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August 22, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Laws Challenged in Court

  |   Video
  • Legal challenges to the “Papers Please” section of SB 1070 and the Arizona Legislature’s sweep of $50 million from a mortgage settlement fund were heard in court this week. Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services talks about the hearings and explains what the cases are all about.
  • Howard Fischer - Reporter, Capitol Media Services
Category: Law   |   Keywords: SB, 1070, SB1070, law, papers please, court, legislature, ,

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Ted Simons: Two court cases of note this week. The first deals with what some refer to as the papers please section of SB-1070, the other involves a legislature sweep of a mortgage relief fund. And here to talk about both cases is Howard Fischer of Capitol Media services.

Howard Fischer: This is the section that says if you stop somebody as police officer and have reasonable suspicion there in this country illegally you must check their immigration status. The Obama administration sued over 1070 and got an injunction from Judge Bolton. The Supreme Court upheld most of it except for this section saying we can't say as a preemptive challenge that this is preempted by federal law. Now we're back in court with groups like the ACLU and National Immigration Law center saying we believe the only way you can enforce 1070 would be biased against Hispanics and it would lead to racial profiling, and therefore, back to Judge Bolton. We would like a new injunction to keep this from taking effect before the Supreme Court court order kicks in.

Ted Simons: The Supreme Court’s ruling, didn't that basically open the door to once the law is enacted works, once the injunction is lifted, then you can challenge?

Howard Fischer: It was very clear. If you listen to the judges who argued this they said how do we determine how this is going to be brought into effect? If you want to come back afterwards and call it as applied challenge and say you have racial profiling, do that. That's the big hurdle these folks have. They contend that based on activities of Joe Arpaio even before the law is in effect, statements of racial animus, emails by Russell Pearce, they can show this is racially biased. I think the judge is having a hard time with that saying, look, you have no victims here. You have nobody who is under immediate threat of harm, which is the standard for an injunction.

Ted Simons: What about the judge looking at the idea of just me checking your identification prolongs detention and is thus unconstitutional?

Howard Fischer: Well, again, the U.S. Supreme Court, when they looked at this said, “Add some specific case. How do we know?” Judge Bolton said, “Well, is a 35 minute stop too long? Well it depends if a 35 minutes was what you needed to write them the traffic ticket and check out the tires, then you shouldn’t go ahead say that's too long.

Ted Simons: Any timetable for a decision?

Howard Fischer: No. The judge is running up against a deadline because she still hasn't complied with the Supreme Court order that says dissolve the earlier injunction. I would assume within the next three, four days we may get an order on this one.

Ted Simons: Okay, let's talk about the mortgage settlement fund. What is that? What did the legislature try to do or want to do or successfully do and who is trying to block that?

Howard Fischer: Last year, actually early this year, there was a multi-state settlement with five big lenders who were accused of mortgage fraud. They said, “Well we didn't do it and we won't do it again,” your standard language. Arizona got a big chunk of that. Most of that goes directly to home owners who lost their homes so they can get a cash settlement or to people who will get help to refinance their homes. State got 97 million for its own damages. Tim Hogan contends that 97 million is supposed to help people navigate the system; help with housing counseling, attorneys, everything else. The legislature took 50 million of that during the session, said, you know, the state itself was damaged by the action of the mortgage lenders, so we're going to use it to balance the budget. Hogan sued. The hearing today in court in front of judge Mark Brain was over the question of what does that language mean when the state Attorney General Tom Horne said I'll put it into a trust fund, did that allow him to say, “Well the legislature can take it?”

Ted Simons: Sounds like Missouri, Wisconsin, a couple of states, have already done this, lawmakers say, “Yes, the settlements is supposed to be for housing related reasons.” We lost a lot of revenue and a lot of public funds for housing related reasons. The housing market took a dump.

Howard Fischer: But the problem is that you have two problems. A, was it the activities of these five lenders in those robo signings that caused it. B, Tom Horne agreed to language setting up a trust fund. That makes him the trustee which basically precludes the legislature from saying we're going to take this for our own purposes.

Ted Simons: The judge was pretty public about his statements, Attorney General Horne was. Is that being used for evidence and how serious is that being considered?

Howard Fischer: It was funny because when Horne's attorney said, “You know, Your Honor, my client agreed to this” and the judge basically said, “oh, and you're going to tell me he did it willingly?”

Ted Simons: Timetable on this one?

Howard Fischer: Timetable probably several weeks because there is no rush. The state agreed not to transfer the funds before the end of the year, so it gives Judge Brain a little bit of time.

Ted Simons: Well we are going to have a little bit more time to talk about this on Friday's show. Thanks for joining us.

Howard Fischer: You're welcome.

Lawrence Krauss on Physics

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  • Internationally-famous physicist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University will talk about physics, with topics ranging from the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle to the Mars “Curiosity” rover.
  • Lawrence Krauss - Physicist, ASU
Category: Science   |   Keywords: Krauss, physics, rover, mars, science, ,

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Ted Simons: What is the Higgs-Boson? Has it really been found and where was it hiding? For the answer to those and other current science questions I spoke earlier today with noted ASU physicist Lawrence Krauss. Always good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Lawrence Krauss: Always great to be here.

Ted Simons: I want to talk about the Higgs-Boson, but the last time you were on, you took off, and a few days later the Higgs-Boson explodes. I want to get your thoughts on that because we got you back. Before all that since you have been gone, we landed on Mars. We got this curiosity mission. What are you, a theoretical physicist, looking for in a mission like this?

Lawrence Krauss: It's incredibly exciting. I was more excited I think when this thing landed. I was in Australia right in fact where the signals come in and are relayed from deep space network in Australia. I was as excited as I had been since the moon landing. It was neat to watch. The really exciting thing about this mission, in principle, is it will tell us if the conditions for life once existed on Mars. What I'm excited about is the possibility I expect we will discover evidence of at least past life on Mars, but the big surprise would be if it weren't our cousins. Because what we have discovered is no planet is an Island. Material from Mars comes to earth, gets knocked out by meteors, and makes its voyage to Earth. We find Martian meteorites in Antarctica. It goes the other direction. Microbes can exist inside rocks, so if there's life on one planet it could easily pollute the other. Since Mars probably was hotter and wetter in really early times, perhaps the life on Earth originated on Mars. So if you want to know what Martians look like, you just look in the mirror. [laughter] For me I would be very excited ultimately if there's evidence of life on Mars. The big surprise would be if it was an independent genesis. That would be amazing. There's lots of questions. If there was water on the surface. We really want to know the conditions. This is really the first mission that can tell us.

Ted Simons: what do we look for as far as daily reports and photographs and all this? The information is flooding in and apparently will flood in for quite a while. When do we say, hey, what's going on?

Lawrence Krauss: NASA is pretty good letting us know. It's going to be slow. In fact it could be -- it's going to be a month I think before the rover starts to move. I was told it might be up to a year before it cracks open the first rock. So there was a really exciting landing but it's ramping up slowly and we just have to be patient. You can go online and see the most amazing images. I was looking at this interactive three-dimensional cam where you can actually look all around the rover and focus on the rover itself. I love it.

Ted Simons: Some of the photographs look like the drive to San Diego.

Lawrence Krauss: in fact it looks like the southwest, doesn't it? Just like Arizona. I don't know if we should publicize that, that Mars looks like Arizona.

Ted Simons: we have had worse things said about us. Let's get to the Higgs-Boson. What is it and where has it been hiding?

Lawrence Krauss: It's been hiding all around us. It's in some sense if it's there and we think it is, the data is remarkable and it's compelling that something has been discovered and the something looks very much like a Higgs. We have to step back. To me it's the cap of the greatest intellectual journey in some sense that humans have ever undertaken. The development of a standard model of particle physics. 40 years ago we understood one of the four forces of nature. Now we understand three. The development of the mathematical theoretical model suggested that two of the four forces in nature which look very different, electromagnetism, responsible for the lights and the television, and the weak interactation, a weak force but energy powers the sun, they look very different. Incredibly different. Electro magnetism operates across the universe. They can be different manifestations of the same force. For that to be true in quantum mechanics the particle that conveys a force, all forces are conveyed by particles and electro magnetism is long range. Because the photon is massless. The particles that convey the weak force are very heavy. They were discovered about 25 years ago and won the Nobel Prize for that. How could two forces, one of which is conveyed by heavy particles, another by massless particles, be manifestations of the same thing. It was so slimey I never believed it was true. The idea was that there's a background invisible field throughout space called the Higgs field, and the W and Z particles interact. Basically all particles are massless. They interact with the Higgs field and get some resistance as they move. Therefore they act like they are very massive. The photon doesn't. It remains massless. Because of that accident, these two forces look very different. Then it didn't take long for physicists to realize if this field is responsible for the mass, maybe it's responsible for mass of all particles. Maybe some particles interact more strongly and behave lighter, some behave lighter. Some don't interact at all.

Ted Simons: How can the photon not interact at all? how can it get through this cosmic molasses?

Lawrence Krauss: The photon doesn't have any charge. The particles, the reason electrons interact with other electrons is they are charged particles, but the photon doesn't have any particles that would allow it to interact. It's saying our existence is an accident. It's a cosmic accident based on this is visible field. That's the subject of religion, maybe but not science. The neat thing quantum mechanics tells us is if you hit that field hard enough within the energy you'll kick out real particles. What we have been looking for 45 years is a machine with the energy to have enough energy focused in a small enough region to basically smack that field hard enough to kick out the real particles.

Ted Simons: are you saying the particle accelerator -- I thought particles collide together. Are you saying the field collided together?

Lawrence Krauss: Fields at a small level, fields and particles are very similar. You take two protons and smash them together with enough energy, you could turn the mass of those protons into enough energy to excite this background Higgs field and kick out real particles. That's the way we're producing we think these Higgs particles. The neat thing is it's a prediction. What made us so excited is the first machine in a generation or more that's had the energy to in principles create the particles that we predicted existed. I was betting they wouldn't exist. The explanation just seemed so pat, the idea there's invisible field throughout nature seemed too easy. I'm amazed. Of course in the United States 25 years ago we would have had another collider if Congress had been at the --

Ted Simons: Arizona was involved in that as well.

Lawrence Krauss: at the time they said it just cost too much money. It was $5 billion, which is the air conditioning in Iraq for one day.
Ted Simons: Back to the collider and what we saw there, did we see -- are we seeing new particles develop when these two particles collide in the accelerator?
Lawrence Krauss: Each of those collisions produces sometimes thousands of particles because so much energy turns into matter.

Ted Simons: does that suggestiest what happened at the big bang?
Lawrence Krauss: It takes us closer to the origin of the big bang. It takes us back to about a millionth of a millionth of a second after the big bang. That's really excited because we think one of the things we have talked about in the past is that this galaxy is dominated by the stuff called dark matter, which we think is a new type of elementary particle created in the very early universe and these particles are left over that dominate the universe today. The neat thing about the large head Ron collider is if it can recreate those conditions in a very small region it may create the particles that make up the dark matters. We may not have to build detectors to discover it directly. We may create them with the large Hadron collider. It's a race.

Ted Simons: The dark matter comes to light as it were.

Lawrence Krauss: exactly. We're very excited about that.

Ted Simons: last question. Got to get going here. We could talk for so long. It's amazing stuff. But it seems to me everyone got excited. We almost think we sort of maybe found it. Did they finds it or not?

Lawrence Krauss: We're very conservative. They have looked at billions and billions of collisions and seen 80 events. What's clear is we discovered a new particle. We discovered a new particle and that particle appears to have the properties of the Higgs-Boson but we're very conservative because this is such an important discovery to say you've discovered this particle that really is responsible for our existence to be wrong would be embarrassing. It quacks like a duck and walks like a duck but we're going to wait to see if it's a duck. We don't have to wait long because the large Hadron collider is currently taking data. It's going to have three times more data than before that discovery that will allow us to test the properties of the particle. By the ends of the year the large Hadron collider is turning off for two years for an upgrade. So stay tuned.

Ted Simons: we'll try to get you back to talk more about this and other things like your relationship with Woody Allen. You're palling around with Woody Allen now. we'll talk about that. Thanks for being here.

Lawrence Krauss: Always great to be here.

Tech & Innovation: Hardened Computer Chips

  |   Video
  • Tucson-area company Ridgetop has won two $1 million contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop special computer chips hardened by radioactivity. The analog-to-digital signal processor chips will be used in particle accelerators. Doug Goodman, Ridgetop’s Founder and CEO, will discuss his company’s chips.
  • Doug Goodman - Founder and CEO, Ridgetop
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: technology, innovation, computer, chip, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight in our continuing coverage of Arizona technology and innovation we look at Ridgetop, a Marana based company working with the U.S. Department of Energy to produce radiation hardened computer chips to be used in particle accelerators similar to the one that discovered the Higgs-Boson. Here to talk about his company's work is Doug Goodman, Ridgetop's founder and CEO. Good to have you here.

Doug Goodman: thanks very much.

Ted Simons: Couple of million dollar contracts from the Department of Energy for what?

Doug Goodman: What we do is the problem is to convert analog sensor data to digital form. So it can be processed and the artifacts that Dr. Krause was talking about can be extracted. We convert analog to digital and we have to do it in a way that is radiation hardened, which means that incident radiation will tend to degrade electronics, semi conductors in general. What we have to do is apply mitigation measures to make sure that the chip we make doesn't degrade. It retains its measurement accuracy, its dynamic range, linearity. All these specifications are preserved in the presence of radiation.

Ted Simons: This is the kind of thing you wouldn't need for run of the mill, every day computer chip operations, but when you're talking about a particle accelerator, medical devices, you need this kind of protection.

Doug Goodman: that's correct. Space electronics. One of the issues in space is that once you get outside the earth's atmosphere the magnetosphere protects us. It shields the terrestrial component. What we have is a way of hardening these chips when they are used in critical environments. If you have a cell phone or tablet it's not as critical as it is in a system that is used for magnetic resonance imaging or have a system on the large Hadron collider or in space electronics. It really requires additional attention. But the interesting thing is that as process geometries have gotten smaller and smaller it's open up the opportunity to make things faster and faster conversion speed. To get the degree of fidelity they need to look at these arcane collisions that occur requires that we get the measurement very, very close to where the collisions occur, which increases radiation and preserve the speed, the linearity, all these kinds of specks that come into it.

Ted Simons: Basically they did digital at a faster speed and protecting not only the information but the chips themselves.

Doug Goodman: That's correct. It stems from the chips themselves are populate circuit boards and the circuit boards go on racks. If you look at the large Hadron collider or any of these, they are immense in size. They have to make these precise measurements. A lot of the types of collisions are rare and hard to capture. Extremely sensitive electronics. That's what Ridgetop provides. We actually got started by looking at physics failure of these devices when we started the company 12 years ago. We collaborated closely with Arizona State University with researchers over there. It's wonderful to work with ASU and the people there and kick around ideas and find ways to make electronics more robust.

Ted Simons: That relationship is develop, correct? You're heading out toward Polytech now to…

Doug Goodman: At this time I'm very impressed with what ASU has done over the years in growing the micro electronics component which is the world we live in at Ridgetop, but the group that we're dealing with primarily is in Tempe. There's a lot of expansion plans out in east County. We're opening a design center in Mesa for Ridgetop. We're actively hiring mixed signal engineers, digital to analog or analog to digital. We have a lot of growth plans for east County.

Ted Simons: we were talking about before we got into the contracts and the whole idea of data to Department of Education tall, there was, I guess there still is, a canary in the coal mine aspect to what your company does. Are you basically stamping shelf life on to computer chips and certain sensitive electronic information?

Doug Goodman: In the case of what we call prognostic canaries it allows us to credit received structures on the chip. It will give you early warning of an impending failure. This is really important if you're in an avionics or aircraft situation where you want to switch to a backup system quickly and seamlessly or more recently what's happened in prognotics is what you hear about on Wall Street, millisecond level trades, at the speed of trading securities, there was a meltdown in the Tokyo stock exchange recently. All these kinds of things where electronics are getting pushed into areas that they didn't exist before. They are being taxed, being pushed. There's high power dissipation. There's heat, there's performance parameters. All these things can drift and change with time. What Ridgetop has done is we have worked very hard with our research staff to categorize the types of failures and types of degradation metrics and create specialized structures that provide just what you said.

Ted Simons: These are literally built in signals.

Doug Goodman: That's correct.

Ted Simons: in these instruments.

Doug Goodman: That's right. You can apply prognostics in a general sense. We have a five-level model where you start with a dye level like with the collider particle accelerator. There's a package level, there's board level, module level, up to system level. There's signatures that you can extract that indicate the degradation that's going to happen on the system, whatever you've targeted. Each of those five levels. As a company we started at the dye level where people were saying these semi conductors don't have a 60-year life any more. It's down to less than ten, less than eight. It's getting to the point where there's irreversible damage that occurs. People with cellphones shouldn't worry because there's a refresh every year or two on those. But in critical systems it's absolutely critical that when people are putting electronic control systems in harsh environments that they are aware of these things and Ridgetop provides that.

Ted Simons: Almost sounds like the reverse of Moore's law. The chips are becoming less and less lengthy in duration.

Doug Goodman: yes. So there's a corresponding thing a lot of people don't talk about. People do talk about Moore's law getting smaller and smaller, channel lengths down to 20 in animators, down in the Nano range. What happens then is there's a corresponding increase in the kinds of damaging effects that can crop up. People, system designers that are going to use these chips really have to understand what they are doing in that area, what the vulnerabilities are. We have also created at Ridgetop instruments that allow people to do some of that testing themselves. So we're working with a lot of people in the commercial sector saying, okay, it answers the question, how long will this chip live? That's really what it comes down to.

Ted Simons: Well, it's interesting stuff. Congratulations on your success down there and good luck in future endeavors. Good to have you on. Thanks for joining us.

Doug Goodman: Thank you.

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.