April 23, 2011

Heartland Robotics Still in Stealth Mode but Expanding, while Willow Garages PR2 takes home robots to another level

PR2 Personal robots

Willow Garages PR2 robots is taking home robots to the next level of applications

Currently the PR2 robots cost $400,000 plus tax and shipping So interesting capabilities are here but the price has to come down. Heartland robotics will be bringing the cost of a one or two arm robot down to $5000. Combining that $5000 robot with the Willow Garage PR2 could bring the cost of a next generation home robot to $5000-20,000. The costs could come down very quickly.

* Two arms + grippers
* Omnidirectional mobile base
* Sensor suite (mono-stereo with texture projector, wide field of view color stereo, 5MP camera, tilting LIDAR, base LIDAR, IMU, pan/tilt platform, forearm cameras, gripper tip sensors)
* 2 x onboard Xeon servers (each server: 8 cores i7, 24GB RAM, 2TB disk)
* Power system (onboard chargers, 1.3 kWh battery system)
* Full system EtherCAT motion control network
* Full system Gigabit Ethernet network with 32GB backplane switch
* Dual radio WiFi
* Wireless Run-Stop system
* Base station

Nextbigfuture had an interview with Kurt Konolige of Willow Garage.

Nextbigfuture had a Sander Olson interview with Charlie Kemp who is developing Healthcare Robots

235 Star Trek Characters in pixel format

235 Star Trek characters in 8 bit pixel form

Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith on Doctor Who has Died

Doctor Who star Elisabeth Sladen, who was also in spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, has died aged 63.

Sladen appeared as Doctor Who assistant Sarah Jane Smith in the BBC television sci-fi series between 1973 and 1976, opposite Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.

The Liverpool-born actress appeared in four series from 2007 of The Sarah Jane Adventures on children's channel CBBC.

Sladen had been battling cancer for some time and leaves actor husband Brian Miller and daughter Sadie.

Spacex CEO Elon Musk aims to put a man Mars 2021-2031

Private US company SpaceX hopes to put an astronaut on Mars within 10 to 20 years, the head of the firm said.

"We'll probably put a first man in space in about three years," Elon Musk told the Wall Street Journal Saturday. "We're going all the way to Mars, I think... best case 10 years, worst case 15 to 20 years."

Outline of communication and computing future

By 2013-2016, there will be a shift to HSPA+ at 84 mbps to 168 mbps and LTE advanced at up to 1 Gbps

LTE Advanced deployment will start in 2013 in South Korea. Norway and Hong Kong and Japan will also lead the way to faster communication speeds.

April 22, 2011

Michael Anissimov on Mitigating the Risks of Artificial Superintelligence

Michael Anissimov ranks among the voices most prominent and effective in discussing the issue of existential risk, along with other issues related to the Singularity and the future of humanity and technology. Currently the Media Director for the Singularity Institute, as well as a Board member of Humanity+, Michael is Co-Organizer of the Singularity Summit and a member of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology’s Global Task Force. His blog Accelerating Future is deservedly popular, featuring in-depth discussion of many important issues related to transhumanism.

The following quote summarizes some of Michael’s high-level views on existential risk:
I cannot emphasize this enough. If an existential disaster occurs, not only will the possibilities of extreme life extension, sophisticated nanotechnology, intelligence enhancement, and space expansion never bear fruit, but everyone will be dead, never to come back. This would be awful. Because we have so much to lose, existential risk is worth worrying about even if our estimated probability of occurrence is extremely low.

Existential risk creates a ‘loafer problem’ — we always expect someone else to handle it. I assert that this is a dangerous strategy and should be discarded in favor of making prevention of such risks a central focus.

T-Carbon: A Novel Carbon Allotrope

The structure of the new carbon allotrope, T-carbon, is shown from different directions. T-carbon is obtained by replacing each carbon atom in diamond with a carbon tetrahedron. Image credit: Sheng, et al. ©2011 American Physical Society.

Physical Review Letters - T-Carbon: A Novel Carbon Allotrope

Previous work had used computational chemistry to propose T-carbon

A structurally stable crystalline carbon allotrope is predicted by means of the first-principles calculations. This allotrope can be derived by substituting each atom in diamond with a carbon tetrahedron, and possesses the same space group Fd3̅ m as diamond, which is thus coined as T-carbon. The calculations on geometrical, vibrational, and electronic properties reveal that T-carbon, with a considerable structural stability and a much lower density 1.50  g/cm3, is a semiconductor with a direct band gap about 3.0 eV, and has a Vickers hardness 61.1 GPa lower than diamond but comparable with cubic boron nitride. Such a form of carbon, once obtained, would have wide applications in photocatalysis, adsoption, hydrogen storage, and aerospace materials.

'DNAsomes' can deliver multiple drugs or genetic therapy

DNAsomes begin with short chains of synthetic DNA designed to be complementary over part of their length so they will join into microscopic Y-shapes. A lipid molecule is attached, and fluorescent dyes can be attached for tracking. Drugs or RNA are chemically bonded to the Y-shaped unit, then many units assembled into a sphere, about the size of a virus, that can enter cells and deliver their payload.

Cornell researchers are using synthetic DNA to make nanoparticles, dubbed DNAsomes, that can deliver drugs and genetic therapy to the insides of cells. DNAsomes, Luo said, can carry multiple drugs as well as RNA molecules designed to block the expression of genes, an improvement over other drug-delivery systems such as liposomes (tiny wrappers of the phospholipid molecules that make up cell membranes) or polymer nanoparticles. Also, some other delivery systems can be toxic to cells, the researchers said.

Journal Small - DNAsomes: Multifunctional DNA-Based Nanocarriers

CO2 Ice Deposits in the South Pole of Mars are 30 times larger than previous estimates

(A) Polar stereographic map of the south polar region of Mars, showing where reflection-free zones (RFZ) were mapped on 118 SHARAD ground tracks, overlain on a Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) shaded relief map. Analysis shows 30 times moer CO2 ice than prior estimates.

Journal Science - Massive CO2 Ice Deposits Sequestered in the South Polar Layered Deposits of Mars

Shallow Radar soundings from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal a buried deposit of CO2 ice within the south polar layered deposits of Mars with a volume of 9,500 to 12,500 km3, about 30 times that previously estimated for the south pole residual cap. The deposit occurs within a stratigraphic unit that is uniquely marked by collapse features and other evidence of interior CO2 volatile release. If released into the atmosphere at times of high obliquity, the CO2 reservoir would increase the atmospheric mass by up to 80%, leading to more frequent and intense dust storms and to more regions where liquid water could persist without boiling.

China’s nuclear plans could resume by August

China’s plan to build more nuclear power stations to meet the nation’s growing energy needs could soon be back on track after a safety review is set to completed this summer, according to a mainland news report Friday.

The central government will assess the report and decide if safety improvements are needed, though Chinese experts believe Beijing will resume its nuclear-power ambitions, perhaps with some minor changes, the China Daily reported.

The report cited former industry regulator and Nuclear Power Technology Corp’s senior official Lin Chengge as saying the pace and scale of China’s building will be adjusted, but dramatic changes are unlikely.

New nuclear power projects may be approved, following suspension of the procedure on March 16 by the State Council after the Japanese tsunami, when the nuclear safety plan is issued, probably in August, a senior nuclear expert said.

IEA reports that world oil supply rose to an alltime high of 89 million barrels per day in February 2011

IEA world oil March 15, 2011 report

World oil supply rose to an all‐time high of 89 mb/d in February, up 0.2 mb/d from January. Non‐OPEC oil supply rose 0.3 mb/d to 53.2 mb/d on re‐instated Alaskan output. 2010 non‐OPEC estimates are left unchanged at 52.8 mb/d, while the 2011 forecast is raised by 0.1 mb/d, to 53.6 mb/d, on stronger‐than‐expected Canadian output.

Global oil output then fell in March, 2011 by 700,000 barrels per day because of the fighting in Libya.

Global oil output fell 0.7 mb/d to 88.3 mb/d in March on reduced Libyan crude supply. Non-OPEC production rose 0.2 mb/d to 53.3 mb/d, even as unrest and strikes in Yemen, Oman, Gabon and Ivory Coast shuts in an average 0.1 mb/d of crude in March and April. Non-OPEC 2010 supply is left at 52.8 mb/d, while stronger Canadian production lifts the outlook by 0.1 mb/d to 53.7 mb/d for 2011.

The EIA also seems to be confirming a new peak in world oil production at 88.1 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2011 Supply includes production of crude oil (including lease condensates), natural gas plant liquids, biofuels, other liquids, and refinery processing gains. World crude oil and liquid fuels consumption grew by an estimated 2.3 million bbl/d in 2010 to a record-high level of 86.7 million bbl/d.

Lens-free optical tomographic microscope with a large imaging volume on a chip

(A1–A3) Schematic illustration of the holographic
recording condition for three angles, 50°, 0°, and −50°, respectively. (B1–B3) Cropped images from corresponding superresolved holograms of 5 μm beads (at z ¼ ∼0.8 mm) measured at illumination angles shown in A1–A3. The holograms of individual beads have an elliptical shape, as expected, since detection plane is not normal to beam propagation. (C1–C3) Digitally reconstructed lens-free projection images using the corresponding holograms in B1–B3. After perspective correction (see SI Text), the ellipticity is removed as revealed by the circular shape of the reconstructed beads. The reconstructed projection images are registered with respect to the bead at the center of the images, which is assumed to be the center-of-rotation.

UCLA researchers have developed microscopy without the use of a lens Nine projection holograms, which are subpixel shifted with respect to one another and the sensor array, are digitally merged into a single high-resolution holographic image, using a pixel superresolution technique. Digitally synthesized superresolved holographic projections are reconstructed to obtain lens-free projection images of the objects at various illumination angles.
Schematic diagram of the lens-free tomography setup showing the angles of rotation for the light source to illuminate a sample

First Polymer Solar-Thermal Device 30 percent efficiency in converting solar energy to power

Geothermal add-ons for heat pumps on the market today collect heat from the air or the ground. A new device from Wake Forest University uses a fluid that flows through a roof-mounted module to collect heat from the sun while an integrated solar cell generates electricity from the sun's visible light.

A standard, rooftop solar cell will miss about 75 percent of the energy provided by the sun at any given time because it can't collect the longest wavelengths of light -- infrared heat. Such cells miss an even greater amount of the available daily solar power because they collect sunlight most efficiently between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tests of the solar-thermal device have shown 30 percent efficiency in converting solar energy to power. By comparison, a standard solar cell with a polymer absorber has shown no greater than 8 percent conversion efficiency.

April 21, 2011

Researchers create functioning synapse using carbon nanotubes for future brain prostheses and synthetic brains

This image shows nanotubes used in synthetic synapse and apparatus used to create them. Credit: USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Engineering researchers the University of Southern California have made a significant breakthrough in the use of nanotechnologies for the construction of a synthetic brain. They have built a carbon nanotube synapse circuit whose behavior in tests reproduces the function of a neuron, the building block of the brain. The devices might be used in brain prostheses – or combined into massive network of synthetic neurons to create a synthetic brain.

James Cameron push 3D to higher frame rates for sharper pictures in Avatar 2

James Cameron is pushing for film production using higher frame rates. To make his point, Cameron shot test sequences with his Titanic cinematographer Russell Carpenter on an elaborately dressed medieval set with actors in period costumes laughing it up at a banquet and engaged in a fierce swordfight. Each 3D sequence was shot at 24, 48 and 60 frames per second, and Cameron used a laser pointer to illustrate how panning the camera invariably produces strobing of people and objects at the traditional 24-frame speed. Both the 48 and 60-frame clips were markedly superior, eliminating strobing and bringing greater clarity to objects captured by the moving camera.

Cameron said he's "agnostic" about whether 48 or 60 fps should be adopted, but he reiterated his plans to shoot Avatar 2 at a higher frame rate. Lensing on that much-anticipated project, which he is still writing, is at least 18 months away.

Next-generation LTE base stations speed mobile connectivity with SDRs, hard-coded accelerators, and multicore CPUs and smartphones will use integrated processors

DSP chips are powering the race to 4G in next generation base stations Next-generation base stations speed mobile connectivity with SDRs, hard-coded accelerators, and multicore CPUs. EDN covers the DSP, FPGA technology that is going into the new base stations.

To build a 4G modem, you must start with the PHY (physical) layer, Layer 1 or the radio-interface layer. To exploit the high data rate and spectral efficiency of 4G radio technologies, which are similar for LTE and WiMax, designers apply sophisticated DSP for the OFDMA (orthogonal-frequency-division/multiple-access) modulation with as much as 64-QAM (64- state quadrature-amplitude modulation); the interface to MIMO (multiple-input/multiple-output) antennas with adaptive beam forming; and a host of sophisticated techniques for packet processing, error control, and QOS (quality of service).

LTE competition in South Korea prompts plans for LTE Advanced to begin in 2013

LTE Advanced has been demoed at speeds of 1.2 gbps LTE has theoretical speeds of 300mbps and has been demoed at about 150 mbps.

SK Telecom (South Korea) intends to upgrade to LTE's successor, LTE-Advanced, starting in 2013.

SK Telecom also said it would apply Coordinated Multi-Point technology to the network when up and running in a bid to prevent base station interference, and “pursue early development” of LTE femtocell.

SK Telecom is South Korea's largest mobile operator. The company will be going head to head against LG U+ - which also plans to launch LTE in July - and KT, which has its own LTE ambitions.

South Korea also has advanced Wimax with download speeds of 40 mbps

Researchers Construct RNA Nanoparticles to Safely Deliver Long-Lasting Therapy to Cells

Nanotechnology researchers have known for years that RNA, the cousin of DNA, is a promising tool for nanotherapy, in which therapeutic agents can be delivered inside the body via nanoparticles. But the difficulties of producing long-lasting, therapeutic RNA that remains stable and non-toxic while entering targeted cells have posed challenges for their progress.

Molecular therapy - Assembly of Therapeutic pRNA-siRNA Nanoparticles Using Bipartite Approach

Molecular Therapy - Pharmacological Characterization of Chemically Synthesized Monomeric phi29 pRNA Nanoparticles for Systemic Delivery

Scientists engineer nanoscale vaults to encapsulate 'nanodisks' for drug delivery

The image shows a single-particle electron microscope tomography reconstruction, which reveals that a fully assembled drug-loaded nanodisk (red) can be packaged into the vault lumen (green) as a viable method for vault-mediated drug delivery. The electron micrograph in the background shows negatively stained vaults containing nanodisks.

Researchers at UCLA have developed a new and potentially far more effective means of targeted drug delivery using nanotechnology.

The development of new methods that use engineered nanomaterials to transport drugs and release them directly into cells holds great potential in this area. And while several such drug-delivery systems — including some that use dendrimers, liposomes or polyethylene glycol — have won approval for clinical use, they have been hampered by size limitations and ineffectiveness in accurately targeting tissues. UCLA demonstrated the ability to package drug-loaded "nanodisks" into vault nanoparticles, naturally occurring nanoscale capsules that have been engineered for therapeutic drug delivery.

Journal Small - Vaults Engineered for Hydrophobic Drug Delivery

Black holes could be detectable with existing telescopes because rotating black holes twist light

MIT Technology Review - New research indicates that a rotating black holes should be visible. "It should be possible to detect and measure this twisted light," say Tamburini and co.
So where might we find such a black hole? One candidate is the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. Tamburini and pals have simulated the way this object ought to twist the light it emits as it rotates and say it could be detected today by the world's best telescopes.

In principle, this kind of observation should be possible tonight, provided the scopes are kitted out with right kind of gear. And since the first observation of a rotating black hole would be a useful thing to have on an astronomical CV, it may not be long before we see the results of just this kind of observation.

Arxiv - Twisting of light around rotating black holes

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics technical updates on dense plasma nuclear fusion project

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is continuing to examine the causes of the shot-to-shot variability that affects FF-1 (as it does all DPFs to date) and the reason that we, in general, are getting lower fusion yields than our theory expects

Previously we have traced this to a too-early generation of the electron and ion beams that drain energy from the plasmoid before it has time to fully contract, limiting the density of the plasmoid and thus the rate of fusion reactions.

In the past month, we’ve analyzed a number of shots that show clearly that this first early beam is much “softer", having less energy per particle than the second beam which is more closely coincident with the neutrons from the fusion reactions. Our literature search did turn up two other mentions of this early-soft-beam phenomenon, one in 1998 and the other in 2008.

US Weak dollar policies working as Gold, Other Currencies and commodities reach new highs

The real broad dollar index measures the US dollar against its value in 1973 The index is at a 40 year low.

The gold prices hit another record at $1,509.60 and silver prices were at $45.76 an ounce pushing the gold/silver ratio down to the 32 level. David Morgan, founder of, thinks the ratio could hit 16 while Eric Sprott of Sprott Asset Management is on record as saying the ratio could hit single digits. Silver would then be over $100 an ounce.

A dollar plumbing three-year lows is hitting Americans squarely in the gas tank, and one economist thinks it could drive prices as high as $6 a gallon or more by summertime under the right conditions.

Hastings sees gasoline having "no problem" getting to $6.50 a gallon over the summer after increased demand and storm disruptions come into play. Others, though, say gasoline prices haven't needed any help so far from other events—the moves by the Fed to keep interest rates in negative real terms are enough to boost energy by themselves.

The assertion from Hastings that the weak dollar is responsible for one-third of the total cost for a gallon of gas "sounds very low," Pento says, adding that a barrel of oil should be closer to the $65 to $70 range if priced properly. "That's exactly where it would be if we weren't crumbling our currency," he says.

Pictures of China's new submarines, tanks, stealth planes and railgun development

Previously we had reviewed the RAND and aviation week analysis of China's current military and projections that China would mostly catch up to the current level of the United States military by about 2020.

Here is a picture that compares the Chinese J20, the US F22 and the Russian T50 stealth fighter planes from the side and from the top

Intrinsic top-down unmanufacturability using current microelectronic fabrication at 3 nanometers

Although small structures can be fabricated by deposition, lithography and etching, in some cases their intrinsic variability precludes their use as elements in useful arrays. Manufacture is a proper subset of fabrication. We show that structures with 3 nanometer design rules can be fabricated but not manufactured in a top-down approach—they do not have the reproducibility to give a satisfactory yield to a pre-ordained specification. It is also shown that the transition from manufacturability to intrinsic unmanufacturability takes place at nearer 7 nm design rules.

A 6 nm array of 3 nm diameter features is intrinsically unmanufacturable using the most modern tools of microelectronic fabrication, because of the intolerable level of feature-to-feature fluctuations and the inability to address or read out from individual sites on the array.

4 page article

NBF NOTE- going to full molecular nanotechnology would not have this limitation.

April 20, 2011

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics finishes raising $900,000 and will raise $2 million to commercialize X-Scan

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, a dense plasma fusion energy company, completed raising a $900,000 offering that opened in November 2009 was completed in April 2011. The last 2,000 shares were sold in a 6-hour rush after we announced the availability of the new $2M offering at a higher price.

The $2M to be raised through the new investment round will finance the completion of the proof-of-concept experiments and help commercialize the X-Scan application. LPP feels that the new price is justified by the real progress that the project has made since FF-1 began operations in October 2009. In particular, the downside risk of the investment has been considerably reduced by our demonstration of the technical feasibility of the X-Scan spin–off application.

Michael Rose recipe for extreme longevity is paleolithic diet, new generation pharma and aggressive tissue repair and replacement

Biological Immortality in Late Life (credit: Michael R. Rose, Laurence Mueller)

Michael Rose, longevity researcher is interviewed at Kurzweil AI and at Science20

Genescient’s hief Scientist (and professor at the University of California at Irvine) is the evolutionary geneticist Michael Rose

Over the years, Rose and his lab have bred fruit flies to live four times the life span of an average fruit fly. Reasoning from those studies, Rose has proposed that, because the life spans of fruit flies have the genetic capability to be extensively prolonged, human life can be manipulated in the same way.

Lasers could replace spark plugs for cleaner and more efficient engines

Spark plugs can ignite leaner fuel mixtures, but only by increasing spark energy. Unfortunately, these high voltages erode spark plug electrodes so fast, the solution is not economical. By contrast, lasers, which ignite the air-fuel mixture with concentrated optical energy, have no electrodes and are not affected.

Lasers also improve efficiency. Conventional spark plugs sit on top of the cylinder and only ignite the air-fuel mixture close to them. The relatively cold metal of nearby electrodes and cylinder walls absorbs heat from the explosion, quenching the flame front just as it starts to expand.

Lasers, Taira explains, can focus their beams directly into the center of the mixture. Without quenching, the flame front expands more symmetrically and up to three times faster than those produced by spark plugs.

Australian scientists have demonstrated that atoms can be guided in a laser beam

Artist's impression of the speckle pattern created by a multimode light beam (top, red), and the image measured in this experiment created by a multimode beam of atoms (top, blue). Source: Dr Tim Wetherell, ANU

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that atoms can be guided in a laser beam and possess the same properties as light guided in an optical communications fiber.

The researchers’ work has implications for future quantum devices that require smoothly-guided matter waves, such as atom interferometers which need to sensitively measure the earth’s gravitational field for geo-exploration. T

Nature Communications - Observation of atomic speckle and Hanbury Brown–Twiss correlations in guided matter waves

Fuel Cell Electricity production with in situ carbon capture can reduce CO2 from oil shale energy 3 times lower

A team at Stanford University is proposing using solid oxide fuel cells as the basis for a method for electricity production from oil shale with in situ carbon capture (EPICC) as a means to provide transportation services from oil shale with greatly reduced CO2 emissions.

Energy Fuels journal - Oil Shale as an Energy Resource in a CO2 Constrained World: The Concept of Electricity Production with in Situ Carbon Capture

Oil shale contains large amounts of stored chemical energy: over 1 trillion barrels of oil equivalent is present in the Green River formation of the United States alone. Unfortunately, extraction of energy from oil shale generally releases significant quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Liquid hydrocarbon (HC) fuels derived from oil shale have 1.2−1.75 times the fuel cycle GHG emissions of HC fuels produced from conventional oil. This paper proposes a concept that could provide transportation services from oil shale with significantly reduced carbon emissions, called electricity production with in situ carbon capture (EPICC). EPICC reduces CO2 emissions by (1) utilizing waste heat to retort shale; (2) retorting shale beyond the point of liquid hydrocarbon production, converting much of the organic carbon in oil shale to char which is left in the subsurface; and (3) using the produced HC gas to generate electricity, which provides transportation services with no tailpipe emissions. The resulting life cycle GHG emissions from EPICC amount to ≈110 g of CO2 per km, ≈0.5 times those of conventional fuel cycles or ≈0.33 times those from other proposed in situ oil shale conversion processes. Potential drawbacks of EPICC include uncertain operation of subsurface fuel cells, potential geophysical impacts without pressure management, and economic concerns associated with the value of stranded energy left in the formation and the long time period of retorting.

NoSQL, NewSQL highly scalable databases

“NewSQL” is the 451 Groups shorthand for the various new scalable/high performance SQL database vendors. They have previously referred to these products as ‘ScalableSQL’ to differentiate them from the incumbent relational database products. Since this implies horizontal scalability, which is not necessarily a feature of all the products, they adopted the term ‘NewSQL’ in a new report.

The new thing about the NewSQL vendors is the vendor, not the SQL.

So who would be consider to be the NewSQL vendors? Like NoSQL, NewSQL is used to describe a loosely-affiliated group of companies (ScaleBase has done a good job of identifying, some of the several NewSQL sub-types) but what they have in common is the development of new relational database products and services designed to bring the benefits of the relational model to distributed architectures, or to improve the performance of relational databases to the extent that horizontal scalability is no longer a necessity.

China plans lunar probe and rover to the moon in 2013

A prototype rover was shown in China in 2008

- China plans to launch its third unmanned probe to the moon, Chang'e-3, around 2013 and expects to complete the three-phase moon mission in 2017.

Chang'e-3 lunar probe has entered the prototype development stage, and it will be launched in 2013 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on a mission to achieve a soft landing on the moon's surface

The Chang'e-3 mission will include an unmanned soft landing on the moon and the release of a moon rover to prospect the surface and interior of the moon. China is planning conduct a landing in 2013 with Chang'e-3 and a sample return in 2017.

Did a steam geyser destroy Fukushima #4 reactor building?

Guest Post by Chris Phoenix, co-founder of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Three of the buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been destroyed. Two of them contained damaged, overheated nuclear reactors which were probably producing large quantities of hydrogen gas, so it’s not surprising that they blew up. But the third building to explode - building 4 - had no nuclear fuel in its reactor.

The cause of its demise was listed as a hydrogen explosion, but it’s become apparent that its fuel pool never went dry, so there would not have been a source of hydrogen. So what made it blow up?

China's Military now to 2020

Rand - Shaking the Heavens and Splitting the Earth (308 pages)

By 2015 or so, the weapon systems and platforms China is acquiring will potentially enable it to effectively implement the four types of air force campaigns described in the next section. The significant numbers of modern fighter aircraft and SAMs, as well as the long range early warning radars and secure data and voice communication links China is likely to have by 2015, for example, coupled with the hardening and camouflage measures China has already taken, would make a Chinese air defense campaign, if conducted according to the principles described in Chinese military publications, highly challenging for U.S. air forces. Similarly, those same modern fighters, along with ground-launched conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, cruise missile–carrying medium bombers, and aerial refueling aircraft, will enable China to conduct offensive operations far into the western Pacific. Whether China will actually be able to fully exploit its air force doctrine and capabilities, however, is less clear. Much will depend on the quality of the training and leadership of China’s air force, and it should be pointed out that the PLAAF last engaged in major combat operations in the Jinmen campaign of 1958, more than 50 years ago.

Electric Bikes in China

Currently there are approximately 140 million EV 2-wheelers in use in China. Last year, the booming Asian economy manufactured about 25 million EV 2-wheelers, of which some 600,000 were exported. Researchers Frost and Sullivan indicate that by 2017 China will account for 96 percent of the sector.

“We estimate the annual growth of EV2wheelers in China will maintain 10% or more than that. In 2015, we estimate the production volume will reach 35 million and export volume will reach 2 million,” says Sun Li, an engineer from the China Electronic Society.

2010   140 million
2011   167 million
2012   195 million
2013   225 million
2014   257 million
2015   292 million
2016   330 million
2017   370 million

Taiwan's traffic shows a likely future for China. Except China will probably have electric scooters, motorcycles and cars

Commercialization of Graphene

Graphene SME Commercialization Strategies: A Cross-Country Comparison (28 pages, April 2011)

Although 3,000 related research papers and over 400 patent applications related to the technology were filed in 2010, mass commercialization of graphene may still be years away due to a number of product and process obstacles.

1) cost of development, which will likely decrease as process innovations reduce variability in production and as throughput rises.
2) technological complication that pertains to the high electrical conductivity of the material. Scientists must identify a way to contain the charge in graphene sheets so that digital signals can be processed properly.
3) Difficulties relating to the health and safety of nanotechnology in general, though graphene retains some safety advantages over its close cousin, carbon nanotubes.

A number of multinationals are active in graphene research and development (e.g. Intel and IBM in computing, Dow Chemicals and BASF as suppliers of basic graphene material, and Samsung in consumer electronics).

In 2010, the total production output of various kinds of graphene is more than 15 tons per year, produced in more than 40,000 square feet of facilities,
this is set to increase to more than 200 tons per year within the next year
or two.

Three small US companies account for the bulk of graphene manufacturing capacity: Angstron Materials; Vorbeck Materials in Jessup, Maryland; and XG Sciences in East Lansing, Michigan. The companies take the same basic manufacturing approach, which is to break apart graphite into the sheets of graphene that make it up — usually by intercalating acids between them. The resulting intermediate is then thermally or mechanically treated to extract graphene platelets (or nanoplatelets).

It has been predicted that graphene nanoplatelets can be produced at $5 per pound. If such costs could be achieved it will provide major disruption in the nanocomposites marketplace.

Graphite is an abundant natural mineral and one of the stiffest materials found in nature (Young's Modulus of approximately 1060 gigaPascals (gPa)) with excellent electrical and thermal conductivity. It has better mechanical, thermal and electrical properties and lower density compared to clays. The lower cost of crystalline graphite ($1.5 U.S. dollars per pound ($/lb) to $1.6/lb and less than $5/lb for graphite nanoplatelets) compared to other conductive fillers, such as carbon nanotubes (about $100 per gram ($/g)), vapor grown carbon fibers (VGCF, $40/lb to $50/lb) and carbon fibers (about $5/lb to $6/lb), as well as graphite's superior mechanical properties compared to those of carbon black, makes graphite an attractive alternative for commercial applications that require both physical-mechanical property improvement and electrical conductivity of the final product.

Graphene paper that is ten times stronger than steel

A graphene paper sample. Picture by Lisa Aloisio

University of Technology Sydney - Scientists have reported remarkable results in developing a composite material based on graphite that is a thin as paper and ten times stronger than steel. The UTS work is a step forward in the development of a material that has the posential to revolutionize the automotive, aviation, electrical and optical industries.

Advanced mechanical properties of graphene paper in the current edition of the Journal of Applied Physics.

April 19, 2011

Forecast of 138 million electric motorcycles and electric scooters by 2017

According to a new report from Pike Research, the number of e-motorcycles and e-scooters on the road will increase from 17 million in 2011 to 138 million by 2017. China has been adopting electric bicycles and now has converted some of the over 500 million bicycle commuters in China to 140 million on electric bicycles. About 16 million of them are on electric scooters and electric motorcycles.

Most countries define e-bikes as vehicles that have pedals and can be human-powered as well as powered by a low-powered motor with limited speed capabilities. China, however, does not require e-bikes to have pedals, but limits them simply to 20 kph (12 mph). The classification of e-bikes, e-scooters, and e-motorcycles varies substantially across the globe.

In 2010, Pike Research had forecast that more than 466 million e-bikes, e-motorcycles, and e-scooters will be sold worldwide during the period from 2010 to 2016. E-bikes were forecast to have the largest category with 56% of the market, followed by e-motorcycles at 43% and e-scooters in a distant third place with less than 1%. This does not match the breakdown of the 2011 forecast as they had different definitions of motorcycle, scooter and bicycle. They probably also had different writers for the forecasts.

New biosensor microchip could speed up drug development, Stanford researchers say

A microchip with an array of 64 nanosensors. The nanosensors appear as small dark dots in an 8 x 8 grid in the center of the illuminated part of the backlit microchip.

A new biosensor microchip that could hold more than 100,000 magnetically sensitive nanosensors could speed up drug development markedly, Stanford researchers say. The nanosensors analyze how proteins bond – a critical step in drug development. The ultrasensitive sensors can simultaneously monitor thousands of times more proteins than existing technology, deliver results faster and assess the strength of the bonds.

Nature Nanotechnology - Quantification of protein interactions and solution transport using high-density GMR sensor arrays

Railgun roadmap review

Electromagnetic Rail Gun (EMRG): Providing Greater Flexibility for the 21st Century (17 pages)
Initial operational capability of the EMRG at the full 64-MJ (megajoule) tactical energy level (222 NM) is projected for the 2020 to 2025 timeframe.

The current railgun development program has been firing a 33 megajoule railgun with muzzle velocities up to 7.5 mach.

The EMRG will provide Joint Forces a unique capability for volume fire at long range, enabling rapid engagement of a wide variety of targets including stationary structures, such as buildings and bridges, and relocatable targets, such as surface-to-air missiles for Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) (Pifer et al. 2007). Current weapon systems, such as tactical aircraft (TACAIR) or cruise missiles, have comparable or greater ranges than a 64-MJ EMRG projectile at significantly greater costs, but cannot provide an equivalent volume of fires. Other Naval guns can provide volume of fires, but at significantly shorter ranges. The EMRG provides a truly unique capability for volume fire at long range and an ability to engage targets in a high-threat environment. The use of the EMRG enables rapid engagement of a wide range of target sets, while freeing up TACAIR and cruise missiles to concentrate on high-value targets that are not likely to be engaged effectively with first-generation EMRG weapon systems.

General Atomics Blitzer Railgun update shows off a streamlined projectile and sabot

The latest General Atomics video of the navy railgun project shows off a streamlined projectile with a sabot.

Blitzer will provide transformational, leap-ahead air defense capability against a number of threats for both naval and land-based applications. With a muzzle velocity of more than twice that of conventional systems, Blitzer provides significant increases in standoff and lethality at lower cost without the need for propellant or high explosives.

The sabot round went seven kilometers downrange after punching through a 1.8-inch thick steel plate.

General Atomics successfully test-fired aerodynamic rounds from its Blitzer™ electromagnetic (EM) railgun prototype for the first time in September 2010. This test demonstrated the integration and capabilities of a tactically relevant EM railgun launcher, pulsed power system, and projectile. The test was performed at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Grounds under a contract with the Office of Naval Research, using projectiles developed by Boeing's Phantom Works in St. Charles, Mo. The projectiles were launched by the Blitzer system at Mach 5 speed with acceleration levels exceeding 60,000 gee, and exhibited repeatable sabot separation and stable flight. The video of the tests is new.

Siemens Demos HSPA+ 252 Mbps download speed

"Whether 3GPP moves beyond HSPA+ 168 depends on operators and vendors," Chris Pearson President 3G Americas said. He said T-Mobile and Nokia Siemens Networks have been the ones aiming to push data speeds beyond 168 Mbps. But given AT and T's acquisition of T-Mobile and its plans for rolling out LTE, it may not want to make the investment given the fact that 2x2 MIMO is required to reach the 84 Mbps and higher speeds.

At CTIA 2011, Siemens demonstrated the 252 Mbps HSPA+ using their commercial Flexi Multiradio Base Station and Multicontroller platform.

Mobile Phone subscriptions at 5.3 billion, annual camera phone sales at 1 billion and mobile broadband at one billion

1. According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, worldwide camera phone sales will exceed 1 billion units for the first time in 2011. The fastest growing segment will be the high-tier camera phone market with sensors of eight megapixels and above.

Worldwide camera phone sales are projected to grow 21 percent from 918 million units in 2010 to 1114 million units in 2011. This year will be the first time annual volumes of camera phones have exceeded the 1-billion mark. Some 4.2 billion camera phones have been sold cumulatively worldwide since 2000

UK and Dutch Researchers have made invisibility cloaks closer to the size of objects being hidden and more practical

The measured output image from a flat surface (left) and a cloaked protruded surface (right) at 1480 nm (a), 1550 nm (b), and 1580 nm

Until now, however, cloaking techniques have come with a significant limitation—they need to be orders of magnitude larger than the object being cloaked. An international team of physicists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the University of Birmingham, UK, and Imperial College London, however, may have overcome this size limitation by using a technology known as a "carpet cloaks," which can conceal a much larger area than other cloaking techniques of comparable size. The researchers achieved their result by using metamaterials, artificial materials engineered to have optical properties not found in nature.

Optics Express - Homogeneous optical cloak constructed with uniform layered structures
The fabricated carpet cloak. (a). Schematic diagram of a fabricated carpet cloak. Light is coupled to the cloak through the input waveguide and reflected at the gold mirror. The reflected beam is detected by the output grating. (b). Scanning electron microscopic image of a fabricated carpet cloak, The insets show the oblique view of the carpet cloak (top) and the cloak/reflector interface (bottom).

7 pages Optics Express.

Arxiv 14 pages - Homogeneous optical cloak constructed with uniform layered structures

Nanofibrous hollow microspheres self-assembled from star-shaped polymers as injectable cell carriers for knee repair

For the first time, scientists have made star-shaped, biodegradable polymers that can self-assemble into hollow, nanofiber spheres, and when the spheres are injected with cells into wounds, these spheres biodegrade, but the cells live on to form new tissue.

Nature Materials - To repair complexly shaped tissue defects, an injectable cell carrier is desirable to achieve an accurate fit and to minimize surgical intervention. However, the injectable carriers available at present have limitations, and are not used clinically for cartilage regeneration. Here, we report nanofibrous hollow microspheres self-assembled from star-shaped biodegradable polymers as an injectable cell carrier. The nanofibrous hollow microspheres, integrating the extracellular-matrix-mimicking architecture with a highly porous injectable form, were shown to efficiently accommodate cells and enhance cartilage regeneration, compared with control microspheres. The nanofibrous hollow microspheres also supported a significantly larger amount of, and higher-quality, cartilage regeneration than the chondrocytes-alone group in an ectopic implantation model. In a critical-size rabbit osteochondral defect-repair model, the nanofibrous hollow microspheres/chondrocytes group achieved substantially better cartilage repair than the chondrocytes-alone group that simulates the clinically available autologous chondrocyte implantation procedure. These results indicate that the nanofibrous hollow microspheres are an excellent injectable cell carrier for cartilage regeneration.
Characterization of nanofibrous hollow microspheres, nanofibrous microspheres and solid-interior microspheres.

Pitt-Led Researchers Create Super-Small Transistor, Artificial Atom Powered by Single Electrons

An atomic-scale depiction of the SketchSET shows three wires (green bars) converging on the central island (center green area), which can house up to two electrons. Electrons tunnel from one wire to another through the island. Conditions on the third wire can result in distinct conductive properties.

A team from Pitt, UW-Madison, and HP Labs reports in Nature Nanotechnology a 1.5-nanometer single-electron transistor that could lead to long-lasting, ultradense computer memories, quantum computers, and advanced electronics
A University of Pittsburgh-led team has created a single-electron transistor that provides a building block for new, more powerful computer memories, advanced electronic materials, and the basic components of quantum computers.

The researchers report in Nature Nanotechnology that the transistor’s central component—an island only 1.5 nanometers in diameter—operates with the addition of only one or two electrons. That capability would make the transistor important to a range of computational applications, from ultradense memories to quantum processors, powerful devices that promise to solve problems so complex that all of the world’s computers working together for billions of years could not crack them.

Nature Nanotechnology - Sketched oxide single-electron transistor

Electric-field sensing using single diamond spins

Schematic of the NV and the measurement scheme. a, Schematic drawing of the NV centre with one nitrogen at a carbon lattice site and an adjacent vacancy. b, Simulated absolute electric field 6 μm below the microstructure (depth of the NV) for an applied voltage difference of 1 V

Nature Physics - Electric-field sensing using single diamond spins

The ability to sensitively detect individual charges under ambient conditions would benefit a wide range of applications across disciplines. However, most current techniques are limited to low-temperature methods such as single-electron transistors single-electron electrostatic force microscopy and scanning tunneling microscopy. Here we introduce a quantum-metrology technique demonstrating precision three-dimensional electric-field measurement using a single nitrogen-vacancy defect centre spin in diamond. An a.c. electric-field sensitivity reaching 202±6 V cm−1 Hz−1/2 has been achieved. This corresponds to the electric field produced by a single elementary charge located at a distance of ~150 nm from our spin sensor with averaging for one second. The analysis of the electronic structure of the defect centre reveals how an applied magnetic field influences the electric-field-sensing properties. We also demonstrate that diamond-defect-centre spins can be switched between electric- and magnetic-field sensing modes and identify suitable parameter ranges for both detector schemes. By combining magnetic- and electric-field sensitivity, nanoscale detection and ambient operation, our study should open up new frontiers in imaging and sensing applications ranging from materials science to bioimaging.

Carnival of Space 193 - black holes

In this striking image, optical light (from the Hubble Space Telescope) and X-ray data (from the Chandra X-ray Observatory) have been combined, highlighting the two supermassive black holes as they stare at each other across the chaos of disturbed stars, dust and hot gas in the center of NGC 6240 (NASA/CXC/MIT/STScI C.Canizares, M.Nowak)

Carnival of space 193 is up at Robot Guy blog

Ian O Neill at Discovery looked at colliding black holes.

Understanding how spacetime will respond as two supermassive black holes collide has perplexed astrophysicists for some time. But with the help of some clever theoretical tools, a group of physicists, led by Robert Owen of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have found a nifty way of understanding how spacetime reacts under some of the most extreme forces in the cosmos.

Berkeley Lab Researchers Find Plasmonic Resonances in Semiconductor Nanocrystals

Transmission electron micrographs and (inset) showing the electron diffraction patterns of three quantum dot samples with average size of (a) 2.4 nanometers (b) 3.6 nm, and (c) 5.8 nm. (Image courtesy of Alivisatos group)

With its promise of superfast computers and ultrapowerful optical microscopes among the many possibilities, plasmonics has become one of the hottest fields in high-technology. However, to date plasmonic properties have been limited to nanostructures that feature interfaces between noble metals and dielectrics. Now, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that plasmonic properties can also be achieved in the semiconductor nanocrystals known as quantum dots. This discovery should make the field of plasmonics even hotter.

EETimes - Plasmonic semiconductors will revolutionize electronics by allowing the easy coupling of photons (light) and electrons, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Nature Materials - Localized surface plasmon resonances arising from free carriers in doped quantum dots

April 18, 2011

Review after taking Stem Cell 100 for three months

I have been taking Stem Cell 100, the supplement produced by Genescient, for the last three months.

I had my Cholesterol and a blood and urine screening on April 1st.

My Cholesterol levels are improved from the last time I had a screening. Slightly higher good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is at 127 which is near optimal. Previously it was borderline bad.

Stem cell 100 ordering site

Sean Rein explains why there will not be a crash in China just after 2013

Famed bearish economist Nouriel Roubini has been making waves for arguing China's economy will suffer a hard landing after 2013. He reasons its 47 percent fixed investment share of GDP, 30 percent savings rates, and low wages will cause a deflationary spiral much like in Japan. Roubini called the recession in America and is no lightweight economist.

Sean Rein's firm interviewed 5,000 Chinese in 15 cities last year. It is true consumers over the age of 60 reported savings rates near 60 percent because they feared soaring medical and housing costs. After living through decades of upheaval and missing out on the recent economic boom, they remain thrifty. Little can be done to change decades of ingrained habits.

Our research suggests the key metric Roubini misses is shifts in how younger Chinese spend. Respondents under 32 years old had effective savings rates of zero. They remain confident about their money-making potential. Secretaries earning $600 a month commonly save two month’s salary to buy the latest iPhone or cosmetics.

Nasa backs 'shuttle successors'

Spacex Dragon

Nasa has given an indication of the companies it thinks may be closest to offering commercial systems to carry American astronauts into space.

With its shuttles about to retire, the agency has offered $270m (£166m) of funds to four firms to help them mature designs for new orbiting vehicles. Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp and SpaceX hope to sell astronaut "taxi" services to Nasa by mid-decade.

Nanosphere Lithography for the Fabrication of Ultranarrow Graphene Nanoribbons and On-Chip Bandgap Tuning of Graphene

Nanosphere Lithography for the Fabrication of Ultranarrow Graphene Nanoribbons and On-Chip Bandgap Tuning of Graphene

An innovative approach for the high-throughput, rapid, and low-cost fabrication of ultranarrow graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) using nanosphere lithography (NSL) nanopatterning in combination with low-power O2 plasma etching is presented. The intrinsic simplicity of NSL patterning enables this fabrication approach to be applicable for the straightforward on-chip fabrication of GNRs and bandgap tuning of graphene.

Antigravity Could Replace Dark Energy as Cause of Universe’s Expansion

Universe Today - According to the currently accepted model, this accelerated expansion is due to dark energy, a mysterious repulsive force that makes up about 73% of the energy density of the universe. Now, a new study reveals an alternative theory: that the expansion of the universe is actually due to the relationship between matter and antimatter. According to this study, matter and antimatter gravitationally repel each other and create a kind of “antigravity” that could do away with the need for dark energy in the universe.

Saturn's moon Titan might also have a subsurface ocean

Arxiv - Titan's Obliquity As Evidence For A Subsurface Ocean? Titan's orbit and rate of rotation indicate that a huge ocean may lie beneath its icy surface

MIT Technology Review has coverage

Evidence comes from careful observations of Titan's orbit and rotation. This indicates that Titan has an orbit similar to our Moon's: it always presents the same face towards Saturn and its axis of rotation tilts by about 0.3 degrees.

Together, these data allow astronomers to work out Titan's moment of inertia and this throws up something interesting. The numbers indicate that Titan's moment of inertia can only be explained if it is a solid body that is denser near the surface than it is at its centre.

That's just plain weird--unthinkable really, given what we know about how planets and moons form.

But there is another explanation, however: that Titan isn't solid at all.

April 17, 2011

Before this decade is out there will be a boom in sending people into space

There was a Salon article that talked about manned space flight ending just because the space shuttle was being retired. There is certainly a lot more that can be done with robotic exploration of space but the article is completely wrong to predict the end of manned space flight. In fact we are at the beginning of a boom in sending people into space.

Human spaceflight is not ending. NASA getting out of space shuttles is not relevant.

I think we are on the cusp of big changes in technology both for space and for energy.

Spacex Falcon Heavy should be ready in 2013. It will be able to launch 50-60 tons and will get man rated. The Falcon Heavy will lower costs to about $1000 per pound