April 09, 2011

Carnival of Space 192

The Carnival of Space 192 is up at Vega00.

Parallel Spirals looksat the India Space Research Organizations 2010 Annual report They look at the space access component of this report which is titled, “Space Transportation”.

2011 will see only two flights of the PSLV. These are the PSLV-C16 carrying Resourcesat-2, YOUTHSAT and XSat-1 and PSLV-C17 carrying GSAT-12.

GSLV Mk-III - ISRO has been building up towards the development of this Medium Lift Vehicle capable of delivering 5 tons to GTO.

Moon Express is a silicon valley startup with plans to mine the moon

Moon Express Inc., or MoonEx, a Silicon Valley start-up is building robotic rovers capable of scouring the lunar surface for precious metals and rare metallic elements.

The private company is building its hardware alongside scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center northwest of San Jose. It was co-founded by Naveen Jain, who made a fortune off his previous start-up InfoSpace Inc.; Barney Pell, the head architect behind Microsoft Corp.'s Bing Internet search engine; and Robert Richards, a commercial space entrepreneur.

MoonEx has been selected by NASA for its $30M Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) program. The ILDD contract is for the purchase of technical data resulting from industry efforts to develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions. The data from these contracts will inform the development of future human and robotic lander vehicles and exploration systems.

Universal' Virus-Free Method to Turn Blood Cells Into 'Beating' Heart Cells that is simple and ten times cheaper

Science Daily - Johns Hopkins scientists have developed a simplified, cheaper, all-purpose method they say can be used by scientists around the globe to more safely turn blood cells into heart cells. The method is virus-free and produces heart cells that beat with nearly 100 percent efficiency, they claim. Virus-free, iPSC-derived cardiac cells could be used in laboratories to test drugs that treat arrhythmia and other conditions. Eventually, bioengineers could develop grafts of the cells that are implanted into patients who suffered heart attacks.

Zambidis' team has recently developed similar techniques for turning these blood-derived iPSC lines into retinal, neural and vascular cells.

Zambidis says, "many scientists previously thought that a nonviral method of inducing blood cells to turn into highly functioning cardiac cells was not within reach, but "we've found a way to do it very efficiently and we want other scientists to test the method in their own labs." However, he cautions that the cells are not yet ready for human testing.

To get stem cells taken from one source (such as blood) and develop them into a cell of another type (such as heart), scientists generally use viruses to deliver a package of genes into cells to, first, get them to turn into stem cells. However, viruses can mutate genes and initiate cancers in newly transformed cells. To insert the genes without using a virus, Zambidis' team turned to plasmids, rings of DNA that replicate briefly inside cells and eventually degrade.

A Universal System for Highly Efficient Cardiac Differentiation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells That Eliminates Interline Variability

Google has developed speech-recognition technology that actually works

Slate - If you've got an Android phone, try this: Hit the microphone icon on the home screen, then ask, "How many angstroms in a mile?" Use your normal speaking voice—don't speak slowly or strain to over-pronounce "angstrom." So long as you have a good Internet connection, the phone shouldn't take more than a second to recognize your question and shoot back a reply: 1.609344 × 10^13.

Google mobile - launched Voice Search more than two years ago, we wanted it to “just work” right out of the box, without an initial setup process. And so, we built speech models broad enough to accommodate a wide variety of people, regardless of gender, age, and accents, or variations in pitch, pace, and other factors. But we always knew we could build a more accurate model by listening to your voice, and learning how you -- as a unique individual -- speak. So today we’re launching personalized recognition.

If you've tried speech-recognition software in the past, you may be skeptical of Android's capabilities. Older speech software required you to talk in a stilted manner, and it was so prone to error that it was usually easier just to give up and type. Today's top-of-the-line systems—like software made by Dragon—don't ask you to talk funny, but they tend to be slow and use up a lot of your computer's power when deciphering your words. Google's system, on the other hand, offloads its processing to the Internet cloud. Everything you say to Android goes back to Google's data centers, where powerful servers apply statistical modeling to determine what you're saying. The process is fast, can be done from anywhere, and is uncannily accurate. You can speak normally (though if you want punctuation in your email, you've got to say "period" and "comma"), you can speak for as long as you'd like, and you can use the biggest words you can think of. It even works if you've got an accent.

April 08, 2011

Summary of lasers for weapons

Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress (53 pages)

Department of Defense (DOD) development work on high-energy military lasers, which has been underway for decades, has reached the point where lasers capable of countering certain surface and air targets at ranges of about a mile could be made ready for installation on Navy surface ships over the next few years. More powerful shipboard lasers, which could become ready for installation in subsequent years, could provide Navy surface ships with an ability to counter a wider range of surface and air targets at ranges of up to about 10 miles. These more powerful lasers might, among other things, provide Navy surface ships with a terminal-defense capability against certain ballistic missiles, including the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) that China is believed to be developing.

The Navy and DOD are developing three principal types of lasers for potential use on Navy surface ships—fiber solid state lasers (SSLs), slab SSLs, and free electron lasers (FELs). The Navy’s fiber SSL prototype demonstrator is called the Laser Weapon System (LaWS). Among DOD’s multiple efforts to develop slab SSLs for military use is the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD), a prototype laser weapon developed as a rapid demonstration project. The Navy has developed a lower-power FEL prototype and is now developing a prototype with scaled-up power. These lasers differ in terms of their relative merits as potential shipboard weapons.

For purposes of this report, the term “short range” generally refers to ranges of one or two nautical miles, while references to longer ranges or extended ranges refer to ranges of up to about 10 nautical miles. Lasers are one type of directed energy weapon (DEW); other DEWs include microwave weapons and millimeter wave weapons.

The Navy recently succeeded in using a ship based laser to disable a small boat.

Progress towards understanding molecular motion and determining means to control it

The mechanism of molecular motion changes as the environment changes; in this case, due to competition from free receptors (blue) in solution

Controlling how molecules move on surfaces could be the key to more potent drugs that block the attachment of viruses to cells, and will also speed development of new materials for electronics and energy applications. Tyndall National Institute, UCC researcher Dr. Thompson performed computer simulations that enabled a greater understanding of how two-legged molecules move along patterned surfaces, in a kind of molecular hopscotch.

Theory that vacuum becomes superconducting when the magnetic field is over 10 quadrillion tesla

Arxiv - Spontaneous electromagnetic superconductivity of vacuum in strong magnetic fi eld: an evidence from the Nambu{Jona-Lasinio model The required magnetic field dwarfs even the most magnetic things in the universe today - neutron stars called magnetars, which boast fields of up to 10^11 Tesla.

Using an extended Nambu{Jona-Lasinio model as a low energy e ffective model of QCD, we support our earlier proposal that the QCD vacuum in a strong external magnetic fi eld (stronger than 10^16 Tesla) experiences a spontaneous phase transition to an electromagnetically superconducting state. The unexpected superconductivity of, basically, empty space is induced by emergence of quark-antiquark vector condensates with quantum numbers of electrically charged rho mesons. The superconducting phase possesses an anisotropic inhomogeneous structure similar to a periodic Abrikosov lattice in a type-II superconductor. The superconducting vacuum is made of new type of vortices which are topological defects in the charged vector condensates. The superconductivity is realized along the axis of the magnetic fi eld only. We argue that this e ect is absent in QED.

Summary presentation after the first phase of DARPA's SYNAPSE project

Electronic chip represents key building block of neuromorphic architecture
Credit: IBM

The goal of SyNAPSE is to create electronic systems, inspired by the human brain, that can understand, adapt, and respond to information in fundamentally different ways than traditional computers. While current computers are organized into distinct processor and memory units that function in accordance with their programming, the brain is organized as an intimate and distributed web of very simple processors (neurons) and memory (synapses) that spontaneously communicate and learn their functions. Using knowledge of the brain’s organization as a platform, SyNAPSE is developing integrated circuits with high densities of electronic devices and integrated communication networks that approximate the function and connectivity of neurons and synapses. This program has also developed tools to support this specific area of hardware development such as circuit design tools, large-scale computer simulations of hardware function, and virtual training environments that can test and benchmark these systems.

Radiation Effects Research Foundation Research

How many cancers in atomic-bomb survivors are attributable to radiation? from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation FAQ

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation has the primary list of the studies, a series of 13 studies tracking the health of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Technical Report No. 24-02 Studies of mortality of atomic bomb survivors. Report 13: Solid cancer and noncancer disease mortality: 1950-1997

This continues the series of general reports on mortality in the cohort of atomic bomb survivors followed up by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. This cohort includes 86,572 people with individual dose estimates, 60% of whom have doses of at least 5 mSv. We consider mortality for solid cancer and for noncancer diseases with 7 additional years of follow-up. There have been 9,335 deaths from solid cancer and 31,881 deaths from noncancer diseases during the 47-year follow-up. Of these, 19% of the solid cancer and 15% of the noncancer deaths occurred during the latest 7 years. We estimate that about 440 (5%) of the solid cancer deaths and 250 (0.8%) of the noncancer deaths were associated with the radiation exposure.

Navy moves a step closer to lasers for ship self-defense with a field trial that disabled a small ship

The Office of Naval Research successfully disables a small target vessel using a solid-state, high-energy laser mounted onto the deck of the Navy's self-defense test ship, former USS Paul Foster (DD 964). Credit: US Navy photograph

Marking a milestone for the Navy, the Office of Naval Research and its industry partner on April 6 successfully tested a solid-state, high-energy laser (HEL) from a surface ship, which disabled a small target vessel.
The maritime laser from an older photo

UPDATE - I have a summary of the navy laser weapons program from a 53 page report to Congress.

Surface-Plasmon Holography with White-Light Illumination

Surface plasmon hologram and its color reconstruction with white-light illumination. (A) The SPP hologram is illuminated by white light at a given angle θ in high-index medium. Surface plasmons of a selected color are excited and diffracted by the SPP hologram to reconstruct the wavefront of the object. (B) Dispersion curve of the SPP hologram in reconstruction as a function of the incident angle of white light. The 3D images of red, green, and blue cranes made of paper are obtained at different angles with white-light illumination. This curve was obtained through calculations based on Fresnel’s equations. (C) Reconstruction of a color object through SPP hologram. The hologram is illuminated simultaneously with a white light in three directions at different angles θ and ϕ for each.

Science - Japan's RIKEN team have altered the way a hologram is recorded and displayed to ensure that the color of the image remains the same at all angles.

The recently emerging three-dimensional (3D) displays in the electronic shops imitate depth illusion by overlapping two parallax 2D images through either polarized glasses that viewers are required to wear or lenticular lenses fixed directly on the display. Holography, on the other hand, provides real 3D imaging, although usually limiting colors to monochrome. The so-called rainbow holograms—mounted, for example, on credit cards—are also produced from parallax images that change color with viewing angle. We report on a holographic technique based on surface plasmons that can reconstruct true 3D color images, where the colors are reconstructed by satisfying resonance conditions of surface plasmon polaritons for individual wavelengths. Such real 3D color images can be viewed from any angle, just like the original object.

Quantum interference of large organic molecules

The effusive source emits molecules that are velocity-selected by the three delimiters S1, S2 and S3. The KDTL interferometer is composed of two SiNx gratings G1 and G3, as well as the standing light wave G2. The optical dipole force grating imprints a phase modulation ϕ(x)∝αopt·P/(v·wy) onto the matter wave. Here αopt is the optical polarizability, P the laser power, v the molecular velocity and wy the laser beam waist perpendicular to the molecular beam. The molecules are detected using electron impact ionization and quadrupole mass spectrometry.

Nature Communications - Quantum interference of large organic molecules

The wave nature of matter is a key ingredient of quantum physics and yet it defies our classical intuition. First proposed by Louis de Broglie a century ago, it has since been confirmed with a variety of particles from electrons up to molecules. Here we demonstrate new high-contrast quantum experiments with large and massive tailor-made organic molecules in a near-field interferometer. Our experiments prove the quantum wave nature and delocalization of compounds composed of up to 430 atoms, with a maximal size of up to 60 Å, masses up to m=6,910 AMU and de Broglie wavelengths down to λdB=h/mv≃1 pm. We show that even complex systems, with more than 1,000 internal degrees of freedom, can be prepared in quantum states that are sufficiently well isolated from their environment to avoid decoherence and to show almost perfect coherence.

In conclusion, our experiments reveal the quantum wave nature of tailor-made organic molecules in an unprecedented mass and size domain. They open a new window for quantum experiments with nanoparticles in a complexity class comparable to that of small proteins, and they demonstrate that it is feasible to create and maintain high quantum coherence with initially thermal systems consisting of more than 1,000 internal degrees of freedom.

Responding to questions about the Hiroshima long term radiation study

There are some people who are saying that the Hiroshima long term radiation study has flaws in it

They referred to a 16 pager that claims issues with the study. The counter references are mostly not in any peer reviewed journals. So if the claim of improper cohorts has some validity there is still the raw data for re-comparing to different cohorts. So where are those journal comparisons ?

They are claiming that instead of 5% more cancer risk it could be 40%. That is for far higher radiation dosages at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

April 07, 2011

A new method produces dense arrays of carbon nanotubes for digital logic

Dense tubes: Speedier integrated circuits can be made from these densely packed arrays of carbon nanotubes. Credit: Nano Letters/ACS

Researchers have developed a new way of producing very dense arrays of carbon nanotubes suitable for making complex integrated circuits.

Nanotube transistors have shown great promise in simple experimental prototypes, but making them into the complex circuits—needed for the chips that run computers and cell phones—has proven tricky. Researchers at Stanford University are using the new fabrication method to build ever more complex circuits that they hope will soon rival the speed of silicon.

Nanoletters - Linear Increases in Carbon Nanotube Density Through Multiple Transfer Technique

Gendercide in China, India and other countries

India gender imbalance is heading to 110 boys to 100 girls

The news from India’s 2011 census is almost all heartening. Literacy is up; life expectancy is up; family size is stabilising. But there is one grim exception. In 2011 India counted only 914 girls aged six and under for every 1,000 boys.

QuickFRAC will enable faster and more profitable horizontal oil drilling

Packers Plus Energy Services Inc. is releasing a new technology capable of fracturing 60 stages downhole while only pumping 15 treatments at surface. This new system, called QuickFRAC®, is the first of its kind in the industry. The QuickFRAC® system is a set of tools capable of simultaneously stimulating multiple stages with a single fracture treatment (batch fracturing).

Petrobakken director Dan Themig on March 18, 2011, purchased roughly $900,000 worth of Petrobakken shares. Petrobakken is a heavy user of multistage horizontal fracturing. Themig wasn’t the only insider buying, as CEO Wright and a couple of others did as well. Themig is the founder and president of Packers Plus which is the company that created the fracking technology (working with Petrobakken) that “cracked the code” in the Saskatchewan Bakken. In other words he is the foremost expert on fracking in the Bakken.

Canada's Oilsands Could Boom to 5 million barrels per day by 2020 and Water and CO2 flooding are increasing oil from Canadas part of Bakken

1. CIBC's Andrew Potter estimates that Canada's oil sands production will jump from 1.5 million barrels a day in 2010 to five million barrels by 2020. This is being caused by high oil prices in combination with low natural gas prices.

"In situ projects are highly dependent on the price of natural gas," says Marc Huot, a technical analyst at the Pembina Institute, an energy think tank in Alberta, Canada. "For every single unit of energy that goes in, most of it in the form of natural gas, you get only five units of energy out." Conventional oil, by comparison, gives an energy return of more than 10 to 1, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A New Way to Make Reprogrammed Stem Cells that is 100 times more efficient

Mouse iPSCs generated using the microRNA method pioneered by the Morrisey Lab. The green fluorescence reveals expression of the Oct4 gene, which is a marker of pluripotent stem cells. Credit: Ed Morrisey, PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Penn study eliminates the use of transcription factors and increases efficiency of reprogramming stem cells by 100-fold

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have devised a totally new and far more efficient way of generating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), immature cells that are able to develop into several different types of cells or tissues in the body. The researchers used fibroblast cells, which are easily obtained from skin biopsies, and could be used to generate patient-specific iPSCs for drug screening and tissue regeneration.

Possible Technicolor Force and new particle spotted at Tevatron supercollider

The vertical axis shows the number of events - where each event is the production of a W boson and a pair of particle jets - in proton-antiproton collisions at the Tevatron. The horizontal axis shows the mass of the pair of jets. Physicists expected the number of events to fall off as the mass of the jet pairs rose (red), but instead they observed a bump. The extra events may have been created by mysterious new particles (Image: CDF collaboration)

Arxiv - Technicolor at the Tevatron (5 pages)

We propose that the 3.2 standard deviation excess at about 150 GeV in the dijet mass spectrum of W + jets reported by CDF is the technipion Xt of low-scale technicolor. Its relatively large cross section is due to production of a narrow Wjj resonance, the technirho, which decays to W *T . We discuss ways to enhance and strengthen the technicolor hypothesis and suggest companion searches at the Tevatron and LHC.

New Scientist - the physics world is buzzing with news of an unexpected sighting at Fermilab's Tevatron collider in Illinois – a glimpse of an unidentified particle that, should it prove to be real, will radically alter physicists' prevailing ideas about how nature works and how particles get their mass.

MIT also working on printing buildings

Model maker: Neri Oxman works on “Cartesian Wax: Prototype for a Responsive Skin,” a model that is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Credit: Mikey Siegel

Neri Oxman, an architect and a professor at MIT's Media Lab, intends to print buildings instead—essentially using concrete, polymers, and other materials in the place of ink. Oxman is developing a new way of designing buildings to take advantage of the flexibility that printing can provide. If she's successful, her approach could lead to designs that are impossible with today's construction methods.

Contour Crafting and Catepillar corporation have been working on printing buildings without using forms for the concrete. Oxman's work would take this another step, adding the ability to vary the properties of the concrete, and eventually work with multiple materials.

D-Shape is a european effort at printing buildings

Application of Graphene to High-Speed Transistors: Expectations and Challenges

Application of Graphene to High-Speed Transistors: Expectations and Challenges (17 pages) This paper is an excellent summary of the background and progress and challenges for using graphene for then next generation faster computers and electronics.

The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) committee has added carbon materials including CNT and graphene to the list of promising materials or technologies for future high-performance LSI, and has been discussing the feasibility. On the other hand, at a meeting held in 2009, the discussion was made under an assumption that the realization of graphene-based technologies would not come before 2019. The meaning of this is that it will require a long time of research and development for the realization of graphene-based devices because, in spite of its wonderful potentiality, the research and development of graphene are still at an early and basic stage and there are still a number of technical challenges.

IBM makes 155 Ghz graphene transistors on diamond-like carbon

a, Schematic view of a top-gated graphene r.f. transistor on DLC substrate. b, SEM image of a typical top-gated dual-channel r.f. device. Scale bar, 3 μm. c, Cross-section TEM image of a graphene transistor with a gate length of 40 nm.

Nature- High-frequency, scaled graphene transistors on diamond-like carbon

Owing to its high carrier mobility and saturation velocity, graphene has attracted enormous attention in recent years. In particular, high-performance graphene transistors for radio-frequency (r.f.) applications are of great interest. Synthesis of large-scale graphene sheets of high quality and at low cost has been demonstrated using chemical vapour deposition (CVD) methods14. However, very few studies have been performed on the scaling behaviour of transistors made from CVD graphene for r.f. applications, which hold great potential for commercialization. Here we report the systematic study of top-gated CVD-graphene r.f. transistors with gate lengths scaled down to 40 nm, the shortest gate length demonstrated on graphene r.f. devices. The CVD graphene was grown on copper film and transferred to a wafer of diamond-like carbon. Cut-off frequencies as high as 155 GHz have been obtained for the 40-nm transistors, and the cut-off frequency was found to scale as 1/(gate length). Furthermore, we studied graphene r.f. transistors at cryogenic temperatures. Unlike conventional semiconductor devices where low-temperature performance is hampered by carrier freeze-out effects, the r.f. performance of our graphene devices exhibits little temperature dependence down to 4.3 K, providing a much larger operation window than is available for conventional devices.

Ben Goertzel interviews anti-aging researcher

The artificial general intelligence researcher Ben Goertzel is a major proponent of anti-aging research. In H+magazine, Goertzel interviews one of the foremost authorities on the subject, Jao Pedro de Magalhaes. Magalhaes is confident that with sufficient funding, anti-aging treatments could be in use by mid-century.

Artificial Leaf Follow up

Leaves that are not green: Silicon coated with inexpensive catalysts splits water into hydrogen and oxygen inside an illuminated container of water.
Credit: Daniel Nocera, MIT

MIT Technology Review - A new device offers distinct advantages over previous attempts to improve upon natural photosynthesis.

Daniel Nocera, a professor at MIT, revealed preliminary details of the device, which he calls the first practical "artificial leaf," at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in California on March 27. The device combines a commercially available solar cell with a pair of inexpensive catalysts made of cobalt and nickel that split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Using this approach, a solar panel roughly one square meter bathed in water could produce enough hydrogen to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for both day and night, Nocera says.

Using a thin-film silicon solar cell that converts the energy in light with 7 percent efficiency, Nocera says his group achieved 5 percent efficiency for the conversion of sunlight to hydrogen. Natural photosynthesis is less than 1 percent efficient at converting sunlight to energy.

If Rossi and Focardi can Deliver

The Rossi and Focardi energy catalyzer is based on the Nickel-64 hydrogen reaction.

A recent theory for cold fusion is that deuteron stripping reactions (1935 discovery by Oppenheimer) are occurring with Nickel-64 isotope. This would produce 8 MeV for each reaction for the 1% of the nickel that is nickel-64. 80,000 eV for each atom of nickel. 1250 times more energy density by weight than any chemical reaction.

The Widom Larson theory was reviewed at nextbigfuture.

Rossi has claimed that they will make a one megawatt power plant by the end of this year and a 300,000 unit a year manufacturing plant in Xanthi will follow in 2012-2013. Assuming those are the smaller units which need 300 for each MW, then they would have a 1 gigawatt/year plant. A 1 gigawatt/year plant could not have any reliability issues that have plagued prior LENR work. If they are real then there would be fairly rapid scaling up from the 1 gigawatt/year plants. There would be major energy delivery impact by 2015-2017.

April 06, 2011

Swedish Researchers confirm Rossi and Focardi Energy Catalyzer as a Nuclear Process

Three E-cats without insulation and one insulated. Text in blue indicates hydrogen inlet, main heater, auxiliary heater and water inlet. Foto: Giuseppe Levi

In a detailed report, two Swedish physicists exclude chemical reactions as the energy source in the Italian ‘energy catalyzer’. The two physicists recently supervised a new test of the device in Bologna, Italy.

“In some way a new kind of physics is taking place. It’s enigmatic, but probably no new laws of nature are involved. We believe it is possible to explain the process with known laws of nature,” said Hanno Essén, associate professor of theoretical physics and a lecturer at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology and chairman of the Swedish Skeptics Society.

Essén and Professor Emeritus at Uppsala University Sven Kullander, also chairman of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Energy Committee, both participated on 29 March as observers at a new trial in Bologna of the so-called ‘energy catalyzer’, which could be based on cold fusion, or LENR, Low Energy Nuclear Reaction.

Modeling of Time with Metamaterials

Arxiv - Modeling of Time with Metamaterials (14 pages)

Metamaterials have been already used to model various exotic “optical spaces”. Here we demonstrate that mapping of monochromatic extraordinary light distribution in a hyperbolic metamaterial along some spatial direction may model the “flow of time”. This idea is demonstrated in experiments performed with plasmonic hyperbolic metamaterials. Appearance of the “statistical arrow of time” is examined in an experimental scenario which emulates a Big Bang-like event

Spacex Falcon Heavy could enable Mars Sample Return Missions and Other Plans from Elon Musk

Ian O'Neill (Discovery News) reports that Elon Musk believes that a successful Spacex Falcon Heavy will enable Mars Sample return

"We can realistically start to contemplate missions like a Mars sample return, which requires a tremendous amount of lift capability because you have to send a lander to Mars that still has enough propellant to return to Earth," Musk said.

Asian Development Bank Predicts China's GDP to grow 9.6 per cent in 2011

China's economy is expected to grow 9.6 per cent in 2011 as fixed asset investment remains a key driver, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

With inflationary pressures building and a tightened monetary policy, China's GDP growth was forecast moderate this year, compared with a growth of 10.3 per cent in 2010, said the ADB in its 2011 Asian Development Outlook, which expected a growth of 9.2 per cent in 2012.

Chinese Solar Power Companies and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Tout competitive Solar Power Costs

Solar panel installations may surge in the next two years as the cost of generating electricity from the sun rivals coal-fueled plants, industry executives and analysts said.

Large photovoltaic projects will cost $1.45 a watt to build by 2020, half the current price, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated today. The London-based research company says solar is viable against fossil fuels on the electric grid in the most sunny regions such as the Middle East.

Chinese companies such as JA Solar Holdings Ltd., Canadian Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are making panels cheaper, fueled by better cell technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes. That’s making solar economical in more places and will put it in competition with coal, without subsidies, in the coming years, New Energy Finance said.

World population could peak at 11 billion instead of 9.4 billion

Demographer John Bongaarts indicates that population in the 21st century could go to 11 billion

The UN predicts that we will reach 9.1 billion in 2050, then the peak will occur around 2070 at 9.4 billion. But it is so far ahead and the margin of uncertainty is huge. We could easily end up with 1 or 2 billion more, or less.

NBF predicts a higher population because of better than expected life extension and pro-population growth policies in Europe and Asia and slower fertility declines in Africa. Prediction 11.5 billion by 2100. No peak in 2050.

Reasons for higher population

The UN assumes fertility in Africa, for example, will decline steadily from current levels of around four to five children, to around two. It might well go slower than that. Kenya, for example, had a fertility rate of nearly 8 in the 1960s, which came down to around 5 in the 1990s and has remained at that level. This was not expected by the UN, which expects things to go down steadily.

Governments in countries with very low birth rates are now considering implementing pro-natal policies. Most governments in Europe, I think, would like to see their birth rates go up a little bit. If that happens, there will be more Europeans, Japanese and Russians. Also, people might live longer than the UN predicts. The UN assumes that future increases in life expectancy will be slower than in the past. That may be wrong.

Global wind power capacity grew 24 percent to 197 gigawatts in 2010

Global wind power capacity grew 24 percent to 197 gigawatts in 2010, due to revised figures for new installed capacity in China according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC)

China added 18.9 GW of new wind power capacity, thereby reaching a total installed capacity of 44.7 GW.

Global shale gas boosts total recoverable natural gas resources by 40%

A new EIA-sponsored study reported initial assessments of 5,760 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas resources in 32 foreign countries, compared with 862 Tcf in the United States. Technically recoverable natural gas resources in the assessed basins totaled 5,760 Tcf. Adding the estimated U.S. shale gas technically recoverable resources (862 Tcf) to the assessments in the study gives a total of 6,622 Tcf. For comparison, most current estimates of world technically recoverable natural gas resources include few if any of the resources assessed in this study and total about 16,000 Tcf. Adding identified shale gas resources to current estimates of other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable resources by over 40 percent, to more than 22,000 trillion cubic feet.

In terms of recoverable shale gas resources, China takes the top spot, with an estimated 1,275 Tcf. The US is second, with 862 Tcf, followed by Argentina with 774 Tcf and Mexico with 681 Tcf.

Sound is used to shape nanoparticles into nanocomposite metamaterial structures

These images show microcomputed x‑ray tomography renderings of an acoustically engineered nanocomposite metamaterial based on ~5nm‑diameter diamond nanoparticles.

A very simple bench-top technique that uses the force of acoustical waves to create a variety of 3D structures will benefit the rapidly expanding field of metamaterials and their myriad applications—including "invisibility cloaks." Sound is used to shape nanoparticles into nanocomposite metamaterial structures.

Metamaterials are artificial materials that are engineered to have properties not found in nature. These materials usually gain their unusual properties—such as negative refraction that enables subwavelength focusing, negative bulk modulus, and band gaps—from structure rather than composition.

IEA World Energy Outlook 2010

Fossil fuel subsidies were $312 billion in 2009 and were $558 billion in 2008 The Fossil fuel consumption subsidies increase with higher oil prices. If oil subsidies were removed then oil demand would be 4.7 million barrels per day lower in 2020.

Germany will extend the life of coal power in its shift from nuclear power

Germany will extend the life of coal-fired power stations to replace supply from the nuclear plants that could be shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The three-month moratorium on seven nuclear power stations could be made permanent, and the rest of the country's nuclear stations will be shut down by 2020, a decade earlier than planned, according to Juergen Becker, the German environment and nuclear safety secretary.

"The present discussion in Germany goes in the direction that the nuclear power plants that have been closed down during the moratorium will not be put back into operation - but they will be shut, closed down," Mr Becker said on the sidelines of an International Renewable Energy Agency summit in Abu Dhabi. "What will have to happen is that still-existing coal power plants, their operational time will have to be extended for some time, which will be a bad thing for our [carbon dioxide emission] balance."

Wearable Energy Harvesting Soft Generators Could Replace Batteries

This is a schematic of the physical layout of the soft generator.

Battery technology hasn't kept pace with advancements in portable electronics, but the race is on to fix this. One revolutionary concept being pursued by a team of researchers in New Zealand involves creating "wearable energy harvesters" capable of converting movement from humans or found in nature into battery power.

A class of variable capacitor generators known as "dielectric elastomer generators" (DEGs) shows great potential for wearable energy harvesting. In fact, researchers at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute's Biomimetics Lab believe DEGs may enable light, soft, form-fitting, silent energy harvesters with excellent mechanical properties that match human muscle. They describe their findings in the American Institute of Physics' journal Applied Physics Letters.

Applied Physics Letter - Soft generators using dielectric elastomers

Russia, NASA to hold talks on nuclear-powered spacecraft

UK Register - Russia, the US and other nations are to discuss cooperation on building a nuclear-powered spacecraft, according to the head of Roscosmos – the Russian space agency.

Anatoly Perminov, Roscosmos chief, tells state-owned newswire RIA Novosti that nuclear spacecraft plans are to be discussed with NASA on April 15. Perminov added that "countries with a high level of reactor manufacturing technology" are to take part in the talks. The report mentions China, France, Germany and Japan: technically the UK can also make reactors but its capability is weak compared to the main nuclear players and its space presence even more so.

Nextbigfuture had technical details of the Russian megawatt nuclear space propulsion and power generation designs.

Virgin Oceanic has a submarine to go to the bottom of the Ocean

Richard Branson has unveiled a Hawkes submarine that will go the bottom of 5 oceans. The company believes that it will set as many as 30 world records with each dive being the world’s first solo dive to the bottom of the five deepest trenches in the world. Branson also said he plans to create a larger submarine that can hold more people and offer trips to tourists for a sizable fee.

The Virgin Oceanic submarine represents a transformational technological advance in submarine economics and performance. The submarine provides the currently unequalled capability to take humans to any depth in the oceans and to truly explore. It utilises the latest in composite technology and a completely unique flying wing to literally fly within the Ocean environment; creatures living here such as dolphins, whales and rays have shown us this winged approach is the best and most elegant way to range the seas. The submarine is many times less expensive to manufacture and operate than any of its less capable counterparts and is in harmony with its environment.

The submarine was originally commissioned by Sir Richard’s close friend and fellow adventurer Steve Fossett who had intended to complete the first solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench. Sir Richard intends to finish what his friend started and then go on to help explore and unlock the wonders of the Oceans still unknown to humankind or science.

The vehicle is a unique design made from 8,000 pounds of carbon fibre and titanium. The pressure at the bottom of the deepest trench is over 1,000 atmospheres – the quartz dome alone is under 13 million pounds of pressure, the weight of three space shuttles.

Designed by Graham Hawkes, it is the only piloted craft in existence that has ‘full ocean depth’ capability. The one person sub has an operating depth of 37,000ft (7 miles) and is capable of operating for 24hrs unaided. Once fully descended, the submarine’s hydroplanes (the equivalent of wings for submarines) and thrusters will allow it to ‘fly’ up to 10km over the ocean floor whilst collecting video and data, something submersibles could only dream of.

At these depths, each individual part of the sub must be able to withstand enormous pressures, 1500 times that of an aeroplane, and protect its pilot from the extreme conditions just inches away. As Sir Richard and Chris each pilot the sub to the bottom of our planet, they will be aware that should anything go wrong, there is no rescue team that can reach them; whilst backed up by a mission crew, once at depth, the pilot and craft are alone. Full pressure testing will be conducted over the next three months.

The craft will cruise at a max of 3 knots and can dive 350ft per minute. At that speed, a dive to the bottom of the Marianna trench and back is estimated to take about five hours.

Japan’s SIM-Drive claims over 200-mile range for new EV

SIM-LEI demonstrated its ability for 333km range per charge. The body, weighing 1650kg, measures 4700mm x 1600mm x 1550mm, is “as long as a medium-size sedan, and as wide as a compact car,” according to SIM-Drive. It seats four people. Its fastest speed is 150Km/h. It takes 4.8 seconds to accelerate from zero to 100km/h, the company noted.

EETimes - IM-Drive Corp., Japan’s electric vehicle startup, has unveiled a new electric vehicle dubbed “SIM –LEI,” a four-seat sedan scheduled for mass production in 2013. “LEI” stands for “Leading Efficiency In-Wheel motor,” the company said.

The development goal was to build an EV capable of long-range driving. One critical performance objective was to achieve 300 km of range per charge. SIM-Drive said 300-km range approaches the range of gasoline-powered cars. The SIM-LEI prototype achieved a range of 333 km (207 miles) per change in “JC-08 mode,” which represents general urban traffic conditions in Japan. When running at 100-km per hour, the prototype managed 305-km range per charge.

Suggestion to raise radiation limits from the Journal Nature

Nature - A long shadow over Fukushima

The long-term response to Fukushima will have to be pragmatic. The Japanese authorities may have to rewrite the rule-book, as they have begun to do in allowing doses of 250 mSv for radiation workers. After an accident, it may be appropriate to set exposure limits for members of the public higher than the typical 1 mSv per year maximum. A limit of 5–10 mSv per year (perhaps with voluntary resettlement at doses above 1 mSv per year) may be appropriate, bearing in mind that millions of people in areas of high natural radioactivity worldwide are exposed to more than 10 mSv per year, and that occupational exposures (for example, to long-haul air crews) can be around 5 mSv per year.

Scientists discover a way to kill off tumors in cancer treatment breakthrough

Scientists from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University Belfast and Almac Discovery Ltd have developed a new treatment for cancer which rather than attacking tumours directly, prevents the growth of new blood vessels in tumours, starving them of oxygen and nutrients, thereby preventing their growth. Targeting tumour blood vessels is not a new concept, however, this drug attacks the blood vessels using an entirely different pathway and therefore could be useful for treating tumours which don't respond to or which are resistant to current therapies of this type.

IBM uses chip engineering to beat MRSA

IBM Corp. and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have shown that nanometer-scale polymeric chemicals can seek out and destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and infectious diseases such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

More people in the U.S. now die from the mostly hospital-acquired staph infection MRSA than from AIDS, according to a new report from the CDC. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was responsible for an estimated 94,000 life-threatening infections and 18,650 deaths in 2005, CDC researchers report in the Oct. 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

April 05, 2011

Problems with the Union of Concerned Scientists Position on Nuclear Power

The Union of Concerned Scientists position on Nuclear Power and Global warming has the following problems

To address global warming, we need a profound transformation of the ways in which we generate and consume energy. The urgency of this situation demands that we be willing to consider all possible options for coping with climate change.

Global Warming is still happening over decades. There are actions that can be taken and more actions that will need to be taken in future decades. Actions that take time to build up to a useful impact can still be useful.

It will take many decades to electrify transportation (maybe a million electric cars by 2020 out of one to two billion total cars.) Solar power cannot make a major impact in the next ten years.

The UCS repeats the roadmap target of the Solar Energy Industries Association that solar photovoltaics can provide half of the electricity for the USA by 2025. In 2006, the state’s Public Utility Commission approved the California Solar Initiative, which dedicates $3.2 billion over 11 years to develop 3,000 megawatts of new solar electricity, equal to placing PV systems on a million rooftops.

So 3 GW of solar which at 30% availability is equal to one 1 gigawatt nuclear power plant by 2017 ? Solar matters but nuclear power does not ?

Guest post reviewing Allthings Nuclear coverage of the Fukushima Daiichi with Nextbigfuture

Guest post by reader Sebtal

Introduction - Sebtal is a commenter to Nextbigfuture and has provided researched information. Sebtal felt that the Union of Concerned Scientists, who are a group that are against nuclear power had done a good job covering the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. I am presenting Sebastian selected Fukushima Daiichi coverage from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a $20 million a year organization with a primary focus of being a watchdog on nuclear power and nuclear weapons issues.

Fuel-cell-on-a-chip demonstrated

Harvard was able to pack 145 thin-film fuel cell batteries on a single wafe

EEtimes - Fuel cells on-a-chip could replace small batteries, according to Harvard University researchers who showed a wafer containing 145 solid-oxide fuel cells.

Spacex Falcon Heavy almost big enough to Launch Bigelow BA-2100

Bigelow Aerospace has designed a larger, heavier, and more capable expandable space station module, or interplanetary human transport module The BA 2100 would have a 2100 cubic meter volume and the BA 330 has a 330 cubic meter volume. The International space station has an internal volume of 1,000 cubic meters.

The weight of the module could be as low as 70 tonnes (150,000 lb) but for the BA-2100 would more likely be "in the range of 100 metric tonnes", and is substantially larger than the BA 330, with the docking ends of the module alone estimated at approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) in diameter. The concept model showed the docking ports at both ends. The BA-2100 would require the use of a super-heavy-lift launch vehicle–and would require an 8-meter fairing for launch–a launch vehicle that does not currently exist.

The Spacex Falcon Heavy will be able to launch 50-60 tons then Bigelow could design a BA 1500 that would fit that launch capacity.

Roubini is predicting a hard landing for China's Economy after 2013

Nouriel Roubini sent out a note regarding China's growth.

I’m writing on the heels of two trips to China during which I met with senior policy makers, bank executives and academics, just as the government launched its 12th Five-Year Plan, intended to rebalance the long-term growth model. My meetings deepened my own impression and RGE’s long-standing house view of a potentially destabilizing contradiction between short- and medium-term economic performance: The economy is overheating here and now, but I’m convinced that in the medium term China’s overinvestment will prove deflationary both domestically and globally.

Once increasing fixed investment becomes impossible—most likely after 2013—China is poised for a sharp slowdown. Continuing down the investment-led growth path will exacerbate the visible glut of capacity in manufacturing, real estate and infrastructure. I think this dichotomy between the high-growth/inflation pressures of the next couple of years and growth hitting a brick wall in the second half of the quinquennium is far more important than the current focus on a “soft landing” amid double-digit growth. A number of local scholars close to policy circles agree that this is the biggest challenge of the next few years, as we’ve been saying for months.

George Monbiot published his correspondence with Helen Coldicott

George Monbiot published his correspondence with Helen Coldicott where he asked for information supporting her claims made in a debate that they had on Democracy Now.

Interrogation of Helen Caldicotts responses.

This is supporting material for George's article Evidence Meltdown

Carnival of Space 191

Mercury from Orbit. Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / Carnegie Institution of Washington

Carnival of Space 191 is up at the Planetary Society blog

Chris Dann from WeirdWarp shows us some of MESSENGER's first photos of Mercury from orbit and explains why we're bothering to capture them.

The anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all by George Monbiot

George Monbiot UK Guardian - The anti-nuclear movement to which I [George Monbiot] once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.

Apparently Bill and Ted 3, Matrix 4 and 5 are very close to actually happening

When Keanu Reeves mentioned last year that a third Bill and Ted film was in the works, the project was so unformed it was ruled a joke. The original film's writers were '"going to try and see if they can write something," according to Reeves, who ribbed that the project should be shot in 3D black and white and be co-directed by Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Werner Herzog.

During an interview with MTV yesterday while promoting his new film Henry's Crime, however, it became clear that a third Bill and Ted installment is very close to actually happening

What next ? Johnny Mnemonic Reloaded

Spacex will have the most powerful operational rocket in 2012

SpaceX founder Elon Musk today unveiled the Falcon Heavy, a modified version of the Falcon 9 (pictured) with three times the power.

Elon Musk, the millionaire founder of private space company Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX for short) said the long planned Falcon Heavy vehicle would be ready for lift off at the end of 2012. The rocket, which he called the most powerful in the world, would be capable of taking men to the International Space Station, dropping vehicles and astronauts on the moon -- and maybe even cruising to Mars and back. "This is a rocket of truly huge scale," Musk said at a press conference unveiling the rocket. "With Falcon Heavy, we'll be able to put well over 100,000 pounds (50 tons) into orbit," he said, and possibly as much as 120,000 pounds (60 tons).

The lift capacity is almost double what has previously been discussed for the Falcon Heavy rocket (called the Falcon 9 heavy). The improved performance is from an upgrade to the Merlin rocket.

The Spacex Falcon Heavy page has been updated

Falcon 9 Heavy artists conception

The Paul Ryan Budget, Obama Budget and the Fiscal Commission Budget

The Wall Street journal coverage of the Paul Ryan budget.

Budget enforcement: This budget recognizes that it is not enough to change how much government spends. We must also change how government spends. It proposes budget-process reforms—including real, enforceable caps on spending—to make sure government spends and taxes only as much as it needs to fulfill its constitutionally prescribed roles.

Tax reform: This budget would focus on growth by reforming the nation's outdated tax code, consolidating brackets, lowering tax rates, and assuming top individual and corporate rates of 25%. It maintains a revenue-neutral approach by clearing out a burdensome tangle of deductions and loopholes that distort economic activity and leave some corporations paying no income taxes at all.

The Huffington post goes over some of the budget numbers from Paul Ryan's budget proposal and compares it the budget proposed by Obama

Obama’s budget plan would take spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the total economic output of the American economy, from 25.3 percent this year to the 22 percent range for much of the next decade. But by the end of the 10 year horizon, his plan has spending back at 23 percent. Revenues, meanwhile, which are currently at an anemic 14.4 percent, would creep up to 19 percent by 2015 and then hit 20 percent in 2021.

Obama’s budget does not show what happens beyond the 10-year window. So, compared to George W. Bush’s spending, he seems to be about on par. However, projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show spending growing at its current pace will grow to more than 26 percent of GDP in 2022, over 32 percent of GDP in 2030, 38 percent of GDP in 2040, and 45 percent of GDP by 2050, with the bulk of that spending driven by ever-rising health care costs.

Ryan’s plan would move spending back to historic levels, keeping it at 20 percent of GDP through 2030, and actually reducing it to under 19 percent by 2040. Ryan’s plan predicts revenues growing to 19 percent of GDP by 2040, allowing the national debt to be reduced over time.

A draft proposal from Ryan’s House Budget Committee says that under his plan, the national debt would be $1.1 trillion less than it would be over the next five years under Obama’s budget, and would add $3 trillion less to the debt than Obama’s budget proposal over the next decade. Ryan’s budget proposal would bring the debt held by the public to $13.9 trillion by 2016 and $16 trillion by 2021, compared to $15 trillion in 2016 and $19 trillion in 2021 under the president’s proposal

Ryan’s plan has $40 trillion in spending over the next 10 years compared to $34.9 trillion in revenues. Obama would spend $46 trillion in the coming decade while bringing in $38.8 trillion in revenues. So Ryan's plan would still result in the government spending $5.1 trillion more over the next decade than it brings in, but that’s less than the $7.2 trillion in deficit spending that Obama has proposed.

Gene Synthesis Costs have been slower to improve than previously expected

The general approach begins with DNA from a variety of sources. Here we used oligonucleotides synthesized from microarrays as well as from conventional sources. Then, next-generation sequencing is used to read and identify oligonucleotides

Back in 2007, George Church and others had predicted rapid improvement for the cost of gene synthesis.

Right now the cost of synthesizing a base [using conventional technology] is about 10 cents. That's the current street price for raw oligonucleotides. For synthesizing simple genes, it's more like $1.30 a base. [George Church claimed a method he had in 2007] could manufacture oligonucleotides at .01 cent per base.

Prediction from 2006, costs of gene synthesis per bases pair have fallen 50-fold, halving every 32 months. At the same time, the accuracy of gene synthesis technologies has improved significantly

Various US budget proposals

Republicans are set to propose a budget plan calling for fundamental changes in the U.S. government’s tax and spending policies, including overhauling the Medicare health-insurance program for the elderly.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is scheduled today to release a plan that would cut more than $6 trillion from President Barack Obama’s budget over 10 years, phase out traditional Medicare and call for a revamp of the tax code.

Defense and domestic programs would be reduced below 2008 levels for the next five years. That's a lower threshold, for a longer period of time, than cuts Obama proposed.
The US budget for 2008 was $2.9 trillion. The 2011 budget had $3.82 trillion in spending

April 04, 2011

Green Lantern Trailer from Wondercon

The Economic ends of Empires - Soviet Union, British Empire and the USA

The Brookings Institute published the English translation of "Collapse of an Empire: Lessons for Modern Russia," which was a bestseller in Russia. Written by Yegor Gaidar, an economist who was Russia's acting prime minister between 1991 and 1994, the book uses information from Soviet archives to tell the story of the last few years of the Soviet Union. It tries to shoot down the "myth" held by most Russians that the Soviet Union was "a dynamically developing world superpower until usurpers initiated disastrous reforms." It also warns that Russia should avoid the peril of another collapse in oil prices.

An IMF working paper analyzed US finances and indicates of higher taxes or cuts in services that add up to 35% are needed

The working paper of the IMF finds that, under a baseline scenario, a full elimination of the US fiscal and generational imbalances would require all taxes to go up and all transfers to be cut immediately and permanently by 35 percent. A delay in the adjustment makes it more costly.

"An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?" (39 page IMF report)

How screwed are Americas finances ? - this is the a paper by IMF economists version.

Bone marrow cells can transform into skin cells to revolutionize wound treatment

Researchers at King's College London and Osaka University in Japan have identified specific bone marrow cells that can transform into skin cells to repair damaged skin tissue. The research showed that around one in every 450 bone marrow cells has the capacity to transform into skin cells and regenerate the skin. The team also identified the signal that triggers recruitment of the bone marrow cells to repair skin. Damaged skin can release a distress protein called HMGB1 that can mobilise the cells from bone marrow and direct them to where they are needed.

PDGFRα-positive cells in bone marrow are mobilized by high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) to regenerate injured epithelia

The role of bone marrow cells in repairing ectodermal tissue, such as skin epidermis, is not clear. To explore this process further, this study examined a particular form of cutaneous repair, skin grafting. Grafting of full thickness wild-type mouse skin onto mice that had received a green fluorescent protein-bone marrow transplant after whole body irradiation led to an abundance of bone marrow-derived epithelial cells in follicular and interfollicular epidermis that persisted for at least 5 months. The source of the epithelial progenitors was the nonhematopoietic, platelet-derived growth factor receptor α-positive (Lin−/PDGFRα+) bone marrow cell population. Skin grafts release high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) in vitro and in vivo, which can mobilize the Lin−/PDGFRα+ cells from bone marrow to target the engrafted skin. These data provide unique insight into how skin grafts facilitate tissue repair and identify strategies germane to regenerative medicine for skin and, perhaps, other ectodermal defects or diseases.

UC San Diego Chemists Produce First High-Resolution RNA "Nano Square"

Chemists at UC San Diego have produced the first high resolution structure of a nano-scale square made from ribonucleic acid, or RNA. The structure was published in a paper in this week’s early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of chemists headed by Thomas Hermann, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD.

Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - Self-assembling RNA square

The Benefits of Stronger air pollution standards for Cars and Trucks

More stringent emissions standards for motor vehicles would affect regions differently. Climate impacts are shown in terms of radiative forcing (top row), a measure of the change in the Earth's energy balance. Positive forcing accelerates global warming, whereas negative forcing slows it. Health benefits are shown as avoided premature deaths (2nd row). Agricultural benefits are shown as avoided yield loss in percent (3rd row), and the avoided damages due to the health and crop yield changes are shown in US dollars (bottom row). Credit: NASA/Drew Shindell

A new analysis, published this week and conducted by a team of scientists led by Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, shows stricter vehicle emission standards would yield major health, agricultural, and climate benefits.

Shindell and colleagues used a comprehensive computer model and climate simulator — one of the first capable of accounting for the role of short-lived particles expelled in vehicle fumes called aerosols — that shows vehicle fumes exact an enormous toll in all countries and especially in the developing world.

NOTE: the calculated savings in reduced deaths is only from stronger air pollution controls for cars and trucks and does not include better air pollution controls on coal plants and other industrial and power generation sources.

The aggressive scenario assumes, for example, that China, India, and Brazil adopt "Euro 6" standards by 2015, a regime that would reduce emissions of particulate matter by about 85 percent, nitrogen oxides by about 65 percent, and carbon monoxide by about 70 percent for passenger vehicles. The aggressive scenario assumes major emissions reductions in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, the regions with the laxest emissions standards. Emissions rules in North America are slightly more stringent than European standards already, so in North America the baseline and aggressive scenarios were identical.

5% of the annual production of natural gas is flared and this tens of billions of dollars in waste could be fixed in 5 years

GE today released a study, Flare Gas Reduction: Recent Global Trends and Policy Considerations, which estimates that 5 percent of the world’s natural gas production is wasted by burning or “flaring” unused gas each year—an amount equivalent to 30 percent of consumption in the European Union and 23 percent in the United States. Gas flaring emits 400 million metric tons of CO2 annually, the same as 77 million automobiles, without producing useful heat or electricity. Worldwide, billions of cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas are wasted annually, typically as a by-product of oil extraction.

This waste could be fixed in 5 years with the appropriate world effort. It would generate tens of billions of dollars. Flare Gas Reduction (60 page pdf)

Approximately 150 billions of cubic meters of natural gas are flared in the world each year, representing a 15 to 20 billion dollar waste of resources and a 260 to 400 million metric ton contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Jim Rogers, Commodities Guru, Interviewed on his views on China, the USA and the world

Jim Rogers was a co-founder of the Quantum Fund, and is creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI) and has made accurate predictions on world Commodities, the world economy and the development of China.

* Chinese economy has some overheating and inflation, which they are wisely trying to cool – especially in urban, coastal real estate. They have huge reserves so will suffer less than others in any coming downturn.

* there is currently a correction/ set back in China's real estate

Question - Why so many empty cities and malls in China? Does the government have plans to move rural folk into cities en masse?

Jim Rogers: That is a bit exaggerated. China has been overbuilding ever since I have been visiting. There is at least eventual demand for much of it, but that does not preclude some bankruptcies in the future.

Brent Oil above $120 and West Texas Oil at $108

Bloomberg - Brent oil for May settlement climbed $1.34, or 1.1 percent, to $120.04 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Earlier, it advanced to $120.63 a barrel, the highest intraday price since Aug. 22, 2008. Crude for May delivery edged up 2 cents to $107.96 a barrel at 12:24 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, it touched $108.78, the highest level since Sept. 24, 2008. Prices are up 27 percent from a year ago.

Are there localized and transient bursts of nuclear reactions at Fukushima ? Unlikely but would not make things materially worse anyway

Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, a physicist at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, notes two unusual measurements that could indicate chain reactions in the reactors since their initial shutdown. Others doubt that this is the correct interpretation – and add that such bursts would not significantly worsen the radiation problem even if they are occurring. New Scientist has assembled the key aspects of the issue.

Solar Frontier Sets New Efficiency Record of 17.2% in Thin-Film CIS Technology

Solar Frontier announced today that it has achieved 17.2% aperture area efficiency on a 30x30cm CIS-based photovoltaic submodule, according to in-house measurements. This new world record for thin-film CIS technology was accomplished at Solar Frontier’s dedicated research laboratory in Atsugi, Japan, a cornerstone of the company’s integrated research and production framework, in cooperation with Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

April 03, 2011

Wildcat Discovery Technologies screen thousands of material combinations to develop better batteries and other products

Battery fab: This enclosure houses automated equipment for building and testing hundreds of batteries a week. Each battery is made from different experimental materials. Credit: Wildcat Discovery Technologies

MIT Technology Review - Wildcat Discovery Technologies, a startup in San Diego, California, has developed new materials that could boost the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries for cars and portable electronics by more than 25 percent.

Fundamental advances in rechargeable battery technology disclosed today by Wildcat Discovery Technologies could result in battery performance improvements of 25 to 65 percent or more in electric cars, portable electronics, military, medical devices, and other demanding applications

Wildcat has developed a pair of new materials that set new standards for the rechargeable battery industry, by providing unprecedented energy density of more than 675 Wh/kg while operating in full cells at 5 volts – levels beyond today’s industry standards.

Washington Post compares coal, oil and nuclear accidents and pollution per Terawatt hour

According to a Lancet Study in 2007, compared with nuclear power, coal is responsible for five times as many worker deaths from accidents, 470 times as many deaths due to air pollution among members of the public, and more than 1,000 times as many cases of serious illness, according to a study of the health effects of electricity generation in Europe.

To inform that discussion, economists, engineers and epidemiologists have teamed up to determine the full economic, health, social and environmental consequences of generating electricity with various fuels. Most of this work has been done in Europe, where the acceptability of nuclear power, and the fraction of electricity generated with it, differs greatly among nations of the European Union.

The goal is to capture not only the costs reflected on a person’s monthly utility bill but the many hidden ones borne by individuals, communities and governments. In this way, analysts seek out the “impact pathway” of each fuel — every effect it has, direct and indirect.

David Brown's Washington Post article titled "Nuclear power is safest way to make electricity, according to study." uses different studies to show the same thing as my deaths per terawatt hour articles.