Posted by Adam Wills
Intel Israel recently dedicated the country’s most environmentally friendly office building in Haifa. Dubbed IDC9, the 11-story, $110 million data center facility now has a double distinction—it is Israel’s first LEED-certified green building and it has been awarded Gold, the second-highest rating in the LEED certification system, Israel21c reports:
Standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the American LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. The US Green Building Council initiated the LEED standard to encourage ecologically-sound construction in that country. There are barely a handful of LEED-certified buildings in Israel.
However, with the IDC9 Intel made a strategic decision to go full throttle in Israel after years of evaluating ‘green’ design standards and steadily incorporating green building concepts and practices into the construction of its buildings.
A slew of green elements
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer praised the move at a gala dedication ceremony held at the site earlier this summer, which was also attended by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.
Ben-Eliezer stressed the “natural and necessary connection between business and environmental protection,” that Intel Israel was displaying in its investment in the building, which also conforms to the Standards Institution of Israel standard 5281 for ‘Outstanding Green Building,’ which addresses four main areas: Energy, water savings, land, and various ecological issues.
The complex LEED system rates buildings according to their environmental properties, including water and energy consumption, interior conditions and more. It takes into account everything from construction materials, energy management and natural light to bike racks and showers.
The facility incorporates a slew of green elements, beginning at the construction level. Construction waste was separated at source into its component parts and recycled. About 13 percent of the construction materials came from recycled sources. The structure was constructed on a previous parking site to prevent damage to natural assets. These measures are expected to result in a reduction of 17% in total energy consumption.
In addition, an energy-saving technique has been used in the facility’s server room. Spread over 7,535 square feet, the space will house up to 15,000 computers. The heat generated from these computers will be recycled for hot water and winter heating. The room uses energy-efficient lighting and is equipped with motion detectors that turn off the lights when it’s not in use. The building’s data center has also been designed to save energy. It features Intel Xeon processors, which reduce power consumption.
The building boasts wide and double glazed windows, patios and reflective shelves, which allow natural light to filter inside. More than 75% of its high-use areas are exposed to natural light with the help of automatic control systems that regulate the flow. Automatic sensors control the levels of artificial lighting according to the natural light, and employees can control lighting and temperatures in their offices via their personal computers. Fresh air is monitored by CO2 sensors that track the number of people on each floor.
The roof of the facility is covered with vegetation and heat-reflecting materials to lower interior temperatures. The roof garden provides enough thermal insulation to lower the heat load by 17 cooling tons. A special control system installed in the facility reduces water consumption for gardening needs by 55%, compared with average summer consumption. Water condensed by air conditioners is collected and used for gardening. The facility has also installed standard water-saving sanitary systems such as faucets, showers, toilets and urinals to achieve 30% reduction in water usage.
Economic benefits, minimal environmental impact
According to Intel’s principle engineer, Ted Reichelt, it was a long process to convince everyone at the company to invest in the LEED certification, especially since in an environment where construction costs are increasing and every dollar is carefully scrutinized, spending money on ‘certification’ can easily plummet to the bottom of the construction priority list.
“Our construction managers started hearing more about other projects being LEED-certified, and this created greater internal acceptance of the idea; additionally, the costs associated with the LEED certification started to fall,” says Reichelt.
Intel hopes that the experience with the Haifa building will lead to other office buildings being LEED-certified and eventually to Intel’s first LEED certified fabrication plant.
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August 17, 2010 | 7:16 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Conservative bloggers are taking aim at Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and its iconic formula, E=mc2, saying they’re part of a liberal conspiracy, Joel N. Shurkin reports for JTA. Holocaust revisionists have taken up the anti-Einstein cause, started more than half a century ago by Nazis, who dismissed his theories as “Jewish science.”
The latest debate erupted when a Web site, Conservapedia—founded three years ago by Andrew Schlafly, the 49-year-old lawyer son of anti-abortion activist Phyllis Schlafly—posted a definition of relativity making the charge that it was part of an ideological plot, and then added a list of counter examples it says disprove Einstein’s theories. The postings were picked up by the liberal blog TPMMuckracker and then went viral.
From JTA: Schlafly’s argument against Einstein appears to conflate relativity, a theory in physics about time, space and gravity, with relativism, a philosophical argument about morality and human experience having nothing to do with physics. He points to a 1989 article by liberal law professor Lawrence Tribe in the Harvard Law Review. Now widely disseminated on the Internet, Tribe’s article uses relativity as a metaphor for understanding constitutional law. In the footnotes, Tribe thanks the man who was then the editor of the review: a law student named Barack Obama.
Hence, a liberal conspiracy.
Schlafly goes further, claiming that “virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible,” but he doesn’t say how he knows that. He also cites passages in the Christian Bible in an effort to disprove Einstein’s theories.
Attacks on relativity have a long and sleazy history. After much of the physics community came to accept the theories, attacks continued from less admirable sources, including anti-Semites who apparently were upset that a Jew was being credited with producing something that important. They called it “Jewish science.” Nazis, believing that Germans should do better, came up with an alternative concept, totally incoherent. Deutsche Physik, it was called, and set back physics in Germany until after World War II.
Now a new generation of Einstein deniers, including some Holocaust revisionists, are launching attacks, simultaneously rejecting Einstein’s science and accusing him of stealing his ideas from others.
They point to the published work of French physicist Jules Henri Poincare and Dutch physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, which preceded Einstein’s publication by several years. These men were superb physicists (Lorentz won a Nobel Prize) and they had thought about relativity, but neither made the huge leap in imagination Einstein did, although Poincare came close and probably did influence him.
Another claim is that the theories originated with Einstein’s first wife, the Serbian physics student Mileva Maric. She may well have served as a sounding board, but respected physicists and historians say no serious evidence exists that she made any substantive contribution.
While there is no overt anti-Semitism in the Conservapedia entries on Einstein, the ones on relativity are redolent with the old arguments. For instance, Schlafly writes: “The theory ... is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.”
Greg Gbur, assistant professor of physics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, argued in his blog, Skulls in the Stars, that if you “replace ‘liberals’ with ‘Jews’ in [that] sentence,” the words might as well have been written by a Nazi circa 1930s-era Germany.
In an effort to discredit Einstein’s theories, Schlafly provides a list of about two dozen “counterexamples.” Scientists looking at the list say many are irrelevant, some misinterpret the science and many are flat wrong. The latter category, they say, includes Schlafly’s claim that no useful devices have been “developed based on any insights provided by the theory; no lives have been saved or helped, and the theory has not led to other useful theories and may have interfered with scientific progress.”
Almost everyone who has had a PET (positron emission tomography) scan in a hospital, or who has undergone radiation therapy for cancer or who has turned on a particle accelerator has used the theory of special relativity, says historian and physicist Michael Riordan, adjunct professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. If you have a GPS navigation system in your car, Einstein is guiding you, Riordan said.
That E=mc2 is wrong surely would have surprised the physicists at the Manhattan Project who used it to develop the atomic bombs that destroyed two Japanese cities.
“There is no controversy,” Riordan said. “The theory isn’t wrong; it’s incomplete and has refinements that might or might not be true.”
Gbur says that Schlafly uses a technique known in rhetoric as the “Gish Gallop” (named for biochemist Duane Tolbert Gish, a creationist debater who employed it), which Gbur defines as “throw as many claims out there as possible, regardless of the validity, with the realization that most people will be swayed by the amount of evidence and not look too closely at the details.” Schlafly piles on statement after statement, footnote after footnote, and even stacks impressive mathematical formulas and jargon to support his claims. Some of the references are simply self-references, and some have nothing to do with the argument.
Meanwhile, physicists are expressing mixed feelings about how to react. Several refused to comment for this story because they did not want to give Schlafly credibility. But Clifford Will, professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis, did weigh in.
“The Internet world is full of kooks and crackpots who put out all kinds of drivel. It is pointless to attempt to refute these people with evidence, because they don’t believe in evidence,” Will wrote in an e-mail from Paris.
“…People may not like relativity,” he wrote, “but the experimental and observational evidence that supports it is so overwhelming that it is now a fact of the universe.”
August 17, 2010 | 6:37 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
The Saul & Joyce Brandman Foundation has donated $8 million to name a new teaching laboratory building at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Edmond J. Safra campus in Givat Ram, Israel, American Friends of The Hebrew University (AFHU) recently announced. The Saul (z”l) and Joyce Brandman Science Laboratories will provide cutting-edge research facilities for chemistry, biology, physics and pharmacology programs at the university.
“Joyce Brandman takes a remarkable, hands-on approach to philanthropic leadership, helping people as close by as Los Angeles and as far away as South America and Israel. Whether the cause is healthcare, education or the well-being of the Jewish people, Joyce works to improve and save lives, encouraging us all to deepen our commitment to others,” said Richard Ziman, AFHU Western Region board chair.
The foundation lends support to hundreds of charities in the United States and Israel, including Hebrew University, Chapman University, Brandman University, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Our House, Jewish Free Loan and the L.A. Jewish Home, where it funded a loan program for new nurses and recently provided initial funding for the Home’s new Brandman Pace program for all-inclusive senior day care.
L.A. philanthropist Joyce Brandman, who became president of The Saul & Joyce Brandman Foundation in 2009 following the death of her husband, says her mission is to run the foundation doing what Saul would have wanted and carrying on the legacy of tzedakah that they forged together.
The Brandmans have donated more than $10 million to the university in the past 25 years, providing scholarships for dozens of students and helping to build the new Scopus Student Village.
August 16, 2010 | 7:48 am
Posted by Adam Wills
UCLA professor and Journal columnist Judea Pearl has won the Rumelhart Prize from the Cognitive Science Society for his research in artificial intelligence and systems that reason plausibly from uncertain evidence. The prize, which carries a $100,000 monetary award, is given to researchers who have made the greatest contributions to determining how our minds work. The announcement was made during the group’s annual meeting, CogSci 2010, in Portland, Ore., Aug. 12-14.
Pearl’s work on graphical models addresses the dynamics of beliefs and the analysis of causality. Graphical models have had a transformative impact across many disciplines—including statistics, machine learning, epidemiology and psychology—and they are the foundation of the recent emergence of a branch of cognitive science representing probabilistic relationships, such as those between symptoms and diseases, and skills and earnings. Pearl has pioneered the development of graphical models, including a class of graphical models known as Bayesian networks, which can be used to represent and draw inferences from probabilistic knowledge in a highly transparent and computationally efficient way.
“Dr. Pearl’s path-breaking work has been enormously influential. He provides one of the most prominent hypotheses about the workings of the human mind, and has helped reinvigorate causality research,” William Bechtel, Rumelhart Prize committee member and philosophy professor at the University of California at San Diego, said in a statement. “People often say, ‘You can’t derive causation from correlation.’ But Dr. Pearl’s research shows that you can logically determine causal relations from correlations if you have many interrelated variables and you make some minimal assumptions about how causal processes operate. The Cognitive Science Society is proud to recognize our esteemed colleague and the very high bar he has set with his research achievements.”
“Given that our knowledge of the world is important primarily because it serves as the basis for action, building a theory of causality is, I believe, of central importance to understanding human cognition,” Pearl said. “The inspiration for my works came from cognitive science and from the 1970s papers of David Rumelhart, while the applicability of my research is in part thanks to collaboration I’ve received within the robotics, statistical and epidemiology communities. I’m honored to receive the Rumelhart Prize and accept this recognition in the spirit of continued collaboration with other facets of science that are helping solve the ever-fascinating mysteries of how the mind works.”
August 10, 2010 | 10:36 am
Posted by Adam Wills
Dead Sea Scrolls scholar Bruce Zuckerman, a USC religion and linguistics professor, is using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) to examine Dead Sea Scroll fragments. According to a recent article in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Zuckerman is hoping to take his tech to Fort Worth, Texas later this month to record a fragment collection.
Last August, Zuckerman and other West Semitic Research Project (WSRP) members took their advanced imaging methods to a Syrian Orthodox church in Teaneck, N.J., where they photographed scroll fragments that have been locked inside the church’s vault since 1949, two years after the discovery of the scrolls in a Judaean desert cave.
While the primary aim of the project is to ensure the conservation of the fragments, the team is also getting to see the scrolls in an all new light, revealing details about its origins.
Inside his office at USC, Zuckerman, professor of religion and linguistics, pulled up some of the New Jersey Dead Sea Scrolls images on his computer screen. Written in carbon-based ink on parchment (possibly from a goat), many of the ancient Hebrew letters were indecipherable in conventional photos.
At his computer, Zuckerman examined a high-resolution image with Marilyn Lundberg, associate director of WSRP. Lundberg’s husband, John Melzian, along with Kenneth Zuckerman built the equipment enabling them to apply the cutting-edge photographic methods, originally developed by the Hewlett-Packard Company.
“Technology like this has never been used on the Dead Sea Scrolls until now,” Bruce Zuckerman said. “This New Jersey project was the first [in which] we were able to apply our method to such large fragments.”
Founded in the early 1980s by Zuckerman and his brother, Kenneth, WSRP was the first to use polynomial texture mapping (PTM) to photograph the Dead Sea Scrolls, in addition to the standard practice of taking color and infrared images. The PTM technology uses the data from images taken at many different light angles to show the texture of the fragments’ surface.
Examining one fragment, part of a liturgical prayer, the pair spotted a tiny fleck on the first character in the word Adonai (Lord). They wondered whether the dot was parchment over the character, or a tiny hole scraped off the ink. Because the image had been photographed from every conceivable angle, the computer software program allowed them to see the fragment in many combinations of light and shadow. A click of the mouse on an image acted like a flashlight, revealing the tiniest of details.
Shining their virtual “flashlight” on the character, examining the texture of the skin, they concluded that a tiny bit of ink had flecked off the surface. At closer inspection, it also appeared the scribe had slightly messed up the ink stroke and made a correction.
“This technology gives us more information than we ever thought was possible,” Zuckerman said, adding that his students are also using the method to analyze the scrolls. “The information about the skin and the ink was unexpected. This gives us great hope for research of the future.”
Several offices in USC’s Ahmanson Center are filled with the futuristic-looking machinery Zuckerman’s team has created and uses to photograph ancient inscriptions. One contraption, dubbed the Twister, takes photos of an object perched on a turntable that revolves 360 degrees. Two other apparatuses nicknamed the Big Dome and Little Dome look like large black top hats adorned with red, white and blue wires. When artifacts are placed inside, photos are taken with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) staged in various angles.
Another room holds the Tarantula, a bigger, more powerful version of the domes with elements of the Twister. Lights are affixed throughout the seven-by-six foot gizmo. While lights turn on in succession, a camera shoots photos of an object balanced on a revolving turntable in the center.
“This is humanities enabled by science, by technology,” Zuckerman said. “As technology evolves, the line between humanities and science will continue to blur.”
Referring to the research that came out of New Jersey, Zuckerman told the New Jersey Jewish Standard, “We were very pleased; it was a complete surprise”:
The aim was to get a detailed picture of the texture of the skin of the scroll in order to gauge its condition primarily for purposes of conservation. Zuckerman also thought he might learn more about the hair follicle patterns on the skin.
Pointing out that every skin is unique, “like a fingerprint,” Zuckerman said he hoped the technique might tell his team what kind of animal was used for the scrolls and would allow them to match fragments based on common patterns of follicles.
Shooting a series of 32 images at different light angles—later combining them into a master image allowing him to move the light around—Zuckerman found that he could see the skin patterns very clearly.
But even more, after enhancing the reflectivity of the surface, “we realized we could see the thicknesses of the ink strokes on top of the skin. In fact, we could even see the thicknesses of individual ink strokes and see which were made first, second, third.”
This has significant implications for paleography, he said. Scholars traditionally have looked at the overall shape of the letters when studying ancient scripts. With RTI they can see much more, offering tantalizing new possibilities for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
One expert in the field has suggested that more than 50 of the scrolls were written by the same scribe, Zuckerman said.
“She looked at them and evaluated them by eye, but if we could get RTI images of these texts, we would have better empirical evidence to guide and test this kind of expert opinion,” he said.
“It got us all very excited,” he added, noting that his Teaneck team included longtime colleague and West Semitic Research Project associate director Marilyn Lundberg, Yeshiva University history professor Steven Fine and Zuckerman’s brother Kenneth, a technical photographer with some 30 years experience photographing ancient texts, whom he credits with developing many of the techniques used by West Semitic.
Zuckerman said he has done some work with Dead Sea Scroll fragments at Azusa Pacific University in California and hopes by the end of this month to have begun work on a collection in Fort Worth, Texas.
He said he has just begun to test the combination of RTI and infrared imaging. While the latter has proved effective with scrolls, “no one has ever applied both together. We’ve adapted a camera that will allow us to do that.”
Whether his new technology will change the face of scholarship still remains to be determined, said Zuckerman.
“But I am confident that it will change things, that we will have a level and quality of information that we didn’t have before,” he said. “How that plays out in terms of what we learn, I don’t know. We have to take this step by step and see how it goes.”