Revolving Door: Darpa director leaving the Pentagon for…. Google

March 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

In 2010 we reported that Google was moving its headquarters to NASA… Which came first? Google, or the DARPA idea to own a search engine to track and trace everything you think and do?

Reuters / Krishnendu Halder

Reuters / Krishnendu Halder

RT

One of the most top-secret Pentagon departments — the same that spawned America’s drones, military robots, electromagnetic guns and other sci-fi weaponry — is about to lose its top officer to Google.

Regina Dugan oversaw the development of some of the US military’s most marvelous high tech accomplishments as director of Darpa, but the head of the DoD’s research lab is parting ways with the Pentagon to take on a role with Google. Not even three years after she took on the role as the first female director of the America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, Regina Dugan is now walking away to join the ranks of America’s other innovative powerhouse. Dugan will be relinquishing her top roll at the Defense Department’s Darpa program and trading in the Potomac River for Silicon Valley, and says it is a natural decision to move somewhere where the possibilities seem endless. Apparently within the cogs of the war machine, there is only so much left to explore.

Confirming the move to a “senior executive position” with Google, Darpa spokesman Eric Mazzacone tells Wired that Dugan couldn’t refuse an offer with such an “innovative company” as the search engine giant. Until the latest news broke, however, Darpa had been touted as a creative — yet controversial — research lab for space-age technology only once imaginable. Darpa has developed technologies used across the globe that can take away lives and, as seen with cutting-edge robotic limbs, practically create them.

With the Defense Department scaling back on many operations and Google seemingly only growing, Dugan’s departure only makes sense given the timing. Both US President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have thrown their weight behind a shift in the Pentagon’s budget in an effort to save billions over the next few years. Google, on the other hand, has only increased its outreach, operating countless new endeavors and taking on new mediums.

That’s not to say, of course, that Dugan avoided trouble while with Darpa. She has been the subject of an investigation after awarding pricey contracts to a defense research company she partially owns, a deal which prompted the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General to open a probe. Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, a spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, says that the change in command and ongoing investigation into Dugan’s RedX Defense company are unrelated, but aside that there is little known about her career change. On their part, a Google rep tells PC Mag, “Regina is a technical pioneer who brought the future of technology to the military during her time at DARPA,” adding, “She will be a real asset to Google, and we are thrilled she is joining the team.”

In a statement from the Pentagon, Frank Kendall for Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, adds, “Regina Dugan’s leadership at Darpa has been extraordinary and she will be missed throughout the Department.

“We are all very grateful for the many contributions she has made in advancing the technologies that our war fighters depend on.”

Dugan, however, had blasted Darpa for not doing enough only a year earlier. “There is a time and a place for daydreaming. But it is not at Darpa,” she told a congressional panel in March 2011. “Darpa is not the place of dreamlike musings or fantasies, not a place for self-indulging in wishes and hopes. Darpa is a place of doing.”

The transition also raises further questions about what relationship the federal government has with Google. As RT reported yesterday, an advocacy group will be taking the US National Security Agency to court later this month in hopes of finding details on what ties, if any, the NSA has with Google. The NSA has refused to disclose any details in the past that discuss a relationship, despite a series of Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Bloom Box: An Energy Breakthrough?

February 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Sci-Tech

We have seen this work. Its amazing!

 

(CBS)  In the world of energy, the Holy Grail is a power source that’s inexpensive and clean, with no emissions. Well over 100 start-ups in Silicon Valley are working on it, and one of them, Bloom Energy, is about to make public its invention: a little power plant-in-a-box they want to put literally in your backyard.

You’ll generate your own electricity with the box and it’ll be wireless. The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop and cell phones supplanted landlines.

It has a lot of smart people believing and buzzing, even though the company has been unusually secretive – until now.

Full Segment: The Bloom Box
Web Extra: The Magic Box
Web Extra: Plug-In Power Plant
Web Extra: Naming The Bloom Box
Web Extra: A Skeptic’s View

K.R. Sridhar invited “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl for a first look at the innards of the Bloom box that he has been toiling on for nearly a decade.

Looking at one of the boxes, Sridhar told Stahl it could power an average U.S. home.

“The way we make it is in two blocks. This is a European home. The two put together is a U.S. home,” he explained.

“‘Cause we use twice as much energy, is that what you’re saying?” Stahl asked.

“Yeah, and this’ll power four Asian homes,” he replied.

“So four homes in India, your native country?” Stahl asked.

“Four to six homes in our country,” Sridhar replied.

“It sounds awfully dazzling,” Stahl remarked.

“It is real. It works,” he replied.

He says he knows it works because he originally invented a similar device for NASA. He really is a rocket scientist.

“This invention, working on Mars, would have allowed the NASA administrator to pick up a phone and say, ‘Mr. President, we know how to produce oxygen on Mars,’” Sridhar told Stahl.

“So this was going to produce oxygen so people could actually live on Mars?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Sridhar replied.

When NASA scrapped that Mars mission, Sridhar had an idea: he reversed his Mars machine. Instead of it making oxygen, he pumped oxygen in.

He invented a new kind of fuel cell, which is like a very skinny battery that always runs. Sridhar feeds oxygen to it on one side, and fuel on the other. The two combine within the cell to create a chemical reaction that produces electricity. There’s no need for burning or combustion, and no need for power lines from an outside source.

In October 2001 he managed to get a meeting with John Doerr from the big Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

“How much do you think, ‘I need to come up with the next big thing’?” Stahl asked Doerr.

“Oh, that’s my job,” he replied. “To find entrepreneurs who are going to change the world and then help them.”

Doerr has certainly changed our world: he’s the one who discovered and funded Netscape, Amazon and Google. When he listened to Sridhar, the idea seemed just as transformative: efficient, inexpensive, clean energy out of a box.

“But Google: $25 million. This man said, ‘How much money?’” Stahl asked.

“At the time he said over a hundred million dollars,” Doerr replied.

But according to Doerr that was okay.

“So nothing he said scared you?” Stahl asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t at all sure it could be done,” he replied.

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