have been sig- supplies are negligible. China has abundant coal, of which it
ni�cantly higher. In any case, agreement is general that Chi- is the largest global consumer, mining and burning a quarter
na’s economy will soon outstrip that of the United States. of the world’s yearly output—at disastrous cost, some 6,000
Yet its problems are on the same colossal scale. China has miners killed underground in 2004 alone.
1.3 billion people, predicted to peak at 1.4 billion in 2025— Even sophisticated and knowledgeable Westerners bring
and 900 million are still rural and extremely poor. Corrup- ideological preconceptions to their view of China. The most
tion is widespread in provincial governments, in state-owned common is that economic growth requires laissez-faire capi-
industries, within the Communist Party. The banking system talism, ideally on the Anglo-American model—and will
is reported close to collapse. Social discontent is erupting: the inevitably lead to democratic reforms. But Chinese capi-
government has admitted to tens of thousands of protests a talism is not like, and will not necessarily approach, the

52 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 53
Western model. It is under state control—often erratic, to retaries—for every level on the academic side, you have
be sure, yet always threatening. The steel industry, the auto- one on the party side.” Like the Red Army in the Soviet
motive industry, and the others were created from the top Union long ago? “Yeah, exactly right. And the latter is more
down. Goals are still set from on high, in �ve-year plans, powerful than the former—or it has been up to this point.
and in detail. The men at the top are a new generation, But that’s rapidly shifting.” (Perhaps. But I noticed the all-
intelligent, determined, relatively young. No question that but-universal practice that a Chinese scientist interviewed
they have learned from history—but not the lessons West- would have at least one other person present—a colleague, a
ern observers would like them to learn. Hu Jintao is para- student, someone supposedly to help with translation, often
mount leader. He and his colleagues have attacked what somebody involved with international relations. Nathan
they call “neoliberalism,” speci�cally, laissez-faire policies. Sivin, the foremost living authority on the history of Chinese
They admit no correlation between economic growth and science, enlightened me in an e-mail message: “People from
any �owering of democracy. What had looked like a gradual the foreign a�airs o�ce of a work unit are always handlers
relaxation of controls over press and television reporting and reporters to the Public Security Bureau. In some orga-
has been reversed, sharply and increasingly. nizations they are quite antsy, and in others supportive of the
All this is the barest sketch of the economic dynamism intellectuals they work with—so long as something does not
and the economic, environmental, and political constraints threaten to draw trouble down on their own heads.”)
that shape Chinese science today. Following Deng, the Chi- Leading medical schools were already, like those in the
nese government has been investing heavily to bring the United States, biological research institutes, although their
sciences up to Western standards of quality, originality, and work was largely unknown in the West. Now they were
productivity. Roy Schwarz is a seasoned observer. Since folded into universities. “In any other culture it couldn’t have
1997, he has been president of the China Medical Board of happened,” Schwarz said. “But I think now the medical fac-
New York, which supports medical education and research ulties are seeing the value of being part of a bigger whole.
in China. Schwarz has visited China four dozen times, for And I’ve watched the education of nonmedical presidents
a total of a year and a half in-country. “In my cadre of and party secretaries occur, as they try to understand this rare
13 institutions, I support probably six out of the top eight beast called a medical center.” Reputedly the best of these is
medical schools,” he said in a telephone interview. “Plus, at Peking University, which in 2000 absorbed Beijing Medi-
I’ve funded probably, oh, 150 projects—some straight sci- cal University and renamed it the Peking University Health
ence, some are training programs for science, some are Science Center. Peking University’s main campus is in a near
curriculum-related to science.” The Chinese, he said, are suburb west of Beijing; the Health Science Center is several
doing everything they can to promote science. “I mean sci- miles away. Such dispersal is an obvious consequence of the
ence across the board. From the space science that they’ve merger process. Zhejiang University has six campuses.
got going to the chemical and physical sciences, but espe- That dispersal may not last. Throughout the Chinese uni-
cially biological sciences and medicine.” versity system, modernization is intense. “They’re all building
An early step was radical restructuring. Following the these gigantic new campuses,” Schwarz said. “I’ve visited �ve
Soviet model, China in 1952 and in years following had set now.” Unifying campuses, building new facilities, enforces
up a large number of separate single-specialty universities integration. To head o� faculty and administrative resistance
and schools. But in the summer of 1998, Jiang Zemin, then to change, an extra $245 million was allocated to Peking
president of China, and Zhu Rongji, prime minister, brought University over the three years after the merger, according to
representatives of prominent American universities to Bei- Schwarz; the �rst of it was earmarked for the construction
jing. The Chinese leaders learned that where their educa- of world-class laboratories and acquisition of the best equip-
tional institutions were specialized, American universities ment. Laboratories I saw at nine di�erent research institu-
are comprehensive. Their response, Schwarz said, was to tions were high gloss.

T
adopt the American model. The result has been a large num-
ber of shotgun mergers. For example, the city of Hangzhou he scope and areas of concentration of Chinese
had four unidisciplinary universities, including one agricul- science have been laid down in greatest detail in
tural and one medical. In 1998, these were abruptly amal- a series of national directives. The most recent
gamated into one, Zhejiang University. Zhejiang now has overarching directive is called the National Basic
some 43,000 students, including 5,500 PhD candidates. Research Program. Early in 1997, the Ministry
“Their universities have two structures of authority in of Science and Technology assembled an advisory commit-
them,” Schwarz said. “The apparent one to Westerners tee of senior scientists and asked them what China had to
is the president and the vice presidents and the deans. do to achieve international competitiveness in the sciences
The one that’s not apparent is the party secretary, vice sec- while at the same time addressing its most acute domestic

54 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


problems. The committee presented its recommendations research driven by curiosity of the scientists themselves.
in March—hence the “97-3 Program” for short—and in June The Ministry of Science and Technology is another funding
they were approved at the ministerial level and above. The source, supporting national-demand research,” which is to
language of the program’s promotional materials can be say, research planned by the government to meet its urgent
Marxist-triumphalist: one English translation asserts that priorities. “We call this strategic research.” He went on,
“we will create an excellent scienti�c research environment, “The ministry is a government agency. We not only support
intensively support a group of outstanding scienti�c research basic research. We also support applied research.”
teams, conduct important innovation research, and scale the Throughout the system, distinguishing basic from
peak of the world’s science, thus promoting the magni�cent applied is complex. “The Natural Science Foundation had a
development of the China’s basic research and the hi-tech budget last year”—2004—“of about two billion yuan,” Zhang
industries.” The details, though, are reasoned, practical, said. At the then pegged rate of 8.28 yuan to the dollar, that
and in dead earnest. was roughly a quarter-billion dollars. Comparisons are
Funding is, of course, the tool for directing and control- awkward, though, because the cost of research is so much
ling science and scientists. To be sure, a number of Western lower in China than in the United States. “From our min-
corporations have set up facilities for technological research istry,” said Zhang, “10 billion”—U.S.$1.2 billion, or about
in China. Both IBM and Microsoft have laboratories in Bei- a dollar per Chinese citizen. “But of the ministry’s budget,
jing; Microsoft’s is reputed to be the most consistently inno- about 10 percent goes to basic research. That’s about half
vative in the corporation. The China Medical Board puts what the Natural Science Foundation gets.”
$10 million a year into medical education and research. The committee that recommended the 97-3 Program still
In 2004, the Institut Pasteur, France’s nongovernmental functions to propose priorities for the ministry’s approval.
research institution, began working with the Chinese Acad- Even the “curiosity-driven” research supported by the Natu-
emy of Sciences and the municipal government of Shanghai ral Science Foundation must fall within the categories of the
to set up and sta� an institute whose research focuses on the program, conforming to the �ve-year plans of the research
organizations. Architects of the program
acknowledge, at least in principle, the
The language of the 97-3 Program’s promo- need to let scientists shape their own
tional materials can be Marxist-triumphalist: research. In tension with that, though,
they have devised a system of formal
one English translation asserts that “we controls. Sixty-one “disciplinary evalua-
will…scale the peak of the world’s science, tion panels” have been set up, with 753
thus promoting the magnificent develop- experts. Institutions submit proposals
by March 31. Each of these is vetted by
ment of the China’s basic research.” one of the foundation’s seven scienti�c
departments, which range from mathe-
molecular biology of infectious diseases. Two of the richest matical and physical through chemical, life, and earth to engi-
men in Hong Kong are giving money to certain specialized neering, information, and management sciences. Next step
programs. These activities, though small in scale, have inde- is peer review, done by correspondence and drawing on a
pendence and visibility and so a degree of in�uence on the pool of more than 20,000 reviewers; whether such reviewing
evolving culture of science in China. Otherwise, virtually is rigorous and free from bias must be in question (as is also
all the money for science comes, through various conduits, true in the West). The results are analyzed and projects sent
from the government. up to the evaluation panels, which submit surviving projects
Zhang Xianeng is director general for basic research to an annual Natural Science Foundation meeting. Grants are
at the Ministry of Science and Technology. We met dur- for �ve years, and progress is reviewed after the �rst two—a
ing a break in an all-day governmental conference held at system called “2+3”—to avoid the problem that once a proj-
the Fragrant Mountain Hotel—an attractive, modern quasi- ect has won funding, the research team sits back and “the
resort two hours out of Beijing on the lower slopes of the thinking becomes ossi�ed,” said Zhang.
hills from which it gets its name. Zhang is a biochemist. “The third source of support, of course, is CAS, the Chinese
He is lean, in his early 50s but looking ten years younger, Academy of Sciences,” Zhang said. The nation’s top scientists
a re�ective man who speaks excellent English. “In China are academicians, and in that respect the Chinese academy is
we have three major sources for research,” Zhang said. like the National Academy of Sciences in the United States or
Their aims di�er. “One is from the National Natural Sci- Britain’s Royal Society; but it much more resembles the Max
ence Foundation of China. This foundation supports basic Planck Society in Germany, because it, too, directly runs a host

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 55


of institutes, the most important in centers such as Beijing or Behold the contrast. Harmony, consensus, respect for
Shanghai, with others scattered across the country. These at authority and for the views of elders: for thousands of years,
one time numbered upwards of 130; but here, too, consolida- this set of attitudes, Confucian for short (but a lot that was
tions have been ordered. Many of those remaining have been conventional before his time gets blamed on Confucius),
shrunk through forced retirements, leaving more adequate has ruled the behavior of individual Chinese. At issue today
support for those scientists who remain—and who can meet is the power of a hierarchy based �rst on seniority and next
the pressure to raise additional funds outside. “CAS is bom- on connections. Such a hierarchy is said still to govern much
barded for its institutes,” Zhang said. “But they have very big of the teaching of science in China; it lurks in laboratory
freedom. Either curiosity-driven research”—about 40 percent relations. Most notoriously, it led to the misidenti�cation
of their budget—“or the strategic basic research.” in 2003 of the cause of the epidemic of severe acute respira-
tory syndrome, SARS. The �rst cases showed up in south-

O
ne grave doubt had been on my mind since I ern China late in 2002; the disease spread to Beijing and
�rst considered going to China, and the brute other cities and threatened to go global. In February 2003, a
facts of the organization of the sciences there senior scientist in Beijing announced that he had found the
brought it to the fore. Is it possible to build a cause, the bacterium Chlamydia. A junior in his laboratory
modern scienti�c establishment, doing impor- knew that this was mistaken, for he had isolated the true
tant and original work to world standard, by ordering it cause. Out of respect, or fear, he said nothing.
from the top down, bringing it into being like a steel or au- This is an extreme but not an isolated example. I was
tomobile or electronics industry? Good science in our era warned of the problem repeatedly. Gerald Lazarus is dean
is done in groups within groupings, from the individual emeritus of the medical school of the University of Cali-
laboratory to the research institution to the national net- fornia, Davis, and now a professor at the Johns Hopkins
work with its professional associations and controls and medical school. His wife, Audrey Jakubowski, is a chemist.
rewards, multiple levels of scientists judging scientists, to They lived in Beijing for three years, 1999 to 2001. He was a
the world scienti�c community, integrated however loosely visiting professor at Peking Union Medical College and Hos-
by shared attitudes and standards. New ideas, discover- pital. For much of that time, she worked with an English-
ies, grow from the bottom up. The culture of science, the language scienti�c journal, the Chinese Medical JournalJournal,
ethos of science, must be rooted in the basic unit, the indi- trying to improve the English of the papers it published and
vidual laboratory. From the laboratory’s leader—called in to establish standards for review of manuscripts. Lazarus
China, as in the United States, the principal investigator, or spoke of intellectual rigidities he encountered among faculty
PI—through senior colleagues down to postdocs, graduate and students, caused, he thought, by deference to the views
students, and laboratory technicians, the group fosters and of elder colleagues. Jakubowski was more speci�c. The
enforces the ethos of science. This is where the young sci- seniority system—she called it Confucian—could be crippling
entist accepts the discipline, internalizes it, makes it a part to peer review, she said, for to turn down a paper submitted
of his or her personality. Or does not—for there are sick in- by a senior person would be an act of disrespect.
stitutions in Western science, laboratories and larger insti- The Chinese (and certain other Asian nations, of course)
tutions where the ethos falters. are notorious for pirating brand-name merchandise: copy-
The deep question for China, then, is how to plant and right and trademark protection seem to have no meaning.
cultivate the discipline of science, the ethos. I raised this Plagiarism is said to be �agrant in the sciences, too. Ameri-
question with every scientist I talked to. Two problems can scientists and scholars who work with Chinese graduate
demonstrate the di�culties—the Confucian problem and students or postdoctoral fellows are surprised to learn they
the plagiarism problem. These are not oddities or inciden- must teach new arrivals not to borrow others’ work with-
tal aberrations. They are rooted, ingrained, internalized. out acknowledgement—and the penalties for those who get
Howard Temin was an American molecular geneticist, caught. “The Chinese have a real problem with respect for
who shared in a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for intellectual property. They seem to have selective amnesia,”
the discovery of the enzyme reverse transcriptase. He was Roy Schwarz said. Martha Hill, dean of Johns Hopkins’s
a man of iron rectitude who had thought long about styles School of Nursing, said the same: “They come here, or
of doing science. In a conversation in March 1993, he told many do, with no awareness at all of the necessity to give
me, “One of the great strengths of American science...is attribution, full attribution, for any material taken from oth-
that even the most senior professor, if challenged by the ers’ work.” Another division of Hopkins recently expelled a
lowliest technician or graduate student, is required to treat Chinese graduate student for plagiarism. Sivin noted that
them seriously and to consider their criticisms. It is one of an exposé of plagiarism as a general problem published in
the most fundamental aspects of science in America.” China got its senior Chinese author into much trouble.

56 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Yet Western preconceptions get in the way of under- Western peer-reviewed journals. Nature, Science, Cell are
standing and e�ective response. Duplicating the latest Roll- targeted. Such publication is heavily emphasized in the 97-3
ing Stones album, putting a counterfeit designer label on Program, and an individual laboratory’s success in interna-
a pair of jeans—such acts are unembarrassed thievery. Pla- tional journals is crucial at 2+3 time. National prestige is an
giarism in the sciences is not like that. Classically, in the important, overt motive here. The e�ect on individual labo-
West, science is held to be communal: methods are shared, ratories and scientists, though, is to force them to absorb
results once published are for the use of all. In that world, Western standards of quality, to live them, to learn to live
priority is the one form of ownership, making the need by them. It is, in short, a process of acculturation.
for attribution absolute. Unpublished data may be a target

I
for theft, but a risky one. What’s really worth stealing are n the decades since Deng Xiaoping declared science
ideas, above all the knowledge that Ah ha, here is some- and technology to be of crucial importance, thousands
thing new and the way to get it. This kind of theft is the of Chinese trained in the sciences have gone abroad
greatest temptation and the hardest to detect. It occurs; it as graduate students or, more usually, as postdocs.
can be prevented only by that strongly developed scienti�c Most have gone to the United States, some to Europe.
culture, the sense of community—that psychologically inter- Many have stayed on, taking research jobs; some have re-
nalized ethos of science. turned. To China, they represent an immense and invalu-
The skeptic might suppose that what happens in China able resource—for their particular skills and specialties but
is no di�erent from what one sees in many Western labo- even more for their Westernized attitudes, their absorption
ratories, where the boss appropriates and publishes under of the ethos of modern science. The Chinese government
his or her name the work of subordinates. But the Chinese has recognized their potential and is urgently trying to in-
tradition is fundamentally di�erent. Simply put, scholars at duce more to return.
all levels have always been expected to incorporate the work Here are three Chinese scientists. Each of them did post-
of others into their own. In older times, principled scholars doctoral work abroad, then returned. Each is at the middle
acknowledged their borrowings, but that remained optional level of the profession, leading a laboratory, working inten-
(as in the pre-19th-century West). The attitude goes back sively with a relatively small group. They are representative
many centuries; today it seems still strongly internalized. of others I met as well.
In recent years, that classical Western ideal of the com- In Changsha, capital of Hunan province, in south-central
munality of science has been roiled, particularly in the bio- China, where the summers and the food are blazing, the
logical sciences, by the lure of pro�ts through patents. Many Central South University was formed in 2000 by merger
express outrage at the secrecy that preparing a patent appli- of a university of technology, a medical university, and, of all
cation imposes and contempt for the excesses that have led, things, the Changsha Railway University. The medical com-
say, to the patenting of individual snippets of genomes. ponent is now the Xiangya School of Medicine. Cao Ya (her
Rightly viewed, though, a patent is a form of publication family name is pronounced Tsow
Tsow) is deputy dean and director
and removes the need for secrecy, preserving priority yet of the medical school. She has an MD and a PhD and spent
restoring communality. �ve years in the United States at the National Cancer Insti-
Here is a curious convergence. At some point in every tute, outside of Washington. She is also a deputy mayor of
conversation I had with scientists in China, I raised the prob- Changsha. A stocky woman, she is direct, informed, briskly
lem of plagiarism. The response was always the same, and intelligent, with a sense of humor, and formidably well pre-
on �rst impression it seems unexpected—not evasive, exactly, pared. We talked at an elaborate dinner with half a dozen of
but indirect. On re�ection, it begins to look like acknowl- her colleagues; we met the next morning in her o�ce with a
edging the problem, sure, but moving on to the ways, in the graduate student attending to help with translation.
Chinese setting, that young scientists in the making might “The major scienti�c program running right now in
be brought to think di�erently, to see the bene�ts of taking China is this one, called 97-3 Program,” Professor Cao said.
in the Western norms. So institute directors and principal “A major huge program to catch up with the scienti�c devel-
investigators say they teach that intellectual property means, opment of the whole world. Started in 1997, March. This
in the �rst place, patents. Young Chinese scientists are urged program is for basic research. According to the needs of
to consider which of their results are patentable and to apply. the nation.” Technological applications? Or basic science?
Suddenly, out of the ruck of ideas, methods, data, discover- “Both,” she said with a sharp nod. The goal is split in two?
ies that were loosely thought held in common, individual “Yes,” she said. “I think that the major scienti�c program
ownership emerges in a most hard-edged form. is the whole-world program. Not just for China. The sec-
Secondly, Chinese scientists are urged, commanded, to ond is the urgent requirement for our country’s social and
prepare their work and write it up to be published in top economic development.”

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 57


58 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006
The 97-3 Program concentrates research in six areas, and the PNAS
PNAS,” the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Pro-
agricultural biotechnology, energy, informatics, natural ceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.
resources and the environment, population and health, Any more? “Yes. I think we should give up all the low-
and materials science. Cao’s own concern is with popula- level repeat work. It doesn’t make any sense. It just make
tion and health. In this area the research is divided into 20 more trash!”
�elds. She took me through them with the aid of a 33-page Yang Ke is executive vice president of the Peking University
position paper she had put together in anticipation of my Health Science Center. (In English she prefers the Western
visit. The list is diverse, the projects ambitious. Yet even the order, given name �rst.) She is a woman of remarkable charm,
most basic research—in stem cells, for example—has been perceptiveness, and subtlety, passionate and idealistic about
de�ned in terms of immediate applications. good science: of all the scientists I met, Professor Ke expressed
Her own working week is half city government, half the most acute awareness of the di�culties and pressures
research. “In particular we’d like to know how the Epstein- Chinese scientists confront. Like Cao Ya, she worked in the
Barr virus”—which can cause cancer—“works with the host United States at the National Cancer Institute, from 1985 to
cells.” The questions her group is asking would not be out 1988. With her during our interview and at lunch was the
of place at the National Cancer Institute. Her laboratory has center’s director of international coöperation, Dong Zhe. “In
about 20 persons, mostly PhD candidates, with �ve techni- English, if I have problem, he will help me.”
cians. Her entire Cancer Research Institute has six labora- Ke has run a laboratory ever since she returned from the
tories, 50 faculty, some 100 students. Six faculty members United States in 1988; her current work addresses “mostly
are among those Chinese scientists who have returned from esophageal and gastric cancer, which has very high inci-
abroad. The center is part of the medical school. dence in China.” Esophageal cancer has a proven though
“For my lab, I think it is okay. I think we do a very good not simple genetic component. “We’re working on a high-
job,” she said. “And also, in my lab we have very good team- incidence population in a relatively isolated rural area of
work. They can share the information, share the idea, Henan province.” She was made vice president for research
four years ago and stepped up to her pres-
ent job two years later. The promotions
Harmony, consensus, respect for authority came, though, “at the time I just got the
and for the views of elders: for thousands real feeling of the science. Start harvest-
of years, this set of attitudes has ruled the ing results.” She misses that: “I’m less in
the lab work, but I’m still struggling not
behavior of individual Chinese. At issue to give up, because I think I am still useful
today is the power of a hierarchy based first to the students,” she said. “At least, I think
my students are getting a good training.”
on seniority and next on connections. The picture of Chinese science pre-
sented to the world, she said, has empha-
exchange the information, the discussion.” She was deeply sized very rapid development—“and the thing is, we are
in�uenced by her time at the National Cancer Institute. Her progressing in right direction. But we still have problems.” She
boss in the medical school is a scientist: “He is academy mem- said she would discuss these one by one. But �rst, “Another
ber, 74 years old.” Is automatic respect for elders a problem? thing I should say is, my opinion is not o�cial.” Indeed, she
“No.” It doesn’t get in the way of the science? I rephrased the hoped her impulse to be frank would not be taken amiss.
question, twice. Each time she sat mum, gave no answer. “The �rst one. China has really made tremendous e�ort
I asked what she saw as the problems. “I think the most to enhance science and technology. Because government
important big point is, we should publish more our work in realized this is the way—at least, one of the way, one of the
the international journals. So the whole world get the chance important way, to make the country strong,” she said. “But
to know more what are we doing in China. The major prob- science is not like steel industry and automobile. It needs
lem is a language problem. Editor always say the English is time.” Education in science has been �nanced heavily, “but
not native. And they say, you need some native person to not enough.” And education in the sciences must start very
help you improve the quality of the paper.” She gave me a young. Grants for research from the ministry, from the
bibliography of all the biology papers by scientists in China Natural Science Foundation, have been increased tenfold
published between 2000 and the summer of 2005 in Science, or more in the past decade. “But I think the universities
Nature, and Cell
Cell. They numbered 36. Most listed large num- should get more support in the basic research because of
bers of coauthors, the largest, 30. Of her own laboratory, she their advantage in the �eld and also because of the in�uence
said, “This year we try to publish some good papers in JBC on the students. And I think basic research has strongest

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 59


impact on the students in the way of scienti�c thinking—for to harvest your fruits, then the problem comes up. Every-
which in our culture is relatively weak.” one want to claim they are contributor.”
Secondly, “For the technology development…for This is an aspect of Chinese culture that is thousands
example, if we want a satellite, it can be organized by the of years old, I said. Both murmured agreement. Ke said,
government,” she said. “But the problem is, they do empha- “People respect scienti�c thinking. But they don’t really
size basic science, but in an organizing way”—from the understand it—most of them, in our culture. I noticed,
top down—“instead of creating it from the science level. because I was exposed to Western culture, I noticed in our
Although a lot of scientists are more and more in�uential, school—this is a famous medical school—most teachers are
people still think that we can do it e�ectively the way as teaching the students just according to the book.”
they do it in technical development. That’s a problem peo- Dong Zhe: “She is saying that the Chinese culture
ple have: they cannot wait. They expect your results, sec- doesn’t encourage you to have questions in your mind but
ond day. They tell scientists, ‘You got the money. And you asks you to follow what the master mind says.”
organize a team! Make it big! And the Nobel Prize, tomor- Yang Ke: “Mm-hm. But that starts changing. Because
row!’ That way!” Yet “of course, it works, as well, because some Chinese understand, what is really—how they can do
good researchers get more grant in this way. And look at the the science. But still, if you must change the whole country’s
progress we are making. Now we have some people really thinking, it takes a long time.” She turned to Dong again,
understand the science. And they know the rule of the game. with a burst of rapid Chinese.
And they are serious about their work. But I think in the He considered for a moment, then said, “The Chinese
long term, scientists in basic science should be given more culture has a long history. So it must have some truth and
freedom and longer time in the direction and production. excellency. However, if we are facing the development of
“So I have to jump to the third question. In this society, new scientists, it seems that we have to break away from the
now, and in the culture, I think Chinese people now emphasize tradition a little bit. Learn to be sharp and frank.”
the technology more than science. From
beginning, from long time ago in our his-
tory, we have the tradition of research for “That’s a problem people have: they cannot
application. That’s our culture. For �ve
thousand years.
wait. They expect your results, second day.
“Furthermore, in our society—because They tell scientists, ‘You got the money. And
it’s very rapidly developing, economically you organize a team! Make it big! And the
—the trend of the social system causes a
turmoil of thinking. In terms of belief. Nobel Prize, tomorrow!’”
People are more materialist,” she said.
“But for the basic science, people have to have very quiet How? “It will take time.” Ke said. “It is globalization
minds. Clear. And focused. And….” Searching for a term, which will make the advantages of Chinese and West-
she turned to Dong Zhe. He pursed his lips, then said, “Tol- ern culture integrated. Our well-educated, very promising
erate the hard work.” And the uncertainty. She picked up young people must learn from outside also. If they want
the exchange: “But the �rst thing is to be very interested. to be a scientist.” So they go abroad and then come back?
Curious. Very curious. And then tolerate the loneliness. For “Right.” But when they come back, what protects them
a long time. And maybe without any answer.” from the elders? “If we have more and more people com-
But, I said, it’s not just the individual. “The group,” she ing back. For example, my students go out and come back,
said. “The collaboration. That’s another problem. Di�cult. they shouldn’t have any problem to deal with me.”
First thing is, because of all these problems, everybody want Dong explained, “I think what Professor Ke is saying,
them to be successful. And everybody think themselves is that because of this globalization there is interchange of
most important. That is the trend in our society. The sec- cultures. So many key research people have been trained
ond thing is, again, cultural. Chinese people don’t want to abroad.” What do they come back to? “If it is one single
say negative things at beginning. They don’t want to make person, you can’t change the situation, but if when they are
clear how to divide bene�t”—credit—“at beginning. So if it coming back in a group they become a force.” Ke nodded,
becomes very successful, then people quarrel.” “Mm-hm.” Dong went on, “And they bring in the new
Dong Zhe intervened. “What Professor Ke is saying, ideas. And then they practice all the behaviors of the sci-
it is a Chinese cultural attribute that you want to show entist, beginning a change.” Beginning to form a scienti�c
your politeness; but on the other hand, you don’t state your cadre, I said—because the ethos must spread to students
terms. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. But when you are going and technicians, too.

60 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


“Right, right,” she said. “So that needs generations. That But you say you give them freedom. “Well, this is a
needs generations. I don’t think one generation—” good question. First of all we give them funding, startup
“Maybe a few generations,” Dong Zhe said. funds. Of course, his research has to be in the overview
In Shanghai in 2000, two institutes nearly half a century of our institute. But then he can choose what he wants to
old merged to form the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell do. But he also has the decision to make, how he can get
Biology. It is one of the largest and best research centers in grants. So he has to adjust his research with the importance
China. Geneticist Li Zaiping is elderly, genial, a smooth sur- of related projects.” Grants come from the 97-3 Program
vivor. We met in a large conference room, with colleagues of through the Natural Science Foundation, or through the Chi-
Li’s, including a senior principal investigator studying insu- nese Academy. For some time, the academy has also fostered
lin and the institute’s deputy director, Jing Naihe, younger, recruitment through the Hundred Talents project. This was
�uent, intense. Professor Jing had taken his PhD at one of speci�cally designed to provide younger scientists of recog-
the institute’s predecessors and had gone to Japan as a post- nized potential the funding to work as principal investigators
doc. Li relied on Jing to do most of the explaining. altogether independently of the institutional hierarchies.
Overall, the institute works in molecular, cell, and devel- How does a new group develop the scienti�c ethos, the
opmental biology and in biochemistry, but the four labo- sense of community? “Ah. All I can say…,” Jing paused.
ratory groups have di�erent specializations and somewhat “This is mainly, how I can say, now our institute gradually
di�erent a�liations. The State Key Laboratory of Molecular is adopting a system like the U.S. And because most of the
Biology, for example, concerned with RNA-protein interac- PIs are coming back from the U.S. Now the PI has almost
tions and regulation of gene expression, is largely funded very advanced freedom, how the money he can use, how
and overseen by the Ministry of Science and Technology. the people he can hire, and the students he can pick up.
(“Key laboratory” is a literal translation of the Chinese, All this.” Yet he and his colleagues understood, Jing said,
meaning very important.) The other laboratory groups are that the returning postdoc has no experience as a principal
creatures of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. investigator. So they have recently joined up with a group
At the time Li, Jing, and I met, the institute had 194 of scientists at some seven associated laboratories, at di�er-
scientists, with 45 principal investigators. Of the principal ent American universities, who come for short periods as
investigators, a third were under 45, a third were between visiting PIs. And they are trying to develop a way “to �nd
45 and 60, and a third were above 60—“but now that’s less,” mentors for new PIs. But we have not started yet.”

T
Jing said. The old guys? My remark was less than tact-
ful, and the laughter was uncomfortable. Jing jumped in, he unique character of Chinese science now
nodding at his senior colleagues: “They are, you can see, and tomorrow can only be understood rightly
I think they are young! At least scienti�cally, right?” I said in its integral relationship to the nation’s unique
that in Beijing I had had a graduate student helping me, problems; in magnitude and urgency these are
who when she learned my age said she’d call me “Ye ye,” unprecedented in world history. It is by no
which is Chinese children’s talk for “grandpa.” This time means obvious that they can be adequately addressed. In
the laughter was unrestrained. Li Zaiping then said, soberly, the attempt, China is su�ering unbearable strains: it is expe-
“It’s di�cult to get funding, for old people.” riencing economic, nay, demographic, cultural, social trans-
“We have about one sta� member for every two gradu- formation at blinding speed. The sciences are part of that
ate students,” Jing said. “We have very few postdocs.” Why? transformation, pulled between basic and applied, between
“Because the good students, after they get the PhD, they go international standards and domestic priorities, between
to U.S. to make their postdocs. Although now, from this year, modernity and tradition, between free, curiosity-driven in-
that situation start to change.” quiry and hard political realities. Meditating on the situa-
The institute is energetically recruiting from the scienti�c tion of Chinese science, Zhang Xianeng at the Ministry of
diaspora. Yet how do you persuade the postdocs in America Science and Technology said quietly and simply, “From my
to come back? The question provoked general discussion. point of view, most of the real discovery were from curiosity
Jing said, “We have to give them some funding money. And research. But for this country, we need to solve our prob-
then give them freedom to do their research. Very impor- lems.” In the Chinese setting, to foster the essential ethos of
tant. Of course, they have to be of good quality.” The num- scienti�c research is not easy. Progress is being made: Yang
ber and quality of the applications is improving markedly, Ke is right about that. She is right, also, that it will take time,
he said. “We give them relatively good salaries, also. And perhaps generations.
now, in Shanghai, you know, house prices increasing tre-
Horace Freeland Judson is the author of five books, including The
mendously. This makes recruitment even harder. So we Eighth Day of Creation, a history of molecular biology that was pub-
also give them compensation on the house.” lished in 1979 and is still in print.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 61


David D. Clark

ED QUINN
The Internet
Is Broken
The Net’s fundamental flaws cost
companies billions, impede innova-
tion, and threaten national security.
It’s time for a clean-slate approach.
By David Talbot

I
n his o�ce within the gleaming-stainless-steel and nologies. “We are at an in�ection point, a revolution point,”
orange-brick jumble of MIT’s Stata Center, Inter- Clark now argues. And he delivers a strikingly pessimistic
net elder statesman and onetime chief protocol ar- assessment of where the Internet will end up without dra-
chitect David D. Clark prints out an old PowerPoint matic intervention. “We might just be at the point where the
talk. Dated July 1992, it ranges over technical issues utility of the Internet stalls—and perhaps turns downward.”
like domain naming and scalability. But in one slide, Clark Indeed, for the average user, the Internet these days
points to the Internet’s dark side: its lack of built-in secu- all too often resembles New York’s Times Square in the
rity. In others, he observes that sometimes the worst disas- 1980s. It was exciting and vibrant, but you made sure to
ters are caused not by sudden events but by slow, incremental keep your head down, lest you be o�ered drugs, robbed, or
processes—and that humans are good at ignoring problems. harangued by the insane. Times Square has been cleaned
“Things get worse slowly. People adjust,” Clark noted in his up, but the Internet keeps getting worse, both at the user’s
presentation. “The problem is assigning the correct degree level, and—in the view of Clark and others—deep within its
of fear to distant elephants.” architecture. Over the years, as Internet applications pro-
Today, Clark believes the elephants are upon us. Yes, the liferated—wireless devices, peer-to-peer �le-sharing, tele-
Internet has wrought wonders: e-commerce has �ourished, phony—companies and network engineers came up with
and e-mail has become a ubiquitous means of communica- ingenious and expedient patches, plugs, and workarounds.
tion. Almost one billion people now use the Internet, and crit- The result is that the originally simple communications
ical industries like banking increasingly rely on it. At the same technology has become a complex and convoluted a�air.
time, the Internet’s shortcomings have resulted in plunging For all of the Internet’s wonders, it is also di�cult to man-
security and a decreased ability to accommodate new tech- age and more fragile with each passing day.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 63


That’s why Clark argues that it’s time to rethink the kinds of websites, say, or not downloading software. “Go to
Internet’s basic architecture, to potentially start over with a neighborhood bar, and people are talking about �rewalls.
a fresh design—and equally important, with a plausible That was just not true three years ago,” says Susannah Fox,
strategy for proving the design’s viability, so that it stands associate director of the Pew project.
a chance of implementation. “It’s not as if there is some Then there is spam. One leading online security com-
killer technology at the protocol or network level that we pany, Symantec, says that between July 1 and December 31,
somehow failed to include,” says Clark. “We need to take 2004, spam surged 77 percent at companies that Symantec
all the technologies we already know and �t them together monitored. The raw numbers are staggering: weekly spam
so that we get a di�erent overall system. This is not about totals on average rose from 800 million to more than 1.2
building a technology innovation that changes the world billion messages, and 60 percent of all e-mail was spam,
but about architecture—pulling the pieces together in a dif- according to Symantec. But perhaps most menacing of all
ferent way to achieve high-level objectives.” are “botnets”—collections of computers hijacked by hackers
Just such an approach is now gaining momentum, to do remote-control tasks like sending spam or attacking
spurred on by the National Science Foundation. NSF man- websites. This kind of wholesale hijacking—made more
agers are working to forge a �ve-to-seven-year plan esti- potent by wide adoption of always-on broadband connec-
mated to cost $200 million to $300 million in research tions—has spawned hard-core crime: digital extortion.
funding to develop clean-slate architectures that provide Hackers are threatening destructive attacks against com-
security, accommodate new technologies, and are easier panies that don’t meet their �nancial demands. Accord-
to manage. They also hope to develop an infrastructure ing to a study by a Carnegie Mellon University researcher,
that can be used to prove that the new system is really bet- 17 of 100 companies surveyed had been threatened with
ter than the current one. “If we succeed in what we are such attacks.
trying to do, this is bigger than anything we, as a research Simply put, the Internet has no inherent security archi-
community, have done in computer science so far,” says tecture—nothing to stop viruses or spam or anything else.
Guru Parulkar, an NSF program manager involved with the Protections like �rewalls and antispam software are add-
e�ort. “In terms of its mis- ons, security patches in a digital
sion and vision, it is a very arms race. The President’s Informa-
big deal. But now we are just “We are at an inflection tion Technology Advisory Commit-
at the beginning. It has the point, a revolution point,” tee, a group stocked with a who’s
potential to change the game.
It could take it to the next
says David Clark. “We who of infotech CEOs and academic
researchers, says the situation is
level in realizing what the might just be at the point bad and getting worse. “Today, the
Internet could be that has not
been possible because of the
where the utility of the threat clearly is growing,” the council
wrote in a report issued in early 2005.
challenges and problems.” Internet stalls—and per- “Most indicators and studies of the
haps turns downward.” frequency, impact, scope, and cost of
Firewall Nation cyber security incidents—among both
When AOL updates its soft- organizations and individuals—point
ware, the new version bears a number: 7.0, 8.0, 9.0. The to continuously increasing levels and varieties of attacks.”
most recent version is called AOL 9.0 Security Edition. And we haven’t even seen a real act of cyberterror, the “dig-
These days, improving the utility of the Internet is not so ital Pearl Harbor” memorably predicted by former White
much about delivering the latest cool application; it’s about House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke in 2000 (see
survival. In August, IBM released a study reporting that “A Tangle of Wires,” p. 80). Consider the nation’s electrical
“virus-laden e-mails and criminal driven security attacks” grid: it relies on continuous network-based communica-
leapt by 50 percent in the �rst half of 2005, with govern- tions between power plants and grid managers to maintain
ment and the �nancial-services, manufacturing, and health- a balance between production and demand. A well-placed
care industries in the crosshairs. In July, the Pew Internet attack could trigger a costly blackout that would cripple
and American Life Project reported that 43 percent of U.S. part of the country. The conclusion of the advisory council’s
Internet users—59 million adults—reported having spyware report could not have been starker: “The IT infrastructure
or adware on their computers, thanks merely to visiting is highly vulnerable to premeditated attacks with potentially
websites. (In many cases, they learned this from the sudden catastrophic e�ects.”
proliferation of error messages or freeze-ups.) Fully 91 per- The system functions as well as it does only because
cent had adopted some defensive behavior—avoiding certain of “the forbearance of the virus authors themselves,” says

64 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Jonathan Zittrain, who cofounded the Berkman Center a track for 30 years of incrementally making improvements
for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and holds to the Internet and �xing problems that we see,” says Larry
the Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at the Peterson, a computer scientist at Princeton University. “We
University of Oxford. “With one or two additional lines see vulnerability, we try to patch it. That approach is one
of code…the viruses could wipe their hosts’ hard drives that has worked for 30 years. But there is reason to be con-
clean or quietly insinuate false data into spreadsheets or cerned. Without a long-term plan, if you are just patching
documents. Take any of the top ten viruses and add a bit the next problem you see, you end up with an increasingly
of poison to them, and most of the world wakes up on a complex and brittle system. It makes new services di�cult
Tuesday morning unable to surf the Net—or �nding much to employ. It makes it much harder to manage because of
less there if it can.” the added complexity of all these point solutions that have
been added. At the same time, there is concern that we will
Patchwork Problem hit a dead end at some point. There will be problems we
The Internet’s original protocols, forged in the late 1960s, can’t su�ciently patch.”
were designed to do one thing very well: facilitate com- The patchwork approach draws complaints even from
munication between a few hundred academic and gov- the founder of a business that is essentially an elaborate
ernment users. The protocols e�ciently break digital data and ingenious patch for some of the Internet’s shortcom-
into simple units called packets and send the packets to ings. Tom Leighton is cofounder and chief scientist of Aka-
their destinations through a series of network routers. Both mai, a company that ensures that its clients’ Web pages and
the routers and PCs, also called nodes, have unique digi- applications are always available, even if huge numbers of
tal addresses known as Internet Protocol or IP addresses. customers try to log on to them or a key �ber-optic cable
That’s basically it. The system assumed that all users on the is severed. Akamai closely monitors network problems,
network could be trusted and that the computers linked by strategically stores copies of a client’s website at servers
the Internet were mostly �xed objects. around the world, and accesses those servers as needed.
The Internet’s design was indi�erent to whether the But while his company makes its money from patching the
information packets added up to a malicious virus or a love Net, Leighton says the whole system needs fundamental
letter; it had no provisions for doing much besides getting architectural change. “We are in the mode of trying to plug
the data to its destination. Nor did it accommodate nodes holes in the dike,” says Leighton, an MIT mathematician
that moved—such as PDAs that could connect to the Internet who is also a member of the President’s Information Tech-
at any of myriad locations. Over the years, a slew of patches nology Advisory Committee and chair of its Cyber Secu-
arose: �rewalls, antivirus software, spam �lters, and the rity Subcommittee. “There are more and more holes, and
like. One patch assigns each mobile node a new IP address more resources are going to plugging the holes, and there
every time it moves to a new point in the network. are less resources being devoted to fundamentally chang-
Clearly, security patches aren’t keeping pace. That’s ing the game, to changing the Internet.”
partly because di�erent people use di�erent patches and not When Leighton says “resources,” he’s talking about bil-
everyone updates them religiously; some people don’t have lions of dollars. Take Microsoft, for example. Its software
any installed. And the most common mobility patch—the mediates between the Internet and the PC. These days, of
IP addresses that constantly change as you move around— the $6 billion that Microsoft spends annually on research
has downsides. When your mobile computer has a new and development, approximately one-third, or $2 billion,
identity every time it connects to the Internet, the websites is directly spent on security e�orts. “The evolution of the
you deal with regularly won’t know it’s you. This means, Internet, the development of threats from the Internet that
for example, that your favorite airline’s Web page might could attempt to intrude on systems—whether Web serv-
not cough up a reservation form with your name and fre- ers, Web browsers, or e-mail-based threats—really changed
quent-�yer number already �lled out. The constantly chang- the equation,” says Steve Lipner, Microsoft’s director of
ing address also means you can expect breaks in service security strategy and engineering strategy. “Ten years ago,
if you are using the Internet to, say, listen to a streaming I think people here in the industry were designing soft-
radio broadcast on your PDA. It also means that someone ware for new features, new performance, ease of use, what
who commits a crime online using a mobile device will be have you. Today, we train everybody for security.” Not
harder to track down. only does this focus on security siphon resources from
In the view of many experts in the �eld, there are even other research, but it can even hamper research that does
more fundamental reasons to be concerned. Patches create get funded. Some innovations have been kept in the lab,
an ever more complicated system, one that becomes harder Lipner says, because Microsoft couldn’t be sure they met
to manage, understand, and improve upon. “We’ve been on security standards.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 65


Vinton Cerf

W I LLIAM TH O MAS CAI N / G ETTY I MAG E S

66 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Of course, some would argue that Microsoft is now embedded processors. Fourth, add technology that makes
scrambling to make up for years of selling insecure prod- the network easier to manage and more resilient. For exam-
ucts. But the Microsoft example has parallels elsewhere. ple, a new design should allow all pieces of the network to
Eric Brewer, director of Intel’s Berkeley, CA, research lab, detect and report emerging problems—whether technical
notes that expenditures on security are like a “tax” and are breakdowns, tra�c jams, or replicating worms—to network
“costing the nation billions and billions of dollars.” This administrators.
tax shows up as increased product prices, as companies’ The good news is that some of these goals are not so far
expenditures on security services and damage repair, as the o�. NSF has, over the past few years, spent more than $30
portion of processor speed and storage devoted to running million supporting and planning such research. Academic
defensive programs, as the network capacity consumed by and corporate research labs have generated a number of
spam, and as the costs to the average person trying to dodge promising technologies: ways to authenticate who’s online;
the online mine�eld of buying the latest �rewalls. “We ways to identify criminals while protecting the privacy of
absolutely can leave things alone. But it has this continuous others; ways to add wireless devices and sensors. While
30 percent tax, and the tax might go up,” Brewer says. “The nobody is saying that any single one of these technologies will
penalty for not [�xing] it isn’t immediately fatal. But things be included in a new architecture, they provide a starting
will slowly get worse and might get so bad that people won’t point for understanding what a “new” Internet might actu-
use the Internet as much as they might like.” ally look like and how it would di�er from the old one.
The existing Internet architecture also stands in the way Some promising technologies that might �gure into
of new technologies. Networks of intelligent sensors that col- this new architecture are coming from PlanetLab, which
lectively monitor and interpret Princeton’s Peterson has been
things like factory conditions, the nurturing in recent years
weather, or video images could The collapse of the Net has (see “The Internet Reborn,”
change computing as much as
cheap PCs did 20 years ago.
been predicted for a decade October 2003). In this still-
growing project, research-
But they have entirely di�erent and hasn’t happened, notes ers throughout the world
communication requirements. Vinton Cerf. The real security have been developing soft-
“Future networks aren’t going to ware that can be grafted onto
be PCs docking to mainframes. problem, he says, is that oper- today’s dumb Internet rout-
It’s going to be about some car ating systems don’t protect ers. One example is software
contacting the car next to it.
All of this is happening in an
themselves. “An argument that “sni�s” passing Internet
tra�c for worms. The soft-
embedded context. Everything could be made, ‘Why does the ware looks for telltale pack-
is machine to machine rather
than people to people,” says
network have to do that?’” ets sent out by worm-infected
machines searching for new
Dipankar Raychaudhuri, direc- hosts and can warn system
tor of the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (Winlab) administrators of infections. Other software prototypes
at Rutgers University. With today’s architecture, making such detect the emergence of data tra�c jams and come up with
a vision reality would require more and more patches. more e�cient ways to reroute tra�c around them. These
kinds of algorithms could become part of a fundamental
Architectural Digest new infrastructure, Peterson says.
When Clark talks about creating a new architecture, he A second set of technologies could help authenticate
says the job must start with the setting of goals. First, give Internet communications. It would be a huge boon to Inter-
the medium a basic security architecture—the ability to net security if you could be sure an e-mail from your bank is
authenticate whom you are communicating with and pre- really from your bank and not a scam artist, and if the bank
vent things like spam and viruses from ever reaching your could be sure that when someone logs in to your account,
PC. Better security is “the most important motivation for that person is really you and not someone who stole your
this redesign,” Clark says. Second, make the new archi- account number.
tecture practical by devising protocols that allow Internet Today, the onus of authentication is on the Internet user,
service providers to better route tra�c and collaborate to who is constantly asked to present information of various
o�er advanced services without compromising their busi- kinds: passwords, social-security numbers, employee ID
nesses. Third, allow future computing devices of any size numbers, credit card numbers, frequent-�yer numbers,
to connect to the Internet—not just PCs but sensors and PIN numbers, and so on. But when millions of users are

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 67


constantly entering these gate-opening numbers, it makes to many billions of dollars. But NSF isn’t proposing to aban-
it that much easier for spyware, or a thief sni�ng wireless don the old network or to forcibly impose something new
Internet tra�c, to steal, commit fraud, and do damage. on the world. Rather, it essentially wants to build a better
One evolving solution, developed by Internet2—a research mousetrap, show that it’s better, and allow a changeover to
consortium based in Ann Arbor, MI, that develops advanced take place in response to user demand.
Internet technologies for use by research laboratories and To that end, the NSF e�ort envisions the construc-
universities—e�ectively creates a middleman who does the tion of a sprawling infrastructure that could cost approxi-
job. Called Shibboleth, the software mediates between a mately $300 million. It would include research labs across
sender and a recipient; it transmits the appropriate ID num- the United States and perhaps link with research e�orts
bers, passwords, and other identifying information to the abroad, where new architectures can be given a full work-
right recipients for you, securely, through the centralized out. With a high-speed optical backbone and smart routers,
exchange of digital certi�cates and other means. In addi- this test bed would be far more elaborate and representa-
tion to making the dispersal of information more secure, tive than the smaller, more limited test beds in use today.
it helps protect privacy. That’s because it discloses only the The idea is that new architectures would be battle tested
“attributes” of a person pertinent to a particular transac- with real-world Internet tra�c. “You hope that provides
tion, rather than the person’s full “identity.” enough value added that people are slowly and selectively
Right now, Shibboleth is used by universities to mediate willing to switch, and maybe it gets enough traction that
access to online libraries and other resources; when you log people will switch over,” Parulkar says. But he acknowl-
on, the university knows your “attribute”—you are an enrolled edges, “Ten years from now, how things play out is any-
student—and not your name or other personal information. one’s guess. It could be a parallel infrastructure that people
This basic concept can be expanded: your employment sta- could use for selective applications.”
tus could open the gates to Still, skeptics claim that a
your company’s servers; smarter network could be even
your birth date could allow Whether or not the NSF comes more complicated and thus
you to buy wine online. A
similar scheme could give a
up with a viable new Internet failure-prone than the original
bare-bones Internet. Conventional
bank con�dence that online architecture, says Jonathan wisdom holds that the network
account access is legitimate
and conversely give a bank
Zittrain, the growing pres- should remain dumb, but that the
smart devices at its ends should
customer con�dence that sures on the medium are become smarter. “I’m not happy
banking communications fostering legal, corporate, and with the current state of a�airs.
are really from the bank. I’m not happy with spam; I’m not
Shibboleth and similar
technological responses likely happy with the amount of vulner-
technologies in develop- to make the Internet “more ability to various forms of attack,”
ment can, and do, work as
patches. But some of their
secure—and less interesting.” says Vinton Cerf, one of the inven-
tors of the Internet’s basic proto-
basic elements could also cols, who recently joined Google
be built into a replacement Internet architecture. “Most peo- with a job title created just for him: chief Internet evangelist.
ple look at the Internet as such a dominant force, they only “I do want to distinguish that the primary vectors causing a
think how they can make it a little better,” Clark says. “I’m lot of trouble are penetrating holes in operating systems. It’s
saying, ‘Hey, think about the future di�erently. What should more like the operating systems don’t protect themselves
our communications environment of 10 to 15 years from now very well. An argument could be made, ‘Why does the net-
look like? What is your goal?’” work have to do that?’”
According to Cerf, the more you ask the network to
The Devil We Know examine data—to authenticate a person’s identity, say, or
It’s worth remembering that despite all of its �aws, all of its search for viruses—the less e�ciently it will move the data
architectural kluginess and insecurity and the costs associ- around. “It’s really hard to have a network-level thing do
ated with patching it, the Internet still gets the job done. this stu�, which means you have to assemble the packets
Any e�ort to implement a better version faces enormous into something bigger and thus violate all the protocols,”
practical problems: all Internet service providers would Cerf says. “That takes a heck of a lot of resources.” Still,
have to agree to change all their routers and software, and Cerf sees value in the new NSF initiative. “If Dave Clark…
someone would have to foot the bill, which will likely come sees some notions and ideas that would be dramatically

68 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


conscious of the nontechnical matters at stake, that the cure

Foundations for could be worse than the problem.”


Still, Zittrain sees hazards ahead if some sensible
a New Infrastructure action isn’t taken. He posits that the Internet’s security
problems, and the theft of intellectual property, could pro-
The NSF’s emerging effort to forge a clean-slate Internet duce a counterreaction that would amount to a clamp-
architecture will draw on a wide body of existing research.
down on the medium—everything from the tightening of
Below is a sampling of major efforts aimed at improving
everything from security to wireless communications. software makers’ control over their operating systems to
security lockdowns by businesses. And of course, if a “dig-
PROJECT/HOME INSTITUTION FOCUS ital Pearl Harbor” does occur, the federal government is
liable to respond re�exively with heavy-handed reforms
PLANETLAB/ Creating an Internet “overlay
Princeton University network” of hardware and
and controls. If such tightenings happen, Zittrain believes
Princeton, NJ software—currently 630 ma- we’re bound to get an Internet that is, in his words, “more
chines in 25 countries—that secure—and less interesting.”
performs functions ranging But what all sides agree on is that the Internet’s peren-
from searching for worms to nial problems are getting worse, at the same time that soci-
optimizing traffic. ety’s dependence on it is deepening. Just a few years ago,
the work of researchers like Peterson didn’t garner wide
EMULAB/ A software and hardware test
interest outside the networking community. But these days,
University of Utah bed that provides researchers
Salt Lake City, UT a simple, practical way to em- Clark and Peterson are giving brie�ngs to Washington poli-
ulate the Internet for a wide cymakers. “There is recognition that some of these prob-
variety of research goals. lems are potentially quite serious. You could argue that they
have always been there,” Peterson says. “But there is a wider
DETER/ A research test bed where recognition in the highest level of the government that this
University of Southern researchers can safely
is true. We are getting to the point where we are brie�ng
California Information launch simulated cyber-
people in the president’s O�ce of Science and Technology
Sciences Institute attacks, analyze them, and
Marina del Rey, CA develop defensive strate- Policy. I speci�cally did, and other people are doing that as
gies, especially for critical well. As far as I know, that’s pretty new.”
infrastructure. Outside the door to Clark’s o�ce at MIT, a nametag
placed by a prankster colleague announces it to be the o�ce
WINLAB (Wireless Develops wireless network- of Albus Dumbledore—the wise headmaster of the Hog-
Information Network ing architectures and proto- warts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a central �gure
Laboratory)/Rutgers cols, aimed at deploying the
in the Harry Potter books. But while Clark in earlier years
University mobile Internet. Performs
New Brunswick, NJ research on everything from may have wrought some magic, helping transform the origi-
high-speed modems to nal Internet protocols into a robust communications technol-
spectrum management. ogy that changed the world, he no longer has much control
over what happens next.
But “because we don’t have power, there is a greater
better than what we have, I think that’s important and chance that we will be left alone to try,” he says. And so
healthy,” Cerf says. “I sort of wonder about something, Clark, like Dumbledore, clucks over new generations of
though. The collapse of the Net, or a major security disas- technical wizards. “My goal in calling for a fresh design is
ter, has been predicted for a decade now.” And of course to free our minds from the current constraints, so we can
no such disaster has occurred—at least not by the time this envision a di�erent future,” he says. “The reason I stress this
issue of Technology Review went to press. is that the Internet is so big, and so successful, that it seems
The NSF e�ort to make the medium smarter also runs like a fool’s errand to send someone o� to invent a di�erent
up against the libertarian culture of the Internet, says Har- one.” Whether the end result is a whole new architecture—or
vard’s Zittrain. “The NSF program is a worthy one in the just an e�ective set of changes to the existing one—may not
�rst instance because it begins with the premise that the matter in the end. Given how entrenched the Internet is,
current Net has outgrown some of its initial foundations the e�ort will have succeeded, he says, if it at least gets the
and associated tenets,” Zittrain says. “But there is a risk, research community working toward common goals, and
too, that any attempt to rewrite the Net’s technical consti- helps “impose creep in the right direction.”
tution will be so much more fraught, so much more self- David Talbot is Technology Review’s chief correspondent.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 69


MRI: A Window
on the Brain
Advances in brain imaging could lead to
improved diagnosis of psychiatric ailments, better
drugs, and earlier help for learning disorders.
By Paul Raeburn

W
hen Bradley Peterson, a psychiatrist and
researcher at Columbia University, o�ered
to scan my brain with a magnetic reso-
nance imager the size of a small Airstream
trailer, I immediately said yes. I spent 10 an MRI technique called di�usion tensor imaging (DTI)
minutes �lling out a page-long checklist (I lied on the ques- that produces 3-D images of the frail, spidery network of
tion asking whether I was claustrophobic) and another few wires that connects one part of the brain to another.
minutes emptying my pockets and getting rid of keys, wrist- MRI has become, says Robert Desimone, director of the
watch, and pen, which could become missiles inside the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, “the most
MRI’s potent magnetic �eld. powerful tool for studying the human brain. I liken it to
I lay down on a narrow pallet that slid into the machine the invention of the telescope for astronomers.” Desimone
like a drawer in a morgue. The machine groaned and notes that the arrival of the telescope did not immediately
clanged as it peered inside my skull, then fell silent. With revolutionize the scienti�c understanding of the universe.
a gentle whir, the pallet slid out, and I relaxed. In about That took time, as researchers learned how to use their
the time it takes to burn a few CDs on my laptop, Peterson new tool. The same thing is happening with MRI, Desim-
was leaning over a screen, showing me a detailed black- one says. Researchers are just now beginning to realize
and-white image of my brain. the potential of these techniques, which were �rst widely
Brain scans like the one I had are now routine, used for used on humans about 15 years ago. “You’re seeing a lot of
everything from detecting signs of stroke to searching out sus- excitement in the �eld,” says Desimone.
pected tumors. But researchers like Peterson are pushing MRI Several technical advances have contributed to MRI’s
technology further than anyone once thought it could go. In improvement. Topping the list is the development of more-
the last decade or so, MRI has been retooled to reveal not only powerful MRI magnets, which enable more-detailed, higher-
the anatomy of the brain but also the way the brain works. resolution scans. What megapixels are for a digital camera,
While conventional MRI scans, like the one Peterson teslas, a measure of magnetic-�eld strength, are for MRIs: the
gave me, reveal physiological structures, a variation called more you have, the better the quality of the image. The new-
functional MRI (fMRI) can now also image blood �ow est MRIs generate magnetic �elds of about seven teslas, many
over time, allowing researchers to see which areas of the thousands of times stronger than Earth’s magnetic �eld and
brain are active during certain tasks. Indeed, fMRI stud- at least twice as strong as those typically used in hospitals.
ies over the last few years have provided researchers with (Some research centers, including the McGovern Institute,
startling images of the brain actually at work. A yet newer have 9.4-tesla MRI scanners for animal studies.) Another key
TI M M C G U I R E / C O R B I S

extension is MRI spectroscopy, another kind of functional development is a succession of ever more complex methods
imaging that monitors the activity of particular chemicals in of computer analysis. These allow researchers to extract more
the brain—providing di�erent clues to brain function than and better information from scanner data and have improved
fMRI does. And most recently, researchers have pioneered not just fMRI but also MRI spectroscopy and DTI.

70 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 71
The ultimate aim of brain imaging research is to help treat the disease. The principal drugs for bipolar disorder,
explain how the billions of neurons and connections in the lithium and Depakote, have been around for decades. Both
brain give rise to thought. But researchers are also applying were discovered by accident, when researchers trying to do
the new MRI techniques to a more practical, immediate goal: something else noticed that the drugs eased the symptoms
improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses of patients with bipolar disorder. And though the drugs
and learning disorders. The hope is that MRI imaging will can be reasonably e�ective in some people, doctors have
provide far more accurate diagnosis of psychiatric diseases no idea how they work or which patients are most likely to
whose symptoms can resemble each other, preventing years bene�t. In order to �nd better pharmaceuticals, research-
of su�ering for patients put on the wrong medications. ers need to be able to target the exact mechanisms or struc-
As part of this e�ort, researchers are using MRI to investi- tures involved in bipolar disorder.
gate the causes not only of psychiatric ailments but of all kinds Pinpointing the mechanisms could also lead to more
of brain abnormalities and learning disorders, including those accurate evaluation of the disorder. Often, diagnosis in psy-
often found in children born prematurely. And while attempts chiatry is done by a kind of trial and error, in which a psy-
to use brain imaging to improve psychiatric health care have chiatrist makes an educated guess based on the behavior or
met with little success over the last decade, the new MRI tech- self-reported symptoms of a patient, prescribes a medication,
nologies—in essence, far stronger telescopes on the mind—are and sees whether or not it helps. If it doesn’t, the psychiatrist
providing fresh hope of �nding better ways to intervene. considers a di�erent diagnosis and a di�erent medication,
until something begins to work. “What psychiatrists need
Bipolar Fingerprint is some test that will give them the answer: this patient has
One of the leaders in the e�ort to enlist MRI in the diagnosis the disease or doesn’t,” says Port. He and other researchers
and treatment of psychiatric ailments is John Port at the Mayo hope MRI scanners will o�er the de�nitive diagnosis. And
Clinic in Rochester, MN. Port is a neuroradiologist who began for those in the mental-health profession, that would change
his career by studying electrical engineering and computer everything. “I’m dedicating the rest of my career to coming
science at MIT and later earned a PhD in cell biology and an up with an imaging test that will help psychiatrists diagnose”
MD from the University of Illinois. So he’s in a good position bipolar disorder and other illnesses, Port says.
to research both basic MRI technology and
its applications to medicine.
Port’s work on MRI could have broad If the Mayo Clinic’s John Port is correct
application in psychiatry, but for now
he is concentrating on his particular
and the brain scanning technique proves
interest: bipolar disorder. Also called itself, it would be a landmark in psychiat-
manic-depression, bipolar disorder is ric research: a diagnostic test for bipolar
characterized by mood swings from wild
exuberance to profound depression, with disorder. And if the technique works for
periods of stability in between. X-rays or bipolar disorder, it could be adaptable to
conventional MRIs show no di�erence
between the brains of people with bipo-
other psychiatric illnesses.
lar disorder and those without it; medi-
cal journals are littered with failed attempts to use imaging Port is one of many researchers now experimenting with
to �nd distinctive signs of the disease. Port thinks a lot of MRI spectroscopy, in which software produces an image of
those attempts were scienti�cally �awed. “I have a list of pet the brain based on a spectroscopic scan. The image is made
peeves a mile long,” he says. “There are a million studies, but up of individual data points called voxels, cubes analogous
the patients might be on six di�erent medications. So when to the pixels in a 2-D computer image. Each corresponds
you see something di�erent, is it the meds? Or is something to a volume about the size of a kidney bean. For each voxel,
going on?” Another problem with many earlier studies, he Port gets a reading on the presence or absence of certain
says, is that they included too few patients. “You can’t tell chemicals that are indicators of brain function.
anything from 10 patients. A lot of the research hasn’t been To understand how MRI spectroscopy works, it’s neces-
as rigorous as it should be.” sary to understand a bit about how magnetic resonance
Indeed, despite years of work, neuroscientists still do not imaging works more generally. MRI scanners pick up
know what causes bipolar disorder, or exactly which parts of extremely faint electromagnetic signals coming from pro-
the brain are involved. That lack of knowledge has severely tons in the atoms of molecules that make up the body’s tis-
hampered the search for safer and more e�ective ways to sues—in this case, brain tissue. “Think of it like listening

72 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


B I POLAR DISOR DE R
Mayo Clinic researcher John Port is using magnetic resonance
spectroscopic imaging to look for physiological changes associ-
ated with bipolar disorder. Port first stimulates a localized region
of the brain (white box), then divides the brain into 3-D sections
(gray lines) called voxels. Each voxel contains information on con-
centrations of metabolites in its corresponding section of brain tis-
sue. The studies have so far revealed that there are characteristic
concentrations of metabolites in patients with bipolar disorder.

Maybe, but he can’t be sure yet. “We think we’re on to


something good,” he says, but “we have to check it and make
sure it will be clinically useful.” It’s a question of trying the
technique with enough patients to be sure that it is statisti-
cally valid—that it won’t produce too many false positives or
false negatives. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be
good enough to add useful information to what psychiatrists
can discern through their traditional methods of diagnosis,
interviews, and analyses of patient histories. If Port is cor-
rect, however, and the technique proves itself, it would be a
landmark in psychiatric research: a diagnostic test for bipolar
disorder. And if the technique works with bipolar disorder,
it could be adaptable to other psychiatric illnesses.
for a pin drop in a thunderstorm,” Port says. Each proton Port and others are also experimenting with di�usion
has a magnetic �eld that points in a certain direction, as tensor imaging. DTI measures water di�usion in the brain.
the earth’s does. When the MRI is turned on, its magnet Water �ows through the brain as it does anywhere else—
aligns the protons’ magnetic �elds in the same direction. along the path of least resistance. In the brain, that’s along
Bursts of radio frequency energy temporarily knock some the axons, the neurons’ long tails, which convey electrical
of the protons out of alignment. When the protons snap signals to other neurons. (It’s from the fatty, white insula-
back into place, they release energy, generating a minuscule tion that surrounds most axons that “white matter” takes
signal that the MRI’s detectors can pick up. By �ipping the its name; the rest of the neuron, and uninsulated axons,
protons di�erent ways and measuring various properties together constitute “gray matter.”) Port is just beginning to
of those �ips, including the time they take, researchers can research the technique. But eventually researchers will be
identify various tissues and chemicals in the brain. able to use “DTI clinically to look for diseases that inter-
Using MRI spectroscopy, Port can measure levels of fere with white matter—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [Lou
chemicals such as n-acetyl aspartate, which is found only Gehrig’s disease] and schizophrenia,” Port says.
in neurons, or glutamate, which stimulates nerve-cell activ-
ity. When Port used the technique across many areas of Diagnosing Development
the brain in bipolar patients and compared the results to The techniques Port is studying, if they prove successful,
those from healthy controls, he came up with a chemical will be used in diagnosing people already showing signs of
�ngerprint that seemed to be an indicator of bipolar dis- mental illness. But what about others who are predisposed
order. “When we compared all the bipolar patients in any to problems but have not yet begun to exhibit symptoms?
mood state with their matched normal control subjects, we Can the MRI technology help to �nd these people so that
found that two areas of the brain were signi�cantly di�er- they can be helped before symptoms appear?
ent,” Port says. Port and his team also identi�ed changes At Columbia, Peterson is trying to answer that question.
in many regions of the brains of people with bipolar dis- He and collaborators are among the �rst to scan the brains
order that indicated whether they were in a manic state or of premature infants—sometimes within days of their birth.
depressed. “We found a chemical measure of the mood The aim is to catalogue the types of brain abnormalities
state,” he says. they discover and to devise ways to intervene earlier than
C O U RTE SY O F J O H N P O RT

So has Port found the long-sought diagnostic test for ever before to try to correct or compensate for them.
bipolar disorder? Does his chemical �ngerprint reliably Peterson �rst became interested in the complications of
identify people who have bipolar disorder and exclude premature birth about 10 years ago, when he was beginning
those who don’t? his psychiatric research at Yale University. He had discovered

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 73


Arbitrary phonemes Meaningful speech

Preterm Term Preterm Term

L A N G UAG E P R O C E S S I N G observed in animals that survived complicated births. Peterson


Brain images produced by Columbia University’s Bradley Peterson decided to look at children who had been born prematurely.
show that children who are born prematurely may have more Like Port, he is using the newest MRI technologies to try to
problems processing language than children born at term. The
obtain information that hasn’t been available before.
scans above, from top to bottom, show different slices of the brain.
The two columns on the left show brain activity in preterm and term There was a reason for his interest. Children born pre-
children listening to arbitrary sequences of phonemes, or meaning- maturely are at greater risk for learning disabilities and even
less speech; the two columns on the right show the brain activity of psychiatric illnesses. Understanding how their brains are
children listening to meaningful speech. The results indicate that the
brain activity of preterm children listening to meaningful language
di�erent should lead to new ways to help them.
resembles that of normal children listening to meaningless speech. As it happened, Laura Rowe Ment, a pediatric neurolo-
gist at Yale, was following a group of 500 premature chil-
something very unusual in the brains of people with Tourette’s dren born between 1989 and 1992 as part of an ongoing
syndrome. Most of us have asymmetries in our brains—the study. Peterson and Ment set up a collaboration. “There
C O U RTE SY O F B RAD LEY P ETE R S O N

left side doesn’t exactly match the right. Most of us also have were imaging reports suggesting various kinds of problems
one eye that’s bigger than the other (as portrait photographers in the brain—in terms of brain development. But they were
will point out) and other minor asymmetries. But the brains uncontrolled, the numbers were small—they were impres-
of people with Tourette’s syndrome were di�erent. “In the sionistic,” says Peterson. Even given their smaller body
Tourette’s brain, there seemed to be an absence of asymme- size, premature kids tend to have disproportionately small
try,” Peterson says. A similar absence of asymmetry had been heads. “The guess was that brain size would be reduced”

74 FEATURE STORY T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


later in life, says Peterson. Researchers also speculated that It’s as if each connection is tested, to determine its value.
there would be damage to the white matter. Ment’s kids, The useful circuits are kept; the others are trimmed away,
who were then about eight years old, were especially useful leaving a sleek, e�cient machine.
because she and her colleagues had documented everything Premature birth likely disrupts these processes—the
that had happened to them since they were born. migration of the nerve cells, the growth of glial cells and
The �rst thing Peterson did was use the MRI scanner to white matter, and the trimming. Premature kids have most
determine the size of the eight-year-old children’s brains. of the neurons they will carry with them into adult life, but
The guess was right—their brains were smaller than nor- it’s possible they’re not in the right places or properly con-
mal. But the decrease in size occurred only in certain brain nected or tested. Researchers, says Peterson, are “inten-
regions—the parts of the cortex that govern movement, sively testing” these possibilities.
vision, language, memory, and visual and spatial reasoning. Peterson’s research o�ers the hope of helping children
“These regions were dramatically smaller,” Peterson says. compensate for whatever brain-related peculiarities they
The other parts of their brains were normal size, or close to might have. “We want to use imaging to predict who’s
it. The second guess—about damage to white matter—also going to have particularly di�cult problems in the course of
proved accurate. There was less white matter in the motor development, so we can intervene more e�ectively,” he says.
regions of the children’s brains, meaning there were rela- That intervention might consist of specially designed educa-
tively few wiring connections there. And the reduction in tion programs or physical therapy and other treatments to
volume correlated with IQ scores. “The bigger the abnor- compensate for physical and emotional di�culties. When
mality—the more abnormal it was in all these regions—the Peterson began this work, his interest was professional. But
lower their IQ was,” Peterson says. now he has a personal interest as well. Two years ago, his
The question then was, Did these abnormalities arise at daughter was born four weeks premature. While she shows
or before birth or sometime later? Peterson started scan- no ill e�ects, he says he watches her, and he worries.
ning normal and premature infants. The scans of premature
newborns showed that they had the same brain abnormali- Brainstorming
ties as the eight-year-olds. “It was so distinctive, the pattern When Peterson scanned me, he found nothing wrong or
of abnormalities, it’s almost impossible to look at a scan worrisome. If I’d had a brain tumor or some prominent
and not be able to tell this is a premature child,” Peterson abnormality, he would have spotted it. But that’s about all the
says. One of the most salient di�erences was in the size of clinically useful information he could get from a quick scan. If
the tiny cavities in the brain known as ventricles. “The ven- Peterson had put me through the sophisticated scans he uses
tricles are massively dilated, about four times larger in the with the premature infants, perhaps he could have detected
prematurely born kids than in the term children,” Peterson some quirk in the way my brain behaves. But because of the
says. “We saw that in eight-year-olds and in the infants. The large variability in normal brain structure and function, he
tissue around those ventricles is really damaged….It sug- would not have been able to conclude much speci�cally about
gests that these babies are having problems in development how my brain di�ers from those of other people.
even before they’re born.” Peterson followed the newborns In the coming years, however, as the technology contin-
for two years and then tested them with a kind of IQ test ues to improve, it may become possible for any of us, with
meant for toddlers. The earlier they were born, the more or without obvious illnesses or neurological problems, to
immature their brains were at birth. And the more imma- learn much more about the state of our brains, our percep-
ture their brains, the lower their intelligence scores. tions, and our thinking. “The bad news is that although
To neuroscientists, the discovery that premature kids these techniques are very powerful, they are not where we
had brain abnormalities made sense. Much of the brain’s need to be,” says MIT’s Desimone. “We need to use these
growth and development occurs during the last half of preg- MRI magnets in ways they haven’t been used before.”
nancy. Neurons begin life clumped near the center of what Desimone’s McGovern Institute has just inaugurated the
will become the brain but soon start to migrate outward. Martinos Imaging Center. One room at the center houses
Glial cells, which help neurons communicate, go through a state-of-the-art MRI scanner. Beside it is another room
a period of explosive growth, accounting for most of the that, for the time being, will remain empty. “We have it sit-
brain’s increase in weight. The neurons extend meandering ting there for a new device,” Desimone says. He doesn’t yet
tentacles, seeking connections with other cells. Billions of know what that device will be. “That’s our challenge—to
connections are made during the last weeks of pregnancy. invent it here. The idea is to go beyond where we are now,
The axons then develop their coats of white, fatty insulation. to the technology of the future.”
By this time, the brain is massively overdeveloped, with far Paul Raeburn’s most recent book is Acquainted with the Night, a mem-
too many wires and connections. So it begins cutting back. oir of raising children with depression and bipolar disorder.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 FEATURE STORY 75


Books, artifacts, reports, products, objects

E-MAI L ing and clarifying its privacy policy.

In Google We Trust Google now explains that the adver-


tisements are based on your computer’s
Internet users should think carefully before relying on Gmail. IP address, the content of the message
By Simson Garfinkel you’re reading, and your previous use
of Gmail. But don’t worry, Google says:
your e-mail is scanned only by comput-

G
oogle’s Gmail raises important were o�ering a measly two megabytes. ers and never by human beings.
questions about the security and Google could make this o�er because, In addition, Google now makes it
privacy of our personal informa- at the time, its 100,000-plus computers clear that you can delete individual
tion—questions that should matter not had more than 20 petabytes of com- e-mail messages or your entire Gmail
just to users of the free Web-based e-mail bined storage. Since then, Google has account at any time. If you do, how-
system but to everyone who exchanges shown it can buy new hard drives faster ever, your old e-mail might remain on
e-mail with Gmail users. And since the than its users can �ll the old ones up. Google’s servers for up to 60 days and
technical underpinnings of Gmail might Search was Gmail’s second strength. on its “o�ine backup systems” for even
very well be the prototype for the next Instead of asking users to create “fold- longer. Although this may sound like
generation of desktop-computer applica- ers” and archive their e-mail like obe- an unacceptably long time, Google has
tions, the answers to these questions po- dient �le clerks, Gmail allowed them in fact done a far better job in address-
tentially a�ect everyone. to simply click “archive” and banish ing the concerns of privacy activists
But wait—this is not another dia- e-mail messages from their in-boxes to than its competitors ever did.
tribe against the targeted advertise- an unseen holding area. Gmail users It’s important for Google to get its
ments Gmail shows while retrieve their archived mail privacy and security policy right with
GMAIL BETA
you read your mail. All of To get an account, by searching for it—a process Gmail, because Gmail is the standard-
the worry surrounding that you must be referred that is so fast and thorough bearer for an increasingly important
by a user or sign up
single issue has obscured a using a cell phone. that it’s actually liberating. approach to Web programming called
far more important one: data www.google.com/
accounts/smsmailsignup1
Sales was Gmail’s third Ajax, for asynchronous JavaScript and
integrity and security. Gmail strength—one that was sur- XML. Simply put, Ajax applications
is so powerful, fast, and convenient that prisingly controversial. When Google have user interfaces that run inside
there’s a huge incentive for you to keep announced Gmail, it proudly proclaimed a Web browser, but the heavy com-
all of your e-mail there. But there’s a that it would analyze e-mail messages putation and data storage are done
catch: Gmail makes no promise that a for common keywords and use them to remotely—in the case of Gmail, on
mail message you save today will still customize advertisements. For example, Google’s supercomputer cluster. When
be there tomorrow—nor that e-mail an undergraduate reading a message you start up Gmail, large parts of your
you delete today will be gone tomor- about an upcoming assignment might in-box are downloaded into your com-
row. Using Gmail means placing a lot simultaneously see an advertisement for puter’s memory and displayed in your
of trust in Google. a site that sells term papers. browser as needed. This makes Gmail
When Gmail was launched in April Despite this apparent convenience, dramatically faster and more e�cient
2004, it boasted three strengths: scale, many privacy activists—me among than existing Web-based mail sys-
search, and sales. Scale was the most them—called upon Google to describe tems, where messages and mailbox
obvious; Google promised each user how its targeted-advertising technology lists have to be downloaded again and
the ability to store a gigabyte of e- worked. The company responded this again every time you display a new
mail when competitors like Hotmail past October by dramatically expand- Web page.

76 REVIEWS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Reviews

o�er more than one option—but to call


attention to the most important charac-
teristic of Google’s business model.
That characteristic is this: fee-
based consumer services are not part
of Google’s business model at all.
Although Google is often called a search
company or an e-mail provider, it earns
its billions by selling clicks on targeted
advertisements. Everything else is
merely the honey designed to attract
enough attention that some of it will
spill onto those ads. Gmail’s users are
not Google’s customers; they are its
product. I personally �nd advertise-
ments highly distasteful and have shied
away from Gmail for that reason.
Far more troubling for me, however,
is Gmail’s data security story.
Like privacy, security is a much
deeper concept than most Internet users
realize. Being free from spyware and
viruses is important, certainly. But so
is data integrity—retaining data whole,
without additions, deletions, or other
modi�cations. While Google provides
a ton of storage and great availability,
there is no obvious way to back up your
In recent months, Gmail has intro- viruses, and phishing attacks—active e-mail once it has been delivered, read,
duced a message editor that lets users attacks by bad people or bad software. and archived. This means that you have
bold and italicize text or change fonts But privacy and security are more no choice but to trust Google totally for
within a message—much the way complex. Privacy, for instance, includes your data integrity.
you can in a PC-based e-mail pro- not just the right to keep personal mat- But nowhere in Gmail’s “Terms of
gram like Microsoft Outlook. There’s ters out of the public eye but also the Use” does the company promise that it
even an “autosave” feature, so that if right to be free from intrusion—the right won’t delete some or all of your mail—
your browser crashes you don’t lose to be “let alone,” as Samuel Warren and now, or in the future. In fact, the ter-
the message that you were compos- Louis Brandeis put it in their famous mination clause of Gmail’s policy gives
ing. And Gmail can now be integrated 1890 Harvard Law Review article “The the company the right to delete any
with Google Desktop; for example, Right to Privacy.” Gmail’s advertise- account, for any reason, at any time,
you can download your e-mails to ments may be less intrusive than those with no user recourse.
your Windows-based computer and of Hotmail and Yahoo, but they are Gmail could provide a backup
search and read them when you are intrusive nevertheless. system, of course. Google Desktop
not online. All of this is made possible Google argues in its updated pri- already downloads mail in the back-
by Gmail’s Ajax architecture. vacy policy that users should have the ground for o�ine access, and it would
So if Google is applying Ajax with right to choose to read their e-mail be trivial to let users save that e-mail in
such skill, why am I still concerned through a free, advertiser-supported archive �les on their hard drives, for
about privacy and security? service. But of course, Google does subsequent burning onto CD-ROMs or
When most people think about not in fact o�er a choice: there is no DVDs. Perhaps Gmail will do this in
privacy, they think about the threat of fee-based, advertising-free version of the future. But it doesn’t do it now.
JAS O N S C H N E I D E R

accidental disclosure of personal infor- Gmail. I note this not to be obnoxious— The mere existence of that huge
mation. When they think about online clearly, Google can argue for choice archive of personal e-mail—an archive
security, they tend to think about worms, in the market without itself having to that can neither be backed up nor

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 REVIEWS 77


Reviews

deleted on demand—should give users


pause. For example, such an archive
could become a one-stop-shopping des-
tination for subpoenas in civil litigation
and criminal investigations. Gmail’s
early adopters now have nearly two
years’ worth of mail archived in the
system—an attractive body of evidence
in, say, a nasty divorce proceeding.
The preservation of old messages
wasn’t previously a concern because ear-
lier online e-mail providers like Hotmail
didn’t o�er their users enough storage.
Also, folder-based archives give users
a strong incentive to throw most mes-
sages away rather than keeping them
all. And of course, if you download your
e-mail with POP (the post o�ce proto-
col) and keep it on a hard drive in your
living room, you are responsible for the
security of your mail—and you have the
option of �ghting a subpoena in court
rather than turning over your �les. MOB I LE PHON ES
Many of my concerns could be
addressed through the clever use of The Small Screen
encryption. Mail could be encrypted Mobile TV is a new technology with an old business model.
while stored on Google’s servers and By Brad King
only decrypted when it is displayed to
Gmail users. This would dramatically

T
reduce the risk of a subpoena: now he cell phones began arriving that serve as teeny TVs began to fade
an attorney �shing for incriminating in the first week of Septem- just around the moment I crossed the
documents would have to demand not ber. Slowly, people began �nd- threshold to my apartment after work.
just e-mail but also the user’s decryp- ing reasons to stop by my o�ce. They That’s because at home, I have absolute
tion key. This would give users more would come in, pick up whichever control over what I see and how I see it.
opportunities to �ght subpoenas—or phone caught their attention, look at I have a Hewlett-Packard Media Cen-
perhaps to “lose” their keys. it, ask what it did (“It streams tele- ter PC, a buggy but powerful machine
Whether or not these risks actually vision”), hit a few buttons, and then that, in addition to serving as an ordi-
matter to you depends on what uses, if leave. Though mobile TV does, for the nary computer, utterly blurs the dis-
any, you make of the Gmail service. But moment, su�er from technical limi- tinction between streaming Web video
how Google responds to persistent con- tations such as long bu�ering times and broadcast television. It allows me
cerns about privacy and data security and choppy streams, Sprint, Verizon, to watch, record, and organize video
should matter to everyone who uses and Cingular have determined that the content from any source—the Web,
the Web. For better or worse, Google medium is now good enough to begin broadcast TV, or DVDs. And because
remains the hottest Internet company earning money for carriers. Most ba- I also use the Windows Media Center
on the planet—and the example it sets sic services—which o�er channels such Extender, I can have all that content
with Gmail will shape the products as ABC News or E!—cost roughly $10 streamed directly to my television.
and policies of hundreds of other com- to $15 per month, with pay-per-view Simply put, mobile television is,
panies using Ajax technology to build clips sold for up to $4 and à la carte for the moment, the exact opposite
C O U RTE SY O F S P R I NT

new Web-based services. channels for upwards of $4 each. of that experience. While Comcast
And the carriers are right. Mobile may own the pipeline into my home,
Simson Garfinkel is a postgraduate fellow at
Harvard University’s Center for Research on TV is exciting. But for me, the daily it doesn’t control the information that
Computation and Society. thrill of playing around with phones goes through those pipes. With mobile

78 REVIEWS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Reviews

television, the only way to get content much as there are tiered pricing options nology. In 2003, Sprint wanted to launch
on phones is through the gatekeepers. when you sign up for cable. The mobile cell-phone television, but it had nei-
That means that Sprint, Verizon, and providers can, by power of their pipe, ther the technology nor the content. So
Cingular can potentially dictate what determine who gets easiest access to Sprint turned to Emeryville, CA–based
you see and how you see it. users’ phones. In the world of cable, MobiTV, which at the time was called
broadcasters jockey to make it into the Idetic. The MobiTV service included
The Plot Line expanded basic cable channel package, a back-end architecture for delivering
In mobile TV, the main players fall which gives them the best chance to television to cell phones and access to a
into three groups: the wireless phone attract the greatest number of viewers. group of content partners willing to pro-
companies, which control the network This arrangement makes good �nancial vide shows. Today, MobiTV is one of
across which all data services—voice, sense for carriers and broadcasters, but the most successful mobile-TV services,
Web access, and text messaging—run; it doesn’t best serve consumers. with more than 500,000 individual sub-
the major broadcast networks and cable Still, the carriers are not operat- scribers paying $9.99 a month to mobile
channels, which create television con- ing in a vacuum; broadcasters do have carriers (which, like cable providers,
tent; and the companies that develop some power. ABC and Fox have been then divvy up the pie and pay MobiTV
technology—both hardware and soft- among the most aggressive in devel- a percentage) for two- to three-minute
ware—to enable television streaming oping mobile content, with the hope video clips and live streams from dozens
over networks originally designed for that they can build enough viewer loy- of broadcasters—including Fox Sports,
voice tra�c. The companies in this alty to allow them to strike better deals MSNBC, the Discovery Channel, and
last group increasingly hope to act as with the mobile providers. In the cable the Weather Channel—along with new
aggregators who take content from world, companies like Disney or GE, services such as Mobi-MLB, which
broadcast partners and resell it, along which own many channels with large o�ers live audio broadcasts of every
with their own products, to audiences, can cut cherry major-league baseball game.
the wireless carriers. MOBITV ON CINGULAR deals that give them high The problem for MobiTV is that
www.mobitv.com
Much like the cable in- per-subscriber fees, because it could easily be swept aside by San
SPRINT TV
dustry, where everyone must www.sprintpcs.com the cable companies know Diego’s Qualcomm, one of the largest
bow down before big opera- VERIZON VCAST that without content that is makers of communication chips for cell
tors such as Time Warner www.getvcast.com in demand, they will lose phones. Qualcomm is currently develop-
GOTV
and Comcast, the mobile- www.1ktv.com revenue. It pays for Comcast ing both a proprietary system to deliver
TV industry has its kings: to accommodate Disney, video to mobile phones and its own sub-
the wireless phone companies. In the because Disney’s ESPN brings in sub- sidiary content-aggregating service.
Boston area, ESPN can’t get on the scribers. Meanwhile, small networks But as the heavyweights try to corner
television without striking a deal with sometimes have to pay for placement the mobile-TV market by simply repur-
Comcast, which controls the relation- on less-frequented tiers such as the on- posing highlights from news, entertain-
ship with the viewer, the set-top box, demand services. ment, and sports programming, the
and the cable lines that run into your That’s the quandary facing the third best hope for innovative content may
house. Likewise, if ESPN wants sports group of companies, the ones that are lie with companies like Sherman Oaks,
highlights on a cell phone, it must neither carriers nor content providers: CA’s GoTV. GoTV’s original program-
make an agreement—either directly or how to claim a place on the mobile-TV ming, created with the smaller screen
through a third-party aggregator—with network. Though each has a di�erent size of the mobile phone in mind, could
one of the big three mobile-television business model, they all want to force a be to mobile TV what the music video
providers. wedge between the other two groups. was to cable television in the 1980s:
And the way the agreement works For some, that means building the back- content perfectly tailored to the new
gives still more power to the wireless end technology that allows mobile car- medium. Whether it will be the small
carriers. A broadcaster is not paid based riers to deliver television to cell phones. companies or the big companies that
on the number of minutes that custom- If a company can integrate itself into the produce the most-popular mobile-TV
ers spend watching its content; instead, mobile network, becoming a vital part content remains to be seen. What’s cer-
it is paid a portion of the fee charged of the delivery process, it can then give tain is that all content providers will
for whatever subscription package it itself leverage when it comes to collect- spend a lot of their time seeking audi-
is a part of. As the medium grows, ing a piece of the data-service-fee pie. ences with the carriers.
mobile-TV viewers will have multiple But some third-party companies Brad King is Technology Review’s Web pro-
subscription options to choose from— want to do more than develop tech- ducer and senior editor.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 REVIEWS 79


Reviews

N AT I O N A L S E C U R I T Y a comprehensive and complete plan.”

A Tangle of Wires It is missing, for one thing, details on


“addressing cybersecurity in the infra-
Could Washington’s approach to cybersecurity be worse? structure sectors.” This means there is
Possibly, if it had an approach. no plan to defend the �nancial indus-
By Bryant Urstadt try and water and electric utilities from
attacks. That’s a serious lack of plan.
The network police also seem to

C
ybersecurity? What cyber- ganization. The position it succeeded have their own trouble networking.
security? Citizens who may had been the product of a reorganiza- One of the DHS cyber division’s main
have harbored the idea that tion, too. There is an acting director of responsibilities is “information shar-
there was a murderously e�cient J. the old department, the National Cyber ing,” among agencies and with state
Edgar Hoover of the Internet, work- Security Division, but his o�ce will be and local government and businesses.
ing day and night, will be much dis- bumped down a level upon the appoint- Relations with some of these are “disin-
appointed at the contents of two recent ment of the assistant secretary. tegrating.” The cyber division has had
government reports. They are easy to That’s business as usual at the DHS, limited authority to move classi�ed
summarize: not only is very little of where, in the last four years, three information around, and the private
use being done, but essentially nobody appointees, all solid industry veterans, sector, unsure who’s at the bridge, has
is doing it. There is barely a boss and have reported to head up the various been slow to share secrets of its own.
hardly any techno-G-men defending incarnations of the cybersecurity depart- Nor is DHS developing the analytic
us from hackers, terrorists, scam art- ment but packed it in after about a year. tools needed for an e�ective defense
ists, foreign nations, and One seems to have left out system. Like the rest of us, the agency
others who might wish to CRITICAL INFRASTRUC- of frustration—the position, can tell when an attack is well under
TURE PROTECTION:
do our Internet harm. The DEPARTMENT OF whatever it has been called, way—hey, my computer keeps shutting
major problems in Internet HOMELAND SECURITY
FACES CHALLENGES IN
holds little power but all down!—but it has failed to produce a
security [many of which are FULFILLING CYBERSECU- accountability for anything reliable early-warning system. The
RITY RESPONSIBILITIES
detailed in “The Internet Is U. S. Government that might go wrong—and report notes that the GAO made this
Broken” on page 62], are Accountability Office others have seen their same complaint four years ago but that
May 2005
nowhere close to being ad- www.gao.gov/new.items/ department evaporate from “o�cials have taken little action.”
dressed at the federal level, d05434.pdf beneath them. The GAO also notes a real lack of
and what little is being done ACYBER SECURITY:
CRISIS OF
All of this is detailed recovery planning, including a shortage
is on the wrong track, favor- PRIORITIZATION in “Critical Infrastructure of preparatory exercises. Nor has the
The President’s
ing summits, partnerships, Information Technology Protection: Department of DHS done enough to assess the prob-
and “information sharing” Advisory Committee Homeland Security Faces lems it faces, as is called for in policy
February 2005
over the much more neces- www.nitrd.gov/pitac/reports/ Challenges in Fulfilling documents. Failing to assess vulnera-
sary but less visible work of Cybersecurity Responsi- bilities will lead to di�culties in decid-
long-term research and development. bilities,” a report presented by the U.S. ing which resources to allot to which
These charges seem less outrageous Government Accountability O�ce to sector. DHS, in short, isn’t even sure
considering the state of the position of Congress in May 2005. By the standards what threats we face. The report also
assistant secretary for cybersecurity of a document written in government- notes a lack of guidance from the cyber-
and telecommunications, in the U.S. ese, it’s withering. It contends that security department in setting goals for
Department of Homeland Security. “While DHS has initiated multiple long-term research and the “unclear”
This is the o�ce nominally charged e�orts, it has not fully addressed any e�ectiveness of awareness e�orts—both
with coördinating and overseeing our of the 13 key cybersecurity-related those directed toward the public and
government’s e�orts to secure cyber- responsibilities that we identi�ed…and those directed toward other agencies
space, which have run into a slight prob- it has much work ahead in order to be and government entities.
lem: there is no assistant secretary of able to fully address them.” Not surprisingly, the GAO places the
cybersecurity and telecommunications. The GAO, in its criticisms, starts blame for all of this inactivity on the
And there hasn’t been since July 2005, with the basics. The DHS has no plan. deleterious e�ects of the revolving door
when secretary of homeland security It has an interim plan, the Interim in the head o�ce and the consequent
Michael Cherto� announced the crea- National Infrastructure Protection lack of stability and authority within the
tion of the position as part of a reor- Plan, but that “does not yet comprise division. With such volatility, the report

80 REVIEWS T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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dation, DHS, the National Institute of


Standards and Technology, and the
Department of Justice, but the NSF
grants the lion’s share of these funds.
DHS is barely supporting long-term
research, with a mere $1.5 million of
its $1 billion science and technology
budget. The report recommends an
increase of $90 million in the NSF
budget alone, noting that merely 8
percent of NSF grant applications for
Richard Clarke resigned as head cybercop in 2003. After him, more followed suit.
cybersecurity research were filled,
or one-third of the agency’s average
states, it’s been almost impossible to security, and PITAC responded with across disciplines.
hire the best people, “key contractors” certainty that “the Federal government As for personnel, the report claims
have had to work without pay, and ven- needs to fundamentally improve its that at U.S. academic institutions today,
dors have even gone unpaid. approach to cyber security.” The cur- “there are fewer than 250 active cyber
The second report, “Cyber Secu- rent security problem, the report argues, security or cyber assurance special-
rity: A Crisis of Prioritization,” was derives from a “decades-long failure ists,” largely due to “insu�cient” and
prepared by the President’s Informa- to develop the security protocols and “unstable” funding. PITAC would like
tion Technology Advisory Committee practices…and to adequately train and to see the size of the research commu-
(PITAC) and delivered to the executive grow the numbers of experts needed to nity at least doubled. Lastly, the report
branch in February 2005. It’s equally employ these mechanisms e�ectively.” points out that “the government-wide
pessimistic but, on the bright side, does Research and development funds, the coördination of cyber security R&D is
in its way o�er a solution to the long- report argues, are increasingly being fun- ine�ective,” with agencies focusing on
term problem of cybersecurity. Whether neled toward defense-related technology “their individual missions” and losing
it will be heeded is another matter. with short-term objectives. Worse, that sight of “overarching national needs.”
Where the GAO limited itself to assess- technology is kept classi�ed, a serious So here we have two major prob-
ing how the DHS was doing by the rela- obstacle considering that the majority lems: an open position in a dysfunc-
tively narrow standards of the DHS’s of the Internet’s infrastructure is in pri- tional department and a serious lack of
own mission statements and policy, vate hands. Nor is the private market long-term research. With that in mind,
PITAC provides more thoughtful criti- picking up the slack, focusing instead on is it too much to hope for a di�erent
cism of and advice about the approach “the application of existing technologies kind of candidate for the job of assis-
of the entire government, focusing on to develop marketable products.” This, tant secretary than the last few we have
the kinds of research that will ultimately the report points out, is in sad contrast seen? Instead of looking for an old Belt-
solve our network security problems. to the larger federal research budgets of way hand or an exec from the IT busi-
PITAC was a group comprising about old, and the relatively open halls of the ness, perhaps the administration ought
equal numbers of academics and rep- Advanced Research Projects Agency in to look for the kind of person who can’t
resentatives of the technology industry, the Department of Defense, which in wait to spend a few hours pondering
and the Cyber Security Subcommittee, retrospect comes o� as something like the possibilities of self-aware and self-
which prepared the report, was chaired Rafael’s School of Athens, and which healing systems. Such a �gure might
by Tom Leighton, MIT prof and Aka- gave us the Internet in the �rst place. The be less useful in overseeing the myriad
mai cofounder. Originally appointed by National Security Agency is funding such of talks that go on between agencies at
Clinton, the gang was reupped by Bush open research through its Information home and abroad, but the handshakes
early in his �rst term. After it delivered Assurance group, but only 20 percent of so far haven’t produced much, and given
its report, its contract was not renewed. that money is headed toward fundamen- the vulnerabilities of the Internet in its
This is not surprising, as it had few tal research, and only $3 million of that current design, they seem unlikely to
encouraging words about the govern- toward academic research. In the world pay o� with anything more than a very
B R O O KS K RAFT / C O R B I S

ment’s current approach. of Washington, that’s nothing. full calendar of seminars and announce-
The executive branch specifically The majority of federal funding ments. DHS needs a visionary.
asked for comments on the state of for open civilian research is doled out Bryant Urstadt has written for Harper’s, Rolling
research and development in Internet through the National Science Foun- Stone,, and the New Yorker.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 REVIEWS 81


Demo

Sensing
Success
MIT’s Scott Manalis
shows off his ultrasensitive
biomolecule detector.
By David Rotman

S
cott Manalis holds in his palm a
thin microchip about the size of
a �ngernail. To the naked eye, it
looks similar to the chips you might �nd
in your cell phone or iPod. What’s dif-
ferent is buried in the chip and hidden
from sight: a suspended vibrating micro-
channel carved out of silicon. It is, says
Manalis, “to our knowledge, the world’s
most sensitive way to measure the mass
of biomolecules or the mass of cells in an
aqueous environment.”
Pointing to a micrograph showing a
cross section of the chip, Manalis, who
developed the sensor with then grad-
uate student Thomas Burg, explains
how the technology works. The key is
the microchannel, which is 300 micro-
meters long, 50 micrometers wide,
and a few micrometers thick. It acts
like a tiny diving board; once its inner
surface is chemically treated, speci�c
proteins or other biomolecules selec-
tively bind to it, and the added weight With standard techniques, detecting not su�er those drawbacks. Because it
changes the frequency of its vibrations. biomolecules generally requires labeling doesn’t use �uorescence, it doesn’t use
That change, which can be measured them with �uorescent tags. The glow of an optical reader. That, says Manalis,
either electronically or with a laser, cor- the tags can be measured with an opti- makes it “much more robust. You can
responds directly with the mass of the cal reader to determine whether a par- drop it.” And because its manufacture
binding molecules. ticular molecule is present and, if so, relies on the same basic process as any
Manalis, a professor of biological in what quantities. This technology has other silicon microchip’s, the detector
and mechanical engineering at MIT’s become one of the workhorse tools of can be easily miniaturized and com-
Media Lab, believes the technology biotechnology and is used, for example, bined with other silicon components.
could provide not only an extremely in DNA microarrays for genetic testing. A series of tiny, nearly identical micro-
sensitive but also a highly practical But �uorescence-based devices have channels could be fabricated alongside
method for detecting everything from two severe limitations: �rst, because each other, yielding a device capable of
viruses to cells to protein biomarkers. they require chemical labels and pre- rapidly measuring many di�erent types
P H OTO G RAP H S BY P O RTE R G I F FO R D

Indeed, this fall Manalis received a cise optical equipment, they are often of samples.
�ve-year, $3.2 million grant from the inconvenient to use and fragile; and sec-
National Cancer Institute to develop a ond, they can’t easily be shrunk and A Liquid Asset
sensor for sni�ng out the rare proteins integrated into a microchip. The ease of integrating the silicon
that can be the telltale signs of cancer. Manalis says his method for the detector with other components should
His �rst target: prostate cancer. direct detection of biomolecules does make it useful in micro�uidics, a hot

82 DEMO T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


Demo

area of biomedical research. In micro- be an extremely sensitive method for


�uidics, the various steps involved in detecting mass, explains Manalis. “If
Glass
preparing and testing a sample are you talk to physicists, their favorite Silicon

executed on a microchip. The liquid quantity to measure is vibrational fre- Fluid Manifold
in, say, a blood sample moves through quency because it is very easy to mea-
microscopic channels, where proce- sure. It’s very robust, and it is very CH I P I N HAN D
dures such as bursting open cells, sepa- hard to interfere with.” But previous The MIT Media Lab’s Scott Manalis (far left)
rating their component molecules, and work had encountered a seemingly has headed the effort to develop a tiny,
running tests on those molecules all insurmountable practical problem ultrasensitive detector for biomolecules.
One advantage of the new silicon sen-
happen in tiny channels. Manalis says when it came to detecting biomole- sors is that they can be microfabricated
the silicon microchannels built by his cules: the cantilevers had to operate in a process similar to the one used for
lab can be easily incorporated into such in a dry environment, preferably in conventional semiconductor technology
a micro�uidic scheme. His detectors, a vacuum. In water or any other liq- (top). The result is a familiar-looking chip;
the tiny vibrating microchannels are, liter-
he points out, determine the contents uid, the delicate vibrations would be ally, within a black box at the center of the
of an extremely small volume of liq- instantly damped. That’s a problem, chip (above). A schematic shows the inner
uid, about 10 picoliters—roughly the says Manalis, because the biomolecules workings of an early version of the chip.
The fluid sample flows into the hollow sus-
volume of a single cell. that scientists want to detect—viruses,
pended microchannel, which is elecrostati-
Other physicists have shown that for example—are found in aqueous cally resonated; biomolecules in the sample
microscopic vibrating cantilevers could environments, such as a blood sample. change the frequency of the vibrations.

T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006 DEMO 83


Demo

COU NTI NG ON IT
Postdoc Thomas Burg, who developed
the biomolecule detector chip as part of
his doctoral thesis, is busy these days
optimizing its performance. As it under-
goes the countless experiments required
to verify its accuracy, the chip is mounted
securely (left). While the vibrations of the
suspended microchannel at the heart of
the chip will eventually be measured elec-
tronically, for now Burg uses an external
laser; the changes in vibrational frequency
are displayed on a digital counter (bot-
tom). The researchers have demonstrated
they can measure resonator frequency
with accuracy of one part in a million.

But for now, the chip that Burg is test-


ing is hooked up to a tangle of electri-
cal wires and held tightly by several
small clamps at the end of a lab bench.
A laser is aimed at the chip to measure
precisely the vibrational frequency of
the suspended microchannels. Plastic
tubes protrude from holes dotting the
chip and run to an automated liquid-
handling instrument.
For physicists like Manalis and
Burg, who are used to working with
precise semiconductor technology,
optimizing the chemistry and the �ow
of the liquids is the trickiest part of
the experiments. The researchers �rst
treat the inner walls of the microchan-
nel with speci�c antibodies that will
selectively bind to the target biomole-
cules, such as a particular type of pro-
tein. The chemistry is not novel, says
Burg, but because it’s a�ected by tem-
perature and other factors, it’s unpre-
dictable. For that reason, the group
gathers seemingly endless data (the
In biology, he points out, “everything Of course, it’s one thing to design automated experiment runs through
happens wet.” such a device; it’s quite another to get it the night) to ensure that the micro-
It is here that Manalis came up with working reliably at the limits of its sen- channel is accurately and consistently
an ingenious solution. He and his col- sitivity. Burg, now a postdoc, developed detecting the targeted biomolecules.
leagues hollowed out a tiny channel the device for his doctoral thesis and has If all goes well, though, within the
inside the cantilever so that small vol- solved many of the problems of how the next year the experimental device could
umes of the sample would �ow into tiny suspended microchannel interacts move from all-nighters in the MIT lab
it; the targeted biomolecules bind to with the outside world. to testing out in the real world. At that
the inner walls. The vibrations of the Manalis and Burg hope one day to point, Innovative Micro Technology,
suspended resonator are still a�ected build the detector into a small hand- a foundry in Santa Barbara, CA, will
by the mass of the binding molecules, held device that could be used to detect take over the production of standard-
but there is no longer any surrounding pathogenic viruses or for a quick and ized versions of the highly sensitive
�uid to damp them. easy cancer test in a doctor’s office. detectors.

84 DEMO T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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Hack

The iPod Nano


We voided the warranty so you don’t have to.
Here’s a look inside Apple’s flashy new toy. A
By Daniel Turner

A Liquid-Crystal Display
Analysts who have broken down the
costs of the nano’s parts say that the
liquid-crystal display accounts for almost
B Flash Drive
8.5 percent of the total. The 1.5-inch
Other iPods (besides the shuffle) store
screen is the first color screen in any
music on a hard drive just like the one in
iPod other than the full-size version.
your computer, only smaller. Instead of a
In addition, the screen offers function-
hard drive, the nano uses flash memory
ality—displaying homemade photo
chips; these solid-state devices don’t skip
galleries and album art—that not so
and use less power. In the four-gigabyte
long ago was available only in the iPod
model, the flash memory is attached to
Photo, which cost $500 for a 40-
a daughterboard; in the pictured two-
gigabyte version. You can even use the
gigabyte model, two one-gigabyte memory
nano to store and carry around your
chips are soldered onto the motherboard.
PowerPoint presentations. This might
Samsung, the world’s largest supplier of
make it a deductible business expense. B
flash memory, makes most of the memory
chips used in nanos. Around the time
of the nano’s debut, reports circulated
that Apple had bought almost 40 per-
C Battery
cent of Samsung’s entire production of
Like all iPods, the nano has a recharge-
such chips, possibly below market rates.
able lithium-ion polymer battery. The bat-
tery’s polymer electrolyte allows designers
to mold the battery like modeling clay and
also obviates the need for the organic sol-
vent used in previous designs. This is a par-
ticular advantage for a product designed to
go into a pants pocket, as the solvent had
the bad habit of occasionally igniting.
Like most lithium polymer batteries,
this one uses a fast-charge system that
restores 80 percent of its 14-hour charge
D Polycarbonate Skin
in about an hour and a half; the remain-
The nano’s skin is made of the same poly-
ing 20 percent takes another hour and a
carbonate that covers the screens of other
half. Still, even this battery will eventually D
iPod models. Many polycarbonates are tough
die after a few years. The fact that no iPod
enough to serve as bulletproof glass—
is designed to allow the user to replace
indeed, the website Ars Technica ran a car
the battery led to a customer class action
repeatedly over a nano without break-
suit that Apple settled in June 2005. But
ing its skin. But though impact resistant,
even though pulling your iPod to pieces,
the material is easily scratched. Soon after
as we’ve done here, voids the warranty,
the nano was introduced, Apple faced
many third parties have offered longer-
another class action suit claiming that the
life replacement batteries for previous
iPod scratches much too easily, because
C H R I STO P H E R HARTI N G

iPod models (with replacement instruc-


its screen has a thinner polycarbonate coat
tions) and may do so for the nano.
than other models’. An Apple executive
reportedly replied to complaints by saying,
“You keep it in a pocket with your keys?”

86 H A CK T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005/january 2006


Hack

E Cache Memory
In hard drive–based iPods, cache memory plays the crucial
role of continually storing blocks of music decoded from
the hard drive. If the hard drive, like a vinyl record, skips
from being knocked around, as can happen at the gym,
the cache can stream music without interruption. The
flash drive in the nano is solid state instead of mechani-
cal like a hard drive, so there’s no way it can skip. As a
result, the four megabytes of Samsung dynamic random-
access memory aren’t used so much for caching as for
general memory for the nano’s main processor and oper-
ating system, just as in a regular computer. This means
E there’s more memory available to let the system handle
images and long lists of songs, or to reduce the number
of times the processor has to fetch data from the flash
memory, which saves power and extends battery life.
F

F Portal Player Chip


You’ve stored a thousand songs
on your nano, but that’s as 1s and
0s. The processor—the same type
that powers the full-size iPod—is
hard-wired to translate data taken
C
from the flash drive into analog
sounds, amplifying them before
they reach your headphones.
Just like the large and power-
hungry CPU in your desktop PC,
the processor also manages files,
the user interface, and digital-
rights management software for
the music you’ve purchased from
Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

G Click-Wheel Controller Chip


From the start, the iPod’s signature feature was its
wheel controller. Though the click wheel doesn’t regis-
ter how hard you click, it does respond to how you touch
it: the farther you scroll, the faster you scroll. This makes
it easy to move through a list of ten thousand songs.
G Apple touted this feature when the first iPod came out
in 2001, with a wheel that physically rotated. Its suc-
cessor, the first touch-sensitive wheel for the iPod, was
built by Synaptics; to develop the nano’s click wheel and
controller, however, Apple contracted Cypress Semi-
conductor. No parties are talking about why the switch
was made, but perhaps a clue to (or merely a result
of) the decision is the fact that Creative Technology’s
Zen Touch MP3 player uses a Synaptics touch pad.

H A CK 87
10 Years Ago in TR World Wide Web
inventor Tim Berners-
Lee, pictured here in
1996, was knighted by

Click “Oh yeah?” Queen Elizabeth II


in 2004.

How the Web’s inventor viewed


security issues a decade ago.

A
s part of a larger proposed ef-
fort to rethink the Internet’s
architecture (see “The Inter-
net Is Broken,” p. 62), Internet elders
such as MIT’s David D. Clark argue
that authentication—veri�cation of the
identity of a person or organization
you are communicating with—should
be part of the basic architecture of
a new Internet. Authentication tech-
nologies could, for example, make it
possible to determine if an e-mail ask-
ing for account information was really
from your bank, and not from a scam
artist trying to steal your money.
Back in 1996, as the popularity of
the World Wide Web was burgeon-
ing, Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s
inventor, was already thinking about no way of judging the authenticity or …Another common gripe is that the
authentication. In an article pub- reliability of the information they find Web is drowning in banal and useless
lished in July of that year, Technology there. What would you do about this? material. After a while, some people get
Review spoke with him about his Berners-Lee: People will have fed up and stop bothering with it.
creation. The talk was wide rang- to learn who they can trust on the To people who complain that they
ing; Berners-Lee described having Web. One way to do this is to put have been reading junk, I suggest they
to convince people to put informa- what I call an “Oh, yeah?” button on think about how they got there. A link
tion on the Web in its early years the browser. Say you’re going into implies things about quality. A link
and expressed surprise at people’s uncharted territory on the Web and from a quality source will generally
tolerance for typing code. But he you �nd some piece of information be only to other quality documents.
also addressed complaints about the that is critical to the decision you’re A link to a low-quality document
Web’s reliability and safety. He pro- going to make, but you’re not con- reduces the e�ective quality of the
posed a simple authentication tool— �dent that the source of the infor- source document. The lesson for
a browser button labeled “Oh, yeah?” mation is who it is claimed to be. people who create Web documents is
that would verify identities—and sug- You should be able to click on “Oh, that the links are just as important as
gested that Web surfers take respon- yeah?” and the browser program the other content because that is how
sibility for avoiding junk information would tell the server computer to you give quality to the people who
online. Two responses are excerpted get some authentication—by compar- read your article. That’s how paper
here. KATHERINE BOURZAC ing encrypted digital signatures, for publications establish their credi-
example—that the document was in bility—they get their information from
From Technology Review, July 1996: fact generated by its claimed author. credible sources….You don’t go down
The server could then present you the street, after all, picking up every
TR: The Web has a reputation in some with an argument as to why you piece of paper blowing in the breeze.
H E N RY H O R E N STE I N / C O R B I S

quarters as more sizzle than steak— might believe this document or why If you �nd that a search engine gives
you hear people complain that there’s you might not. you garbage, don’t use it.

Technology Review (ISSN 1099-274X), Reg. U.S. Patent Office, is published bimonthly (except in February 2006) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Entire contents ©2005. The editors seek diverse views, and authors’
opinions do not represent the official policies of their institutions or those of MIT. Printed by Brown Printing Company, Waseca, MN. Periodicals postage paid at Boston, MA, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address
changes to Technology Review, Subscription Services Dept., PO Box 420005, Palm Coast, FL 32142, or via the Internet at www.technologyreview.com/customerservice/. Basic subscription rates: $34 per year within the United
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88 10 Y E A R S A G O T E CH N O L O G Y R E V I E W december 2005 /january 2006


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