Cutting corners on telecom infrastructure with Huawei

In January 2013, I wrote a blog post about Huawei’s twisty, winding path to prominence. There were plenty of oddities, e.g. Huawei was supplier to the Taliban and nearly acquired by GOP presidential Mitt Romney… but not a the same time!

Huawei is back in the limelight. Curiously, the problem is not one of Chinese state interference but of sloppy software development. I’ll get to that, but first, let’s take an illustrated tour of the Huawei story.

physical science

Summer days and nights of 2009

This video was recently featured on the HPC Wire YouTube channel. It is an animation of the summer weather of 2009, as only super computers can do! HPC refers to “High Performance Computing”. Cray was one of several contributors to the project. I still think of Cray as THE super computer developer, though those days are probably past.

What’s so special here?

A recent HPC Wire article about climate change explained why simulation at such a fine resolution (7-kilometer) was so difficult, because it required:

a special allocation of computing time on the Athena supercomputer at the National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS)… For six months, the entire 18,048-core system was at the disposal of the team. Among the results … were simulations that represented boreal summer climatology at 7-kilometer resolution

Notice shifting cloud cover and precipitation in shades of gray scale during the summer months of 2009. The quality is exceptional.

I appreciated that the production group chose NOT to use any music, nor narrative, during this 1 minute, 38 second animation. I wish that were more common, especially for brief, well-annotated videos like this!

Climate change perception v. evidence-based reality

I read a rather comprehensive technical paper that should be enough to convince anyone that something has changed, for the worst, in the Earth’s climate: Distributions and Trends of Death and Destruction from Hurricanes, 1900–2008, Willoughby, H. (Jan 2012); Nat. Hazards Rev., 13(1), 57–64. This led to some thoughts that I wrote up, regarding climate change and New York City’s physical infrastructure, in light of the recent storm, Sandy.

Finally, I find it difficult to ignore the odd perception gap between climate change denialists and the growing body of climate change evidence. I found an analysis of that discrepancy and its possible cause from an unexpected source: An article in Nature, “Why we are poles apart on climate change” by a Professor of Law, at Yale University School of Law. He wrote something a few months prior to this, a bona fide scholarly journal article, which had some distressing conclusions which I think are correct, though I don’t exactly understand the cause, see The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks Kahan et. al. (Apr 2012); Nature Climate Change 2, 732–735:

Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest.

HTML5 video

If possible, try to view this in full screen mode for optimal effect. The video supports up to 720p.

I suggest trying the YouTube HTML5 player. It is in beta, but works well, and has been available for nearly a year. Most videos seem better when viewed with HTML5 instead of Adobe Flash, whether YouTube or Vimeo. There is less of the dreaded “Flash Crash”, although they can get laggy. I always enjoy the comparison!


Medical Arts

Clinical Cases and Images posted an article about Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary of Medical Terms (online edition) in 2008. It remains an excellent reference source, useful for medical terms and for general interest topics.

physical science

U.S. Scientists top research fraud list? Concerned? Probably not.

I happened upon this story while reading Politics Daily’s[1] coverage of a Journal of Medical Ethics article about a study of retraction incidence for research papers. The article was published in November 2010. 

The study found that leading causes of invalid research were:

  • retraction due to discovery of lab error after article submission to peer-reviewed journals
  • inability to reproduce results

I see that as honest behavior. Which would be easier, trying conceal or deny a mistake, or admitting error? The latter couldn’t be easy.

Braver Path Dramatization: Researcher requests article retraction

Dear ACM or IEEE,

I am the author of that research article you featured in last month’s issue. You know, the paper that was covered by most of the scientific press and popular media because my findings had such wide-ranging implications?

Well, I just found a major error in my work as I was re-reading it today. None of the peer-reviewers caught it, nor did I, until now. Please issue a retraction in my name. I’ll return that $50,000 of prize money you awarded to me. And I’ll tell the research group at [ pick any of { IBM, Princeton Advance Studies, Google Labs, NIH, CDC, Stanford University, mongoDB, Betaworks, NVIDIA} ] who offered me that great new job based on my research, that I was wrong and understand if they rescind their offer of employment and funding….

Actually, I wish the article hadn’t used the word fraud at all, as it a study of retractions, only a small number of which were due to fraud. There were certainly some cases of outright, very predatory fraud, clearly motivated by greed. The article mentions that. But that was a small part of the total number of retracted papers. In fact, when considered in the context of relative and not absolute counts, the key finding was that the retraction rate in the U.S. was 1.64%, during a ten-year interval. This far surpasses quality standards for rate of failure in nearly every other industry.

The most troubling concerns were plagiarism and deliberate falsification. Cases of both were presented in the article. Source data was drawn from on-line medical research repository PubMed from 2000 – 2009.

The article covered some other trends. Fewer American and Japanese scientists are publishing as a percentage of the total number of publications than in the past. Other countries are now entering the ring. This doesn’t mean that the U.S.A. and Japan are in technological or academic decline! It means that researchers from other nations are gaining better access to education and research funding. That helps everyone.

Also, within the United States, research breakthroughs are becoming far less concentrated in the traditional bastions of Harvard, Stanford and University of Chicago. Duke, University of Kansas, University of Iowa, University of Southern Florida and other public and private institutions are coming their own, achieving prominence like never before.

1. Politics Daily is owned by America Online News.  AOL continues to produce quality content and services, despite the brand’s unfortunate lack of prestige and status.  AOL is much more than an outdated and unpleasant internet service provider, although that is my first thought when I see the triangular AOL logo.

physical science

Geological Time Spiral

Evidence of our planet’s antiquity is revealed by the once-molten rocks that form the Earth’s crust. These rocks contain radioactive elements whose isotopes decay at known rates. Study of geo-strata, paleontology and atomic dating of certain rocks is a reliable method for determining the age of the Earth. According to the US Geological Survey publication 2008-58, Earth is 4.5 billion years of age.


Science Tattoo Emporium

Discovery Magazine’s dizzying assortment of blogs include The Loom, written by science author and Yale lecturer Carl Zimmer.  I’ve culled a few of my favorites from his gallery of science-themed tattoos, The Science Tattoo Emporium. There are over 150 images, with each tattooed scientist, engineer, mathematician or wannabe explaining his or her tattoo’s meaning and personal significance.

physical science

Rare-earth metal sources and shortages

A better title would have been Postcard: People’s Republic of China, except for the fact that I’m in Arizona. Let’s begin with the possibly impending rare-earth metals shortage.