December 29, 2007

Technology Highlights from 2007

2007 saw a lot of medical advances and developments

2007 saw two advances which could be very significant in conquering cancer and when combined could nearly eliminate cancer. They are far more effective inexpensive detection of cancer with a lab on a chip and the transfer of 50 times higher immunity from some people with high cancer resistance to other people.

A new lab on a chip -- slightly more than 1.5 square inches in area -- detected circulating cancer cells in 115 of 116 blood samples from patients with metastatic cancer for a sensitivity of 99.1%, according to Daniel Haber, M.D., director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and colleagues. The ability to monitor changes in the levels of circulating tumor cells might also reshape physicians' view of cancer. For example, a preliminary study of patients with prostate cancer showed that a subset of people diagnosed as having localized cancer actually had circulating tumor cells. "It may be that cancer needs to be defined more molecularly than morphologically

From the Telegraph, cancer sufferers could be cured with injections of immune cells from other people within two years. Dr Zheng Cui, of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, has shown in laboratory experiments that immune cells from some people can be almost 50 times more effective in fighting cancer than in others. The treatment is called "GIFT" (Granulocyte InFusion Therapy).

Liver scarring can be stopped and reversed in mice

Researchers created human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos or using hard-to-get eggs. The technique may prove to be easier, cheaper, and
more ethically appealing than an alternative approach that requires cloning.

New batteries using silicon nanowire, developed through research led by Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. If these batteries are produced in high volume at a reasonable cost this will enable high performance all electric cars and plug in hybrid vehicles. The researchers do believe that they can commercialize quickly.

50% efficient microwave lightbulbs

Nuclear Fusion had a lot of interesting developments

A linear transformer driver allows the Z-pinch fusion device to be fied every 10 seconds. It has been reliably used 11,000 times. The Z-pinch with LTD can return 22-23% of the power put into it.

Tri-alpha energy was funded with $40 million to develop colliding beam aneutronic nuclear fusion

Robert Bussard Inertial Electrostatic fusion system was funded to develop a prototype in 2008

Using a special hollow-core photonic crystal fibre, a team at the University of Bath, UK, has opened the door to what could prove to be a new sub-branch of photonics, the science of light guidance and trapping. They are able to manipulate light 1 million times more efficiently than before. Short pulse lasers are a very interesting and emerging tool for science and technology They can destroy viruses and bacteria. They can vaporize matter without heat and be used for precise micromachining.

The japanese have made a key part of space based solar power, a 40% efficient method for converting sunlight to laser power

100 kilowatt solid state lasers are being assembled

Graphene transistors that are ten times faster than silicon are possible and the method needs to be scaled up.

Technology Review reports on graphene paper which could be mixed with polymers or metals to make materials for use in aircraft fuselages, cars, and buildings. In theory, graphene sheets could be superior to all other materials, Ruoff says, "with the possible exception of diamond".

FPGA processing accelerators have been developed. Warp processing" gives a computer chip the ability to improve its performance over time up to 1000 times faster.

Dwave systems 16 and 28 qubit quantum computer demonstrations

UK chemists have used cuttlefish bones to template the growth of new superconductors that have almost 100 times higher current density. The weight of 1 cm**3 of superconducting cuttlebone replica is 0.06 g, compared to 6.38 g in the case of an equivalent sized monolith of pure Y123. With an overall decrease in mass of two orders in magnitude, these materials could well find application in areas where weight is of critical importance, such as space-based and mobile device technologies. The critical current density of the cuttlebone templated Y123 was measured at 1.6 MAcm−2 at 10 K and 1 T field.

Recent quantum dots are three times better than thermoelectric devices from the mid-1990's. There are quantum wells that get 4.5ZT, which could revolutionize the efficiency of cars and power plants by enabling 50% or more of the energy lost to heat to be converted to electricity.

December 28, 2007

COPD death risk halved using

People suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may find that combining two currently available medications halves their risk of death within two years as well and improves their overall health status and quality of life.

The conclusion is drawn from the first human trial to compare treatment of COPD with a combination of salmeterol and fluticasone [SFC] to tiotropium therapy. The medications in the study are currently prescribed to improve breathing among patients with COPD or asthma.

COPD, a chronic disease that makes it difficult to breathe easily, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 11 million people are diagnosed with the condition, according to the American Lung Association.

The risk of death ranges from 5-31% over two years depending upon the severity of the COPD

Risk of death for those with COPD

If you are hospitalized with COPD then there is a 42% risk of death within 1 year.

Aero modding car customization for high mileage

Basjoos modified the body of his 1992 honda civic so that it gets 95 mpg at 65 mph

Cargo area inside boatail, extending the interior of the car into the boattail added 20cu ft to the interior space. Also there is a hidden compartment under the new load floor in the boattail.

The front of the aerocivic. Side view of nose, front wheel spoiler, and front wheel well skirt (nose and skirt are now aluminum sheet, spoiler is still coroplast)

Basjoos has spent about 250 hours and a materials cost of about $400 spread out over the past 2 years. It has paid for itself in fuel savings several times over. He plans to replace most of the body with aluminum sheets.

He has the aerodynamic front, wheel wells, underbody and rear. The side rear view mirrors have been moved inside.

Custom car garages in california

Syndicate Automotive Concepts
5620 Kearny Mesa Road, Suite A,
San Diego, CA 92111
PHONE: 1.858.505.4600
FAX: 1.858.505.4646

Super Rides by Jordan
421 Venture Street
Escondido, CA (California) 92029-1211
Phone: (760) 738-3800

Da Shop
3775 S Broadway
Los Angeles
California (CA)
Phone : (323) 231-6700

A forum discussion about what works and does not work for aero modding a car

Biomarkers and Adaptive clinical trials

I had previously proposed more widespread use of biomarkers for improved healthcare and medical research. I have now discovered the work that is already underway to realize that vision. The vision is to greatly shorten the time it takes to find and prove that a new drug or medical procedure is effective and to approve it for use and to personalize treatment and be able to model and monitor the effectiveness of treatment in real time.

A 41 page powerpoint presentation on using biomarkers to shorten clinical trials. Clinical trials for new drugs take 7 to 12 years and cost between $800 million to $1.7 billion. Clinical trials can take up to 15-18 years. 90% of new drugs fail during clinical trials because of toxicity or ADME issues. (ADME is an acronym in pharmacokinetics and pharmacology for absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion)

Biomarkers can increase productivity by identifying potential failures early, saving both time and cost. Most new drugs “fail late”, after huge investment. Biomarkers can aid in early decision making on whether to drop a drug from consideration or to move it through trials. Biomarkers can help fail 90% of the drugs that wil not succeed early.

Survey of current and planned usage of biomarkers

Identification of biomarkers take a lot of science and effort

FDA Definitions: FDA Definitions:
Probable and Validated Biomarkers Probable and Validated Biomarkers

-A probable biomarker …has well established performance characteristics for which there is a scientific framework or body of evidence thatappears to elucidateits physiological, toxicological, pharmacological or clinical significance

-A validated biomarker …has well established performance characteristics for which there is wide spread agreementin the scientific and medical community about its physiological, toxicological, pharmacological or clinical significance

Current Drug Timeline & Trial Format
Pre-clinical 2-5 years
•Retrospective and/or pilot
Phase 1 6 months
Phase 2 1-2 years
•Dose setting
Phase 3 1-5 years
Phase 4 2-10 years
•Post approval additions

The shortest time to go through Phase 2 through phase 4 is about 4 years.

Benefits of adaptive clinical trials

Examples of using biomarkers in past clinical trials

Tools for adaptive clinical trials

Many drugs fail because they are toxic at the doses required for optimum efficacy

-Often, this does not become evident until after phase 3 studies, and can even arise post-release

-Biomarkers may potentially:
•predict toxicity in early trials
•monitor toxicity in later trials
•help avoid toxicity in the clinic

The value of biomarkers in clinical research and in the drug development process is becoming increasingly more crucial. The old concept of a single marker for a given indication has been replaced with the new “panel”paradigm. As these biomarker panels increase in complexity, so does the effort involved in their evaluation. Decision Biomarkers has developed a system to simplify this process with the incorporation of array multiplexing, microfluidics, assay automation, and on-board data analysis

A related topic is the development an inexpensive microfluidics chip which could lead to earlier cancer detection and treatment

When blood flows through a new microfluidics device, designed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, cancer cells (one cell shown in yellow) in the blood stick to microscopic posts lining the chip (shown in blue). Detecting these cells could aid with cancer monitoring and treatment.
Credit: Massachusetts General Hospital BioMEMS Resource Center

Malignant tumors continually shed cancer cells into the bloodstream, and these cells can spread the disease to other tissues. This process, known as metastasis, is the deadliest aspect of cancer: it is the culprit in nine out of ten cancer deaths. But the circulating tumor cells are so rare--with a concentration of onlyone in a billion cells in the bloodstream--that scientists haven't been able to detect them easily or accurately enough to be clinically useful. Now Mehmet Toner, a bioengineer at MGH and Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues have designed a microfluidics device that can analyze whole blood in large enough volumes to detect these scarce cells.

"I think this device is going to turn the field of metastasis upside down," says Toner, who led the work. "It finds the circulating tumor cells that end up killing people." He adds that the sensitivity of the test is "high enough for clinical applications."

The device consists of a business-card-size silicon chip dotted with 80,000 microscopic posts. Each post is coated with a molecule that binds to a specific protein found on most cells originating from solid tumors, such as breast, lung, or prostate cancer. As blood flows through the chip, tumor cells stick to the posts.

Initial tests show that the device is highly sensitive. An analysis of blood samples from 68 patients with five types of cancer detected cancer cells in all but one sample, according to findings published today in the journal Nature. Researchers also found that changes in the number of circulating cancer cells accurately reflected changes in the size of patients' tumors during treatment. Oncologists often use tumor size as a measure of how well a treatment is working, with the goal of shrinking the tumor.

Such blood tests could ultimately prove to be an inexpensive and noninvasive complement to the CT scans and tissue biopsies that oncologists traditionally use to characterize tumors. For example, regular blood tests assessing tumor cell count might be used to determine if a particular treatment is effective. That might allow "the treatment regimen to be modified much earlier than if physicians had to rely solely on changes in tumor size," says Jonathan Uhr, a scientist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, who wrote a commentary accompanying the paper in Nature.

Toner likens the circulating tumor cell count to viral loads in HIV, which doctors use to assess how effective antiviral drugs are. "If we're going to turn cancer into a chronic disease, we need to monitor the patient accordingly," he says.

Researchers can also examine the cells captured on the chip for molecular markers that suggest a more aggressive form of cancer or a tumor that will respond to specific cancer drugs. The researchers ultimately hope to use the chip to analyze genetic changes in the tumor, which might signal the need to change treatments.

The ability to monitor changes in the levels of circulating tumor cells might also reshape physicians' view of cancer. For example, a preliminary study of patients with prostate cancer showed that a subset of people diagnosed as having localized cancer actually had circulating tumor cells. "It may be that cancer needs to be defined more molecularly than morphologically," says Toner
. [so instead of the currently broadly defined stages of cancer there could be more detailed modeling of the molecular progression.]

A powerpoint of the FDA's critical path initiative

Adaptive Clinical Trials Are Steppingstone toward Personalized Medicine.

At the 2006 Conference on Adaptive Trial Design, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs Scott Gottlieb emphasized how important it is to pursue alternatives to the traditional, highly empiric statistical approach to conducting clinical trials, by designing ones that can be adapted.

How Technology is Accelerating Adaptive Clinical Trials.

The journal of drug discovery and development

China's yuan closes 2007 at 7.30

The chinese currency advanced twice as fast as in 2006 as policy makers sought to curb inflation and cut a record trade surplus that has strained ties with the U.S. and Europe.

`The government will choose to use appreciation of the yuan to solve the inflation problem,' said Shen Minggao, Citigroup's Beijing-based economist. `The appreciation pace may even quicken next year.'

The yuan rose 0.18 percent to 7.3041 per dollar as of the 5:30 p.m. close in Shanghai, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System.

China's central bank signalled it would allow the yuan to appreciate faster in a move that should help contain rising inflation risks from a booming economy that a government economist said was set to grow close to 11 percent in 2008.

Year GDP(yuan) GDP growth Yuan per USD Yuan increase China GDP US GDP
2006 20.94 7.8 2.7 13.2
2007 23.6 11.5% 7.3 3.24 13.8
2008 26.2 11% 6.46 13% 4.1 14.3
2009 28.8 10.0% 5.72 13% 5.0 14.6
2010 31.6 9.5% 5.20 10 6.1 14.9
2011 34.4 9.0% 4.72 10 7.3 15.4
2012 37.5 9.0% 4.37 8.0 8.6 15.9
2013 40.9 9.0% 4.09 7.0 10.0 16.3
2014 44.6 9.0% 3.89 5.0 11.5 16.8
2015 48.2 8.0% 3.71 5.0 13.0 17.3
2016 52.0 8.0% 3.53 5.0 14.7 17.8
2017 55.9 7.5% 3.36 5.0 16.6 18.4
2018 59.8 7.0% 3.30 2.0 18.1 18.9
2019 64.0 7.0% 3.23 2.0 19.8 19.5
2020 68.5 7.0% 3.17 2 21.6 20.1
2021 72.6 6.0% 3.11 2 23.4 20.7
2022 77.0 6.0% 3.05 2 25.3 21.3
2023 80.8 5.0% 2.99 2 27.0 22
2024 84.8 5.0% 2.93 2 29.0 22.6
2025 89.1 5.0% 2.87 2 31.0 23.3

This is an update of my past projection of China's GDP growth and currency appreciation. In May, 2007, I had projected an end of year 7.4 currency exchange rate.

2007 and 2008 GDP projections

December 26, 2007

How individualized medicine might be approved with existing regulations

Dr. Eric Hoffman envisions that some parts of the approval process may be developed for DNA-like molecular medicine as a 'class' of drugs, rather than individual testing of hundreds of different sequences.

Dr. Hoffman is a world-renowned human geneticist, who is the Director of the Research Center for Genetic Medicine, a James Clark Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University.

"The patients and their families are crossing their fingers that the drug’s overall chemistry can be shown to be safe," he says.

How can DNA-like drugs specific to a single patient’s mutation go through the existing approval process" Are the current standards of rodent and monkey toxicity studies relevant and appropriate for DNA-like drugs, when the animals do not have the same DNA target (or off-target) sequences as humans" These and other questions are certain to pose exciting challenges to both the approval and marketing processes of drugs.

Brain enhancing drugs and procedures

Academics, musicians, even poker champs use pills to sharpen their minds, legally. Labs race to develop even more.

The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to schoolchildren for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers, such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers have been investigating the drug Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients. The drugs haven't been tested extensively in healthy people, but their physiological effects in the brain are well understood.

They are all just precursors to the blockbuster drug that labs are racing to develop.

"Whatever company comes out with the first memory pill is going to put Viagra to shame," said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe.

In the world of classical music, a survey conducted a decade ago revealed one-quarter of flutists used Inderal pills before some or all of their performances or in high-pressure situations like auditions. She believes use is now more widespread and estimates that three-quarters of musicians she knows use the drugs at least occasionally.

Cosmetic neurology, as some call it, has risks. Ritalin, Adderall and other ADHD drugs can cause headaches, insomnia and loss of appetite. Provigil can make users nervous or anxious and bring on headaches, while beta blockers can cause drowsiness, fatigue and wheezing.

Participating in a research project, Stenger downed a green gelatin cap containing a drug called modafinil/Provigil). Within an hour, his attention sharpened. So did his memory. He aced a series of mental-agility tests. If his brainpower would normally rate a 10, the drug raised it to 15, he said.

Cambridge University psychologist Barbara Sahakian considers modafinil (marketed commercially under the name Provigil) especially intriguing. Its developers aren't sure exactly how it keeps drowsiness at bay. But even in healthy people, the medication appears to deliver measurable improvements with few side effects.

In a series of experiments in 2001, Sahakian and colleagues found that in games that test mental skill, subjects who took a 200-milligram dose of modafinil paid closer attention and used information more effectively than subjects given a sugar pill.

Confronted with conflicting demands, the people on modafinil moved more smoothly from one task to the next and adjusted their strategies of play with greater agility. In short, they worked smarter and were better at multi-tasking.

Mem 1414, a PDE4 inhibitor, is still in clinical trials.

A pdf on brain enhancement drugs.

Wikipedia on nootropic, brain enhancing drugs

Gene therapy for enhancing memory and learning in animals

Oil prices in 2008

Iraq is producing 2.3 million barrels of oil a day, up from 1.9 million at the outbreak of war in 2003 and substantially higher than January this year, when it dipped to a low of 1.7 million barrels. Although a trillion or so dollars was spent and more trillions will be spent, there seems the distinct possibility that there finally be some economic benefits to offset the costs.

Continuing success in stabilizing Iraq could allow for 3 million barrels of oil per day from Iraq in 2008 and 3.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2009.
Iraq then hopes to boost output to six million bpd 10 years from now, Iraq Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said. He said that to reach the targets, Iraq needed to improve its export infrastructure by building new terminals in the Gulf as well as new pipelines to neighbouring countries, including to the east, to Iran.

Some of the new supply will come from Saudi Arabia, which is opening up another oil field. There are a number of big projects coming onstream in the US Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and Kazakhstan.

This year, oil production was about 85 million barrels per day, barely enough to satisfy demand of about 85.7 million barrels per day. "Next year, we're probably closer to supplies of 87 million or 88 million barrels per day," Kevin Lindemer, an energy analyst at Global Insight in Lexington, Mass, estimates

Energy supplies will be further augmented by an increase in biofuels. In 2007, EIA estimates, ethanol has been equal to 4.3 percent of the total gasoline pool. In 2008, there is expected to be 9 billion gallons of biofuels, up from 6 [billion] to 7 billion gallons right now.

In the past, US gasoline prices have climbed in the spring because of shortages in refining capacity. But next year, some new, large refineries will come onstream overseas, and some of their product will be shipped to the US. A new refinery in Saudi Arabia will produce more than 1 million barrels of gasoline per day, and a new refinery in India will produce 600,000 barrels per day. "Most of the new production is export-targeted, mainly to the US and Europe," Mueller says.

Energy analysts warn that oil prices can be greatly affected by what happens to the US economy. In 1998, for example, the US slumped and the price of oil fell by 50 percent, recalls Mueller.

If the price of oil cools, the Chinese government might become a major buyer to fill its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR), which are under construction. Therefore, even if prices ease the Chinese strategic demand will support the price of oil.

From the longwarjoural, Iraq security forces surge.

A discussion about what if the Iraq War is "won" by the United States in 2008

Improving fuel mileage for cars

Autopia discusses how fuel mileage will be improved.

Just 58 of the 1,199 vehicle models listed in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2008 Fuel Economy Guide (download zip file) get a combined city and highway fuel efficiency of 35 mpg or better.

Industry experts said the first changes will be relatively subtle, relatively cheap and relatively soon. They'll include improved aerodynamics, six-speed automatic automatic transmissions and dual-clutch manual transmissions. Engine-driven components like power steering pumps will give way to electric ones. More efficient gearing and tires with lower rolling resistance will bring still more improvements. The cumulative effect can be significant. Ford says these tactics boosted the fuel efficiency of the V-6 Taurus by 10 percent.

Subcompacts are the fastest-growing segment of the market, but no one expects Detroit to dump SUVs in favor of microcars. Instead, automakers will use a lot more aluminum, magnesium and lightweight steel to reduce the weight of all their cars. Ford has said it will trim 250 to 750 pounds from every car in its lineup between 2012 and 2020.

The most radical changes will come under the hood. Automakers will embrace direct injection -- a more efficient means of getting fuel into the combustion chamber -- in a big way and bring more diesel and hybrid drivetrains to market.

Aaron Bragman, an auto industry analyst with Global Insight, told us. "Two-thirds of the U.S. fleet will have to change to direct injection. One-third of the total market will be diesel, and half of those will be diesel-electric hybrids. Everyone is pursuing a strategy of smaller engines with direct injection and turbochargers."

Chrysler's new Phoenix V-6 engine shuts down three cylinders when less power is needed, improving fuel efficiency by 3 to 6 percent. Ford is developing four- and six-cylinder direct injection turbocharged engines it says burn 10 to 20 percent less gasoline without any loss in performance

The DOE freedom car project is developing more efficient diesel engines and thermoelectric technology which will boost the efficiency of cars and trucks.

Fewer traffic signs can reduce accidents at lower traffic intersections

Shared space programs work by tearing up the sidewalks, removing curbs and erasing street markers as part of a radical plan to abandon nearly all traffic regulations and force people to rely on common sense and courtesy instead.

"Generally speaking, what we want is for people to be confused," said Willi Ladner, a deputy mayor in Bohmte. "When they're confused, they'll be more alert and drive more carefully."

The new pavement is a reddish-brick color, intended to send a subtle signal to drivers that they are entering a special zone. Only two traffic rules remain. Drivers cannot go more than 30 mph, the German speed limit for city driving. And everyone has to yield to the right, regardless of whether it's a car, a bike or a baby carriage.

In Haren, the Netherlands, for example, the number of accidents at one intersection dropped by 95 percent, from 200 a year to about 10.

The program is designed only for public spaces where pedestrians and cyclists share routes with cars. Traffic engineers say it could lead to gridlock if introduced in high-traffic areas, such as large cities.

Practically speaking, the shared space concept works only at intersections that attract fewer than 15,000 vehicles a day, said Juergen Gerlach, a professor at the Center of Traffic and Transport at the University of Wuppertal. The approach can backfire if it covers more than a half-mile of road at a time, he said. Otherwise, drivers would get too frustrated with the slow pace and bypass the area.

December 24, 2007

Technologies, developments and projects to watch for 2008

1. Dwave systems' adiabatic quantum computers could reach 512 to 1000 qubits and performance superior to classical computers in 2008 Successful development of quantum computers would accelerate the development of molecular nanotechnology with superior molecular simulation and modeling.

CTO Geordie Rose revealing his 16 qubit machine in Feb, 2007. A 28 qubit machine was revealed Nov, 2007. There is controversy over the proof that the computers are using quantumness.

2. The proposed WB-7 and WB-8 fusion energy prototype devices will be constructed and tested during 2008. If the prototypes are successful then it would provide substantial evidence for the likely success of a full scale nuclear fusion device that could generate net power by 2013. This would transform the energy situation and access to space and civilization in general.

3. Memjet printers are expected in the second half of 2008 and would transform the price and performance of inkjet printers. The 2008 versions of the memjet printers are expected to be 60 page per minute. Memjet's plan is to develop a 120-KHz cycle head in two to three years, increasing the print speed sixfold to 180 pages per minute at photo quality, 360 pages per minute at normal color quality, and 720 pages per minute in draft mode.

4. Nvidia Tesla multi-teraflop GPGPU's and AMDs GPGPU will transform the performance of personal supercomputers.

5. Significant new electric vehicles and hybrid cars will be released in 2008. They will be continuing an accelerating but long term shift away from oil powered cars.

The Aptera could get up to 300mpg and will be available Oct, 2008.

6. Flash solid state drives will make continued progress versus hard drives which will enable more powerful energy efficient devices.

7. 2008 a year of significant improvements in communication speed.

150 mbps cable modems are expected to be on trial in 2008. 20 percent of Comcasts footprint is expected to be blanketed in ultrahigh bandwidth goodness by the end of 2008. 2008 may still be the year when Wimax reaches critical mass The Wimax IEEE 802.16 standard is theoretically capable of transmitting data up to 70 Mbps as far as 37 miles. Nokia should have 2+mbps wimax mobile phones.

8. Mach 10 hypersonic test aircraft should be flying in 2008.

Two Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicles, built by Lockheed Martin with input from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), will take to the air in 2008.

9. The reprap fabricator should announce a self-replicating version in 2008

10. 2008 might be a breakthrough year for low cost DNA sequencing and synthesis.

George Church has officially entered the DNA sequencing x-prize race.

$10 million prize will go to the first group that can sequence 100 genomes (to at least 98 percent coverage and with less than one error per 100,000 bases) in 10 days, for under $10,000 per genome.

Some other non-technological things to watch:
The Taiwan Presidential election. If Ma is elected President then there will likely be normalizing of relations between Taiwan and China and the threat of any war over Taiwan will be gone. A problematic scenario is if the current corrupt President Chen Shui-bian (who has been embezzling a lot of money) were to cause trouble and if his successor were to win, then there could be a lot of unnecessary trouble between China and Taiwan.

Near term low earth orbit space based solar power

An interesting concept for solar power appears to be on track for testing in Palau by 2012. The Space Island Group is also proposing low earth orbit solar power beamed to multiple locations. Space Island Group hopes to have its first system up by 2010. Space Island group is targeting 10 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Space Island Group reports "very positive" discussions with a European utility and the Indian government about buying future power from satellite systems.

Low earth orbit (LEO) systems offer the advantage of reducing the scale of the solar power systems. Most solar power systems proposals have been for geosynchronous orbit (GEO). This means that the rectennas to receive the energy have to be huge (like the size of Manhattan.) and the systems have to generate gigawatts to justify the size of the system. The GEO solar space satellite systems end up having an initial start up cost of tens of billions of dollars.

Having reflector satellites (mirrors) in low earth orbit would also allow for the LEO solar power satellites to more easily direct solar power to different customers on the ground. With superior targeting of reflected power, it would be possible to direct more sunlight onto the solar panels of existing communication satellites and the space station. Those existing space resources could need and might pay a far higher price for increased power that could keep expensive resources functioning.

In September, 2007 American entrepreneur Kevin Reed proposed at the 58th International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad, India, that Palau’s uninhabited Helen Island would be an ideal spot for a small demonstration project, a 260-foot-diameter “rectifying antenna,” or rectenna, to take in 1 megawatt of power transmitted earthward by a satellite orbiting 300 miles above Earth.

Reed said he expects his U.S.-Swiss-German consortium to begin manufacturing the necessary ultralight solar panels within two years, and to attract financial support from manufacturers wanting to show how their technology — launch vehicles, satellites, transmission technology — could make such a system work. He estimates project costs at $800 million and completion as early as 2012.

Reducing the size of the rectannas with low orbit solar satellite. Reduce the size of the cost effective solar satellites. Have several small satellites in orbit so that relatively constant power could be provided to multiple smaller rectennas.

California-based start-up Space Island Group, predicts it will supply space-generated electricity to the UK domestic market at competitive rates as early as 2012.

The Space Island Group has almost completed financing for a prototype system that it claims will be in orbit within 18 months, at a total cost of $200 million. "The satellite will deliver between 10 to 25 megawatts of power," says Meyers. "It will 'site-hop' across base stations in Europe, beaming 90 minutes of power to each one by microwave."

Here is where the Space Island Group will make a radical procedural change - a change that will shift the economics of space activity for decades.

Our vehicle’s large tank filled with fuel, its engines, its guidance hardware and the two rocket boosters can carry 100 tons of payload to orbit. If the return rocket were eliminated and the shorter tank was used to carry 10 ten-ton satellites to low Earth orbit about 400 miles up, it would cost about $400 million to launch. The satellite owners would be charged $40 million each for the launch, and two-or-three of these launches a year would handle all the commercial satellites placed in orbit annually.

The Space Island Group's proposed converted launch vehicle

The large tank, its engines, its guidance hardware and the shorter tank that held the satellites would all be left in orbit until gravity pulled them back to a fiery re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere a year or a century later.

With the 30-ton return rocket filled with 30 people and the shorter tank carrying 65 tons of supplies, the $400 million launch cost would traditionally be recovered by charging the passengers $50 million each for the trip up, and charging the space station operator $2,000 per pound for the supplies. The station operator would recover their cost by charging the passengers many millions more to stay onboard this well-stocked station

During the last four years we have identified over 200 companies and over 300 university research groups eager to lease these facilities at these rates. And of course there’s a tremendous market for tourists spending a week in the comfortable, wheel-shaped stations for $200,000 each. By 2012 we expect to have one launch each week and by 2015 that will grow to two launches per week. These very high production rates will dramatically drop our cost per launch, but today none of these future tenants can individually finance the $5-$7 billion it will cost us to build and test our first two launch vehicles.

We’re asking the largest underwriters to discuss how they could back a five-year, $10 billion line of credit for us in exchange for several years of free, “as-needed” use of the solar satellites for storm control. That amount will get our first station components in orbit, and let us build our first solar satellite prototype.

Insurers now “own” some $15 billion worth of communications satellites they’ve bought through insurance payouts when they failed in orbit. Workers aboard Space Island stations could use “space tugs” to bring these dead satellites down from their 22,000 mile orbits to the 400-mile high stations, then repair or refuel them and tow them back to their operational orbits for $5-$10 million each. Insurers could sell them all for nearly $7 billion in clean profits.

Space island's space station in fuel tank

Advocates of the technology reckon recent advances in ion thrusters and thin-film solar cells have made such a prototype project viable today. Wireless energy transmission over distances of up to one mile has been successfully demonstrated since the 1970's, and some experts argue that subsequent improvements in transmission efficiency mean it would be perfectly feasible to beam power down from orbital solar power stations.

I had previous articles on creating affordable megawatt size solar power. My plans would be dependent upon using solar power converted to laser power for an effective scalable (down to smaller size) space power system.

In this article, I discuss the 40% efficient solar power to laser power conversion system from Japan.

Laser power beaming from space

Lorentz force propulsion could be developed that would enable propellantless movement in space. This would help the low earth orbit solar power satellites to loiter for longer periods over the smaller rectennas.

Here is the site for the writers and researchers of the lorentz actuated orbits.

Magnetic tethers can also provide propellantless orbit boosts.

The National Security Space Office's online study of Space-Based Solar Power development. I have made contributions to this study and corresponded with the leaders of this study.