Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “SEM”

Vincent J. Coates: Passing of a Mentor – Roger Ingalls

Monday was a sad day. A former co-work informed me via text message that my professional mentor passed away last week.

Vincent J. Coates founded several high-technology companies including Nanometrics, in 1975, which would grow into one of the most recognizable names in the semiconductor capital equipment industry. He was awarded more than 20 patents, had pioneering products in spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy. One of the products he developed is responsible for a market segment that now generates $500 million a year. The technologies Mr. Coates developed are difficult to explain to those not involved in the industry but without his contributions, computers, cell phones and iPods would run much slower than they do today.


Vince was a dichotomy, you either loved him, hated him or, more than likely, both depending on the minute. On any given day he could be an absolute hard ass and on the following day he was your best friend sharing a funny joke or discussing last night’s football game. Once you had the opportunity to get know Vince, it was obvious he was a kind person. His fist pounding demands for excellence scared most people into avoidance so they never got to see the true man.

He was always teaching, offering advice and sharing his experiences that brought success. Over time, once mutual respect was achieved, you could talk to Vince about anything. Many years ago when I was a young marketing manager, Vince and I were eating lunch in the company cafeteria and he started talking about politics. He noticed I was uncomfortable and asked why. Telling him I was conflicted because my liberal political views were not conducive to growth into corporate management, he proceeded to set me straight. Vince cited example after example of Silicon Valley leaders that were Democrats and explained that an overwhelming number of entrepreneurs are liberal and they’re successful because their minds are open. Over the years I’ve come to realize that he was correct. Progressive free thinking entrepreneurs develop new markets and industries. Conservatives move in later to milk and stagnant setting the stage for a new wave of liberals to come in and obsolete the stagnation. This is especially true in high technology.

The above is just one example of Vince’s teachings, there are many more I could share. Like most of us, Vince wasn’t perfect but he was brilliant and willing to teach if you willing to learn. He demanded perfection and would let you know, in no uncertain terms, when you fell short. At the end of the day, when the dust settled, he always tried to do the right thing.

Knowing Vince made me a better person.

The iPhone Does Not Exist – Roger Ingalls

Imagine you’re sitting in Starbucks holding an iPad, iPhone or iPod and someone walks up to you and says, “that thing in your hand does not exist”. You’d look at them, think they were off their rocker and quickly scurry away. When climate-deniers tell me increased levels of CO2 are not responsible for global warming, I believe they are either brainwashed (followship syndrome), have a political agenda so truth doesn’t matter or they’re just plain crazy.

You may be scratching your head and asking why I’m drawing parallels between Apple products and manmade climate change but the answer is simple. The same technology used to predict how CO2 impacts temperature change is also used in the manufacture of the advanced computer chips (integrated circuits) that go into cell phones, iPhones and all similar devices including computers. However there is one big difference, predicting CO2 related climate change is magnitudes simpler than controlling the manufacturing of integrated circuits.

Destructive SEM Photo of Chip, sciencedirect.com

Computer chips, which are about the size of a finger nail, have millions of components inside them (called gates or transistors) with dimensions smaller than 100 nanometers. For comparison sake, the width of a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers. These chip components are so small they cannot be seen through the lenses of the most advance optical microscopes and aren’t clearly visible with multi-million dollar scanning electron microscopes. The shape and dimensions of these super small parts can only be “inferred” or predicted by analyzing how light (similar to sunlight) reflects, absorbs and scatters off the parts. A special machine shines light onto the part and then captures the light coming off them. The light-data creates a “kind of” fingerprint that resembles an up and down squiggly line. The light-fingerprint is compared to millions upon millions of stored fingerprints, which were created by computer simulations, until a match is made. Once a match is detected, the shape and dimensions are provided.

Climatologist use the same technique as described above except the problem is much simpler. The sun is the source of light that is analyzed as it reflects, absorbs and scatters through and off the atmosphere as well as the Earth’s surface. Computer chips are more complex because they have forty or more material layers or atmospheres with varying chemistry while the Earth has just one atmosphere with a few elements such as oxygen, CO2, nitrogen and so on. The dimension that climatologist look for is temperature as it relates to CO2 concentration. Computer simulations are used to predict or “infer” temperature change as the chemistry of our atmosphere varies; computer simulations predict a rise in temperature as CO2 amounts go up. CO2 concentrations have increased from 175 ppm (parts per million) to 395 ppm since the start of the industrial revolution. This is the fastest increase in Earth’s history and we know this from another type of scientific analysis but I’ll save that explanation for another day.

If you believe iPhones, high-speed internet and similar products exist, you must also believe in manmade global warming because the computer simulations that allow the manufacture of these gadgets also predict an increase in temperature as CO2 concentrations rise.

You can’t believe in one and not the other, it’s illogical.

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