May 28, 2011

Carnival of Space 199

The Carnival of Space 199 is up at Weird Warp

Review of Electrical Storage Technology

The Electricty Storage Association explains most of the electricity storage technologies that are being considered for power and

Repetitive error correction for a quantum computer

A team of physicists at the University of Innsbruck, led by Philipp Schindler and Rainer Blatt, has been the first to demonstrate a crucial element for a future functioning quantum computer: repetitive error correction. This allows scientists to correct errors occurring in a quantum computer efficiently. The researchers have published their findings in the scientific journal Science.

Chameleon Magnets: Ability to Switch Magnets "On" or "Off" Could Revolutionize Computing

A top-view photograph of the Hall bar device used for the electric double
layer transistor

What causes a magnet to be a magnet, and how can we control a magnet's behavior? These are the questions that University at Buffalo researcher Igor Zutic, a theoretical physicist, has been exploring over many years.

He is one of many scientists who believe that magnets could revolutionize computing, forming the basis of high-capacity and low-energy memory, data storage and data transfer devices.

Journal Science - Electrically Induced Ferromagnetism at Room Temperature in Cobalt-Doped Titanium Dioxide

The electric field effect in ferromagnetic semiconductors enables switching of the magnetization, which is a key technology for spintronic applications. We demonstrated electric field–induced ferromagnetism at room temperature in a magnetic oxide semiconductor, (Ti,Co)O2, by means of electric double-layer gating with high-density electron accumulation (more than 10^14 per square centimeter). By applying a gate voltage of a few volts, a low-carrier paramagnetic state was transformed into a high-carrier ferromagnetic state, thereby revealing the considerable role of electron carriers in high-temperature ferromagnetism and demonstrating a route to room-temperature semiconductor spintronics.

Journal Science - Chameleon Magnets

The spin of an electron can serve as a magnetic messenger. Permanent magnetism, or ferromagnetism, comes from the spontaneous alignment of the electron spins and their associated magnetic moments in metals such as iron and cobalt, which results in their or magnetization. Ferromagnetism plays an important role in information storage, not only to keep refrigerator magnets in place (and notes held by them) but to store data in computer hard drives. A more common effect is paramagnetism—a material becomes magnetic only when an external magnetic field causes its spins to align. Silicon is paramagnetic, but its semiconductor properties, not its magnetism, make silicon useful in logic circuits. On page 1065 of this issue, Yamada et al. report a breakthrough that brings together these two different worlds of ferromagnetic metals and paramagnetic semi conductors and may better integrate logic and memory. By adding cobalt impurities to nonmetallic and nonmagnetic titanium dioxide, they created an intriguing material (Ti,Co)O2, which, like a chameleon, can reversibly transform from a paramagnet to a ferromagnet at room temperature.

China Tops India as Asian Country Most likely to maintain fast growth

China ranks first among 22 emerging Asian economies as the country most likely to maintain steady and rapid growth over the next five years, according to the Bloomberg Economic Momentum Index for Developing Asia.

China scored 76.2 percent in a ranking of 16 areas including economic competition, education level, urban migration, high-technology exports and inflation that measure a country’s ability to continue delivering high growth. India was second with a score of 64.1 percent followed by Vietnam at 61.9 percent. Timor-Leste was last at 25.3 percent.

GigaBlitz Will Turn High-Resolution Images of Nature Into Global Inventory of Organisms, Habitats

During the week of this year's summer solstice, June 18-24, people worldwide are being urged to create gigapixel imagery of this natural environment as part of the first Nearby Nature GigaBlitz.

As envisioned by a trio of biologists and their partners at Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab, the GigaBlitz would involve scientists, students and amateur naturalists in a global effort to reveal the extraordinary biodiversity of the ordinary settings where people live, learn and work. Details about GigaBlitz are available at

"Many people have become acquainted with the concept of a 'BioBlitz,' which is a short, intensive period in which scientists and citizen volunteers attempt to identify every living species within an area, such as a park," said Ken Tamminga, professor of landscape architecture at Penn State University and one of the event organizers. "GigaBlitz will extend that idea beyond one designated area to include any natural habitat on Earth within range of a camera."

Single-molecule switching in action

Chemists from Innsbruck and New York managed to monitor single-molecule switching in action. In an article in "Nature Chemical Biology" they report their findings: The secret of bacterial riboswitches lies in their dynamics. These findings are also relevant in antibiotics research.

In various ways, bacteria are one step ahead to us humans. For example, they dispose of "intelligent" RNA molecules, so-called riboswitches, which help to regulate many of their essential metabolism pathways. The riboswitches, only discovered a few years ago, are sensors in RNA molecules. A riboswitch acts similarly to a motion sensor that switches on or off the light when people are nearby: the riboswitch switches genes off or on when certain metabolism products are present in a cell. There is no similar mechanism of gene regulation in humans, therefore this represents an ideal target for new antibiotics. However, how the sensoring and switching process is transduced has remained widely unexplained since the discovery of riboswitches. Now, an international team under the leadership of chemists from Innsbruck succeeded in monitoring the S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) II-riboswitch in action. SAM is a cofactor which is involved in many metabolism processes by transferring methyl groups to other molecules.

MDC researchers discover key molecule for stem cell pluripotency

Researchers of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have discovered what enables embryonic stem cells to differentiate into diverse cell types and thus to be pluripotent. This pluripotency depends on a specific molecule – E-cadherin – hitherto primarily known for its role in mediating cell-cell adhesion as a kind of "intracellular glue". If E-cadherin is absent, the stem cells lose their pluripotency. The molecule also plays a crucial role in the reprogramming of somatic cells (body cells) into pluripotent stem cells (EMBO Reports, advance online publication 27 May 2011; doi:10.1038/embor.2011.88)

EMBO Reports - E-cadherin is crucial for embryonic stem cell pluripotency and can replace OCT4 during somatic cell reprogramming

May 27, 2011

Portable PCs dominate now and will dominate even more in the future

Tablets and notebooks are the dominating forms for PCs. Portable computers are forecast to account for 62 percent of worldwide PC shipments in 2011, compared to 58 percent of the total in 2010 and just 31 percent in 2005.

Apple's share of the notebook market was 4.8% in 2010 and should increase to 6% by the end of 2011 The forecast trend if for Apple to increase its share of the notebook market to 7-8% in 2014-2017.

Eric Drexler reports on foldamer engineering that substantially advances the macromolecular technology base for building atomically precise nanosystems

Eric Drexler reports of a design method with protein foldamers engineering that substantially advances the macromolecular technology base for building atomically precise nanosystems.

Journal Science - Computational Design of Proteins Targeting the Conserved Stem Region of Influenza Hemagglutinin

The authors from the Baker lab used RosettaDesign-based protein engineering tools to design proteins with surface structures that bind to a natural protein at a particular location, and with a particular orientation. Finding a protein that binds isn’t too hard — screening and evolutionary methods applied to antibodies (among other proteins) can do this — but achieving high affinity (tight binding) in a specific geometry is new.

They achieved this by designing binders with the correct geometry but mediocre binding, and then using selection (the equivalent of antibody affinity maturation) to refine the interfaces to achieve high affinity. The refinement process retains the initial alignment with good fidelity.

MIT working to improve the ability of robots to plan and perform complex actions

The researchers test their program on a real-life robot, which is able to decide that a can needs to be picked up, then plan and execute the actual motions necessary to lift it from a table.
Photo: Melanie Gonick

Traditionally, programs that get robots to function autonomously have been split into two types: task planning and geometric motion planning. A task planner can decide that it needs to traverse the living room, but be unable to figure out a path around furniture and other obstacles. A geometric planner can figure out how to get to the phone, but not actually decide that a phone call needs to be made.

Of course, any robot that’s going to be useful around the house must have a way to integrate these two types of planning. Kaelbling and Lozano-Pérez believe that the key is to break the computationally burdensome larger goal into smaller steps, then make a detailed plan for only the first few, leaving the exact mechanisms of subsequent steps for later. “We’re introducing a hierarchy and being aggressive about breaking things up into manageable chunks,” Lozano-Pérez says. Though the idea of a hierarchy is not new, the researchers are applying an incremental breakdown to create a timeline for their “in the now” approach, in which robots follow the age-old wisdom of “one step at a time.”

The result is robots that are able to respond to environments that change over time due to external factors as well as their own actions. These robots “do the execution interleaved with the planning,” Kaelbling says.

The trick is figuring out exactly which decisions need to be made in advance, and which can — and should — be put off until later

Hierarchical Task and Motion Planning in the Now (8 pages)

Off Topic - Death of Macho Man Randy Savage and Babylon 5 Actor Jeff Conway

Iconic wrestler Macho man Randy Savage died of a heart attack recently. I found the Macho Man to be hilarious and he was one of the best wrestling performers.

Babylon 5 actor Jeff Conaway died from pneumonia and sepsis.

I greatly enjoyed Babylon 5 and Jeff Conaway acting in it. I also enjoyed his performances is Grease and the TV show Taxi.

Fudia Sea Wall and Prevention of death and damage

The village of Fudai (3000 people) was protected by a 15.5-meter (50-foot) seawall, and the tsunami was no match for it. Fudai had no deaths in the disaster.

The story of how Fudai came to have such a high seawall begins with the great earthquake and tsunami in 1896, during Japan’s Meiji period. That year the village was struck by a 15-meter (49-foot) tsunami, and again in 1933, the village suffered another powerful tsunami. Altogether, 439 lives were lost.

Following those tsunami, village mayor Kotoku Wamura (和村幸得) pressed for a seawall at least 15 meters high, often repeating the tales handed down to him growing up: that the devastating 1896 tsunami was 15 meters

Using ISS for Human Exploration Beyond LEO

Michael Rafferty, Deputy Program Manager for the International Space Station, tries to pitch Using ISS for Human Exploration Beyond LEO He describes missions around the moon, near earth objects (asteroids near earth) and Mars missions. All of these things could also be done without the ISS, but since it is up there already it could be used where appropriate.

There is an emphasis on solar electric propulsion as well and there are other propulsion and power systems which could work. The panels like what they propose are on the ISS but those are heavy and do not provide as much power for the weight. It looks like because of the weight of what they are proposing they would need multiple launches and assembly in space. More launches and more work in space increases the costs of the missions. The pictures are pretty though.

China's Highways and Power Grid Buildout

1. China's highways will connect more than 90 percent of cities with a population of more than 200,000 by the end of 2015 China's highway network will be basically completed in 2015, and its total length will reach 108,000 kilometers. China had no highways before 1988, while by the end of 2010, the length of highways under construction was 74,000 kilometer. The rapid rate of construction has resulted in various problems, such as the illegal charging of toll fees.

Boeing should deliver twenty 787 Dreamliners in 2011

Boeing is expected to deliver twenty 787 Dreamliners in 2011

China Southern, one of China's leading airlines, will receive its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft from the Boeing company in the fourth quarter of this year Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft are designed to use 20 percent less fuel than other aircraft of similar size. The aircraft can carry as many as 290 passengers on journeys of more than 15,000 kilometers

Kevin Warwick discusses the future of cyborgs with Sander Olson

Dr. Kevin Warwick , PhD, a cybernetics Professor at the University of Reading, is one of the foremost authorities on cybernetic implants. He has had several computerized devices surgically implanted in him, and is planning on having magnets implanted in his hands, and more sophisticated devices implanted in his brain. In an interview with Sander Olson, Warwick explains why he believes that computers will within the next few years pass the Turing test, and why intelligent, sentient computers will soon far surpass humans.

Kevin Warwick

Question: You have had two cybernetic implants. What did these implants do?

The first implant was simply an RFID device. All it did was identify me to the computer in the building, which allowed the computer to open doors, turn on lights, and say hello to me. The second implant was more sophisticated, and linked my nervous system directly to a computer and the internet. As I moved my hand, we could send the neural signals to the computer. So I could actually control a robotic hand with my own hand. As I moved my hand in New York, the robot hand in England moved in near real-time, allowing me to "feel" through the hand’s fingers.

May 26, 2011

Coverage Antiaging meeting in Berkeley

Melanie Swan at future memes covered the Third Bay Area Aging meeting was held at Berkeley on May 8, 2011.

A variety of research was presented, with four themes amongst the most interesting:

1. Role of rapamycin in preventing inflammation
Rapamycin (more technically known as the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)), has long been examined in aging since it is a protein that regulates a range of cellular behavior including growth, proliferation, motility, and survival. Initially hoped to be useful in treating cancer, rapamycin later turned out not to kill tumors due to systems biology; when mTOR is given and the TOR pathway is knocked out, the ERK pathway is upregulated instead.

However new research presented by Remi-Martin Laberge (Buck) shows that there is hope for rapamycin in the context of inflammation prevention.

High-temp MEMS can withstand 175 degrees Celsius

EETimes - Analog Devices Inc. is offering a dual-axis accelerometer capable of withstanding up 175 degrees Celsius (342 degrees Fahrenheit) for ruggedized industrial applications. The device is based on what ADI calls the world's first high-temperature micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) technology.

While designed for ruggedized applications such as smart-drilling rigs that must excavate miles below the earth's surface, the high-temperature iMEMS accelerometer is also an ultra low-power device, consuming only about 700 microamps, depending on operating mode, according to ADI. Bandwidths of .5-Hz to 2.5-kHz are user selectable with an ultra-low noise floor and milli-g resolution capable of resolving tilts as fine as .06 degrees of inclination, according to the company.

The 13-by-8-by-2 millimeter eight-lead package is available in side-brazed ceramic and is capable of surviving 3500-g shocks for use in ruggedized high-temperature installations.

My Long Now bet from 2006 was accurate

I was told by email by Geordie Rose that the deal with Lockheed Martin concluded in November of 2010. A bet that I made back in 2006 was accurate.

Bet 266 - “There will be a quantum computer with over 100 qubits of processing capability sold either as a hardware system or whose use is made available as a commercial service by Dec 31, 2010”

Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) has entered into an agreement to purchase a quantum computing system from D-Wave Systems Inc.

In 2008 Scott Aaronson said that Dwave trying to line up customers for their quantum computer was comically premature

Scott Aaronson is a professor working on Quantum computer theory at MIT.

In 2008 (and before and after) he was an outspoken critic of Dwave Systems. D-Wave has built an adiabatic quantum computer and yesterday announced the sale of a 128 qubit quantum computer system to Lockheed. The deal with Lockheed Martin concluded in November of 2010. A bet that I made back in 2006 was accurate.

Even if D-Wave managed to build (say) a coherent 1,024-qubit machine satisfying all of its design specs, it’s not obvious it would outperform a classical computer on any problem of practical interest. This is true both because of the inherent limitations of the adiabatic algorithm, and because of specific concerns about the Ising spin graph problem. On the other hand, it’s also not obvious that such a machine wouldn’t outperform a classical computer on some practical problems. The experiment would be an interesting one! Of course, this uncertainty — combined with the more immediate uncertainties about whether D-Wave can build such a machine at all, and indeed, about whether they can even produce two-qubit entanglement — also means that any talk of “lining up customers” is comically premature.

Reviewing some history of Dwave Adiabatic Quantum Computers

Dwave Systems recently sold their first 128 qubit quantum computer. In 2008 and earlier it was mentioned that AQC (Adiabatic Quantum computers) are not well suited to running the Shor algorithm for breaking encryption. Some people have stated that in 2011 as some kind of gotcha. Geordie Rose (CTO) of Dwave said that explicitly at demonstrations back in 2007 and 2008.

This site has reviewed quantum computing algorithms and tried to clarify how quantum computers relate to encryption and decryption

Some quantum computers can or could use Shor’s algorithm to break the main public key cryptosystems. Those based on the difficulty of factoring and the discrete logarithm, but there are still public key cryptosystems which are so far resistent to both quantum and classical attacks (like those based on certain shortest vector in a lattice problems.) Quantum computers can’t break any code in existence.

Mongolia may have 150 billion tons of coal and one million tons of uranium and China gold

1. Mongolia has inferred coal reserves of 150 billion tons.

Preliminary and detailed exploration indicate 23 billion tons of coal reserves in Mongolia.

The proven reserves are 12.2 billion tons of coal.

2. Mongolia says it holds nearly one million tons of uranium reserves. The 2009 Red Book world uranium report lists Mongolia with 49,000 tU in Reasonably Assured Resources plus Inferred Resources, to US$ 130/kg U.

Skylon Spaceplane Precooler component that will be tested in June 2011

Sabre's precooler technology will be put through its paces on a test rig this summer

BBC News had coverage of the Skylon Spaceplane and the recent positive review by the UK Space agency.

The Sabre propulsion system is essential to the success of the project.The engine would burn hydrogen and oxygen to provide thrust - but in the lower atmosphere this oxygen would be taken directly from the air.

At high speeds, Sabre would have to manage 1,000-degree gasses entering its intake. This hot air would need to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with hydrogen. Reaction Engines' answer is a novel precooler heat-exchanger.

Russian Kalinin 4 nuclear reactor on track for November, 2011 start, new fuel pond cooling systems and Fukushima follow up

1. Russian Kalinin 4 nuclear reactor is a V-320 model VVER-1000 built using the major components unused at Bulgaria's long-running Belene project. It is slated for start-up in September and commercial operation two months later in November, 2011. It will have net capacity of 950 MWe and gross capacity of 1,000 MWe.

2. The French EDF Group has set its sights on becoming the world's number one "electricity player" by 2020, aiming to have a diversified energy mix with 200 GWe of installed capacity

D-Wave Systems sells its first Quantum Computing System to Lockheed Martin Corporation

Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) has entered into an agreement to purchase a quantum computing system from D-Wave Systems Inc.

Lockheed Martin and D-Wave will collaborate to realize the benefits of a computing platform based upon a quantum annealing processor, as applied to some of Lockheed Martin's most challenging computation problems. The multi-year contract includes a system, maintenance and associated professional services.

Dwave Systems had announced the commercial availability of their 128 adiabatic quantum computer two weeks ago.

Back in 2006, I set out a bet/prediction -- There will be a quantum computer with over 100 qubits of processing capability sold either as a hardware system or whose use is made available as a commercial service by Dec 31, 2010 Missed it by 6 months (unless there was undisclosed sale last year to say the National Security Agency).

I received an email from Geordie Rose - The deal with Lockheed Martin concluded in November of 2010. My prediction/bet was successful. 128 qubit commercial sale.

Nextbigfuture has written over 80 articles about Dwave systems

50 articles on adiabatic quantum computers

Over 200 articles on quantum computers

Stamp fabrication by step and stamp nanoimprinting dissertation

Schematic of the nanoimprint lithography process. The thickness contrast is
created in the resist by imprinting (1). The pressure is maintained until the polymer flow fills the cavities of the mold (2). The mold and substrate are cooled below the glass transition temperature and separated (3).

Stamp fabrication by step and stamp nanoimprinting (79 pages)

The nanoimprinting is a potential method for submicron scale patterning for various applications, for example, electric, photonic and optical devices. The
patterns are created by mechanical deformation of imprint resist using a patterned
imprinting mold called also a stamp. The bottle-neck for imprint lithography
is availability of the stamps with nanometer-scale features, which are typically
fabricated by electron beam lithography. Therefore, patterning of a large
stamp is time consuming and expensive. Nanoimprint lithography can offer a
low cost and a high through-put method to replicate these imprinting molds.

In this work, stamp replication process was developed and demonstrated for
three different types of imprint molds. Replication relies on sequential patterning
method called step and stamp nanoimprint lithography (SSIL). In this method a
small master mold is used to pattern large areas sequentially. The fabricated
stamps are hard stamps for thermal imprinting, bendable metal stamps for roll
embossing and transparent stamps for UV-imprinting.

Single-crystal arrays of graphene bring commercial graphene electronics closer

This scanning electron microscope picture shows individual crystal "grains" in an array of a material called graphene. Researchers have developed a method for creating the arrays, an advancement that opens up the possibility of a replacement for silicon in high-performance computers and electronics. (Image Care of University of Houston)

Researchers have developed a method for creating single-crystal arrays of a material called graphene, an advance that opens up the possibility of a replacement for silicon in high-performance computers and electronics.

Nature Materials - Graphene: Pushing the boundaries

Grain boundaries in polycrystalline graphene are an obstacle to electron transport. However, cunning refinements in growth techniques push the limits to obtain super-sized single-crystal domains.

Nature Materials - Control and characterization of individual grains and grain boundaries in graphene grown by chemical vapour deposition

NASA to Launch New Science Mission to Asteroid in 2016 and bring back samples in 2023

NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

After traveling four years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2020. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. The mission, excluding the launch vehicle, is expected to cost approximately $800 million.

The sample will be stored in a capsule that will land at Utah's Test and Training Range in 2023.

Observation of the Dynamical Casimir Effect in a Superconducting Circuit

Arxiv - Observation of the Dynamical Casimir Effect in a Superconducting Circuit A rapidly moving mirror that turns virtual photons into real ones is the first experimental evidence of the dynamical Casimir effect

One of the most surprising predictions of modern quantum theory is that the vacuum of space is not empty. In fact, quantum theory predicts that it teems with virtual particles flitting in and out of existence. While initially a curiosity, it was quickly realized that these vacuum fluctuations had measurable consequences, for instance producing the Lamb shift of atomic spectra and modifying the magnetic moment for the electron. This type of renormalization due to vacuum fluctuations is now central to our understanding of nature. However, these effects provide indirect evidence for the existence of vacuum fluctuations. From early on, it was discussed if it might instead be possible to more directly observe the virtual particles that compose the quantum vacuum. 40 years ago, Moore suggested that a mirror undergoing relativistic motion could convert virtual photons into directly observable real photons. This effect was later named the dynamical Casimir effect (DCE). Using a superconducting circuit, we have observed the DCE for the first time. The circuit consists of a coplanar transmission line with an electrical length that can be changed at a few percent of the speed of light. The length is changed by modulating the inductance of a superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) at high frequencies (~11 GHz). In addition to observing the creation of real photons, we observe two-mode squeezing of the emitted radiation, which is a signature of the quantum character of the generation process.

May 25, 2011

Startup 24M hopes to commercialize battery with liquid electrolyte

Battery prototype: Two sludge-like electrode materials are fed into the device shown here. The anode material flows into the top half, and the cathode flows into the bottom. Lithium ions pass from one material to the other, and electrons flow through the black and red leads.
Credit: Yet-Ming Chiang

MIT Technology Review - A big problem with the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids is that only about 25 percent of the battery's volume is taken up by materials that store energy. The rest is made up of inactive materials, such as packaging, conductive foils, and glues, which make the batteries bulky and account for a significant part of the cost.

24M intends to greatly reduce the inactive material in a battery. According to estimates in the new paper, its batteries could achieve almost twice the energy densities of today's vehicle battery packs. Batteries with a higher energy density would be smaller and cheaper, which means electric and hybrid cars would be less expensive. The paper estimates that the batteries could cost as little as $250 per kilowatt hour—less than half what they cost now.

Advanced Energy Materials - Semi-Solid Lithium Rechargeable Flow Battery

An Estimate of the Electron Density in Filaments of Galaxies

"Missing mass" in the universe has many types and forms. New research relates not to dark matter but a new way to detect baryonic matter (i.e. all normal matter) that exists in an unusual form as filaments.

Arxiv - Most of the baryons in the Universe are thought to be contained within filaments of galaxies, but as yet, no single study has published the observed properties of a large sample of known filaments to determine typical physical characteristics such as temperature and electron density. This paper presents a comprehensive large-scale search conducted for X-ray emission from a population of 41 bona fide filaments of galaxies to determine their X-ray flux and electron density. The sample is generated from Pimbblet et al.’s (2004) filament catalogue, which is in turn sourced from the 2 degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey (2dFGRS). Since the filaments are expected to be very faint and of very low density, we used stacked ROSAT All-Sky Survey data. We detect a net surface brightness from our sample of filaments of (1.6±0.1)× 10^−14 erg cm^−2 s^−1 arcmin−2 in the 0.9–1.3 keV energy band for 1 keV plasma, which implies an electron density. Finally, we examine if a filament’s membership to a supercluster leads to an enhanced electron density as reported by Kull and Bohringer (1999). We suggest it remains unclear if supercluster membership causes such an enhancement.

* many optical surveys have been successful in detecting and delineating filaments in the past

* this work builds on previous research in the area by creating a ‘clean’ sample of known straight filaments

* double the amount of normal matter in the local Universe compared to what was observed

Astrophysicists also predicted that the mass would be low in density, but high in temperature - approximately one million degrees Celsius. The matter should have been observable at X-ray wavelengths and now it has been observed.

Intel 3-D transistor design is a variant of FinFET developed at UC Berkeley

Intel’s 3-D Tri-Gate transistor will be used in 22-nanometer-technology microprocessors slated for high-volume manufacturing by the end of the year.

Internet causing world economic growth greater than industrial revolution of the 1800s

McKinsey - Internet matters: The Net’s sweeping impact on growth, jobs, and prosperity (70 pages)

Two billion people are connected to the Internet. Almost $8 trillion exchange hands each year through e-commerce. In some developed markets, about two-thirds of all businesses have a Web presence of some kind, and one-third of small and medium-sized businesses extensively use Web technologies.

The Internet compares well with the development and commercialization of electric power.

* more than 75 percent of the value added created by the Internet is in traditional industries

May 24, 2011

New thermoelectric materials will be tested in BMW, Ford, and Chevrolet vehicles this summer

At least two-thirds of the energy in gasoline used in cars and trucks is wasted as heat. Thermoelectrics, semiconductor materials that convert heat into electricity, could capture this waste heat, reducing the fuel needs of the vehicle and improving fuel economy by at least 5 percent. But the low efficiency and high cost of existing thermoelectric materials has kept such devices from becoming practical in vehicles. The DOE (Dept of Energy) is targeting getting 10% of more improvement in fuel efficiency.

An alloy of lead telluride (PbTe) has been boosted to 22% efficient at converting heat to electricity

BSST is using thermoelectrics—blends of hafnium and zirconium thave increased the generator efficiency by about 40 percent over Bismuth telluride.

Fighting Aging by fixing damage using any means

Fighting Aging makes note of the latest issue of Rejuvenation Research last month

Aubrey de Grey again makes the case for the focus of aging research to be on fixing the damage of aging

Possibly the biggest battle that I have had to fight over the past decade is to persuade people to take seriously the idea that it is time even to think about "reversing aging" while we remain so negligibly able even to slow aging down. The flaw in that logic is simple: it is that rejuvenation, i.e. the restoration of an organism's physiological state to how it was at an earlier age, will be achieved not by reversing the processes of aging but by repairing the accumulated damage that those processes create. To get back to where we came from, in other words, we do not need to retrace the route we took from there to here. Any route will do, and in this case there turns out to be a vastly more plausible route than the retracing one.

China has over 900 million Mobile Phone Users

China's cell phone user grew by 41.39 million in the first four months of 2011 to 900.39 million in total, covering nearly two-thirds of the nation's population, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). China is on track to over 1 billion mobile phone users in early 2012.

The number of telephone subscribers exceeded 1.19 billion by the end of April, with the number of fixed-line subscribers dropping by 2.93 million to 291.45 million, according to statistics released Tuesday by the MIIT on its website.

By the end of April, third generation (3G) mobile telecommunication users in China reached 67.57 million, 20.52 million more than that of the end of 2010.

Kepler's Astounding Haul of Multiple-Planet Systems

NASA's Kepler spacecraft is proving itself to be a prolific planet hunter. Within just the first four months of data, astronomers have found evidence for more than 1,200 planetary candidates. Of those, 408 reside in systems containing two or more planets, and most of those look very different than our solar system.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered 170 planetary systems containing between two and six transiting planets. This animation shows all the multiple-planet systems discovered by Kepler as of 2/2/2011; orbits go through the entire mission (3.5 years). Hot colors to cool colors (red to yellow to green to cyan to blue to gray) are big planets to smaller planets, relative to the other planets in the system.

Robot Uses Supersonic Jets of Air to Stick to Almost Anything

IEEE Spectrum - Robot Uses Supersonic Jets of Air to Stick to Almost Anything

Bernoulli grippers are fine for picking up things, they're not generally strong enough to enable a robot to support its own weight, much less climb. A research group from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has developed a supersonic version of the Bernoulli gripper that's five times stronger than the conventional version, which is enough to allow a robot to climb on a bunch of different surfaces. And when you're watching this video, keep in mind that unlike pretty much every other climbing robot in existence, the grippers on this robot aren't touching the wall.

* MArch 3 airflow creates a low pressure vortex inside the gripper which provides the actual adhesion force, and in testing on the robot, this supersonic gripper is able to support five times as much weight as a conventional Bernoulli gripper, all without using any additional air volume or pressure.

* The robot could be used for industrial inspections. The supersonic non-contact grippers will be available in "some months" for "a few hundred dollars," the researchers say.

Carnival of Space 198

The Carnival of Space 198 is up at the astroblogger

Universe Today reports that DARPA has put out a Request for Information (RFI) looking for ideas about how a long-term human mission to boldly go out to the stars. It’s been estimated that such a mission would cost over $10 billion, and the idea has gotten $100,000 from NASA and $ 1 million from DARPA – which means that as of now it is just that, an idea.

The details of the DARPA Request for Information (RFI) are here

DARPA is seeking ideas for an organization, business model and approach appropriate for a self-sustaining investment vehicle in support of the 100 Year StarshipTM Study. The 100 Year StarshipTM Study is a project seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible. The genesis of this study is to foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder among students, academia, industry, researchers and the general population to consider “why not” and to encourage them to tackle whole new classes of research and development related to all the issues surrounding long duration, long distance spaceflight. DARPA contends that the useful, unanticipated consequences of such research will have benefit to the Department of Defense and to NASA, and well as the private and commercial sector.

Skylon Spaceplane development given go-ahead by UK Space Agency

A technical assessment has concluded that there are no impediments to the further development of the Skylon spacecraft being developed by Reaction Engines.

The UK Space Agency’s report on the Skylon technical assessment, for which the European Space Agency (ESA) was commissioned, also agreed with the objectives of the proposed next stage of the development programme.

The 52 page Skylon Assessment Report
In conclusion the ESA assessment has identified a number of issues that must be addressed to increase the maturity of the vehicle and engine developments. However no impediments or critical items have been identified for either the SKYLON vehicle or the SABRE engine that are a block to further development.

It is clear that the SABRE engine is critical for the successful development of the SKYLON vehicle.

The consensus for the way forward is to proceed with the innovative development of the engine which in turn will enable the overall vehicle development.

The SABRE engine offers to deliver both high thrust to weight ratio and high performance over the Mach 0 to 6 range based on a single cycle. This is a major advantage in comparison to alternate air-breathing engine designs.

In particular, based on REL’s flight like heat exchanger technology and their successful demonstration of the frost control mechanism at laboratory scale (a major milestone that has so far eluded other international developments), ESA are confident that a ground test of a sub-scale engine can be successfully performed to demonstrate the flight regime and cycle and will be both a critical milestone in the development of this program and a major breakthrough in propulsion worldwide.

For the future SKYLON vehicle, the concept and structural design work undertaken by Reaction Engines Ltd does not demonstrate any areas of implausibility due to the relatively benign environment of the flight trajectory.

May 23, 2011

James Woodward talks about the scientific history of gravity, inertia and the Mach Effect

James Woodward reviews the scientific history of inertia, gravity and Mach Effect at Centauri Dreams.

What is Mach’s principle? Well, lots of people have given lots of versions of this principle, and protracted debates have taken place about it. Its simplest expression is: Inertial reaction forces are produced by the gravitational action of everything that gravitates in the universe. But back in 1997 Herman Bondi and Joseph Samuel, answering an argument by Wolfgang Rindler, listed a dozen different formulations of the principle. Generally, they fall into one of two categories: “relationalist” or “physical”. In the relationalist view, the motion of things can only be related to other things, but not to spacetime itself. Nothing is said about the interaction (via fields that produce forces) of matter on other matter. The physical view is different and more robust as it asserts that the principle requires that inertial reaction forces be caused by the action of other matter, which depends on its quantity, distribution, and forces, in particular, gravity, as well as its relative motion.

Thorenco LLC presents a little 40 MW Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactor

Charles S. Holden founder of Thorenco LLC working with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory physicists has proposed a small transportable 50-megawatt-thermal Thorium converter reactor for multiple uses: producing electricity (15 megawatts), burning up high-level actinides from spent fuel, and producing low-cost, high-temperature steam (or process industrial heat). This high-temperature steam can be used for extraction of oil from tar sands, or desalinating, purifying, and cracking water. The reactor’s fuel matrix can be “tuned” to provide the right output for each particular work process.

The reactor core is a squat cylinder, about 140 centimeters in diameter and 50 centimeters tall. Its size makes it portable, so that it can be brought to remote locations to work site and supply heat and electricity there without dependence on long-distance transmission lines. Its small size also allows it to be factory-built and transported to its destination, “plugged in” in a deep underground containment structure, and put to work quickly. The core can be shipped back to the factory when the fuel needs to be changed.

Thorium Energy Alliance held its third national conference on May 12, 2011 - Charles S. “Rusty” Holden, founder of Thorenco LLC, did offer a specific design: a 40MW pilot plant that he called “a little LFTR.” Using fissile uranium-235 as a source of ignition neutrons and a mix of thorium tetrafluoride in a beryllium fluoride molten salt, Thorenco’s design includes a deep salt pool with a honeycomb geometry that offers “a superior way to clean and condition the fuel during operations,” Holden said.

23 page presentation - Liquid Fueled Thorium Reactor: 40 Megawatt Pilot Plant Outline

•Neutrons convert Fertile Thorium-232 to fissile Uranium-233
•No Plutonium Produced
•No melt downs
•No fuel rods
•No cooling ponds
•No 10,000+ year spent fuel storage

Focus fusion project getting greater repeatability and higher current beams


Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is getting major improvement in repeatability of fusion yield and beam production. Repeatable fusion yield is now within a factor of 4 of predictions. Clues found from data and simulation on improving filamentation, ending the early-beam problem and boosting yield up to predictions.

Any small deviation from symmetry greatly reduced yield and repeatability. When we changed the number of capacitors firing from 10 to 8, variability dropped dramatically, with the range of fusion yields dropping first to 3 to 1 and then to ±15% (around a yield of 5x10^10 neutrons). While 10 capacitors are not symmetrically arranged and 8 are, the current spreads out to make asymmetries quite small, so this effect told us that we could still improve the symmetry of the initial conditions of firing.

2. Lawrenceville plasma physics is getting greater repeatability and reduced variability and larger current in the beam measured by the upper Rogowski coil (URC) and by our photo-multiplier tubes (PMTs), which measure hard X-rays generated by the electron beam. Their highest current beams, seen twice on May 11, have current of almost 300 kA, and most of the beams observed are within a factor of 3 of that current

Kirk Sorensen has started a Thorium Power company Flibe Energy

Kirk Sorensen, founder of the energyfromthorium blog, has left his job as chief nuclear technologist at Teledyne Brown to found a company, Flibe Energy, dedicated to building commercial liquid-fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs).

Kirk has not disclosed details of funding for Flibe Energy (which is named for the mixture of lithium fluoride (LiF) and beryllium fluoride (BeF2) that is proposed, in molten-salt form as a coolant for LFTRs), but a Teledyne Brown executive attending the conference said that they are “fully supportive of Flibe Energy” in introductory remarks. Kirk also pointed out that, in addition to (and likely preceding) the product of commercial power, LFTRs offer several other revenue streams: in particular supply radioisotopes for medical applications. The only reactor producing medical radioisotopes in North America is due to shut down in the next three years.

FlibeEnergy’s ambitious development program aims for first demonstration criticality in June 2015

Introduction to Flibe Energy (23 pages)

♦liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR)
♦It is safe, mechanically simple, compact, and can be deployed virtually anywhere.
♦In preparing to build LFTRs we will recover valuable medical radioisotopes that could provide early financial return.
♦Operating LFTRs will generate electricity, desalinated water, and valuable radioisotopes for NASA and the medical sector.

Reusable template for the production of nanowires

Scanning electron micrograph image showing platinum wires being lifted away from the surface of the UNCD electrode. Inset: Higher magnification image showing a single ring of platinum removed from the UNCD surface.

Argonne National Labs - Scientists from CNM's Nanofabrication Group, working with users from the University of Wisconsin-Stevenson Point, discovered a fast, simple, scalable technique for solution-based, electrochemical synthesis of patterned metallic and semiconducting nanowires from a reusable, nonsacrificial, ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) template.

Electroplate and Lift Lithography for Patterned Micro/Nanowires Using Ultrananocrystalline Diamond (UNCD) as a Reusable Template.

Kitegen testing 3 Megawatt system and has plans for 50 more units

The first preproduction sample of Kitegen (3 Megawatt prototype), is nearing completion in an area used to dump the City of Sommariva Perno and will come into operation soon. Once fully operational the plant will work for 6000 hours per year and will be able to meet the electricity demand of about 30,000 households. Kitegen already has plans to build 50 machines in series, with orders coming from various parts of the world.

Stem-cell therapy could reshape orthopedics in animals and people alike

Vet-stem is using stem cell treatments in horses that should work in humans

Popular Science - Stem-Cell Therapy Works Wonders for Race Horses; Are Human Treatments Next?

Since 2002 the company Vet-Stem has treated 4,141 horses for soft-tissue injuries such as tendinitis and muscle contusions, and 70 to 80 percent have healed completely.

There is little doubt that stem-cell therapy could reshape orthopedics in animals and people alike. After all, Harman says, “when a Super Bowl linebacker tears a ligament, it’s the same deal as with horses.” The basic tissue structure in the legs of both species is similar, and the kind of soft-tissue injuries that Harman is studying in horses are also common in humans: About 80,000 people tear their ACL every year, and several thousand miss a few days of work a year because of tendinitis.

Switchable Magnetic Metamaterials Using Micromachining Processes

Scanning electron micrograph of the micromachined switchable metamaterial

Nature Asia Materials - Metamaterials: Chopping and changing Switchable metamaterials allow for the controllable manipulation of light.

The optical properties of a material are predominantly determined by the structure and arrangement of its constituent atoms or molecules. Nature provides a vast array of materials and optical properties to work with, but if the specific properties you are looking for are not available naturally, then synthetic materials may be able to deliver a solution. Such ‘metamaterials’ have been demonstrated to achieve optical effects not found in nature, such as negative refractive index and super lensing. Ai-Qun Liu from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and colleagues from Singapore, Taiwan, France and Hong Kong have now prepared a metamaterial with optical properties that can be switched dynamically using micromachined actuators.

Risk of Newborn Death Cut in Half When Pregnancy Lasts 39 Weeks

March of Dimes research - Adding just a few more weeks of pregnancy can cut a newborn’s risk of death in half – even if the pregnancy has reached “term” -- adding more evidence to the argument that continuing a pregnancy to at least 39 weeks is crucial to a baby’s health.

The research by a team of investigators from the March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration found that although the overall risk of death is small, it more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.

In 2006, the infant mortality rate was 1.9 for every 1,000 live births or babies born at 40 weeks of pregnancy. The mortality rate increased to 3.9 per 1,000 when a baby was born just a few weeks earlier at 37 weeks of pregnancy, the study found.

There were 4.1 million births in the United States in 2009 2 fewer deaths per 1000 live births would save 8000 lives.

Plastic optics boosted to 25 gigabits per second and VI Systems targets 100 gigabits per second

EETimes - A new vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) technology from VI Systems aims to extend the reach of cheap plastic fiber optics, with scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology reporting successful operation at 25 Gbits per second.

VI Systems (Berlin) reports that it has achieved 40 Gbit/s in the lab and is aiming for 100 Gbit/s performance.

World nuclear energy production and uranium demand to 2020

1. Bloomberg: the biggest drop in prices of uranium in two years may be ending as China and India plan atomic power developments that will more than double global production even after Japan’s nuclear disaster.

China and India will lead a 46 percent increase in consumption by the world’s five biggest atomic-power developers by 2020.

Metamaterial Could Facilitate Wireless Power

Electrical engineers at Duke University have determined that unique man-made materials should theoretically make it possible to improve the power transfer to small devices, such as laptops or cell phones, or ultimately to larger ones, such as cars or elevators, without wires.

This advance is made possible by the recent ability to fabricate exotic composite materials known as metamaterials, which are not so much a single substance, but an entire man-made structure that can be engineered to exhibit properties not readily found in nature. In fact, the metamaterial used in earlier Duke studies, and which would likely be used in future wireless power transmission systems, resembles a miniature set of tan Venetian blinds.

Physical Review B - Metamaterial-enhanced coupling between magnetic dipoles for efficient wireless power transfer

Arxiv - Metamaterial-enhanced coupling between magnetic dipoles for efficient wireless power transfer (23 pages)

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 53

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 53 is up at Cool Hand Nuke

Deregulate the Atom looks at the Friday May 13 Blue Ribbon Commission hearing on Nuclear Waste

A recurring theme for the six hour marathon meeting was that technical issues are processed far too slowly by the NRC. The NRC has been delaying their announcements about conclusions drawn from the Fukushima events for two months. The delays affect progress and affect decisions regarding nuclear energy projects. Their procedures for investigating the risks or the promise of innovations take months or years to reach their conclusions and even then reveal a lack of understanding of the actual risks and seem to measure their decisions based on the temperature of the general fever of doubt by the public.

Per Peterson, one of the only highly technically qualified people on the BRC, raised the point about the need for more qualified technical staff as did some of the other commissioners in their own way.

Siemens has world record super efficient turbine with 60.75 efficiency

The combined cycle power plant Irsching 4 near Ingolstadt, Bavaria, achieves a world-record efficiency of more than 60 per cent. This top-notch performance is made possible by the perfect interaction of the innovative gas turbine with the key components of the overall plant, which are optimized for operation at high temperatures and pressure.

The picture shows the SGT 5-8000H gas turbine in the foreground, the SGen5-3000W generator and the SST 5-5000 steam turbine, all of which are arranged on a single shaf

Siemens gas turbine operated in a combined cycle with a steam turbine in Irsching, Bavaria, has set a world record for efficiency, making it an outstanding example of green technology. The net efficiency of 60.75 percent achieved during the test run even surpassed the target value of 60 percent; the previous generation of the turbine had an efficiency of 58.5 percent. The new turbine is designed to generate 400 megawatts (MW) alone and 600 MW when combined with a steam turbine.

Bulk thermoelectrics that are 22% efficient at heat to electricity conversion instead of 10-13%

Previously nextbigfuture had reported that a common bulk thermoelectric material had been vastly improved by researchers at Caltech.

An alloy of lead telluride (PbTe), for example, which has long been used to generate electricity aboard satellites, has a ZT of around 0.8. Researchers have now made one of the most common thermoelectric materials more efficient with a ZT of 1.8. A ZT of 1.8 at 850K has a energy conversion efficiency of about 20 to 22% instead of 13 % at ZT of 0.8.

To increase ZT, researchers typically try to increase a material's electrical conductivity as much as possible while holding down its thermal conductivity. In 2008, researchers led by Jeffrey Snyder, a materials scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, spiked PbTe with thallium, which boosted the ZT to 1.5. The group later determined that the thallium altered the electronic structure of the crystal, improving its electrical conductivity.

But thallium is toxic, so Snyder and his colleagues wanted to determine if they could match the improvement with other additives. Earlier this year, Snyder and his team at Caltech reported in Energy & Environmental Science that substituting sodium for thallium produced a ZT of 1.4. Now, Snyder's team, in combination with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, report online today in Nature that adding selenium and sodium gives them a maximum ZT of 1.8. The selenium not only further improves the electrical conductivity, it also reduces the thermal conductivity, Snyder explains.

The Caltech Researchers discuss the new bulk thermoelectrics and their applications.

26 Terabit per second transmitted using one laser over one fiber channel

Nature Photonics - 26 Tbit per second line-rate super-channel transmission utilizing all-optical fast Fourier transform processing

There has been transmission of data at over 100 terabits per second but those involved up to 370 lasers. German scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have succeeded in encoding data at a rate of 26 terabits per second on a single laser beam, transmitting them over a distance of 50 km, and decoding them successfully.

Optical transmission systems with terabit per second single-channel line rates no longer seem to be too far-fetched. New services such as cloud computing, three-dimensional high-definition television and virtual-reality applications require unprecedented optical channel bandwidths. These high-capacity optical channels, however, are fed from lower-bitrate signals. The question then is whether the lower-bitrate tributary information can viably, energy-efficiently and effortlessly be encoded to and extracted from terabit per second data streams. We demonstrate an optical fast Fourier transform scheme that provides the necessary computing power to encode lower-bitrate tributaries into 10.8 and 26.0 Tbit s−1 line-rate orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) data streams and to decode them from fibre-transmitted OFDM data streams. Experiments show the feasibility and ease of handling terabit per second data with low energy consumption. To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest line rate ever encoded onto a single light source

Discussion of the $10 million Qualcomm Medical Tricorder Xprize

MIT Technology Review on the $10 million Qualcomm Medical Tricorder Xprize

The X Prize Foundation announced a new $10 million contest to develop a portable device that can diagnose a wide range of diseases with the same accuracy as a panel of board-certified physicians.

The details of the contest are still being worked out, but the goal is likely to be a device that can perform a number of diagnostic tests and combine these with artificial intelligence to determine whether a subject has a particular malady. Such a device could help those who lack access to traditional medical services—and streamline access to specialty care in traditional medical treatment.

* doctor would always be involved in some way in patient diagnosis.
* This device and future devices will be a help and guide to get someone quickly to the right medical care
* The Food and Drug Administration has stated that it will not certify tech that makes a diagnosis directly
* strokes can already be diagnosed with the aid of a smart-phone application with the same degree of accuracy as with a hospital computer.
* because of FDA restrictions, the contest could lead to innovations that might only be used outside the United States

May 22, 2011

New Predictions from Legendary designer of future visions Syd Mead

Syd Mead was the designer of the technological visions in Blade Runner and Tron. In a recent Popular Science, Syd Mead revealed new future visions and predictions

Syd Mead believes that lightweight exoskeletons will be made using electroactive polymers. Electroactive polymers will be more like muscles and will be more efficient than hydraulics or electric motors for exoskeletons.

Mike Rowe wants to get the Tech Shop into all 50 States

Mike Rowe of the Discovery Show Dirty Jobs was at Maker Faire in San Mateo, California

Mike announced that he is trying to get a TV show developed around the theme of Making things. A goal would to popularize creative personal manufacturing.

The Tech Shop are facilities with nearly $750,000 in advanced machines and tools and 2D and 3D design software. They have facilities in Menlo Park and San Francisco

A $99/month membership provides to the 17000 square foot facilities and the equipment and a community of Inventors, Tinkerers, Hobbyists, Students, Entrepreneurs and others who want to make things.

Mike Rowe said that he wants to get the Tech Shop into all 50 States.

Google also has high tech workshops for employees

Amid all the free food and other goodies that come with a job at Google Inc., there's one benefit a lot of employees don't even know about: a cluster of high-tech workshops that have become a tinkerer's paradise. The "Google Workshops" are the handiwork of Larry Page. age authorized the workshops' opening in 2007 to try to reconnect the company with its roots.