February 07, 2009

The Science of Nuclear War Effects and Battlestar Galactica

This is an analysis from a discussion of scenarios prompted by some events in Battlestar Galactica. This is a follow up to my previous article about problems with the usage of technology in Battlestar Galactica This article will not discuss specific spoilers in Battlestar Galactica, but one could be indirectly spoiled for the last season. Also, I expect that the comments will have spoilers.

Executive Summary on Nuclear War
200 million megaton of explosions will not kill the biosphere. The current nuclear arsenal will not kill all humans and the pattern of nuclear explosions for a nuclear war between the largest nuclear powers will not destroy civilization, let alone kill all people or even half of all people. The greatest risks from a total nuclear war are from fire and starvation and not from the radiation or the blasts.

Note: it is not automatic and not even easy to start a firestorm in modern cities. Nagasaki did not have a firestorm. Nuclear winter was predicated on the assumption that there would be firestorms in every city hit by a nuclear bomb.

The historic high for megatonnage was reached in 1960 with nearly
20,500 megatons (that’s 20 billion tons, or 40 trillion pounds, of TNT)—the equivalent of about 1,400,000 Hiroshimas. Today the total is about one-tenth the 1960 level, or about 2,000 megatons, or 140,000 Hiroshimas.
This is only 6 times more than the peak years for nuclear bomb testing 1961-1962 when 340 megatons were exploded in above ground tests.

Here is a link that has a list of the estimated nuclear weapons for each nation by name of weapon and tonnage.

Background Science on Nuclear War
Nuclear winter is discussed in wikipedia.

Fallout modeling.
Radioactive fallout is discussed in the book "Medical Implications of Nuclear War" from 1986 Short term and long term effects are discussed.
There is a fallout pattern based on 1000 one megaton weapons against population centers.

Months after a 1 megaton bomb the gamma radiation levels are no longer life threatening.

Even if the bomb hit a nuclear reactor after one year gamma radiation levels are not life threatening.

Radiation mortality in a nuclear war in the Medical Implications book and
is also discussed at the atomic archive.

A U.N. scientific committee has estimated that the cumulative per capita dose to the world's population up to the year 2000 as a result of atmospheric testing through 1970 (cutoff date of the study) will be the equivalent of 2 years' exposure to natural background radiation on the earth's surface. For the bulk of the world's population, internal and external radiation doses of natural origin amount to less than one-tenth rad annually. Thus nuclear testing to date does not appear to pose a severe radiation threat in global terms. But a nuclear war releasing 10 or 100 times the total yield of all previous weapons tests could pose a far greater worldwide threat.

A threat in that it would have health effects, but it would not be fatal to all people who were not already hit by the bombs other effects (blast, fire etc...) It seems 10,000 megatons of air exploded nuclear bombs are needed to double the annual background radiation. 50,000 megatons is needed to get the annual radiation up to one rad annually. Ramping up the megatonnage to kill all humans is possible, but it is more a matter of optimally targeting and using blast, fires and starvation in the immediate and relatively short few years after.

How may megatons to make a biosphere lifeless ? We can start going up the scale of volcanos, super-volcanos and asteroids.

The energy that the Mount Saint Helens eruption generated was equal to 27,000 Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons. Ivy Mike, 10-12 megaton fusion bomb test, was only 430 times more powerful that the Hiroshima bomb. The Tsar Bomba, 50 megatons, was the single most physically powerful device ever produced. The Tsar-bomba design was capable of 100 megatons. the largest weapon ever produced by the United States, the now-decommissioned B41, had a predicted maximum yield of 25 MT, and the largest nuclear device ever tested by the US (Castle Bravo) yielded 15 megatons (due to a runaway reaction; the design yield was approximately 5 Mt).

The Yellowstone super volcano has erupted three times with a force up 2,500 times the Mount Saint Helens eruption. Super-volcano force of 60,000 megatons. Mt. St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which as a direct result of the blast. With this type of power, the super volcano can cause a kind of nuclear winter since the ash can block all sunlight.

We know that 200 million megatons is not enough , which is 20,000 times bigger than a 10,000 megaton war. The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was 200 million megatons.

Sixty-five million years ago a huge asteroid several kilometers across slammed into the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This is the event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (and many other species). The explosion was the equivalent of about 200 million megatons of dynamite, about the equivalent of all 20 pieces of Shoemaker-Levy. The blast turned the air around it into plasma — a material so hot electrons are ripped from the atomic nucleus and molecules cannot exist. This is the stuff the Sun is made of. Enormous quantities of red-hot materials were thrown into space, most of which rained down worldwide burning literally the entire planet to a crisp. Anything not underground or underwater was killed. This scenario has been repeated over and over, perhaps once every 100 million years or so. Each collision killed up to 95% of all species on Earth.

Also, messing up the atmosphere and ozone for a few years or decades to mess up survival.

The biological effects of all forms of ionizing radiation have been calculated within broad ranges by the National Academy of Sciences. Based on these calculations, fallout from the 500-plus megatons of nuclear testing through 1970 will produce between 2 and 25 cases of genetic disease per million live births in the next generation. This means that between 3 and 50 persons per billion births in the post-testing generation will have genetic damage for each megaton of nuclear yield exploded. With similar uncertainty, it is possible to estimate that the induction of cancers would range from 75 to 300 cases per megaton for each billion people in the post-test generation.

If we apply these very rough yardsticks to a large-scale nuclear war in which 10,000 megatons of nuclear force are detonated, the effects on a world population of 5 billion appear enormous. Allowing for uncertainties about the dynamics of a possible nuclear war, radiation-induced cancers and genetic damage together over 30 years are estimated to range from 1.5 to 30 million for the world population as a whole. This would mean one additional case for every 100 to 3,000 people or about 1/2 percent to 15 percent of the estimated peacetime cancer death rate in developed countries. As will be seen, moreover, there could be other, less well understood effects which would drastically increase suffering and death.

United States and Russian Arsenals
The current status of US nuclear weapons

The current US arsenal of around 9,960 intact warheads, of which 5,735 are considered active or operational, and of these only a certain number are deployed at any given time. These break down into 5,021 "strategic" warheads, 1,050 of which are deployed on land-based missile systems (all on Minuteman ICBMs), 1,955 on bombers (B-52, B-1B, and B-2), and 2,016 on submarines (Ohio class), according to a 2006 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Of 500 "tactical" "nonstrategic" weapons, around 100 are Tomahawk cruise missiles and 400 are B61 bombs.

Several hundred of US warheads are W87 which are 300-475 kilotons.
W78 warheads were about 300 kilotons as well.
B83 bombs can get up to 1.2 megatons
The list of modern american nuclear bombs is here

The USA used to have about 60 B53 bombs with a yield up to 9 megatons, but the last was disassembled in 1988.

Russia's nuclear arsenal.

Russia was estimated to have around 6,681 active strategic nuclear warheads in its arsenal. Russia also has a large but unknown number of tactical nuclear weapons . Strategic nuclear forces of Russia include:

1. Land based Strategic Rocket Forces: 489 missiles carrying up to 1,788 warheads; they employ immobile (silos), like SS-18 Satan, and mobile delivery systems, like SS-27 Topol M.
2. Sea based Strategic Fleet: 12 submarines carrying up to 609 warheads; they employ delivery systems like SS-N-30 Bulava.
3. Strategic Aviation: 237 bombers(16 Tu-160,63 Tu-95,and 158 Tu-22m) carrying up to 884 Cruise missiles.

The SS-18 has some large megatonnage.
* The Mod 1 and Mod 2 were single nuclear re-entry vehicles of 18 and 25 megatons of TNT yield respectively.
* The Mod 4 was a three-warhead MIRV payload.

The Russians has higher mega-tonnage because of less accuracy in their missiles. They might not get it as close (to an enemy silo) so they made them bigger. Bombers, cruise missiles and submarines do not have large warhead devices because the devices must be smaller and lighter.

The scenarios for a total nuclear war between the United States and Russia are now reduced. However, war between any other countries and Russia or any other country and the United States would involve far fewer nuclear weapons. If there were a war between those two countries not all nuclear weapons would be launched. Presumably one country is striking first and the other is responding while weapons are detected and in the air. Most of the bomber force of the non-first striking side would probably not get launched.

A total nuclear exchange between the USA and Russia is almost exclusively has targets in those two countries. One of the references indicates that any global radiation would be 20 times less in the southern hemisphere.

Nuclear winter
The first nuclear winter study was mostly discredited. Some of the same scientists have tried to update their studies with new computer climate models. Climate models have not been proving to be uncontroversial or highly accurate.

Note: it is not automatic and not even easy to start a firestorm in modern cities. Nagasaki did not have a firestorm. Nuclear winter was predicated on the assumption that there would be firestorms in every city hit by a nuclear bomb.

This pdf is very pro-nuclear winter. The global maps of temperature reductions and reduced growing season are shown. Things could still be grown even if these scenarios were correct.

The reason for doubting these scenarios are that they are based on smoke from burning cities staying in the high atmosphere and reducing sunlight. Yet, there were large scale fires with dark smoke like oil fires in Kuwait and there is more material placed into the air from volcanoes.

There has been some very large forest fires (some as large as 3 million acres burned).

There would be some starvation, but even in the worst case the climate change would not kill all people, let alone all animals and plants even in the worst hit areas. Australia, New Zealand and a lot of South America would be able to ride out the weather and agricultural problems.

Environmental Effects
Environmental effects of a total nuclear war are analyzed.

The National Academy of Sciences report concludes that in 20 years the ecological systems would have essentially recovered from the increase in ultraviolet radiation--though not necessarily from radioactivity or other damage in areas close to the war zone. However, a delayed effect of the increase in ultraviolet radiation would be an estimated 3 to 30 percent increase in skin cancer for 40 years in the Northern Hemisphere's mid-latitudes.

Much of our knowledge of the production and distribution of radionuclides has been derived from the period of intensive nuclear testing in the atmosphere during the 1950's and early 1960's. It is estimated that more than 500 megatons of nuclear yield were detonated in the atmosphere between 1945 and 1971, about half of this yield being produced by a fission reaction. The peak occurred in 1961-62, when a total of 340 megatons were detonated in the atmosphere by the United States and Soviet Union. The limited nuclear test ban treaty of 1963 ended atmospheric testing for the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union, but two major non-signatories, France and China, continued nuclear testing at the rate of about 5 megatons annually. (France now conducts its nuclear tests underground.)

Half Life of Fallout
In bomb fallout, a large amount of short-lived isotopes such as Zr [97] are present.
Most of the bomb-produced radionuclides decay rapidly. Even so, beyond the blast radius of the exploding weapons there would be areas ("hot spots") the survivors could not enter because of radioactive contamination from long-lived radioactive isotopes like strontium-90 or cesium-137, which can be concentrated through the food chain and incorporated into the body.

Nuclear weapon archive discusses the various components of fallout.

Strontium-90 is a beta emitter (546 KeV, no gammas) with a half-life of 28.1 years (specific activity 141 curies/g). So 70 some halvings over 2000 years, translation there is 1000 times less after 281 years and one million times less after 562 years.

Cesium-137 is a beta and gamma emitter with a half-life of 30.0 years (specific activity 87 Ci/g). So 60 some halvings over 2000 years, translation there is 1000 times less after 300 years and one million times less after 600 years.

Carbon-14 has a long halflife but because of carbon exchange between the atmosphere and ocean it has a half life of only 6 years in the atmosphere.

Carbon-14 is also a weak beta emitter (156 KeV, no gamma), with a half-life of 5730 years (4.46 Ci/g). Atmospheric testing during the fifties and early sixties produced about 3.4 g of C-14 per kiloton (15.2 curies) for a total release of 1.75 tonnes (7.75x10^6 curies). For comparison, only about 1.2 tonnes of C-14 naturally exists, divided between the atmosphere (1 tonne) and living matter (0.2 tonne). Another 50-80 tonnes is dissolved in the oceans. Due to carbon exchange between the atmosphere and oceans, the half-life of C-14 residing in the atmosphere is only about 6 years. By now the atmospheric concentration has returned to within 1% or so of normal. High levels of C-14 remain in organic material formed during the sixties (in wood, say, or DNA).

Radioactive Fallout Would Not Be the Main Problem After 2000 Years
Expending the current level or even the highest nuclear arsenals that we have ever had would do nothing to the long term survival of the biosphere based on radiation and fallout. The world is too big. The stuff settles out and the most dangerous stuff has a short life. The long life stuff is long lived because it is giving off low energy level of radiation.

That is why the long term debate about nuclear war is about altering the climate or ozone in a lasting way. Plenty of atmospheric big nuclear tests have been done and the biosphere can take it. Killing a biosphere with nukes would take lot more nukes and radiation would not be the main and lasting problem ever after 2000 years.

For all of the people to die, it has to be from a big enough war that the climate and ecology is disrupted long enough that the survivors starve or do not have water or cannot last until conditions improve.

Carnival of Space Week 89

The 89th Carnival of Space is hosted by the Moon Society, an organization dedicated to motivating the masses to reclaim our lunar heritage.

This site provided details on progress to the Skylon spaceplane.

Centauri Dreams re-examines the Drake Equation

Paul Anderson (from Merid iani Journal) notes an exo-planet has been discovered that is only two times larger than the earth.

Check out the carnival of space for more on Mars and other space topics.

February 06, 2009

Jovion Corporation Funding and Science Status

Jovion Corporation of Menlo Park, Caifornia in partnership with the University of Colorado in Boulder aims to develop and commercialize a device for producing energy from the electromagnetic quantum vacuum. If successful, this could lead to a practical zero point energy device that would work just as well anywhere in the universe due to the constancy of this background electromagnetic radiation as it is presently understood. One proposed device would generate up to 20 kilowatts of heat from sugar cube sized device. The heat would need to be captured and converted to electricity. Micro-gap thermal photovoltaics could match up well for this application to convert 50% or more of the heat to electricity.

From Peswiki

As of Feb. 4, 2009, the company has gone through $200,000 in funding, partially from POCi, as well as from DARPA and some private investors.

The POCi funding covers the design, construction and testing of a practical and scalable energy harvesting system. The funding is contingent on the satisfactory achievement of certain scientific proof of principle milestones relating to a prototype Casimir cavity device as described in a current research grant to Dr. Garret Moddel, Professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an inventor of the technology.

The patent is based primarily on papers published in the journal Physical Review by Hal Puthoff in 1987 and Timothy Boyer in 1975.

Bernard Haisch, who is a co-inventor, is quick to point out that this is all purely speculative at this point and that they have not yet been able to prove anything in the laboratory. The sporadic signals they have seen can't be ruled out as experimental error. That said, the model is still "well worth pursuing".

It is a "high risk / high gain" venture, he said, wanting to avoid the common mistake of overselling and underdelivering.

They are presently (as of Feb. 4, 2009) looking for major funding of around $10 million to carry out more sophisticated testing.

This is a follow up to this sites previous detailed article describing Jovion Corporation's work, which includes a link to their patent.

10cm X 10 cm parallel plates separated by 10 micron non-conducting strips aligned to form 5000 Casimir strips. Gas flow rate of 10 cm/second would generate 21-210 watts. A stacked set of 10 or more layers could yield 210 to 2100 watts (thermal) for a 10X10X10 cm block.

A one cubic centimeter "sugar cube" size block with 1.3 billion tunnels would generate 2150 to 21500 watts (thermal). The 0.1 micron tunnels could be assembled a layer at a time using microchip lithography and then assembled into stacks. Other means of manufacturing the channels could be possible.

The Energetic Vacuum: Implications for Energy Research is apparently a a paper by Dr. Hal Puthoff.

This paper speculates, using current theories, that *net* energy MIGHT (and
only might) be extractable from the vacuum of space. Such a possibility does
not necessarily violate current thermodynamic laws since all we need to do is
to redraw our thermodynamic boundaries to include the vacuum energy of the
universe and its attributes. Dr. Puthoff is currently pursuing experimental
studies to ascertain whether or not there is tappable "excess" energy in the
vacuum (theoretical considerations cannot ascertain the answer to this although
there are several possible reasons why it could exist). Since the publication
of this paper, some preliminary experimental results by Dr. Puthoff and his
associates using a "condensed charge technology device" indicate that the
vacuum indeed has significant "excess" energy that is tappable; further work
to make sure of their results (to avoid the problems that plagued the cold
fusion controversy), and eventual publication will be done. A patent has
already been granted on this device: Patent Number 5,018,180...

Modern physical theory, specifically quantum electrodynamics (QED), tells us
that the vacuum can no longer be considered a void. This is due to the fact
that, even in the absence of matter, the vacuum is neither truly particle nor
field free, but is the seat of virtual particle-pair (e.g. electron-positron)
creation and annihilation processes, as well as zero-point-fluctuation (ZPF) of
such fields as the vacuum electromagnetic field, which will be the focus of our
study here.

Formally, the energy density associated with the vacuum electromagnetic ZPF
background is considered to be infinite. With appropriate high-frequency
cutoffs the ZPF energy density is still conservatively estimated to be on the
order of nuclear energy densities or greater. The enormity of the figures
describing the vacuum electromagnetic zero-point energy raises the question as
to whether these numbers should be taken seriously, whether they are due to
some defect or misinterpretation of the theory, whether the ZPF fields ought to
be considered as 'virtual' or 'real'. There is, however, no question but
that the ZPF fields lead to real, measurable physical consequences. One
example is the very real Casimir force, an experimentally-verified
ZPF-induced attractive quantum force between closely-spaced metal or dielectric
plates. An elegant analysis by Milonni, et al., at Los Alamos National
Laboratory shows that the Casimir force is due to radiation pressure from the
background electromagnetic zero-point energy which has become unbalanced due to
the presence of the plates, and which results in the plates being pushed
together. (We will discuss this effect in more detail later when we
address the possibility of ZPF energy extraction.) Other effects which can be
traced back to interactions involving the ZPF fields in a fundamental way
include the Lamb shift (the slight perturbation of the emission lines seen from
transitions between atomic states), the van der Waals chemical binding
forces, the stabilization of atomic structure against radiative collapse,
quantum field mechanisms underlying the gravitational interaction,
and spontaneous emission.

"Ground state of hydrogen as a zero-point-fluctuation-determined state" by Puthoff, Physical Review D, 1987 Note: Physical Review D, a leading journal in elementary particle physics, field theory, gravitation, and cosmology.

We show here that, within the stochastic electrodynamic formulation and at the level of Bohr theory, the ground state of the hydrogen atom can be precisely defined as resulting from a dynamic equilibrium between radiation emitted due to acceleration of the electron in its ground-state orbit and radiation absorbed from zero-point fluctuations of the background vacuum electromagnetic field, thereby resolving the issue of radiative collapse of the Bohr atom.

The concern when zero point energy is discussed as a way to generate energy is explained at wikipedia's Zero Point Energy entry.

As a scientific concept, the existence of zero point energy is not controversial although it may be debated. But perpetual motion machines and other power generating devices based on zero point energy are highly controversial. Descriptions of practical zero point energy devices have thus far lacked cogency. Experimental demonstrations of zero point energy devices have thus far lacked credibility. For reasons such as these, claims to zero point energy devices and great prospects for zero point energy are deemed pseudoscience.

The discovery of zero point energy does not improve the world's prospects for perpetual motion machines. Much attention has been given to reputable science suggesting that zero point energy is infinite. But zero point energy is a minimum energy below which a thermodynamic system can never go, thus none of this energy can be withdrawn without altering the system to a different form in which the system has a lower zero point energy. The calculation that underlies the Casimir experiment, a calculation based on the formula predicting infinite vacuum energy, shows the zero point energy of a system consisting of a vacuum between two plates will decrease at a finite rate as the two plates are drawn together. The vacuum energies are predicted to be infinite, but the changes are predicted to be finite. Casimir combined the projected rate of change in zero point energy with the principle of conservation of energy to predict a force on the plates. The predicted force, which is very small and was experimentally measured to be within 5% of its predicted value, is finite. Even though the zero point energy might be infinite, there is no theoretical basis or practical evidence to suggest that infinite amounts of zero point energy are available for use, that zero point energy can be withdrawn for free, or that zero point energy can be used in violation of conservation of energy.

In principle, there remains the prospect of finding something that can be irreversibly altered or consumed to draw a net positive amount of energy through a zero point energy effect. Enthusiasm should be tempered by the realization that the Casimir effect produces tiny amounts of energy and those only in a non-renewable fashion

Walmart Will Double the Efficiency of Their Fleet of Cars and Trucks by 2015

From Green Car Congress: Wal-Mart Stores has set of goal of increasing total fleet efficiency by 100% from 2005 to 2015,
and has already exceeded its 2008 interim goal of a 25% increase, according to Chris Sultemeier, Wal-Mart’s Senior Vice President of Transportation.

Total fleet efficiency is a combination of driving and operational practices as well as the vehicles, Sultemeier said. Of the current 25%, about 20% is likely due to vehicle technology, he said. Looking ahead to the 2015 goal, about 50% could come from the vehicle, 50% from the operational side, he said in a teleconference.

Wal-Mart has taken a number of steps, including the installation of diesel APUs [Auxiliary Power Units - explained below] on all its trucks, and applying aerodynamic skirting. On the tire side, Wal-Mart is working with super single tires. and is testing nitrogen-filled tires and an automatic filling process to maintain constant tire air pressure.

Aerodynamic Skirting
At 70 mph, 65% of a trucks fuel is used to overcome aerodynamic drag.

Aerodynamic skirting - Freight wing - can increase fuel mileage by 6-7%.

Aerodynamic modifications of cars has been examined at this site before. It is possible to improve highway fuel efficiency by 15-40% with an aerodynamic retrofit.

There is a 56 page guide on aerodynamics for freight trucks

Auxiliary Power Unit
A diesel auxiliary power unit (APU) reduces the fuel used during idling.

Vehicle Engine
Idle hours/year 2180
Fuel Consumption (gal/hour) 1
Average Fuel Cost ($/gal) 2.18

Diesel APU (five times more fuel efficient)
Cost ($) 10,000
Fuel Consumption (gal/hour) 0.2
Average Fuel Cost ($/gal) 2.18
Pay back period (years) 2.6

On the operational side, probably the key is getting more on the trailers. When we talk about efficiency, if you can take miles off the road, that’s huge—that’s bigger than things we can do around the equipment.

Operational efficiency : year to day they have shipped 150 million more packages but driven 90 million fewer miles.

Looking ahead on the vehicle side, Wal-Mart is currently pursuing four paths of investigation: hybrid assist technology; full hybrid technology including all-electric drive (approx. 20 minutes at 48 mph or less); LNG; and biofuels.

Curing Baldness Could Be a Step to Organ Regeneration

Deep roots. For a hair follicle to begin a new phase of growth, an elusive group of cells called the hair germ (bright red) must be activated. This progression of images shows that the hair germ begins proliferating (green) before other cells do, suggesting a two-step mechanism.

Research from Rockefeller University reveals that a structure at the base of each strand of hair, the hair follicle, uses a two-step mechanism to activate its stem cells and order them to divide. The mechanism provides insights into how repositories of stem cells may be organized in other body tissues for the purpose of supporting organ regeneration.

So understanding and fixing the stem cells and the replenishment of stem cells in hair follicles could lead to a baldness cure and also to human regeneration of organs.

“We discovered that the dynamics of the hair follicle regeneration is a two-step process,” says Valentina Greco, a visiting postdoctoral fellow who, along with postdoctoral associate Ting Chen, spearheaded the project. “The hair germ, which is in constant contact with the dermal papilla, gets activated first and the bulge is then called to contribute later during growth.”

“Because the germ is in closer proximity to the dermal papilla, it may achieve a threshold of stimulatory signals sooner than the bulge,” explains Fuchs, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Previous work by her team has shown that two inhibitory signals, known as Wnts and BMP, are needed for hair follicle stem cells to activate. They have now identified an additional activation signal, a growth factor called FGF7, that is made by the dermal papilla and steadily increases throughout the resting phase. “We think that FGF7 might contribute, along with the Wnts and BMP inhibitory signals, to coax the hair germ to divide and proliferate,” says Fuchs.

Fuchs and her team believe that this dual organization of the stem cell niche could apply to other organs. “It could be that the two-step process we’ve identified is needed to achieve optimal organ regeneration, not only in the skin but also in the blood and intestine,” says Greco. “These organs have slow- and fast-cycling cells — much like the hair germ and the bulge — and have the capacity to self-renew and regenerate.”

Debating Singularity Education Programs

As previously noted on this site Ray Kurzweil (inventor, author of the Singularity is Near) and Peter Diamandis (Xprize founder and co-founder of the International Space University) are starting up a Singularity University.

This site has noted that the term "University" has some getting their expectations messed up. By examining the program and its stated model, International Space University, we can see that is a crash program and startup bootcamp with team projects.

Jamais Cascio, Open the Future, has suggested an alternative program with six-seven out of ten tracks focused on understanding the social, environmental, economic and other ills of our current and future world instead of 1.5 tracks in the Singularity University Program.

We should discuss the implications of something that is happening that will effect people and uses an early form of one of the Singularity technologies. So take a real case instead of generalities or hypotheticals.

Nanotechnology/chemistry is enabling waterproof sand to green the deserts.

By simply laying down a 10-centimetre blanket of DIME Hydrophobic Materials sand beneath typical desert top soils, the new super sand stops water below the roots level of the plants and maintains a water table, giving greenery a constant water supply. 3000 tons/day is already being produced. 1 ton of silicate coated sand would probably be good for 10 square meters. 4 days of production to cover one square kilometer. Germany regulatory bodies have declared the material to be safe. It helps conserve 75% of the water for irrigation in desert like conditions. 85% of the water in the Middle East and North Africa is used for irrigation.

This could help alleviate current and future water crisis, relieve poverty (more local agriculture), and reduce water wars and water political tension. Plus help preserve coastlines and help groundwater. Germany's environmental agency has declared the product safe.

Using this material to conserve irrigation water at the scale that is heading towards geoengineering (global scale man made changing of the environment).

The nanosand has taken seven years to develop, but one could imagine a project like this starting/emerging from a Singularity University team project. Would it have been more likely from Jamais program or from Ray's ? Is the nanosand a good thing and conserving irrigation water a good thing ? I think it is.

Tracks 2,4,5 of Jamais program.

Tracks 4,7,8 and 10 from Ray.

I think it would have been more likely to emerge from Ray's program. The key is not understanding the social, environmental or political abstract problems in an abstract way but the science of how to do it and the business of how to make it happen.

Has the Sierra Club developed and rolled out a viable technical solution for anything ?

Singularity University website

UK universities probably may give out some crash programs.

Stanford University. No one disputes that Stanford is a University. Standrod has a 6 week, $54,000 executive MBA program.

There are many other short exececutive MBA programs somewhere in Europe and North America and crash course technology programs. There is also specific training courses on using tools like scanning tunneling microscopes and other advanced equipment which are available at the NASA facilities.

Montreal Canadians Hockey Team or Religion ?

A self published book analyzes the question are the Montreal Canadiens a hockey team or a religion?

The author is Olivier Baurer who is a professor of religious studies at the University of Montreal

H/T to Physorg

In English, the Montreal Canadiens are referred to as the Habs, but in French the legendary hockey team is often known as the Sainte-Flanelle (the Holy Flannel). The nickname of its new young goaltender Carey Price is Jesus Price and he is thought to be the savior of the team.

Canadiens fans also talk about the ghosts of the old Montreal Forum. French-Canadian broadcaster Ron Fournier is the prophet and his listeners are disciples. All these religious connotations intrigued Bauer.

"If the Habs are a religion should we fight it because it's a form of adulation?" asks Bauer. "Or should we use it to highlight that certain values transmitted by the Habs can correspond to Christian values?"

Bauer has long been a hockey fan himself. He won several medals as a goaltender for the University of Neuchâtel hockey team in Switzerland.

But is the correlation with religion unique to the Habs? "There are others, in other sports, but not many," says Bauer. Other researchers have studied baseball in the United States and soccer in South America and Europe.

According to Bauer, passion in Montreal is particularly intense. "People visit the Saint Joseph's Oratory to pray on game days. And Carey Price wears a cross behind his mask," he says.

Translated blurb about the book.

That passion for the sport of hockey can be connected with a form of religion is not a new idea. However, in this daring work, Olivier Bauer and Jean-Marc Barreau intend to push well the reflexion beyond this simple assertion. In full centenary of the Canadian of Montreal, helped university colleagues allured by their company, they resort to the metaphor of the sport as religion to analyze the attraction it exerts celebrates it club of hockey on the Québécois population. But how to speak about the Canadian like religion without putting at the same time the question of the place and the role of the religion in Quebec? This work does not bring definitive answers with the question. But it presents interesting ideas to open enthralling lines of thinking.

Hydrophobic Sand Details - Waterproof Nanosand

Desert sand is made hydrophobic be adding the additive SP-HFS 1609. The additive creates a capilliary breaking hydrophobic encapsulation of the sand making it resistant to salts, particularly sodium chloride salts. The Federal Environment Agency (FEA) in Berlin has approved Hydrophobic Sand as being environmentally safe. The product comes with a 30 year guarantee for its hydrophobic effect.

How much "nanotechnology" is involved in the SP-HFS 1609 additive ?
It appears to be an advanced chemical, but the additive is top secret and I have not found academic papers describing exactly what is being done. The known man-made hydrophobic material is solidifying an alkylketene dimer onto a surface, but I do not know if that is what SP-HFS 1609 is.

Hydrophobic Material in General
Wikipedia discusses hydrophobic material.

In chemistry, hydrophobicity (from the combining form of water in Attic Greek hydro- and for fear phobos) refers to the physical property of a molecule (known as a hydrophobe) that is repelled from a mass of water.

Hydrophobic molecules tend to be non-polar and thus prefer other neutral molecules and nonpolar solvents. Hydrophobic molecules in water often cluster together forming micelles. Water on hydrophobic surfaces will exhibit a high contact angle.

Examples of hydrophobic molecules include the alkanes, oils, fats, and greasy substances in general.

Research in superhydrophobicity recently accelerated with a letter that reported man-made superhydrophobic samples produced by allowing alkylketene dimer (AKD) to solidify into a nanostructured fractal surface. Many papers have since presented fabrication methods for producing superhydrophobic surfaces including particle deposition, sol-gel techniques, plasma treatments, vapor deposition, and casting techniques. Current opportunity for research impact lies mainly in fundamental research and practical manufacturing.

Gardening, Landscaping and Agriculture
This site covered the massive impact of greening the deserts and saving 75% of irrigation water in the Middle East, China, India and Africa.

Hydrophobic Sand can be used in gardens, where mixing it with soil in potted plants allows the roots to breath even when the plant has been over watered. A layer of Hydrophobic Sand at the bottom of the pot stops water from passing through it, yet allows air to pass through the sand grains and provide the roots with the air needed to breathe.

Hydrophobic Sand can also be used as a landscaping feature, with water flowing over the sand creating a natural looking stream, over what looks like normal sand.

Agriculture farms can use the hydrophobic sand below their sweet soil to minimise water wastage. The water stops flowing through into the ground water, and instead, becomes trapped above the Hydrophobic Sand layer, allowing roots to reach into the pool of water collected below.

As noted in a previous article about greening deserts 75% of the water for irrigation can be saved using the nanosand and 85% of water in the middle east and north africa is used for irrigation.

Oil Absorption

Hydrophobic Sand does not allow water molecules to pass through its layers, yet allows oil to do so, making it very useful in cleansing water of oily contamination. When oil-contaminated water makes contact with Hydrophobic Sand, the oil quickly penetrates the sand, leaving clean water behind.

Hydrophobic Sand can be used for trapping petroleum spilled from oil tankers in coastal waters. When sprinkled on floating petroleum, it binds with the oily material, creating clumps of oil trapped within the sand, allowing it to be easily extracted. This prevents the petroleum from contaminating marshes and beaches.

It can also be used in areas such as dump sites, where the product is laid under the waste material. Should these materials leak any oily substances, the sand will absorb the waste and protect the natural ground water that lies below

Ground Water Protection

Ground water and the naturally high salt levels in the Middle East grounds are prime suspects of weak foundations, due to oxidisation of ream bars, and penetration of salts into the concrete mix during the drying process.

The multi-grain Hydrophobic Sand's extreme load carrying capacity of 104 N/ and waterproofing makes it the ideal product in the construction of foundations, and a fast and cost effective solution for the protection of buildings. By using multi-grained sand, instead of mono-grained sand, the sand forms a solid base when it is compressed. Mono-grained sand is soft and not compressible, and will behave like water, moving out of the way with any force acting upon it.

Using Hydrophobic Sand in the area under the foundations of any structure achieves a capillary breaking effect. Both water and salts are kept away when applied beneath the foundation, ensuring much higher longevity of the structure.

Underground utility protection:
For underground work such as laying pipes or cables, Hydrophobic Sand is the ideal back-filling for protecting the material being laid, as it not only secures underground utilities from shifting, but also waterproofs them. Covering cables and pipes with Hydrophobic Sand ensures effective and long lasting protection. .

Hydrophobic sand has also been tested by utility companies in the Arctic, who bury electric and telephone wires to protect them from the harsh weather. However, if something needs to be repaired during the winter, digging through frozen Arctic soil normally takes many hours of work with power tools may be required. To speed up these underground repairs, utility companies can cover electrical junction boxes with Hydrophobic Sand and cap the sand with just a few inches of soil. Rainwater flows around, not through it, and when the soil freezes, the sand remains dry and loose. It is easy to break through the frozen cap and then shovel away the loose Hydrophobic Sand.

Flood and Coastal Protection

The waterproof sand can also provide better protection against under-washing of reclaimed land in coastal areas and open waters. Ordinary sand in sandbags can become saturated and water flows through the barrier. Hydrophobic sand prevents water from flowing through the barrier.

But is Sand in Plastic Bags Nanotechnology

Some could say that it is silly to call sand filled plastic "nanotechnology".

This sand has been given what is claimed to be a nanotechnology coating.

The surface of the sand was changed to make it hydrophobic.

It is chemistry but nanotechnology is a variant, subset or superset of chemistry.

How the treated material is then being deployed is mundane.

It is the first major "nanotechish-chemistry" application.

Nanomembranes for purifying and desalinating water are coming and should be several times more energy efficient. But it will be some membranes stuck in regular pipes.

Because molecularly precise material is still in smallish quantities most of the time it will be a small fraction of the overall structure for early applications.

We could mix carbon nanotubes with some chemical binder and mix that with sand or dirt. This has already been proposed and developed for lunar cement, where you mix carbon nanotubes and some chemicals and lunar regolith to make lunar cement. The carbon nanotubes would be a tiny fraction of the overall material and the deployment could be mundane as well if there was an earth dirt or desert sand based variant, like making bricks or blocks and stacking them.

China is struggling with drought.

China has raised its drought emergency to the highest level for the first time as a dry spell spreads, leaving millions with little or no water and threatening wheat supplies.

February 05, 2009

Nanotech Roundup: Nanolasers, Room Temperature Nanocars, Fast Nanotube Memory, Nanowire Building

This plasmonic whispering gallery microcavity consists of a silica interior that is coated with a thin layer of silver. It improves on the quality of current plasmonic microcavities by better than an order of magnitude and paves the way for plasmonic nanolasers. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

1. The principle behind whispering galleries – where words spoken softly beneath a domed ceiling or in a vault can be clearly heard on the opposite side of the chamber – has been used to achieve what could prove to be a significant breakthrough in the miniaturization of lasers. Ultrasmall lasers, i.e., nanoscale, promise a wide variety of intriguing applications, including superfast communications and data handling (photonics), and optical microchips for instant and detailed chemical analyses.

Cavities are the confined spaces in lasers where light amplification takes place and this new micro-sized metallic cavity for plasmons improves on the quality of current plasmonic cavities by better than an order of magnitude.

Whereas previous plasmonic microcavities achieved a best Q factor below 100, the whispering gallery plasmonic microcavity allows Q factors of 1,376 in the near infrared for SPP modes at room temperature.

“This nearly ideal value, which is close to the theoretical metal-loss-limited Q factor, is attributed to the suppression and minimization of radiation and scattering losses that are made possible by the geometrical structure and the fabrication method,” said Min, who believes that there is still room for plasmonic Q-factor improvement by geometrical and material optimizations.

Min said one of the first applications of the whispering gallery plasmonic microcavity is likely to be the development of a plasmonic nanolaser.

“To build a working laser, it is essential to have both the laser cavity (or resonator) and the gain media,” Min said. “Therefore, we need a good, high-Q plasmonic microcavity to make a plasmonic nanolaser. Our work paves the way to accomplish the demonstration of a real plasmonic nanolaser. In addition, fundamental research can also be pursued with this plasmonic cavity, such as the interaction of a single light emitter with plasmons.”

2. From New Scientist, although carbon nanotubes have long been believed to be perfect for making faster, smaller computer memory prototype devices have so far proved too sluggish for practical use. Now a new design that is 100,000 times faster than previous efforts has blasted through that barrier, paving the way for nanotube flash memory to be a part of future electronic and computing devices.

Most previous carbon nanotube devices used silicon dioxide as the insulating layer. But loading that material with charge takes several milliseconds, an age in memory terms. Existing flash memory takes just microseconds to perform the same operation.

But the new device, developed by Päivi Törmä at Helsinki University of Technology and colleagues from the University of Jyväskylä, both in Finland, has closed that gap by using a different insulating material.

They coated the gate electrode in a thin layer of hafnium oxide, which is very sensitive to changes in voltage and has a porous structure that helps it to capture charge.

In tests, the new device could store and erase data in just 100 nanoseconds – a dramatic improvement over previous prototypes and even faster than commercial flash memory.

Faster to come?
"It's pretty amazing considering it has not gone through any optimisation or refining process," says Törmä. "What actually sets the 100 nanosecond limit is not the nanotube memory, but our experimental setup, so it might be able to work at even higher speeds – we just don't know yet."

The device managed to withstand 18,000 operations, which is a reasonable lifetime for a memory device, she adds.

3. One of the great nanotechnology challenges has been solved by chemists who have worked out how to place individual nanowires onto silicon chips reliably and accurately.

Christine Keating and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University in University Park developed their technique using nanowires made of rhodium. They first took a silicon wafer and carved an array of microwells into it, for the nanowires to sit in. A pair of electrodes added to each well enables a powerful electric field to form across its length.

The team then divided the rhodium nanowires into groups and coated each group with strands of DNA designed to bind to a specific disease marker.

With the silicon chip immersed in ethanol, they released one group of DNA-coated nanowires into the fluid and switched on the electric fields in some of the microwells. The interplay between the dielectric properties of ethanol and the nanowires creates a force that pushes the nanowires towards the wells (see diagram). "Our DNA-coated rhodium nanowires then snap into place due to the higher field strength there," says Keating.

The team rinses the chip, then releases another batch of nanowires coated with DNA strands that bind to a different disease marker. This time, they electrify a different set of microwells, and so on. In this way, the team places nanowires designed to detect certain diseases at specific sites on the chip. In tests, the team coated nanowires in DNA sequences that bind to nucleic acids from the genomes of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV (Science, vol 323, p 352).

By labelling the nanowires with fluorescent groups, the team could see where they ended up. They found that 99 per cent of the nanowires settled precisely where they were meant to be, with electrostatic forces holding them firmly in place.

4. The drivers of Rice University's nanocars were surprised to find modified versions of their creation have the ability to roll at room temperature.
While practical applications for the tiny machines may be years away, the breakthrough suggests they'll be easier to adapt to a wider range of uses than the originals, which had to be heated to 200 degrees Celsius before they could move across a surface.

Tour's original single-molecule car had buckyball wheels and flexible axles, and it served as a proof-of-concept for the manufacture of machines at the nanoscale. A light-activated paddlewheel motor was later attached to propel it, and the wheels were changed from buckyballs to carboranes. These were easier to synthesize and permitted the motor to move, because the buckyball wheels trapped the light energy that served as fuel before the motor could turn. Since then, nanotrucks, nanobackhoes and other models have been added to the Rice showroom.

Prediction: Barry Bonds will win his court case

The judge is tossing the positive drug tests and the calendars of drug test supposedly related to Barry Bonds.

The prosecution just will have a tape recording of Anderson talking about injecting someone with performance enhancers.

Here is the link to the transcript of that conversation.

Lawyers for Bonds, who goes on trial next month on charges he lied about steroid use to a grand jury, says the locker room conversation fails to make a clear and convincing link.

The "clear" was not illegal at the time.

Prediction : The prosecution will not be able to prove perjury.

Waterproof Sand Could Green the Deserts

Waterproof sand – or as German scientist Helmut F. Schulze calls it – hydrophobic sand, a nanotechnology wonder seven years in the making.

By simply laying down a 10-centimetre blanket of DIME Hydrophobic Materials sand beneath typical desert topsoils, the new super sand stops water below the roots level of the plants and maintains a water table, giving greenery a constant water supply. 3000 tons/day is already being produced. 1 ton of silicate coated sand would probably be good for 10 square meters. 4 days of production to cover one square kilometer. More factories will be needed made to scale this up to address the water crisis in the Middle East, Africa, India and China.

So the sand is inside polyethylene sheets like this roll of fiberglass insulation.

The waterproof sand is the filler.

Some people are concerned about plastic being used on such a large scale or the environmental effect of the plastic. Yet they are also concerned that plastic will sit in landfills forever. They can select a plastic that will not decompose. This is rolls of plastic with waterproof sand buried under the topsoil to create an artificial water table.

This is the first use of nanotechnology to make a major impact on a major problem. Ironically it is similar to the first product that claimed to use nanotechnology, which were waterproof/stain resistant pants. Nanotechnology could make more impact on water scarcity with emerging nano-membranes for water purification and desalination. Nano-membranes would be several times more energy efficient. They are still a few years from large scale deployment of nano-membrane desalination.

A new article with more pictures and other applications for the waterproof sand.

- The benefits of success are not only increased food production but also relieve geopolitical pressure for water scarcity
In the Middle East, attention is not primarily focused on issues linking water and poverty. The region is more associated with 'water conflicts' and 'rivers of fire', images that popular media are eager to adopt. Put like this, it is suggested that the main problems with water in the Middle East are related to tensions among countries generated by water scarce environments.

Better water management can mean less poverty and few wars in the middle east and many other countries with water scarcity

- Lester Brown, environmentalist, indicates, water scarcity may be the most underestimated resource issue facing the world today. As world water demand has more than tripled over the last half-century, signs of water scarcity have become commonplace. Some of the more widespread indicators are rivers running dry, wells going dry, and lakes disappearing.

- Eighty-five percent of the water in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is used for irrigation and that is potentially the main area from which the growing urban demand can be met.

- Saving 75% of water from irrigation could save millions of lives and prevent a massive humanitarian disaster and regional chaos with water wars.

So water scarcity get mitigated and regional poverty (from more local agriculture) gets reduced and the chance and probably the amount of water wars will be less.

The large rolls sandwich the sand between layers of polyethylene and can be produced in lengths of up to 50 metres. “The coating is done in 30 or 45 seconds,” said Hareb. “We have the capacity of manufacturing 3,000 tonnes per day.”

The plant is ready to meet the demands of potential customers such as Dubai Municipality which has inquired about the product as it works toward greening the Emirate from the current 3.7 per cent of total landscape to eight per cent by 2015.

By simply laying down a 10-centimetre blanket of DIME Hydrophobic Materials sand beneath typical desert topsoils, the new super sand stops water below the roots level of the plants and maintains a water table, giving greenery a constant water supply.

By comparison, when regular desert sand lies beneath, water bleeds endlessly downward leaving roots dry until the next watering.

With new hydrophobic sand in place, traditional watering of desert plants five or six times a day can be reduced to one watering, saving 75 per cent more water, a precious resource that is dwindling across the Arab Peninsula.

One of the advantages of the hydrophobic sand, Schulze said, is that while it allows aerobic activity to move upward from the soil, it prevents underground desert salinity deposits from passing through to plant roots above; salt is corrosive and kills plants.

He added that each grain of sand used in the process is coated with SP-HFS 1609, a top-secret additive, the precise nature of which he declined to disclose noting that it’s proprietary.

Other forms of hydrophobic sand on the market – used for cleaning up oil spills - are coated with silicas that are water repellent.

“It’s super thin,” Schulze said. “Every single sand kernel gets a skin, a coating, which encloses it.”

The nanotechnology coating is so thin, in fact, that it can’t be seen by the naked eye and measures 12,500 to 13,500 micro millimetres.

To date, it’s been approved by the Federal Environment Agency (FEA) in Germany which, according to Schulze, has issued a no-objection certificate for the product declaring it as ecologically safe.

UAE University Professor Mohammad Abdel Muhsen Salem told XPRESS that DIME sand has been undergoing trials since December 2007 with positive results although tests are only half completed.

At the university’s College of Food and Agriculture, date palms and foreign grasses have been planted with the sand and to date, Salem said “we can see a 25 per cent increase in the roots with the hydrophobic sand compared to when just the sweet soil is used.”

Salem noted that water monitoring has also revealed that the sand conserves water.

“I’m sure it (the sand) will save up to 35 per cent more water,” he said. “But we’re still testing it.”

Tests on growing rice have just begun. If rice is successfully grown in the desert, the test will of some note given that rice is usually grown in water-soaked fields

Water scarcity and future water demand is discussed.

Water scarcity is a fact of life for 700 million people around the world, a figure that could rise to more than three billion by 2025, according to the United Nations. Over 1.6 million people die every year because they lack access to safe water and sanitation, 90 percent of them among children under five, mostly in developing countries. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria and dengue could rise due to climate change, which makes availability of freshwater less predictable because of more frequent flooding and droughts. The global population is expected to reach 8.1 billion by 2030. To keep pace with the growing demand for food, 14 percent more freshwater will need to be withdrawn for agricultural purposes in the next 30 years.

Why the HST Roll is a Good Way to Deploy the Hydrophobic Sand

Other means could be used now and might be used in future but this waterproof sand and the HST-roll delivery of it has solved most of the engineering needs and has been tested and certified and has good cost and features that are enabling large scale implementation.

Sand is important because it is super cheap. Treating the sand uses vvery little material to coat it. Sand is a normal part of ground and this is just treating it and packaging it in the currently most cost effective way and generating useful characteristics with a lot of uses.

The HST-roll method has solved a lot of the engineering challenges which may not be obvious. 3000 tons per day indicates that there is a lot of demand and that large companies are comfortable using this as a standard solution for many purposes.

Energy News: China Nuclear Power Accelerating

1. China looks to make the official nuclear target 70GW for 2020 and 160GW for 2030

China is poised to up its nuclear energy capacity targets to 70 GWe by 2020, according to reports in Chinese state media. The revision is awaiting approval by the State Council.

The reports also say that NEA officials have recommended that the current nuclear construction program should be speeded up, with work to start on 16 units totalling over 10 GWe over the next three years. China is currently building some ten reactors - work started on six units in 2008 alone - with many more about to start construction, and it seems likely that the 16 units mentioned in latest reports are included in the construction starts that are already planned. According to 21st Century Business Herald, in addition to the construction starts that are already expected this year, approval has been given for preliminary work on three new inland nuclear power plants at Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi.

2. Sweden is reversing its anti-nuclear policies

New nuclear power plants will play a part in Sweden's long-term energy future, after the coalition government scrapped old anti-nuclear policies.

The act which banned construction of new nuclear reactors has been officially abolished and 'Permission must be given to gradually replace the existing reactors as they reach the end of their economic life.' However, 'state aid for nuclear power, in the form of direct or indirect subsidies, cannot be expected.'

Sweden has a strong nuclear sector which responded to the ban on new reactors by upgrading most of the existing ones. When fully completed, the resulting national nuclear capacity boost will reach over 1150 MWe - about the same as a new reactor could have provided. This figure compares to the 1200 MWe in nuclear generation lost by the early closure of the two Barsebäck reactors in 2004 and 2005, which was forced by Social Democrats.

The company OKG, part of the Eon group, noted that Oskarshamn has space for three new reactors and the government's move gives far greater certainty for the long-term future of the plant. OKG's main priority, it said, would remain the maintenance of their current three-unit nuclear fleet so that each can operate for 60 years.

Almost Everyone Will Not Be Ready For A Singularity or Radically More Capable Technology

If radically improved technologies start arriving and being deployed over the next few years and then continue to be introduced at a faster pace, then almost everyone will not be ready.

This site has profiled various technologies that have a possibility of having very disruptive capabilities.

If those technologies interact for more rapid dissemination then people be even less ready.

The normal technology adoption cycle which takes years to decades for something new to scale up would normally provide some time for acclimation. People still have trouble keeping up with the normal technology adoption cycle.

Singularity Sputniks
The starting point for most people will be if/when there are some new radical technologies that shock the majority of people who do not believe in accelerating or radical technology.

This will be the point when those who have contemplating and planning will have the first opening to really affect policy.

Likely this will have to happen in multiple areas and it needs to be an in your face kind of radical change.

Radical Medicine
We could get the capability to extend lives by 5-40 years with sirtuins, gene therapy and other procedures and methods. (Genescient, SENS).

These would be powerful changes but deniable ones for decades.

Rejuvenation or regeneration are the kind of in your face : we are in a new world kind of change.

Space and Energy Technology.
Successful nuclear fusion or one of the radical energy technologies like low energy nuclear reactions could be a shock the world kind of situation.

What are the Factors
Psychological impact on technology doubters and ideally impact on day to day life.
Significant market penetration within a few years.

February 04, 2009

Call the Singulary University a Super-sized Futurist Startup Bootcamp

Jamais Cascio does not like the Singularity University and suggests a Futurist liberal arts program.

No corporate executive will pay $25,000 for future social studies/liberal arts crash course with a future twist.

The target is Singularity executive MBA and advanced tech business brainstorming. People who have money or super techie geeks who have money or have someone who will pay for them.

Call it super-sized Singularity startup bootcamps if it makes you less offended about the word University.

None of what Jamais proposes to teach would get the participants or attract the participants who can ride the leading edge of the wave.

Why would someone who could make a difference spend 10 weeks and pay money getting the cliff notes to be a futurist debater, philosopher and ethicist ? Just because they are too busy to read a liberal futurist or future environmentalist blog or forum ?

This is why you need a finance, entrepreneurship and futurist business plan track. You would end up with something that does not have a viable business model and end up with a non-profit charity.

The Actual Program Tracks

1. Future Studies & Forecasting
2. Networks & Computing Systems
3. Biotechnology & Bioinformatics
4. Nanotechnology
5. Medicine, Neuroscience & Human Enhancement
6. AI, Robotics, & Cognitive Computing
7. Energy & Ecological Systems
8. Space & Physical Sciences
9. Policy, Law & Ethics
10. Finance & Entrepreneurship

Open the Future Program

[Intro:] Future Studies & Forecasting:
* With Ray K as the chancellor, you're not going to get away without a Singularity 101 session -- but this doesn't need to be a full track.
1. Remaking Our Bodies:
Understanding biotech, radical longevity, and enhancement.
2. Remaking Our World:
Understanding energy, ecological systems, and nanotechnologies.
3. Remaking Our Minds:
Understanding neurotech, cognitive systems, and AI.
4. Power and Conflict:
Emphasizing the role that political choices have in shaping technology.
5. Scarcity, Trade, and Economics:
How does scarcity manifest in an accelerating tech world? How do you deal with mass unemployment, technology diffusion, leapfrogging?
6. Demography, Aging, and Human Mobility:
Shifts in population and cultural identity; understanding impact of extending life.
7. Human Identity and Communication:
Understanding the changing nature of identity in a densely-linked world, looking at how different forms of identity clash.
8. Governance and Law:
How does governance emerge? How are laws about technology shaped?
9. Ethics, Morality, and Unintended Consequences:
How ethics emerges in a swiftly-changing environment; morality and technology; precautionary/proactionary principles.
10. Openness, Resilience, and Models for Dealing with Rapid Transformation:
Open source, open access, open governance; understanding resilience.

Modelled After International Space University

They indicated that were modelling after the International Space University.

Since 1987, ISU has graduated over 2400 students from 93 countries from the Space Studies Program and the Masters Programs.

21 years and 2400 students. How much change leverage will Jamais get if he could convince some of the potential students and graduates to think as he does ? What is the percentage of the students who would really listen ? What percentage would actually act in a meaningful way ? How much of a difference would it make in 2030 with that percentage of people thinking differently ? Would people pre-disposed to the messages about politics and social issues for a Singularity not seek out this message or hear it online and via books and other media ? Why would a Singularity University be the best place to hear it ? How many people got some politics and social message at actual universities. (like Berkeley). How effectively has that social messaging been retained and acted upon.

The 9 Week International Space University Program

Space University Program Calendar for one week

There is a list and details on the team projects that have been done over the years.

- ALERTS: Analysis of lunar exploratory robotic tasks for safety Masters 2007/2008 - Student report
- Great expectations: an assessment of the potential for suborbital transportation, Masters 2007/2008 - Student report
- Full Moon: Storage and delivery of oxygen and hydrogen for lunar exploration Masters 2006/2007 - Student report
- and many more

So ISU does some good work and graduates get internships and are able to enter the field of space technology.

The most transformative aspect tangentially related to for space is that Diamandis set up the Xprize to give a big boost to suborbital tourism.

The Singularity University is geared to similar levels of achievement. More people will be able to get meaningfully involved in the technologies in the different program tracks.

Diamandis has some successful momentum and will be launching more Singularity related Xprizes.

The SU should have success similar to other startup bootcamp programs.

Singularity Musings
I very much doubt the hard take off scenarios. There will be disruptions and changes but I doubt a smooth and straight shot to Post-Singularity. 99.99+% of the people will not be ready for the disruptions or the hard takeoff. They will not believe it now. It has to happen first, then most people will respond.

The forecasting and planning that I do now is to look at exactly what is around the next corner and giving the earliest most detailed heads up about it and to figure out how things will impact and to get in a position to advise on the best way to handle it.

I think the new tech has to be accelerated so we have the tools to better handle our current problems. If anything the tech development is happening too slow. Yes, we will have new downside to deal with or prevent, but I do not see people getting it together on a mass scale to do anything about the downside of the next tech when they are still dealing with the downside of tech that is a century old.

I think we will still have much of the same social problems as technology advances.

Certain problems are ameniable to technological fixes. Disease, starvation, energy etc...

The politics, ethics and social matters do have their place but as part of a TED conference or a conference specifically on the risks and issues. Trying to force feed it in this kind of program will not work. If you want another program then go ahead and start one.

When has there been effective action to totally pre-empt a developing future social or environmental problem ? Action now against climate change and environment happens as the problem is already happening. Definitely try to do something about it but I think we have to expect that certain actions will not be taken on sufficient scale and thus try to make a general move for multi-purpose robustness and preparedness. Ride along with what people are willing to take action against or for and try to beef it up for robustness against other problems.

Cyclone External Combustion Engines and DARPA Self-Fueling Robots

Cyclone Green Revolution Engine can burn any fuel and use any heat source (even focused sunlight) The Schoell cycle engine is a cross between a Rankine, Diesel and Carnot cycle engine.

Rankine cycle is sometimes referred to as a practical Carnot cycle as, when an efficient turbine is used, the TS diagram will begin to resemble the Carnot cycle. The main difference is that a pump is used to pressurize liquid instead of gas. This requires about 100 times less energy than that compressing a gas in a compressor (as in the Carnot cycle). The efficiency of a Rankine cycle is usually limited by the working fluid.

DARPA Using It to Power A Self-refueling Autonomous Robot
H/T to Alfin: Alfin notes that DARPA will be using the cyclone engine to power an autonomous robot.

The purpose of the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR)(patent pending) project is to develop and demonstrate an autonomous robotic platform able to perform long-range, long-endurance missions without the need for manual or conventional re-fueling, which would otherwise preclude the ability of the robot to perform such missions. The system obtains its energy by foraging – engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.

Here is a presentation on the DARPA long duration robot plans.

Some Cyclone Engine Details
Unlike IC (Internal combustion - regular gase engines) engines, the Cyclone engine uses an external combustion chamber to heat a separate working fluid, de-ionized water, which expands to create mechanical energy by moving pistons or a turbine.

Since the combustion is external to the mechanism, the Cyclone engine can run on any fuel… liquid or gaseous. Ethanol, diesel, gasoline, biomass … anything from municipal trash and agricultural waste to traditional fossil fuels can power the Green Revolution Engine – individually, or in combination. Initial tests of the engine used fuels derived from orange peels, palm oil, cottonseed oil, and chicken fat … none of which are impacted by cartels, hostile governments or dwindling reserves.

Whereas almost anything can go into a Green Revolution Engine, almost nothing comes out. It is exceptionally environment-friendly because the combustion is continuous and more easily regulated for temperature, oxidizers and fuel amount. Lower combustion temperatures and pressures create less toxic and exotic exhaust gases.

Waste Heat Engine
Cyclone’s Waste Heat Engine (WHE, pronounced “we”) is a low temperature, low pressure, self-starting model of the Cyclone Engine.

Some Specs:
6-cylinder radial - uniflow - Rankine cycle engine
Weight 18 lbs without condenser and alternator

Because the WHE runs on heat as low as 225 degrees, it can pull its power from many different sources of “wasted” heat or renewable fuels, such as:

* Commercial or small-scale industrial ovens or furnaces
* Concentrating solar thermal collectors
* Engine exhaust – transportation or power generation
* Biomass combustion – dry and raw waste disposal

Running the Cyclone Engine Without Air for Underwater and Space Applications
Another technological achievement involves running the patented Cyclone Engine by the combustion of an environmentally friendly monopropellant called Moden Fuel. Moden Fuel is able to burn in the complete absence of air, a requirement for underwater and space applications.

Light Weight and Simple

The Cyclone Engine is smaller, with fewer parts. However, the materials handling the high operating temperatures and pressures are slightly more expensive. For example, aluminum block costs a bit more but is much lighter than traditional engine blocks. A typical 4 cylinder block weighs approximately 200 lbs where a Cyclone aluminum block will weigh about 35 lbs with no cores.

The cost of manufacturing the Cyclone Engine should be no more expensive to produce at similar economies of scale than conventional gasoline engines of comparable power output with the advantages of being able to use the least expensive fuel available.

Making Biofuel More Affordable
Ethanol or biodiesel can be burned in pure form in the Cyclone Engine, and does not need to be blended with petroleum based fuels. Furthermore, and more importantly, neither ethanol nor biodiesel needs to be as carefully refined as now, and it does not need to meet narrow specifications. Our preliminary estimate is that eliminating the last few refining steps from the production process of either ethanol or biodiesel would reduce their production cost by 20% to 40%. That would be enough to make them cost competitive with oil, and without subsidies. Because the fuel needed in the Cyclone engine can be much broader in its required specifications it may be possible to come up with production processes that are completely new and which could drop total production costs by 40% to 50% over current methods and processes. It will have the even further benefit of allowing additional biomass feedstocks to be considered than is presently the case.

Efficiency of the Cyclone Engine

Existing high compression uniflow type engines have been built. Water rate determines the efficiency. The use of supercritical & heat regenerative greatly increase the total efficiency. A gasoline engine is about 25% efficient and will use about HP X .08 = gallons per HP per Hour. Diesel about 30-38% and will use approximately HP X .055 = gallons per HP per Hour. The cost of Diesel fuel is approximately 15% more than regular gasoline.

The Mark IV cyclone engine is in the diesel range. However, Cyclone engines well to wheel efficiency is higher as there is no transmission, no filters and other hardware to operate. In stop and go traffic the Cyclone Engine will get far better mileage. The mark II is on the upper scale of gasoline and is less than the Mark IV. Because of a simpler valve mechanism that will lower the cost of Mfg it works at lower temperatures.

Different Engine Models and Applications
The different engine models are described here along with specifications.

1. Small electrical generators in the 1 kW to 10 kW output range. This would be the smallest practical scale of Cyclone Engine. Being relatively light, compact and clean running, this engine/generator package is ideal for household, marine, truck and emergency applications. Can also be used as engines for lawnmowers or other small equipment.

2. Medium size Cyclones of 100 horsepower to 400 horsepower are ideal for passenger automobiles, light trucks and small boats.

3. Large Cyclones from 400 to 1,000 horsepower will target the diesel truck market. These will run well because of the high torque of the Cyclone, not to mention the health and environmental benefits from operating low pollution engines.

4. Refrigeration units could be directly run off the small Schoell Cycle Cyclone Engine. Yachts and commercial craft would benefit greatly because of the lack of smoke and vibration in these engines of 400 to 1000 horsepower.

5. Larger yachts and stand-by generators, i.e. hospitals, will benefit by the absence of vibration, noise and in Cyclone Engines of between 1,000 to 4,000 horsepower.

6. The Cyclone Engine could effectively power light Rail Commuter Trains and large road transporters, as this system is quick to start- up. Such a simple traction engine is far less costly than the large diesel-electric prime-mover engines.

Fox News Video

There is a 4 minute video at Engineering TV

Peswiki has collected information on this company and their engines.

Schoell cycle engine is a cross between a Rankine, Diesel and Carnot cycle engine.

Advent Power Systems - Employing the environmentally friendly external combustion Cyclone Technology engine and associative technologies for the U.S. Military, for biomass production of energy, and related areas which provide superior and cost saving capabilities to Advent Power Systems clients.

Wikipedia covers thermodynamic cycles and the many different kinds of engines.