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February 23, 2007

Toyota 3rd generation hybrid

Business week indicates that Toyota's CEO has said the next Prius will use Lithium Ion Batteries

Toyota's US president said they were working on Plug in Hybrids back in mid 2006.

The Li-ion batteries would reduce the cost of converting the 3rd gen prius to plugin to $2900-5400 and make it more conversion friendly.

My guess is to look for PH Prius from Toyota in 2010-2011 with a $1500-2000 price premium over the standard hybrid.

Photonic Laser Propulsion

Photonic Laser Propulsion has had a proof of concept demo it generated 35 micronewtons of thrust using mirrors that generated 3000 times amplification. The low power version would be great for position control of multiple satellites to nanometer precision.

UPDATE: It has been proposed that extremely small payloads (10 kg) could be delivered to Mars in only 10 days of travel time using laser-based lightsail caft (Meyer, 1984), but in order to do so, would require a 47 GW laser system. With 47,000 reflections then only a 1MW laser system would be needed. (fifty 20KW lasers). Scaling up 100 times would be able to deliver 1 ton payloads to Mars in ten days.
"Multi-Bounce Laser-Based Sails", written by Robert A. Metzger and Geoffrey Landis


Molecular nanotechnology could help put this technology over the top, with far better mirrors, lighter systems, better lasers, mass production of lasers and other benefits.

The 10 watt laser was based on 100 watts for the total satellite power budget. Thus the best mirrors (20,000 times amplification) would deliver 1.3 milliNewtons.

If they can use the MIT dielectric mirrors those are supposed to reflect 99.999% of the light which would have 100,000 times amplification.

Scaling it up for more power.
130 millinewtons per kilowatt (0.13 N/kw)
But 10 MW lasers would give 1300 newtons.

Continuous beam electric lasers have about 27 kilowatts of power. Although stay on all day lasers seem to be at about 10-13 kilowatts.

more on lasers at wikipedia In some applications you could use more powerful chemically pumped or other types of lasers.

The website for the research group talks about using the system for ground launch and for accelerating to light speed. I could see ground launch.
This PDF looks at another study for using many lasers to ground launch. The mirror system could make such a ground launch system more efficient.

Get a big power source and a very powerful laser(s). As a major propulsion system it would still seem to have issues maintaining targeting between the two mirrors.

Robert forward originally proposed the laser sail concept Robert Forward first proposed the idea of the laser sail, though his ideas used 1000 km lenses, a laser producing 10-million-gigawatts and 1000 km sails.
Geoffrey Landis has done work to advance laser and microwave pushed lightsails
Other laser sail concepts

It would seem that the mirror amplification could be helpful in reducing certain system requirements.

I presume the architecture is to stick the launching system in space where there would not be atmospheric distortion and losses. The mirror on a large asteroid or body without atmosphere and far heavier than the thing being launched. Then firing up the nuclear generator on the asteroid and firing the lasers that bounce between the mirrors. One mirror on the ship and one on the asteroid.

If the problems of making the more powerful lasers, targeting and better mirrors can be overcome. The ISP in the tables for the photonic laser propulsion is 40 million. (between 10**7 and 10**8). This is the highest ISP system that I have seen.
ISP Hours ISP seconds
Photonic drive 11,236 40 million
AM-Beam MAX 2,834 10 million
H->Fe Fusion MAX 1,417 5.1 million
H->He Fusion MAX 850 3.1 million
IC-Fusion MAX 2831 million
ORION MAX 278 1 million
NSWR 90% UTB MAX133 479,000
AIM 17 61200
mag Orion 8.230000
VASIMR (high gear) 8 28800
Mini-Mag Orion 6 21600
ORION Low Altitude414400
Space Shuttle0455

Form fitting Micro-chainmail fabric

Micro chainmail fabric will be very form fitting and therefore likely to be used for some fashion.


Chain mail fabric draped over a one-inch metal ball. Credit: Engle, et al

As the links are pulled taut, the researchers found that the fabric’s length could expand by 32%, with its width decreasing by 56%. It can also incorporate electronics.

However, I think it will have a fashion niche because it will very good on those who are physically fit.

Nuclear batteries and waste reprocessing

IEEE spectrum has an article about GTI's work on a nuclear voltaic cell consisting, basically, of a semiconductor and an amount of radioactive material. They are using liquid semiconductors. Liquids don’t suffer any structural damage, so Tsang’s nuclear battery could run on much more powerful radiation than a beta cell, and therefore generate more electricity. The batteries are currently about 1% efficient. With submarine power plants in mind, DARPA wanted GTI to run full speed toward proving that a reactor of the 100- to 1000-kilowatt scale could be built. GTI decided not to work on scaling up yet.

IEEE Spectrum has a lengthy (5 web pages) review of nuclear reprocessing


Fuel assemblies cool in a water pond at the French nuclear ­complex at La Hague. The blue light is ­generated by Cherenkov radiation, which arises from a ­particle’s traveling through a medium faster than the speed of light in that medium

Wired interview of Tony Tether, DARPA chief

Tony Tether, chief of Darpa, since 2001 gives information on some current technologies and ones that he sees with the biggest potential

The current technology is Wasp micro-drones that support squads. There are a couple of hundred in Iraq.

The cognitive computing program is high potential which is the new take on AI (artificial intelligence). He notes that the support troops to fighters is still 20 to 1. Most of the people are Powerpoint rangers. Stanford REsearch has the Perceptive Assistant that Learns, which has had good results. He indicates that hardware wise we will soon have human processing level hardware (via transistors or artificial neurons).

Quantum computing is big for DARPA. He says, You can get great, great parallel processing. That is something that, if somebody else got it before us, would be a great technological surprise. And so we're looking into that.

His view on open vs closed development:
But doesn't that lead to a conundrum? I'm sure you'd agree that the best science is done out in the open, right?

TT: Not always.

NS: Not always?

TT: No. I mean, I think that's the legend. But I have not found that to necessarily be the case. The best science is done when you get the best people together. That doesn't have to be in the open. What you do have to do is gather a large enough population of people with different disciplines in order to make progress

February 22, 2007

Storage system breakthrough for alternative fuels

Using corncob waste as a starting material, researchers have created carbon briquettes with complex nanopores capable of storing natural gas at an unprecedented density of 180 times their own volume and at one seventh the pressure of conventional natural gas tanks.


The breakthrough, announced today in Kansas City, Mo., is a significant step forward in the nationwide effort to fit more automobiles to run on methane, an abundant fuel that is domestically produced and cleaner burning than gasoline.

The briquettes are the first technology to meet the 180 to 1 storage to volume target set by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2000, a long-term goal of principal project leader Peter Pfeifer of MU.

In addition to efforts to commercialize the technology, the researchers are now focusing on the next generation briquette, one that will store more natural gas and cost less to produce. Pfeifer believes this next generation of briquette might even hold promise for storing hydrogen.

Business site Resource Investor is pro-Thorium

Business site Resource Investor says: Is it time for thorium to make its re-entry on the global stage? The answer is yes, and therein lays an opportunity.

ResourceInvestor.com is a free service to investors, financial professionals, and other stakeholders who participate in the mining, drilling and piping sectors. Some 200,000 readers gather on the site each month from 203 countries representing every continent.

They indicate there is no reason for the recent tripling of uranium prices other than speculation.

The speculation is:
What has happened is that investors and mining companies are speculating on a nuclear power boom that they think will shortly begin due to the widespread concern, even fear, generated by the study of global warming, which holds that:

It has been proven scientifically that the earth’s climate is entering a period of rapidly escalating global warming;
It has been accepted that if this global warming has been caused by anthropogenic (i.e., man made) activity, and the IPPC is 90% certain that this is scientifically proven, then the primary bad actor is the carbon dioxide naturally formed by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas to produce electric power and vehicular propulsion, and;
If the burning of coal, oil and natural gas for these purposes is not eliminated, or, at least, substantially curtailed (or, if it is held at present levels and all the carbon dioxide generated by stationary power plants is somehow “sequestered,” i.e. stored) then the global economy will suffer irreparable damage as the climate shifts permanently causing massive changes in the habitability and agricultural usefulness of the earth’s surface, and therefore coal, oil and natural gas must be replaced as sources of heat as soon as possible.


Thorium Power, Inc. has told me that they already have the technology to “switch over” from uranium to thorium more than 60% of the reactors in use today in the world.

They said that a switched over or built from the ground up thorium powered reactor has for the “blanket” a total of three times the life of a uranium powered reactor. This would mean that the savings during the first fuel cycles will pay for the changeover in the case of a “retrofit.” The core can be used to burn fissionable grade plutonium to non weapons grade material while the blanket will be made from thorium and uranium-233, not 238, so that no weapons grade plutonium-239 can be produced in the reactor.

February 21, 2007

10 nanometer semiconductors from Korea, 100GB Flash?

In research findings published in Nature Nanotechnology, of Choi Hee-cheul and Kim Hyun-tak describe what they call the first semiconductor that has broken the 10 nm barrier. Carbon nanotube guided formation of silicon oxide nanotrenches is the name of the article.


Here we show that carbon nanotubes can act as the carbon source to reduce (etch) silicon dioxide surfaces. By introducing small amounts of oxygen gas during the growth of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) in the chemical vapour deposition (CVD) process, the nanotubes selectively etch one-dimensional nanotrenches in the SiO2. The shape, length and trajectory of the nanotrenches are fully guided by the SWNTs. These nanotrenches can also serve as a mask in the fabrication of sub-10-nm metal nanowires. Combined with alignment techniques, well-ordered nanotrenches can be made for various high-density electronic components in the nanoelectronics industry.


Choi employed carbon nanotubes to successfully etch circuits that are thinner than 10 nanometers on the face of silicon wafers.

"As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make a breakthroughs after finding surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes," Choi said.

Kim Hyun-tak at the state-run ETRI is working on a new substance dubbed a Mott insulator, which instantly changes from a conductive metal to an insulator.
Kim hopes the insulator, which he and his men created in 2004 after years of experiments, will break the technical stagnation in making semiconductors with circuits slimmer than 10 nanometers.

Samsung has 40 nanometer Flash and their process can get below 20 nm

50 nm metallic stamping process

Creating high-resolution metallic interconnects is an essential part of the fabrication of microchips and other nanoscale devices. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a simple and robust electrochemical process for the direct patterning of metallic interconnects and other nanostructures.

Fang said the newly created "S4 process" uses a patterned superionic material as a stamp, and etches a metallic film by an electrochemical reaction. In superionic materials, metal ions can move nearly freely around the crystal lattice. Such mobile materials can also be used in batteries and fuel cells.

"The most difficult step in the S4 process is making the stamp extremely flat and smooth," said graduate student Keng H. Hsu, the paper’s lead author. "Currently, our resolution for patterning details is 50 nanometers. As better tools for engraving the stamps are developed, we will achieve finer resolution.

Unlike conventional processing – in which patterns are first placed on photoresist, followed by metal deposition and subsequent etching – the S4 process creates high-resolution metallic nanopatterns in a single step, potentially reducing manufacturing costs and increasing yields.

Maglev assisted launch

The future goal of maglev launch assist would be to build a space vehicle and maglev sled—together weighing 100 tons—and accelerate them to a velocity of 255 m/s (918 km/hr). The main cost-saving areas would come from reduced fuel consumption and the reduced mass of the spaceship. This idea could be combined with hypersonic skyhooks, which would help raise cargo from Mach 10 vehicles to orbit (orbital velocity is Mach 24). Going from Mach 1.5 to Mach 10 could be done with a dual mode ramjet/scramjet vehicle. Its fuel weight would be 90% less since oxygen would be taken from the atmosphere. SpaceshipOne type systems could also be used to go from Mach 1.5 to Mach 10.

More details in this pdf on the hypersonic skyhook The early stage skyhook could be a rotovator that is 900km long or a cardiorotovator that is 1800mk long and has a rendevous speed of 8.7 Mach.

“The energy result would be about 2600 kw•hr, which is a very small energy cost compared with other launch technologies, such as a pneumatic acceleration system,” Yang explained. “Key challenges for this maglev launch assist are the linear motor’s acceleration system and its power supply system, which are required to provide an acceleration of 2g-3g (gravity).”

In their model of a test vehicle on a seven-meter-long track, Yang’s group used a suspension system based on bulk high temperature superconductors, which achieve highly stable levitation due to their diamagnetic and flux pinning properties. The researchers used an arrangement of YBCO bulk superconductors, which achieve their remarkable property of zero resistance at 77 K. When the superconductors were cooled to this temperature, the test vehicle levitated freely over the track.

February 20, 2007

VASIMR progress

Ad Astra rocket is making progress towards a VASIMR rocket The variable specific impulse magnetoplasma rocket (VASIMR) is a hypothetical form of spacecraft propulsion that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to accelerate a propellant. Current VASIMR designs should be capable of producing specific impulses ranging from 10,000-300,000 m/s (1,000-30,000 seconds) - the low end of this range is comparable to some ion thruster designs.

In 2006, the VX-50 (50kw) test bed was successfully operated at 50kw with a modified 70kw high power solid state RF transmitter from Nautel Ltd of Halifax N.S., Canada, instead of the much heavier tube amplifier technology employed in the past. Compact and light weight high power RF technology is critical to a successful space application. The company successfully demonstrated efficient operation of the
engine with the noble gases Neon and Argon, propellants respectively 1/10 and
1/50 the cost of the traditional Xenon used in most plasma rockets.

The VX-50 test bed has now been retired to make way for the more powerful (100kW) VX-100 already in its early phases of test and checkout. This new system will be used in the first half of 2007 to develop the components and critical data set required for the first VASIMR TM flight-like prototype, the 200kw class superconducting VX-200, which will be operating by the end of 2007.

In-space testing is targeted for 2011. The company, which has an exclusive license to the original Vasimr patents under a privatization agreement with NASA (AW&ST Jan. 30, 2006, p. 12), has added new intellectual property in the past year. The Vasimr engine uses radio waves to heat propellant gas to extremely high temperatures, producing exhaust velocities in the 40-50-km./sec. range.

The VASIMR rocket is intended to be powered by a vapor core nuclear reactor (VCR) with magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) conversion to electricity -- thus VCR-MHD -- and that the vapor used is a mix of uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) and potassium fluoride (KF), to optimise ionisation in the MHD channel.

The VCR-MHD operates at over 2000K (2600K inlet, 1550K outlet). Specific mass, depending on design details, is between 0.4 to 0.6 kg/kWe. This would be about 40-60 tons for 100MWe.

Power (MWe) 100 (from ~455 MWth)
Reactor (MT) 15.75
Shield (MT) 9.86
Radiators (MT) 2.53 (~355 MWth)
Structural (MT) 3.25
Pumps (MT) 3.09
MHD Gen. (MT) 5.05
Total (MT) 39.52
Sp. Mass 0.39 kg/kWe
Conversion eff. 22%

Although ultrahigh temperature gas core reactors (GCRs) or vapor core reactors (VCRs) are the way of the future, these advanced nuclear reactors have not been successfully taken from the drawing board and scaled laboratory experiments into prototype design. The order of magnitude specific mass reduction in VCR/MHD systems is achieved by combing the fuel and heat transport medium into one and by using an ultrahigh MHD Rankine cycle.

Trying to clean up coal

the US department of Energy provides background on particulate control research (for making coal cleaner although the goals would still leave coal the deadliest energy source. Coal kills 1 million per year from air pollution)

To date, most particulate control technologies have been installed to prevent so-called "coarse" particulates from escaping into the atmosphere. Coarse particulates are those with diameters of 10 microns or less (a micron, or micrometer, is 1/25th of a thousandth of an inch); thus, they are referred to as PM10. Power plants typically install either baghouses (essentially large fabric filters) or electrostatic precipitators (devices that use electrical charges to attract particles) to capture solid particles emitted from their coal furnaces.

Today's challenge in particulate control largely focuses on much smaller particles - those with diameters of 2.5 microns or less, or as they are called, PM2.5. PM2.5 particles can be as small as 1/30th the width of a human hair, or smaller. These fine particles are of special health concern, since they can be more easily inhaled deeply into the lungs where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream or remain embedded for long periods of time.

To improve the capabilities of power plants to capture primary particulates, the Energy Department's Fossil Energy program assisted in the development of devices that combine the best features of both a baghouse and an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) in the same compact enclosure. This device removes at least 99.99% of the solid particles in the flue gas of coal-fired power plants. Other projects developed improvements to the efficiency of existing electrostatic precipitators by installing a device that concentrates particles escaping the ESP and recycling them back to the ESP inlet. Another project developed low-cost, non-toxic conditioning agents that are injected in flue gases before they enter the ESP to make the tiny particles more susceptible to capture.

The UK has new technology for cleaning pollution Nano-prorous fibres trap carbon dioxide and other pollutants so they can be removed and recycled back into the production process.

Clean coal retrofits are examined in this pdf Supercritical retrofits might be $700/KWe net. Excludes cost of FGD and SCR.

This pdf compares IGCC and advanced coal options The plant costs for cleaner coal are comparable to nuclear power.
Nuclear power plants are $1600-2000 per KW Nuclear power does not have the particulate or other emissions of coal. As noted in the prior article Japan can reprocess uranium waste without proliferation issues. Nuclear power or renewables are preferable but if we must have coal power then it should be as clean and safe as possible.

Japan reprocessing Uranium 95% of nuclear waste

Japan new nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is the best short term solution to nuclear waste.
Japan's Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant can handle 800/tons per year of waste. 95% by weight of the waste is uranium. The plutonium is not isolated at any point in the process so there are no proliferation issues.


Entire construction site

A 2004 government study showed that projected over the next 60 years it would be significantly more expensive to reprocess - at 1.6 yen/kWh, compared with 0.9 - 1.1 yen for direct disposal. This translates to 5.2 yen/kWh overall generating cost compared with 4.5 - 4.7 yen, without considering the implications of sunk investment in the new plant. (2007, 120 yen = 1 US dollar)

English version of the Japanese site

In October 2004 the Atomic Energy Commission advisory group decided by a large majority (30 to 2) to proceed with the final commissioning and commercial operation of JNFL's Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant, costing some 2.4 trillion yen (US$ 20 billion). The Commission
rejected the alternative of moving to direct disposal of spent fuel, as in the USA. This was seen as a major milestone in the joint industry-government formulation of nuclear policy for the next several decades. The final 17-month test phase for the plant began in March 2006, after 13 years construction. Some 430 tonnes of used fuel will be put through the plant to test all aspects of its operation. This will produce some 2.3 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium (1.6t fissile Pu). The modified PUREX process leaves some uranium with the plutonium product - it is a 50:50 mix, so there is no separated plutonium at any time, alleviating concerns about potential misuse.

If the US built 3 reprocessing plants ($60 billion) instead of Yucca
mountain, the US could reprocess the bulk of the 2000 tons of "waste".
Not much more expensive than Yucca mountain and a better solution.
Hopefully copying what Japan has already done would go faster than the
13 years. However, it shows that a better way is definitely possible.

More on the most powerful magnets

A pulsed magnet reached 87.8 tesla The Earth’s magnetic field is one twenty thousandth of (.00005) of a tesla.

The united states national magnet labs (Gainesville - University of Florida, Los Alamos - LANL, Tallahassee - Florida State University) have most of the most powerful magnets in the world.

- The 45 tesla world-record hybrid magnet, which produces the highest
field of any continuous field magnet in the world.


- 60 tesla long pulse magnet (2 second pulse.)


- 35 tesla world record resistive magnet (Florida-Bitter design)
- 25 tesla, wide-bore magnet for magnetic resonance research
- 14.5 tesla, shielded superconducting magnet for ICR —
the highest field ICR magnet in the world
830 MHz (megahertz) spectrometer for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR),
with a 19.6 tesla superconducting magnet
900 MHz, 21.1 tesla ultra-wide bore NMR magnet — giving researchers
the largest experimental space to date

February 19, 2007

Bolding Going: Scotty we need more power

The History Channel is showing Beyond the Final Frontier and Star Trek Tech

If we were to really "Boldly go" into space, then I would look at successfully colonizing the solar system. I would say that means going with the proper scale to do the job.

If we were wanting to make a viable and sustainable colony here on earth out on a large desert area, then we would go with tens of thousands of people, heavy construction equipment, power plants, green houses, years of supplies, desalinization gear, minerals and chemicals to make the desert farmable. Plus there would be plan for business. I would think of Las Vegas as the example.

For us in the solar system. Bolding Going means not just exploring new worlds but building and populating them.

As Captain Kirk is always telling his Chief Engineer Scotty. Scotty we need more power. Star Trek ships generate power in the range of 790 Terawatts. The International Space station generates about 128 kw Captain Kirk is correct we need more power.

Industrialization and development of space will take a lot of power. A serious start would look at putting a gigawatt of power in space. With that we can start to power the construction of a real space infrastructure. Not the many terawatts of the enterprise but a good start. The naval and transport ships on the ocean have power levels of hundreds of millions of watts and they are moving hundreds and sometimes thousands of people (like the Enterprise’s).

To generate a gigawatt with reasonable weight would involve either nuclear power or mass production of solar panels from lunar regolith. The mass production of solar panels from lunar regolith involves seeding the production with robotic mining systems and maybe a megawatt or five of power.

One million neurons in hardware project

Models of the brain built from specially designed computer chips could reveal the secrets of our cerebrum and are on the path to re-engineering the brain to enable the Singularity and could lead to transhuman enhancements. Kwabena Boahen, a neuroengineer at Stanford University, is planning the most ambitious neuromorphic project to date: creating a silicon model of the cortex. The first-generation design will be composed of a circuit board with 16 chips, each containing a 256-by-256 array of silicon neurons. Groups of neurons can be set to have different electrical properties, mimicking different types of cells in the cortex. Engineers can also program specific connections between the cells to model the architecture in different parts of the cortex.

"We want to be able to explore different ideas, different connectivity patterns, different operations in these areas," says Boahen. "It's not really possible to explore that right now." Boahen ultimately plans to build chips that other scientists can buy and use to test their own theories of how the cortex operates. That new knowledge can then be built into the next generation of chips.

"We can currently do small simulations of hundreds to thousands of neurons, but it would be great to be able to scale that up," he says.

The million-neuron grid will have a processing speed equivalent to 300 teraflops, meaning that unlike computer-software simulations of the cortex, the hardwired silicon model will be able to run in real time. "Instead of running a thousand software instructions, it's just current running through transistors, just like real neurons," says Boahen.

Engineers ultimately hope to use the information generated by the silicon cortex in a variety of ways--to build better neural prostheses, for example. "The real-time aspect of this technology allows us in principle to interface the silicon cortex with the real cortex or brain," says Gert Cauwenberghs, a neuroengineer at the University of California, San Diego. "There is the promise, at least in the future, to build a prosthesis to replace some lost motor function or sensory function."


Update:
I would like to see them get in the range of the 100 billion neurons of the human brain. The 1 million is at least more than the 100,000 neurons of a housefly. These hardware neurons are faster. The one million is 100 times more than the 10,000 of the previous biggest project. The one million lets them simulate important structures in the human brain.

February 18, 2007

Google's Brute forth path to AI

Google's Larry Page believes that brute force computation will be able to achieve AI and not be exclusively dependent upon clever algorithms

Encouraging Regeneration of fingertips

This summer, scientists are planning to see whether the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers. And a large federally funded project is trying to unlock the secrets of how some animals regrow body parts so well, with hopes of applying the the lessons to humans.

Up to about age 2, people can consistently regrow fingertips, says Dr. Stephen Badylak, a regeneration expert at the University of Pittsburgh. But that’s rare in adults, he said. A former Harvard surgeon founded a company called ACell Inc., that makes an extract of pig bladder for promoting healing and tissue regeneration. It helps horses regrow ligaments, for example, and the federal government has given clearance to market it for use in people. Similar formulations have been used in many people to do things like treat ulcers and other wounds and help make cartilage.

Lee Spievack took his brother’s advice to forget about a skin graft and try the pig powder.

Soon a shipment of the stuff arrived and Lee Spievack started applying it every two days. Within four weeks his finger had regained its original length, he says, and in four months “it looked like my normal finger.”

Spievack said it’s a little hard, as if calloused, and there’s a slight scar on the end. The nail continues to grow at twice the speed of his other nails.

“All my fingers in this cold weather have cracked except that one,” he said.
All in all, he said, “I’m quite impressed.”

None of this proves the powder was responsible. But those outcomes have helped inspire an effort to try the powder this summer at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, on soldiers who have far more disabling finger loss because of burns. The soldiers will have the end of a finger stub re-opened surgically, with the powder applied three times a week.

Nuclear fuel will last a long time

One of the other lies and distortions resorted to by environmentalists like Herman Scheer is that there are only 50 years of Uranium reserves left.

From wikipedia: At the present use rate, there are 50 years left of known uranium-235 reserves at the current extraction price per kilogram. Given that the cost of fuel is a minor cost factor for fission power, more expensive, more difficult to extract sources of uranium could be used in the future. For example, doubling the price of uranium, which would have only little effect on the overall cost of nuclear power, would increase reserves to at least 200 years. To put this in perspective; a doubling in the cost of natural uranium would increase the total cost of nuclear power by 5%. On the other hand, if the price of natural gas was doubled, the cost of gas-fired power would increase by about 60%. Another alternative would be to use thorium as fission fuel. Thorium is three times more abundant in the Earth crust than uranium,[24] and much more of the thorium can be used (or, more precisely, converted into Uranium-233 and then used).

Current light water reactors burn the nuclear fuel poorly, leading to energy waste. Nuclear reprocessing or burning the fuel better using different reactor designs would reduce the amount of waste material generated and allow better use the available resources.

there are many reactor designs. The molten salt reactor has been built in the 1960's and 1970's and would be 99% efficient with the nuclear fuel

Climate, pollution, nuclear

The Gregory Benford proposal sounds like the cheapest and safest method for climate modification.

Of course society should to actually stop making the problems worse as described in Jamais article. But a problem is that most plans from environmentalist fail to recognize the scope of the problems or involve everyone suddenly becoming virtuous. Some propose that we all start car-pooling all the time and use far less electricity. I actually spoke with some people from the Post-carbon institute recently who espoused these views. These are equivalent to the obesity problem would go away once everyone starts eating right and exercising or medicare would have far lower costs if everyone went on calorie-restricted diets. Those plans do not recognize the reality of human nature. Plus this "everyone becomes instantly virtuous thing" would also involve stop shopping, since China makes a lot of the products and 85% of their power is from coal power.

The failure to accept the scope of issues is where some evironmentalists like German Herman Scheer (member of german parliment, who is credited with getting the feed in tax introduced to support renewables) talks about a massive and near instantaneous switch to renewables. I heard him speak at the same event and he claimed that a wind generator can be installed in one week and we can install them anywhere. The most efficient wind generators (5 MW) are about 45 stories tall and to replace current coal electricity with them we would need over 250,000 of them.

The recent study for the wind generating capacity of the east coast of the USA is 330GW using 160,000 wind generators.

There are some studies that wind generation would effect local and global climate, which makes sense because of the super-mothra scale of this butterfly effect. I still think we proceed with wind but we just need to perform some due diligence.

Herman also wants everyone to switch to electric cars. Which means of course someone would have to start building them in huge numbers. There are 70 million new cars every year. China is going form 4 million new cars in 2006 to 8 million in 2007. There is an installed base of over 500 million cars. Plus until we switch off from coal and gas the electric cars would suck even more coal and fossil fuel power. Plus the steel and materials would also be made using fossil fuels.

"The stop digging the environmental hole deeper" are huge problems that barring breakthroughs in technology will need the use of every technology and clever plan we can come up with. This includes nuclear power, which more people need to look at the actual incremental risks of making more nuclear power. There are 443 reactors in the world now making 369GW of power (note more than the theoretical amount from east coast of the USA wind). People don't like new ones built near them. But what do nuclear reactors do to the area around them and to proliferation ? One of the most popular country for tourists is France. Yet they have 85% power from nuclear energy. A lot of people would move to France with its beautiful countryside if they could afford it.

France has some of the best statistics for greenhouse gas emissions. Better than Germany.

Germany still and looks like it will continue to get most its power from coal. They also end up importing a lot of power from France.

If nuclear so called waste is examined in detail, the parts that people have the most problems with can be used. The 99% unused nuclear fuel from current once through reactors. Not all reactors are the same and we should use molten salt reactors.
For the immediate term, we should up-power existing reactors (recent MIT work indicates 50% power increases are possible) and continue to make more reactors from existing technology (200 being built, planned or proposed).

I am all for wind, solar, biofuels, conservation and everything not coal. But being pragmatic coal will be with us for a long time we need to do everything to get off it as soon as possible but also try to clean up what we do have. The coal plants that are the dirtiest are the smallest ones (less than 50-100MW). Get rid of those first and find ways to make the existing ones less deadly (1 million dead per year from air pollution from coal, 27000 in the USA each year, 25 times Iraq war dead) while they are being used.

Future pundit also looks at scaling up nuclear to offset fossil fuels over the next 23-25 years