tv Press Here NBC July 17, 2011 9:00am-9:30am PDT
in a region full of brilliant people, dr. paul alivisatos is unique. he is the director of lawrence berkeley national laboratories in charge of thousands of scientists behind hundreds of discoveries. and later, the gadget-loving 007. he's a silicon valley favorite. best-selling author jeffrey deaver tries to fill ian fleming's shoes as the next "james bond" author. reporters from the bbc cbs, maggie shiels and jon swartz
this week on "press:here." >> good evening, i'm scott mcgrew. every laboratory in the world, i am sure, has the periodic table of elements hanging on the wall. they certainly do at lawrence berkeley national laboratories. in fact, if you look very closely at that table, you'll find elements like berklium, californiaium and nobelium. scientists at lawrence berkeley lab have discovered more than a dozen elements, including plutonium. 11 of those scientists have won the nobel prize. from just one building on the university of california campus at berkeley called the radiation laboratory, or rad lab, the laboratory has expanded to a staff of more than 4,000. many of the things you know, you know from their research, from the comet that destroyed the dinosaurs to good and bad cholesterol to the mysterious existence of dark energy that
makes up most of our universe. all of those ideas started at lawrence berkeley. paul alivisatos is the director of lawrence berkeley national laboratory. he replaced the outgoing director, steven chu, who became the secretary of energy. thomson reuters says dr. alivisatos is one of the best chemists in the world, and he is the author of scientifically important papers like "air stable, all inorganic nano crystal processed by solution" joined by jon swartz of "usa today" and maggie shiels of the bbc. i e-mailed that paper to you. did you get a chance to read it. >> passed the title -- >> neither did i. it's a good read. i don't normally, doctor, start by asking somebody to explain their chart, but explain to us where this lab falls. who owns it, who runs it, how is
it different than lawrence livermore laboratories, which is also a famous laboratory in california. >> sure. >> run us through that which i'm sure is a common confusion. >> sure. so, lawrence berkeley national lab is part of the university of california. it's a lab that was started in 1931 with the inconvention of the cyclotron, and a lot of wonderful research was done there, as your intro indicated. but today, it's a laboratory that does no classified research at all. dominantly, we do research in areas like astrophysics, renewable energy especially, energy efficiency and renewable energy, and various areas of biology. we're run by the university of california, and our dominant sponsor for our research is the u.s. department of energy. >> and that's a little bit of a confusion to me. who's your boss? your funder is the doe, but your --
>> that's right. i report directly to president mark udoff, president of the university of california. >> i thought you were going to say a different president. >> well, he's influential, too. >> no, to the president of the university of california. i report to him directly. it's analogous as if i were chancellor of one of the campuses of the university of california. >> okay. >> that's the position that i hold. but of course, the department of energy is the dominant funder of our research, and we're operated in what's called a kind of goco model, government-owned, contractor-operated. so, really, the department of energy runs a number of laboratories, 17 around the country, different laboratories in that mode, where the research is done for the federal government, but typically operated by a contractor, who then operates the laboratory to make sure that it's effective in its use of resources and so on. >> is it possible the university of california could lose such a contract? that it could be run by the university of -- >> sure, periodically, the
contract will be recompeted. for example, when my predeces r predecessor, steven chu, was the laboratory director, we went through a competition. but of course, the relationship between the university of california, and specifically, the berkeley campus and our laboratory has been very deep for many decades. >> it would be tough for stanford to take over, yeah. >> well, it would be, though we have a great relationship with the president of stanford. >> i'm sure you do. for those of you who haven't been on campus, the campus buildings -- >> yeah, they're really integrated. and about 300 of the berkeley faculty, their research is very, very strongly tied with what goes on at the lab as well as a couple thousand graduate students. their research is really tied in very deeply with what goes on at the laboratory. so, it's a very deep relationship there. and over the decades, you know, the federal government has benefited enormously from that relationship. many of the laboratories, like, say, los alamos or some of those, were put purposefully because of the topics they were working on in rather remote
locations. our laboratory is really deeply integrated into the bay area scene, and that makes us special. >> that's what i was going to ask you. since your proximity to silicon valley, does that mean you primarily concentrate on tech-related research, or is it beyond that, or are there specific areas in tech you look at? >> yeah. i mean, we have very specific interactions with the whole bay area kind of technology system, and specifically, in energies would be our biggest focus. >> okay. >> but also in biosciences and a variety of biotechnology areas, we have a lot of connection. >> do you say you work closely with certain industries in those? can you mention a few of them? >> we do. we have a lot of types of interactions. for example, there are a lot of small companies that have spun out over the years from the laboratory. if a scientist has an invention and they want to develop it, but we also have interactions with the large industry players. intel, for example, runs at our laboratory a specialized facility for fabricating far out, several generations ahead chips, which then eventually may find their way into your
computers. they run a facility like that at our laboratory, as an example. >> so, who benefits in that kind of case then, if you're working with a for-profit company? who gets the intellectual property, who gets the money if you produce a product in collaboration with a company that goes on to be involved in a computer and sales or whatever? >> yes. yeah, there's different interests depending on the specific circumstance. for example in that intel example, they're using the advance lights for a syncotron. it's a specialized facility generated by the department of energy for broad use of scientists, and typically, that's open for scientists to use if they're at a university or another national lab at no cost to them, but if there's a for-profit entity that wants to use it in a proprietary way, then they'll pay for, you know, for full cost recovery in order to use the facility. >> so they kind of pay for the license or something? >> they pay for the use. >> they pay for the time and the use and maybe sometimes they'll build some infrastructure around
it that then others can use. so, there's typically a relationship like that, but we'll also license out technology from the laboratory. and in that case, the university of california owns the license. >> so, we hear stanford and google, yahoo! surface through student projects, but has there been a example you can share with us, maybe an idea that blossomed into a company itself that was independent that was spun out, in a sense, from your lab? >> well, you know, there are a number of things that are out there, and sometimes the model has not been specifically putting it into a company like that. but for example, we've been involved for many years, actually, since the mid-1970s, in studies of energy efficiency. so, there are aspects of energy efficiency that you would find in, you know, in use in a very, very widespread way, because what the laboratory did in that case was rather than trying to stake out a specific position in owning a technology, was just to make it very widely available and to teach everybody how to do that, you know? so, sometimes we'll do that kind of thing.
>> well, rephrasing of jon's question is kids come out of stanford and other schools and go off and create these companies. the brightest guys over at cal, it sounds like, you're able to hold on to. >> well -- >> and the reverse of that question would be, say there's a brilliant mathematician and his choices are to go to work for you or to go to work for google. >> yes. >> how do you get him? because -- >> how do you keep him, too? >> math is math. he can do it for google or do it for you. >> especially these companies offering shares, free foods, dry cleaning. >> yes. how's your cafeteria? >> it's developing. we'll get better at it as time goes on, if not very competitive, i'm sure, with what you would experience at google. look, why do people stay at berkeley lab? they do it because it's an incredibly exciting intellectual experience to be part of that. and we are engaged really in
larger-scale team science, typically to try to, frankly, look at the questions which we believe are sort of the deepest ones that society faces or -- >> what are those questions? >> well, for example, today we're deeply engaged in issues of global sustainability and understanding issues of climate change and renewable energy. >> a passion -- >> people are deeply engaged in that. it means a great deal to them to be a part of that. so that's one reason people might stay. but we also have groups, for example, working on problems in astrophysics and they're excited about trying to understand the origins of the universe, what gives mass and things like that. >> you might say google is not studying, but they started to. i mean, google's sending probes to the moon, or so they say. >> yes. >> is there something -- is it just the pure science that motivates people to stay? >> yes. i would say at a place like berkeley lab, what will excite people is a combination of the fact that it's a scientifically really exciting environment. >> i think the culture probably is different than if you work for a classic company, where you
get caught up in the bureaucracy or the decision-making process. so, in a sense, the longer you're there, probably at the lab, the more influence or input you would have. >> yeah. a lab like ours will thrive on a combination of things. one thing we would need are individuals who have really strong desire to have an impact on an intellectual topic, and over a time they'll get really good at it. >> that's a primary reason people usually leave places like google, they don't have much control and want to spin something off, so they start a company and then google buys the company, of course. >> you're at google again! >> every time they try to leave, they're sucked back in. >> but companies like google for an example, since we're picking that, they do take some amazing people to work at the company and work on ei projects and stuff. >> and that's a huge step for us. >> and that has to be a sexy draw for people working in your science. >> why is that like that? >> we have people who work for google or companies around the bay area. we're pleased to see that. it's not always going to be a
one-way kind of thing. we'll also have, occasionally, people will be coming back to us. we have some employees who have come to us from google, actually, specifically, because they reach a certain point in their career where there was something they wanted to be do, which could be done at our laboratory. you know, i don't really view it that these things are in clear opposition to each other. >> sure. >> they're very different career choices, and we offer, i think, the very best of what you can do in this type of a national laboratory kind of environment. >> can i ask you, because of the whole kind of berkeley relationship on the president of berkeley being your boss, so to speak, how do you feed back into the education of future scientists and to students at berkeley? >> yeah. well, in many, many ways -- first of all, as i mentioned to you, many, many students who are graduate students, who are doing research, learning how to do research, their research is done at the laboratory because we have specialized, unique facilities or very interesting problems for them to work on. so, that's one way.
and of course, we have many of our staff engaged in issues that might relate to undergraduate education on the berkeley campus in different ways, but the lab does much more than that. for example, every fifth grader in the east bay comes and tours our advanced light source. and i welcome you to come and visit it some time. >> it sounds like fun! >> it's an amazing place. it's a very large dome that houses it, and when you come into it, it looks like an ordinary building, but when you open it up and you look inside -- actually, it was in the movie "the hulk." >> oh, wow. >> there's one scene at the beginning of "the hulk," where he plummets into -- >> the good hulk or the bad one? >> i think it was the good hulk. i didn't really see the movie. i just saw that one clip. but at that point, it's filmed there because it's this giant, circular facility with all these instruments hanging off of it, scientific instruments. and you open the door, and am i in the movies? so, all the fifth graders from
berkeley will come in. the doors are open and they're kind of pushing and jostling. and then they're very quiet because they look and they think wow, because i've never seen anything like this. >> you mentioned the moviescoupmovies a couple of times. have you ever worked as consultants for movies? >> a couple of times. a few films have been made on the site over the years and occasionally we have helped thinking about some technical issues, or they want to have some, you know -- we've had some textbooks that were written at the lab that kind of showed up in "spider-man," for example, where there's a cameo appearance of one of our textbooks. >> was one of them "air stable --." >> dr. alivisatos, that's the time we have this morning. thank you very much for being with us this morning. >> thank you. well, silicon valley has a special affection for gadget-loving james bond. coming up, author jeffrey deaver
tries to fill ian fleming's tools with "james bond." ore and. the world needs more energy. where's it going to come from? ♪ that's why right here, in australia, chevron is building one of the biggest natural gas projects in the world. enough power for a city the size of singapore for 50 years. what's it going to do to the planet? natural gas is the cleanest conventional fuel there is. we've got to be smart about this. it's a smart way to go. ♪
"press:here." in 1952, a reporter named ian fleming created one of the most memorable characters the world has ever seen. >> i admire your luck, mr.? >> bond. james bond. >> only five other authors have been hand-picked to write "bond" novels. latest is by jeffrey deaver, called "carte blanche: a reimagining of bond as a young veteran of the war in afghanistan." "the washington post" calls it gory, manic and impeccably removed. jeffrey deaver joins me this morning, the author of an astounding 28 novels, best known for lincoln rime in "the bone collector." thank you for being with me. >> good to be here. >> this must be a tremendous honor, even for a guy who had written 27 previous books, a little bit of pressure. >> i can't tell you, first of
all, how excited i was. i began reading the bond books when i was about 8 years old. yes, a little young, you may think. but remember, back in the 1950s, even thrillers of the sort that ian fleming wrote were, you know, they were kind of euphemistically written. most of the romance occurred off camera, the violence was rather subdued, and an 8-year-old boy could just enjoy the adventure story of the knight errant going after the dragon, whether he was blofeld or goldfinger or dr. no. so, bond was always a part of my life growing up, and i counted ian fleming as an influence when i started writing at, frankly, a very young age, about 11 or 12 i tried my hand at, you know, these crazy thriller novels. so, when the estate contacted me, i thought, first of all, oh, i'm your man. but then i also thought, well, this is a bit of a responsibility. >> a bit of a responsibility? yes. now, a lot of people don't realize that many, not all, but many bond films start as books, and the whole bond concept started as books. >> in fact, as i've toured
around the world for the release of "carte blanche," i had been a little surprised at how many people, frankly, had not heard of ian fleming. >> oh, no! >> who created, as you mentioned in your introduction, james bond, in 1953 with "casino r roya royale," and they say, oh, is that a fact? then they're also sad to learn that, sadly, he passed away at a young age in the mid-1960s. but by then, bond was such an iconic character. i've heard the statistic and i think it's close to accurate, that 1/20 of the world's population has seen a bond movie or read a bond book. that's a lot of people. so the phlefleming estate decido keep this going and i'm the one to do that. >> let's see. does he have a car? >> does a bentley count? a gt? >> is there a woman with a ridiculously provocative name? >> no. >> really?
>> there are, however, three women with ridiculously provocative names. >> well done, mr. deaver, well done. are there gadgets? that's probably what we'll most want to know in silicon valley. >> don't we love gadgets? >> and bond's gadgets, particularly. >> when i was researching the book, i not only looked into the history of espionage in general, but i looked into the technology of espionage, not only in the past. my blackberry has more computing power than existed in the world in 1953. so, i had to come up with some rather imaginative apps that were, let's say based on reality, but hey, i write fiction for a living, right? i can get away with a few, let's call them stretches? >> that's true, because in this day in age, impressing people with the sort of gadgets that james bond would have -- you know, he has a portable tablet. well, wait a minute, everybody's got a portable tablet. >> yeah. >> it gets a little bit more difficult. >> well, you can basically, if you want to be a spy nowadays, go to your local electronics supply store and you can get everything you need, including, you know, encryption programs and everything short of laser
beams for weapons. but i had to have fun with that, and this does bring up a good point. when i sat down to write the book, i thought, well, i have two groups i'm responsible to, my fans around the world -- as you mentioned, the "the bone collector" fans -- and then the james bond fans. and my theory about writing is this is for the readers. you know, i have no patience for authors who say, oh, i have a vision. it's the reader's job to come to me. that's nonsense. people spend a lot of time and money invested in the books that we write, and we owe them a lot. so, i'm thinking, well, if i have to bring bond into the present day, what are people going to want to see? and you mentioned some of them, the iconic elements of the fast car, the lady interests, the gadgets, certainly the exotic locations, which i do bring into "carte blanche," but i think more than that, i needed to make him a likable hero, somebody we could identify with. and i think back to when i was 8 years old, and i thought, well, what really excited me about bond? and that's the spirit that i try
welcome back to "press:here." if you want to loan money in the developing world, you're going to need to figure out who will, or more importantly, who will not pay you back. sherrone mcpherson is a former stockbroker. she earned her jb at columbia university and is currently working with south africa and the rest of sub-saharan africa, helping small businesses and women in particular. thank you for being with us this morning. >> thanks. thank you, scott. thanks for having me. >> what is the biggest challenge? i touched on that, the credit rating of people you are trying to loan money to who have no paper trail whatsoever, right? >> absolutely. i mean, it's a huge challenge across the developing world. as you mentioned, i work primarily in sub-saharan africa, and i don't think it's just
about sort of the credit rating, but certainly, getting your hands on information, data that will help you make an investment decision is a challenge in many markets where that information is disaggregated or it doesn't exist at all. >> the access to capital is there? i mean, is capital flowing into sub-saharan africa, it's a matter of it getting distributed? or is it that there's not enough capital? >> i think it's both. i think, certainly, the rate of return in investment in sub-saharan africa over the past decade was 27%. the only place you could have parked your money and got a better rate was india. and so, it is a great investment destination. i think increasingly, investors are going to realize that. but we still need more investment. we need more direct investment, but we also need better ways at getting the money that is available into the hands of people who are smart, are creative, are entrepreneurial, have technology that can really make a difference on the ground. >> one of the strangest ways
that that might be done is through a handheld device you were telling me about earlier, an hour-long sort of truth detector that becomes your credit report. explain this concept to me. >> well, you could sort of say it's a proxy of sorts, and it actually has been proven to be more predictive than a credit report in terms of helping you to identify certain types of risk. >> so, it's this thing you put in your hand, right? >> it's a thing you put in your hand, and i'd like to take credit for actually inventing the actual handheld device. i'm a funder an an enabler and do a lot of capacity-building. i didn't create the technology that was created by the finance lab guys at harvard. what we have done, though, is we've worked over the past five years to really sort of get our minds around the cognitive science tools that this handheld device is actually based on. >> and so, walk my viewers through it you im this person who has no paper trail. >> right. >> i want access to capital. you hand me this thing and i do
what? >> this is one of the ways we're looking to partner new technology with funding, to increase the access to capital. but basically, what you can do is you can use this device -- it is handheld, the size of a cell phone. you answer a bunch of questions, and basically, this device will help you to answer the questions that it's programmed to answer. so, is this person committed? does this person have high levels of integrity, high levels of honesty? all the things that you want in someone that you're going to invest in. so, you come up with the questions and it helps you to figure out if this person is answering those questions correctly. >> sort of the same sort of questions you sometimes take on a job application. >> absolutely. as a matter of fact, that is absolutely right, and that's one of the ways in which this kind of technology was originally utilized was in the job application process. >> sure, sure. >> absolutely. >> now, you are working with technology and you're working with developing markets, which brings you to singularity
university. >> absolutely. >> which is why we were able to talk to you. singularity university here in silicon valley. the challenge of the students at singularity, of which you are one, is to go out and affect a billion people. >> yes. >> they kicked me out of college and said go change the world, but they didn't say a billion people. >> a billion. go big or go home. >> at the time, probably a quarter of the world's population. how can you -- tell me about singularity and then how are you going to go affect a billion people? >> well, first i wanted to say, just give a shout out to intelius, because without them as a sponsor, i wouldn't have the opportunity to be attending singularity university. singularity university is just an amazing, an amazing experience. you know, you bring together sort of thought leaders, experts in exponential technologies, and you put them together for ten weeks and you have them come up with, you know, obviously, innovative, creative ways to solve problems, and we're going to take this information, feed off each other, and then we're going to go out to 35 countries
that we've come from and probably other places as well, and we're going to affect at least a billion people, for sure. >> well, i wish you luck. you have a little less than ten weeks to get it done, so. >> yeah, we're on it. >> sharron mcpherson, we appreciate you being with us this morning. >> thanks, scott. >> "press:here" will be right back.
that's our show for this week. my thanks to all of my guests and our reporters, jon swartz and maggie shiels. we'll be back next week. in the meantime, a reminder, you can see all kinds of episodes on our website, pressheretv.com. i'm scott mcgrew. thank you for making us part of your sunday morning.