Blog Category: News

Renewable energy from slow water currents


People have been trying to harness wave energy for decades, and of course more traditional – and more destructive – hydroelectric projects like dams provide power to hundreds of millions of people. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are creating a system for fish-friendly power generation from slow-moving water currents in rivers or oceans – and it’s not that expensive; about a third the cost of cheap solar. Here’s the story:

Slow-moving ocean and river currents could be a new, reliable and affordable alternative energy source. A University of Michigan engineer has made a machine that works like a fish to turn potentially destructive vibrations in fluid flows into clean, renewable power.

The machine is called VIVACE. A paper on it is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

VIVACE is the first known device that could harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.

Click through for more details. Visit the story online for video (Flash or QuickTime).
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Securing the identity of a past FXPAL researcher

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Volker Roth left FXPAL last year to become a professor at Freie Universität Berlin. There he leads the Secure Identity Research Group, which takes a user centered approach to addressing security and privacy issues related to mobile devices, cloud computing, and the internet.

He and his group have gotten press recently due to a well-publicized celebration of the opening of their new building. There are some great photos of Volker at this opening on the  Bundesdruckerei web site (Bundesdruckerei endowed the position Volker filled and provides other support for the group).  On the same site is a picture of Volker hobnobbing with Horst Köhler, the president of Germany, and his wife! It is great to see Volker thriving.

Larry Rowe wins ACM SIGMM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award 2009

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The 2009 winner of the prestigious ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement is our own Dr. Lawrence Rowe.    I have seen this award referred in a number of different ways (even on the ACM SIGMM website), but the above, and “Outstanding Technical Contributions to Multimedia Computing, Communications and Applications” seem to be the most common.  It is only the second year of the award, so we have to wait a while before a cute nickname arises.  (The Mummy award?)

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JoDI is a teenager

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Well, almost.  JoDI, the Journal of Digital Information, founded by Wendy Hall and Gary Marchionini, has been publishing papers online since 1997 with Cliff McKnight as the Editor-in-Chief.  JoDI is a peer-reviewed online journal organized into several themes, including digital libraries, hypermedia systems, hypertext criticism, information discovery, information management, social issues of digital information, and usability of digital information.

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Google as Library Redux

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Google claims to want to organize all the world’s information, a role that at least in some part has traditionally been filled by Libraries. Thus it was with some interest that I saw an announcement that there will be a panel  discussion at JCDL 2009, “Google as Library – Redux,” featuring Michael Lesk, Clifford Lynch, and Gretchen Hoffman.

This is surely likely to be a contentious topic, and one that would benefit from contributions of those who may not be able to make it to the conference. Thus the organizers have created a form to collect questions and comments to pose to the panelists.

Please post your questions! Alternatively, please feel free to add them as comments on this post, and I will forward them to the organizers (with or without attribution — your choice!). After the conference, I will summarize the discussion and highlight the interesting bits.

2009 Google Fellowship in HCI

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Google recently announced its 2009 Google Fellowship recipients, and I was pleased to find a name I recognize among them. Nicholas Chen (University of Maryland) won the fellowship for HCI. Nick’s been doing very interesting research on multi-screen reading devices (check out this CHI 2008 video) and pen-based computing. Congrats to Nick on this impressive achievement! It’s great to see this interesting part of the HCI field being highlighted in this fashion.

It is ironic, however, that there is no award for research in anything resembling information seeking support  systems. There are awards for  research areas such as cloud computing, machine vision, distributed systems, and natural language processing, but nothing integrative that could be used to improve information seeking interfaces. Sigh.

Information Seeking Support Systems Report

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It’s my pleasure to announce that the final report to the NSF on the workshop on Information Seeking Support Systems (ISSS) so ably organized by Gary Marchionini and Ryen White has been published. The report covers many aspects that define this research area and distinguish it from both Information Retrieval and Human-Computer Interaction fields.

Three kinds of challenges are defined and preliminary steps toward meeting the challenges are presented in this report: robust models of human‐information interaction; new tools, techniques, and services to support the full range of information seeking activities; and techniques and methods to evaluate information seeking across communities, platforms, sources, and time. Special attention is given to collaborative information seeking and the need for industry‐academic collaboration.

It was a wonderful experience to have two days of discussion of these and other topics with so many smart people, and I am happy to have contributed to the workshop organization and to the writing of the report. Finally, I am delighted that collaborative information seeking is featured as an important aspect of the field. We hope that this report will inspire others to take on the outstanding challenges and will encourage the NSF to understand the significance of this work for our society.

The copyright debate


The Economist is running a (moderated) public debate on copyright that should be interesting to those involved in electronic publishing, particularly on the Web. In light of recent attempts by the AP to implement a rather draconian copyright policy this is an issue worth following. AP has tried going after some bloggers and artists, so far without much success. Nonetheless, their published fees for online quoting of excerpts of their content are absurd:

Words Fees
5 – 25 $12.50
26 – 50 $17.50
51 – 100 $25.00
101 – 250 $50.00
251 and up $100.00

I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t allowed to protect their intellectual property, particularly in unambiguous (albeit funny) situations, but if these kinds of fees are enforced, it will be prohibitively expensive for most publishers to even mention the titles of AP articles!

I can only hope that the solution that emerges from The Economist debate is a compromise rather than a polarized outcome like the DMCA.