October 22, 2011

Eric Drexler has moved to Oxford

Eric Drexler now works at Oxford’s Martin School in the new Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. (My Oxford Martin School bio here; Rosa’s here.) We plan to be at Oxford while I finish work on my new book, Radical Abundance.

The Oxford Martin School was founded as the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford in 2005 through the vision and generosity of Dr James Martin. It is a unique interdisciplinary research initiative tackling global future challenges.

Eric Drexler popularized the potential of molecular nanotechnology and did a great deal to define the technical foundation.

Dr. George Miley Replicates Patterson, Names Rossi

Ecat site - Long-time cold fusion researcher Dr. George Miley, affiliate professor at the University of Illinois, has recently released a report documenting his successful replication of the work of cold fusion pioneer James Patterson. Dr. Miley feels that the work of Mr. Patterson and Andrea Rossi have many similarities and has offered a theory that is felt to cover both. Dr. Miley recently spoke at the World Green Energy Synopsium in Philadelphia, PA from October 19-21, 2011. A Microsoft Power Point presentation was released on October 3 documenting his work and experimental results. I have included a slide show of this presentation below. Please note that such presentations usually serve as a guide to an accompanying lecture, of which I do not have access to at the present time. I will post it if and when it becomes available

Here is the link to the 56 page powerpoint presentation - Nuclear Battery Using D-Clusters in Nano-materials --- plus some comments about prior H2-Ni power cell studies

Excess heats of 1-2 kW were consistently produced with the Patterson cells. How? Light water and Ni should not produce a reaction!! The next slides explain my search for an answer. I propose that similar studies should be done for rossi’s cell.

Rational for Combined SIMS-NAA

Analysis for a large number of isotopes needed.
NAA is time consuming and was limited to nine elements with appropriate cross sections where reference standards were available.
SIMS, with ultra low detection limits, could detect all isotopes rapidly, but it provides relative isotope concentrations and abundance ratios are more precisely than it does absolute concentrations.
Thus the SIMS concentration values were normalized to the more accurate NAA results.

There is some discussion that he not getting the kilowatts that Patterson was claiming I hear from attendees that Miley is getting about 300 watts of thermal power without inputting any energy.

George Miley has worked on all kinds of nuclear fusion and headed the nuclear fusion department at the University of Illinois. He is a far more respectable source and researcher than Rossi.

Here is information on the Patterson cell

Offtopic- What if Relationship advice columns used fake letters with the plots of TV shows or movies ?

While reading Instapundit there was a reference to Rich Guy vs Nice guy at Dear Wendy

I was casually dating a guy — nothing really serious because he’s wealthy and so he’s always partying and I didn’t want to deal with all of the stress that I thought would come with trying to be exclusive with him. I saw him every other weekend or so, and our visits were usually booze-filled ones in Vegas or Hollywood. He really “got” me, and we felt like partners in crime, but things never got past the “lovers and friends” stage because I never let it feel like even a possibility, and he was always playing the aloof, fun guy. We were good for a good time, we both had exactly no expectations.

The, about six months ago, I met someone and totally fell hard. Rich Guy was travelling all the time, we weren’t exclusive, and it just happened. He was the nicest, most honest and loving guy I’d ever met and I felt like I’d won the lottery. Things were amazing for a few months. Unfortunately, every now and again, I’d get in touch with Rich Guy and my boyfriend would find out every time. He’d be obviously very upset and I’d promise to never do it again, only to give Rich Guy a call again a few weeks later.

This letter from a "real person" is an anonymized summary of the plot of the TV Show Sex in the City from Season 3 and 4. Rich Guy is the character Big and Nice guy is the character Aidan. The "letter writer" is Carrie. There were over 140 comments giving advice on the relationship.

October 21, 2011

Adam Crowl picks his top two 100 Year Starship presentations

Two talks at the 100 Year Starship conference held the key to the future, in the opinion of Adam Crowl. Adam Crowl is a designer on the Icarus Project. Project Icarus is a theoretical design study with the aim of designing a credible interstellar probe that will serve as a concept design for a potential mission that could be launched before then end of the 21st century

James Benford, Ph.D, discussed the economics of developing beamed-energy propulsion to propel high-speed sail-probes out of the solar system. His discussion demonstrated that the infrastructure required to launch sail-probes can also be used to develop the solar system for the benefit of all humanity. An incremental pathway to the stars, performing useful , profitable tasks at each step, can be carried out using technology we have now. The architecture might not be as Dr.Benford sketched out, but there is a road to the stars, which Icarus Interstellar is a part of.

Gregory Benford called the 100 Year Starship conference the first hard science fiction convention.

Jim and Gregory Benford think the most likely first unmanned “ship” will be a beam driven sail that makes a sundiver fall to get a boost from maybe 1/100th of our orbital radius, then gets pushed by beamed laser or microwave beams to very high speeds. The physics of that we now understand; Jim and I worked on the basics in the early 2000s—stability, steering, high acceleration. We even lifted a carbon fiber sail against gravity at JPL. With the basic physics done, it’s merely engineering… but what fascinating prospects! The sail papers were all promising.

What about larger payloads? We’ve hit the engineering wall, going as far as we can with chemical propulsion systems. If we’re going to make it to Mars in any sort of reasonable timeframe or with healthy transit durations, nuclear is the obvious next step.

Indeed, if NASA doesn’t show the world it has a goal—which should be Mars, certainly–and will develop the means to go there, it will be deeply cut in the budget battles soon to come. The Webb space telescope, now projected to cost $9 billion (ten times the initial supposed cost), is the only good project they have on hand. If we put it into the L2 point at Earth’s shadow as planned, we’d better be able to service it, to get long term performance from such a huge expense. That’s hard and expensive to do with chemical rockets.

Nuclear thermal rockets are the sole economical way we have to reach such places, four times further away than the moon. The outlines of an emerging interplanetary transport system are clear. At the Symposium Geoff Landis reported on the NASA Glenn nuclear thermal rocket program, the third generation of development (after the NERVA program of the 1960s-70s and Timberwind, a still classified program of the 1980s-90s). Stan Borowski of NASA Glenn projects a manned Mars expedition by 2033!

NBF comment - Spacex should be able to take chemical rockets further to 130 to 150 ton payloads and to reusable systems. If Spacex can achieve their goal then they could do it with affordability that rivals advanced nuclear thermal rockets. Skylon might also take chemical rockets and hypersonics spaceplanes further. All of those approaches should be pursued.

How wrong and misleading can someone be yet still be an influential technical expert ?

How much does being usually technically right matter for being an influential technical expert ? Energy policy is a subject that requires a lot of scientific and technical knowledge. Energy policy is loaded with people who are lying, are making blatantly false and misleading statements. You can prove that the bulk or entirety of what was said was false or misleading but that seems to have no impact or repercussions for "expert" who made the statements. Energy policy is an area where experts can expound upon what they predict will happen or should decades into the future as it takes many years to build new power generation and many years to implement any new policy.

According to wikipedia Amory Lovins came to prominence in 1976 when he published an article in Foreign Affairs called “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” Lovins argued that the United States had arrived at an important crossroads and could take one of two paths. The first, supported by U.S. policy, promised a future of steadily increasing reliance on dirty fossil fuels and nuclear fission, and had serious environmental risks. The alternative, which Lovins called “the soft path,” favored “benign” sources of renewable energy like wind power and solar power, along with a heightened commitment to energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Amory Lovins to this day claims his 1976 Foreign Affairs article, which used a 50-year time horizon, accurately predicted the heretical “soft path” graph was 4 percent below actual U.S. energy consumption in 2000, without – or 1 percent above, with – normalization to actual GDP growth.

The actual US energy usage is 7-11 quadrillion BTU (10% lower) lower because of imports from China of energy intensive manufacturing.

Yet the entire energy mix that Amory Lovins projected is completely wrong from what actually happened.

For 35 years, Amory Lovins has been claiming that nuclear power is a dying industry but nuclear power generates 400% more energy now than when he started making that claim.

Researchers considered to be unbiased release study that confirms that the earth has warmed 1 degree celsius since the mid 1950s

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study has created a preliminary merged data set by combining 1.6 billion temperature reports from 15 preexisting data archives. notes that this study pulls from 90-95% of the same raw data as previous studies and that it has not been peer reviewed yet.

The new study does not try to determine the cause of global warming, that is how much is from human causes.

The Nextbigfuture position is that outdoor air pollution is the immediate health and economic threat that is causing the premature death of 1.3 million people each year and birth defects and other disease and sickness.

The actions to correct air pollution largely overlap with the steps to mitigate any possible global warming. So fix the clear problem of air pollution and you would also take to fix global warming.

* get 700 million soot free cookers to the developing world. Costs about $70 billion. Would save 1.9 million lives per year from indoor air pollution and the lowered soot would equal an 8% of current carbon dioxide reduction. It would also save more lives with solar cookers by allowing developing people to boil more water without considering fuel costs and reduce health problems and death from unclean water

* Adopt Euro 6 air pollution standards for cars and trucks and install better particle filters on cars and trucks

* Retrofit existing coal, natural gas and other fossil fuel power generation and industrial plants with air pollution mitigation technology

* Uprate existing nuclear power plands and build more nuclear power

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study finds reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1°C since the mid-1950s.

Analyzing temperature data from 15 sources, in some cases going as far back as 1800, the Berkeley Earth study directly addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics, including the urban heat island effect, poor station quality, and the risk of data selection bias.

The Berkeley Earth team is making these preliminary results public, together with the programs and data set in order to invite additional scrutiny as part of the peer review process.

China May Lower 2020 Nuclear Target by 10%, Fuel loading at Kalinin 4

1. Businessweek - China may cut its 2020 nuclear power capacity goal by about 10 percent under a revised development plan to be announced this year. Li Yongjiang, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said “Capacity will fall somewhere between 60 and 70 gigawatts, as some planned projects have to be scaled back or canceled.”

The State Oceanic Administration said on April 7 that China in the future will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast. The country, constructing more reactors than any other, has at least 14 atomic units in operation, according to data from the World Nuclear Association.

The country, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association.

“Nuclear power’s strategic importance in China’s energy sector has not changed,” Cao Shudong, assistant to the president of China National Nuclear Corp., the country’s largest atomic plant operator, said in an interview. “The Japan nuclear accident only made china pay more attention to nuclear safety and adopt more advanced technology.”

October 20, 2011

Foambot makes another simpler but functioning foambot

Discovery News - The Modular Robotics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, under the direction of Shai Revzen, has created a robot that can be assembled from foam that hardens and pieces that allow the robot to move. The “foambot” looks ungainly, and it is. But once you have a shape -- and a task -- in mind, the foam sprayer can lay down a body plan that fits.

The modular robotics lab website
Hard foam can be used to synthesise a body on-the-fly, allowing us to spray a body for this quadruped. Each of the limbs comprises three CKBot modules, in a configuration similar to that used in the self-assembly after explosion project.

Foam synthesis uses our synthesiser cart, which is based on an off-the-shelf insulation foam, and a simple valve constructed from a spring-clamp. These are mounted on a moving platform constructed for the Mini-PR2 robot, which allows holonomic motion in the plane. Finally, an additional actuator allow the operator to control the elevation of the foam-spraying nozzle. A laser pointer is mounted to the nozzle to simplify aiming the foam spray.

Early mortality risk reduced up to 40 percent through 5 hours per week of increased physical activity and sports

Even though previous studies have been shown the link between regular exercises and improved health the exact dose-response relation remains unclear. Guenther Samitz, researcher in physical activity and public health at the Centre for Sports Sciences and University Sports of the University of Vienna has investigated this relationship with a meta-study representing more than 1.3 million participants.

* Meeting the WHO´s recommended level of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity of daily life or during leisure was associated with a reduction in mortality risk by ten percent.

* Vigorous exercise and sports the reduction in mortality risk was more than twofold higher (22 %).

* 300 minutes (five hours) per week, this activity level is recommended for extended health benefits, were associated with a reduction in mortality risk by 19% and 39% for moderate-intensity activities of daily living, and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and sports, respectively. But even for lower levels than recommended by the WHO the researchers observed a significant survival benefit.

International Journal of Epidemiology - Domains of physical activity and all-cause mortality: systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of cohort studies

Venture Capitalist predicts a new genetically engineered human species

Technology Review - The ability to engineer life is going to spark a revolution that will dwarf the industrial and digital revolutions, says Juan Enriquez, a writer, investor, and managing director of Excel Venture Management.

Because we can engineer our environment and ourselves, humanity is moving beyond the constraints of Darwinian evolution. The result, he says, may be an entirely new species.

Enriquez is the author of the global bestseller As the Future Catches You: How Genomics and Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth. His most recent publication is an eBook, Homo Evolutis: A Short Tour of Our New Species.

India Project between 7% and 8% GDP growth for 2011 and 2012 and IMF projects 5.25% GDP growth for sub-SaharanAfrica

1. WSJ - Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that India’s economic growth is likely to slow from 8.5% last year to between 7% and 8% over the next two years. In other words, all those GDP headlines are likely to include a 7, or 7 point something, not the 8 or 9 or even 10 of the government’s dreams. A few people had been thinking that India’s economic growth rate would outpace China’s. This will not happen for at least two years.

2. IMF - This year looks set to be another encouraging one for most sub-Saharan African economies. Reflecting mainly strong demand but also elevated commodity prices, the region's economy is set to expand by more than 5¼ percent in 2011. For 2012, the IMF staff's baseline projection is for growth to be higher at 5¾ percent, owing to one-off boosts to production in a number of countries.

Earthquake of 3.9 magnituge in the San Francisco - Oakland bay area

There was just an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area

The earthquake was 2 km (2 miles) ESE (112°) from Berkeley, CA

Consensus is Greek Default by April of 2012

1. Bank of America - More than nine out of 10 (92 percent) of the 199 respondents to October's global survey believe that Greece cannot avoid default. Seven out of 10 respondents predict a default by April 2012. Despite this overwhelming consensus, investors are less worried about sovereign risk than a month ago and less pessimistic about global growth.

EU sovereign debt funding remains the biggest tail risk in investors' minds, but concern has fallen from September's highs. While 68 percent of respondents considered it their number one concern last month, only 61 percent take that view in October.

The survey also suggests that the outlook for growth has stabilized and fears of global recession have receded. The proportion of the panel expecting a global recession in the coming 12 months has fallen to a net 25 percent from a net 40 percent in September.

A net 37 percent of respondents to the European regional survey expect a recession in the coming 12 months, up from a net 11 percent a month ago.

An overall total 286 panelists with US$739 billion of assets under management participated in the survey from 7 to 13 October. A total of 199 managers, managing US$570 billion, participated in the global survey. A total of 141 managers, managing US$331 billion, participated in the regional surveys.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory pushes for a demonstration heavy-ion fusion inertial fusion energy facility

A promising approach to inertial fusion energy, called heavy-ion fusion (HIF), has long been advocated by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

In inertial fusion, the fuel is a solid target made of frozen isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium, or deuterium and tritium), which is instantly heated to fusion temperature when hit by driver beams of laser light or energetic particles. The heavy-ion fusion approached pursued at Berkeley Lab uses driver beams of ions (atoms lacking one or more electrons) whose atomic mass is generally greater than 100 – cesium or xenon, for example.

A target in an inertial fusion reaction chamber is bathed in x-rays that ablate its surface, causing a rocket effect that squeezes and heats the target until it ignites and burns. For continuous power production, new targets would be injected into the chamber five to 10 times each second.

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics produced 150 billion neutrons in each of two shots on October 10

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics FF-1 (focus fusion project) achieved its highest fusion yield and achieved nearly I^5 scaling with current.

We are happy to report that FF-1 achieved a new record with the production of 150 billion neutrons in two shots on October 10. For some time during the recent post-upgrade shakedown, the device had not produced over 100 billion neutrons (10^11) repeatably, but this plateau has now been left behind with six shots over this level in two days of firing.

Equally important, the fusion yield has increased in the most recent shot series as I^4.7, very close to the I5 scaling that LPP’s theory predicts

1 trillion neutrons is equal to about 1 joule.

The need to rebuild switches has put the project about 18 months behind schedule.

Robert Bigelow predicts that china will claim ownership of Vast swaths of lunar territory by 2022 to 2026

Commercial space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow predicts that China could claim ownership of vast swaths of lunar territory by 2022 to 2026.

Bigelow became rich with his own hotel chain and he has set up Bigelow Aerospace to develop inflatable space stations.

China has the motivation and ability to win the next space race and claim ownership of much of the moon. Bigelow argued that international law would allow a nation to make such a claim, especially if it were able to enforce it through continuous human lunar presence.

He advocated for putting 10 percent of the money the United States currently spends on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan toward space exploration with the goal of establishing a presence on Mars.

"America would experience a rebirth of vision, excitement, science and global prestige," Bigelow said.

However, competition with China is not the only option, Bigelow said. If the Chinese would have us as collaborators in moon exploration, space cooperation with China would be a great idea. "A piece of something is better than a piece of nothing," Bigelow said.

Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space station vision. Bigelow Aerospace has launched 1/3 scale versions.

Amory Lovins wrong before, wrong now and is pushing a plan for American Poverty

Amory Lovins (or a staffer at the Rocky Mountain Institute) has placed a lengthy boiler plate anti-nuclear energy comment which summarizes Amory Lovins argument against nuclear power at Atomic Insights.

Claim 1. Nuclear power continues to die of an incurable attack of market forces.

Amory Lovins was claiming that nuclear power would die back in 1976

Since 1980, nuclear power generation has increased by over 400%. So Amory Lovins is wrong about nuclear energy being a collapsing industry.

Gaddafi reported to have been killed

X-libyan leader Gaddafi has been reportedly killed

Kurzweil Responds to Paul Allen: Don't Underestimate the Singularity

Last week, Paul Allen and a colleague challenged the prediction that computers will soon exceed human intelligence. Now Ray Kurzweil, the leading proponent of the "Singularity," offers a rebuttal.

Ray Kurzweil feels that Paul Allen did not read Ray's book the Singularity is Near because that book contains the details and evidence of Ray's case for the Singularity which go unaddressed in Paul Allen's article.

I discussed the Paul Allen article and my general view of the Singularity last week

I think that far greater than human artificial intelligence is possible. I think the early versions will require a vast excess of computing hardware power relative to the computing power of the human brain. The Artificial Intelligences will outperform on tasks and capability by having a billions or trillions of times more hardware computing capability. This will make it easier to code because developers can waste compute cycles and memory to achieve the desired results. I am very confident about the continuing hardware improvements.

AGI hardware does not have to be the same size as the human brain.
AGI can use more than the 20 watts of the human brain.

Hot air balloons, blimps, airplanes, rockets did not have to mimic birds. All that mattered was the performance metrics and capabilities. We have only recently developed some flying machines (small UAVs) that mimic the flapping of bird or insect wings.

Also, Artificial general intelligence can still have some specializations and optimization. We can have more than one AGI working together. We do not have just one human.

There are no limits to the creativity or workarounds that can be used to allow AGI to outperform human brains.

Allen writes that "the Law of Accelerating Returns (LOAR). . . is not a physical law." I would point out that most scientific laws are not physical laws, but result from the emergent properties of a large number of events at a finer level. A classical example is the laws of thermodynamics (LOT). If you look at the mathematics underlying the LOT, they model each particle as following a random walk. So by definition, we cannot predict where any particular particle will be at any future time. Yet the overall properties of the gas are highly predictable to a high degree of precision according to the laws of thermodynamics. So it is with the law of accelerating returns. Each technology project and contributor is unpredictable, yet the overall trajectory as quantified by basic measures of price-performance and capacity nonetheless follow remarkably predictable paths.

If computer technology were being pursued by only a handful of researchers, it would indeed be unpredictable. But it's being pursued by a sufficiently dynamic system of competitive projects that a basic measure such as instructions per second per constant dollar follows a very smooth exponential path going back to the 1890 American census. I discuss the theoretical basis for the LOAR extensively in my book, but the strongest case is made by the extensive empirical evidence that I and others present.

Android 4.0 OS and Galaxy Nexus compared to iPhone4S, HTC Titan and Samsung Galaxy SII

1. Computer World -
Four Android 4.0 innovations that debuted in the Galaxy Nexus Superphone

i.) Face Unlock facial recognition
ii) Android Beam, which uses near-field communication technology;
iii) data monitoring, a potentially powerful user setting.
iv) allows users to speed up the playback of long-winded voice mails.

Android Beam demo - two Galaxy Nexus phones together, back-to-back, would allow wireless transfer of an article from a Web site, a Google map of a specific location, or a YouTube video. He showed how one person playing the game Minecraft on a Galaxy Nexus could tap another Galaxy Nexus, leading the second user immediately to the Minecraft app in Android Market where he could read about it or quickly purchase and download it. The potential for Android Beam is great for connecting "any proximity-based things" such as group chats and more

2. CNET - Android Supersmartphones -

Verizon and Motorola jointly unveiled the Droid Razr, a dual-core 4G LTE smartphone that boasts a thinner profile than the iPhone 4S.

October 19, 2011

Technical Analysis of achieving sub 5 nanometer CMOS

It is commonly believed that the fundamental limit to MOSFET feature-size scaling is direct source-drain tunneling. We may hit this limitation around the 5nm node.

For CMOS logic transistors, when we approach the direct source-drain tunneling limit, we could move to recessed channel devices and use channel lengths longer than the minimum feature size. This could allow us to continue miniaturization and increase component density. For example, at the 5nm node, we could have a 8nm channel length transistor without sacrificing density. Recessed channel devices also enable us to address issues with short channel effects such as Drain Induced Barrier Lowering (DIBL). Furthermore, moving to recessed channel devices could enable easy implementation of Monolithic 3D-ICs. See this page for more details. Next-generation logic transistors such as Finfets can be constructed with recessed channel topologies too. Hynix has done a lot of work on recessed channel Finfets for DRAM. Other high-density device structures where channel length is longer than the minimum feature size exist, such as vertical transistors. These are being actively explored by the DRAM industry too.

Conclusion: It certainly looks like we might be able to miniaturize CMOS technologies beyond the 5nm node someday.

Memristors are expected to be commercially available in 18 months and they have 3 nanometer by 3 nanometer sizes and 1 nanosecond response time.

Memristors can be fashioned into non-volatile solid-state memory, which would allow greater data density than hard drives with access times potentially similar to DRAM, replacing both components. HP prototyped a crossbar latch memory using the devices that can fit 100 gigabits in a square centimeter, and has designed a highly scalable 3D design (consisting of up to 1000 layers or 1 petabit per cm3). HP has reported that its version of the memristor is currently about one-tenth the speed of DRAM. The devices' resistance would be read with alternating current so that the stored value would not be affected.

So CMOS transistors could be replaced before they hit their fundamental limits.

USA continues to edge towards 6 million barrels per day of crude oil production

The United States imported 6,557,000 barrels of oil per day for the week of October 14, 2011. This was the lowest level of imports since 1995

The United States supplied 18.3 million barrels of finished oil products per day for the week of October 14, 2011. This is a 1998 level of oil usage.

The daily crude oil production was 5.891 million barrels of oil per day for the week of October 14, 2011. This is the level of crude oil produced in 2003

Pesticides and coal and oil pollutants increase associated with 450% increase in certain birth defects

Pesticides and pollutants are related to an alarming 450 percent increase in the risk of spina bifida and anencephaly in rural China, according to scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and Peking University. Many other congenital conditions, including autism, may one day prove to be related to environmental pollutants.

Two of the pesticides found in high concentrations in the placentas of affected newborns and stillborn fetuses were endosulfan and lindane. Endosulfan is only now being phased out in the United States for treatment of cotton, potatoes, tomatoes and apples. Lindane was only recently banned in the United States for treatment of barley, corn, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat seeds.

Strong associations were also found between spina bifida and anencephaly and high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are byproducts of burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Spina bifida is a defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Anencephaly is the absence of a large part of the brain and skull.

PNAS - Association of selected persistent organic pollutants in the placenta with the risk of neural tube defects

Wikipedia on Spina Bidida
Spina bifida drawing. Below is a picture of a baby with spina bifida. Anencephaly pictures are more disturbing as large parts of the skull and brain are missing

Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects, with an average worldwide incidence of 1–2 cases per 1000 births, but certain populations have a significantly greater risk. Spina bifida can be surgically closed after birth, but this does not restore normal function to the affected part of the spinal cord.

In the United States, the average incidence is 0.7 per 1000 live births. The incidence is higher on the East Coast than on the West Coast, and higher in whites (1 case per 1000 live births) than in blacks (0.1–0.4 case per 1000 live births). Immigrants from Ireland have a higher incidence of spina bifida than do nonimmigrants.

The highest incidence rates worldwide were found in Ireland and Wales, where 3–4 cases of myelomeningocele per 1000 population have been reported during the 1970s, along with more than six cases of anencephaly (both live births and stillbirths) per 1000 population. The reported overall incidence of myelomeningocele in the British Isles was 2–3.5 cases per 1000 births. Since then, the rate has fallen dramatically with 0.15 per 1000 live births reported in 1998, though this decline is partially accounted for by the fact that some fetuses are aborted when tests show signs of spina bifida (see Pregnancy screening above).

Sarkozy says euro zone talks stuck

Efforts to secure a deal to tackle the euro zone debt crisis are stalled over methods to increase the firepower of the region's bailout fund, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday.
France has argued the most effective way of leveraging the firepower of the European Financial Stability Facility is to turn it into a bank which could then access funding from the ECB, both the central bank and the German government have opposed this.

An alternative bailout model is where the EFSF can underwrite a portion of newly issued euro zone debt. By guaranteeing the first 20-30 percent of any losses, the EFSF could stretch three to five times further. With about 300 billion euros of its 440-billion-euro capacity still available, the fund could be expanded to more than 1 trillion euros, and give markets pause for thought.

Analysts are unconvinced that a leverage plan involving a guarantee on first losses would succeed, warning that it could create a two-tier structure in some bond markets and would be meaningless without an explicit commitment from the European Central Bank to go on buying at-risk debt.

"On paper this solution has some merits because it is expedient ... but is in fact fraught with complications that are very likely to make it fail," Shahin Vallee, an analyst with Bruegel, a leading think-tank, said in a research paper.

There are doubts about whether euro zone leaders will be able to agree a clear and convincing plan when they meet on Sunday.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images Protesters throw petrol bombs to riot police as they demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament in Athens.

CNBC - Demonstrators on Wednesday threw stones and gasoline bombs at police outside parliament during a two-day general strike that unions described as the largest in years.

The protest, which has grounded flights, disrupted public transport and shut down shops to schools in Greece, comes ahead of a parliamentary vote on a fresh package of tax increases and spending cuts required by international creditors in return for crucial bailout cash.

Most of the 70,000 or so protesters that have converged in central Athens have marched peacefully, but chaos unfolded outside the parliamentary building as crowds clashed with police who tried to disperse them with tear gas. At least 15,000 demonstrators also gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city.

Metropolitan Athens has a population of about 3,074,160 So about 1 out of every 45 people (including children) are out demonstrating in Greece. Greece has 10.8 million people and has a debt of about $457 billion.

Wealthiest metropolitan area in the United States is now Washington DC

Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area.

The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.

In 2010, six of the ten richest counties in the USA were around Washington DC

The highest median income counties in the USA for 2011

Rank    County                          Median household income
1       City of Falls Church, Virginia  $113,313 
2       Loudoun County, Virginia        $112,021
3       Fairfax County, Virginia        $104,259 
4       Hunterdon County, New Jersey    $102,500
5       Howard County, Maryland         $101,003
6       Los Alamos County, New Mexico   $100,423
7       Douglas County, Colorado        $99,522
8       Morris County, New Jersey       $96,316
9       Somerset County, New Jersey     $96,233
10      City of Fairfax, Virginia       $96,233
11      Arlington County, Virginia      $93,806 
12      Nassau County, New York         $92,450
13      Montgomery County, Maryland     $92,213
14      Calvert County, Maryland        $90,621
15      Stafford County, Virginia       $90,586
16      Prince William County, Virginia $88,850
17      Williamson County, Tennessee    $88,358
18      Forsyth County, Georgia         $88,040
19      Putnam County, New York         $88,036
20      Marin County, California        $87,728
21      Charles County, Maryland        $86,141

DC area counties were 11 of the top 21, 5 of the top 10, 10 of the top 16.

October 18, 2011

Modafinil improves performance of mental tasks by sleep-deprived doctors

Researchers have carried out a preliminary study looking at the effects of the 'cognitive enhancement' drug modafinil on the performance of doctors who had been deprived of sleep for one night. (H/T Instapundit)

Modafinil, discovered in the 1970s, is currently prescribed in the UK for the treatment of sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, sleep apnoea, and shift work sleep disorder, a condition that affects people who frequently have to work at night.

In the new study of 39 people, published today in the Annals of Surgery by researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, modafinil improved performance in a series of mental tasks when compared with placebo, but had no effect on the performance of a surgical motor skills task. The doctors did not interact with any patients during the exercise.

This study set out to explore whether modafinil, a wakefulness-promoting drug, might help doctors to perform more effectively under conditions of fatigue when their performance might otherwise be compromised.

When the study's findings are confirmed, would it be malpractice for a doctor not to take modafinil on the second day of long shifts ?

Annals of Surgery - Effect of Pharmacological Enhancement on the Cognitive and Clinical Psychomotor Performance of Sleep-Deprived Doctors: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Seeing through walls in real time with new radar

The ability to see through walls is no longer the stuff of science fiction, thanks to new radar technology developed at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

The researchers’ device is an unassuming array of antenna arranged into two rows — eight receiving elements on top, 13 transmitting ones below — and some computing equipment, all mounted onto a movable cart. But it has powerful implications for military operations, especially “urban combat situations,” says Gregory Charvat, technical staff at Lincoln Lab and the leader of the project.

At first, their radar functions as any other: Transmitters emit waves of a certain frequency in the direction of the target. But in this case, each time the waves hit the wall, the concrete blocks more than 99 percent of them from passing through. And that’s only half the battle: Once the waves bounce off any targets, they must pass back through the wall to reach the radar’s receivers — and again, 99 percent don’t make it. By the time it hits the receivers, the signal is reduced to about 0.0025 percent of its original strength.

But according to Charvat, signal loss from the wall is not even the main challenge. “[Signal] amplifiers are cheap,” he says. What has been difficult for through-wall radar systems is achieving the speed, resolution and range necessary to be useful in real time. “If you’re in a high-risk combat situation, you don’t want one image every 20 minutes, and you don’t want to have to stand right next to a potentially dangerous building,” Charvat says.

The Lincoln Lab team’s system may be used at a range of up to 60 feet away from the wall. (Demos were done at 20 feet, which Charvat says is realistic for an urban combat situation.) And, it gives a real-time picture of movement behind the wall in the form of a video at the rate of 10.8 frames per second.

Real-time through-wall imaging using an ultrawideband multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) phased array radar system

Libya oil production could reach 3 million barrels per day in 2015 with $30 billion in investment

Raising Libya’s oil production to 3 million barrels per day by 2015 will cost about $30 billion, the head of France’s trade commission UbiFrance.

Libya is struggling to resume oil production, which forms the overwhelming bulk of its exports but was largely halted for the past eight months by its civil war. The country produced about 1.8 million bpd during peace time and hopes to be pumping 1 million barrels per day within a year.

Total, which has resumed operations in Libya, had production of 55,000 barrels a day in Libya prior to the six-month war that overthrew Gadhafi and is set to be among the companies most likely to benefit from a resumption of business in the oil-rich country.

Lecourtier said there would also be a need for about $12 billion of investment in developing the electricity sector, more than $4 billion in general reconstruction as well as longer term opportunities in the transport sector of about $5-6 billion.

Zueitina Oil Co., has become the latest Libyan oil company to re-start crude production and is now pumping about 30,000 barrels a day, the country's oil chief said. National Oil Co. chairman Nuri Berruien said output at Zueitina resumed about two weeks ago and has now reached about half its pre-war level of 60,000 barrels a day.

NASA Hid Cheaper In-space Fuel Depots Option To Get a Heavy Lift Rocket

Space Ref - On 26 September 2011, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued a press release regarding fuel depots. This included a letter to former Administrator Mike Griffin who had dismissed the notion of fuel depots and commercial launch vehicles as being a viable alternative to the Space Launch System(SLS) during Congressional testimony.

An internal NASA study found the fuel depot option to be $79 billion cheaper ($64 billion versus $143 billion) than a Space Launch System option and the fuel depot option would be 5 years faster for Near earth Asteroid mission.

Rohrabacher noted "When NASA proposed on-orbit fuel depots in this Administration's original plan for human space exploration, they said this game-changing technology could make the difference between exploring space and falling short. Then the depots dropped out of the conversation, and NASA has yet to provide any supporting documents explaining the change," says Rohrabacher."

NASA had actually been rather busy studying those very topics. The conclusions that NASA arrived at during these studies are in direct contrast to what the agency had been telling Congress, the media, and anyone else who would listen.

This presentation "Propellant Depot Requirements Study - Status Report - HAT Technical Interchange Meeting - July 21, 2011" (69 pages) is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could.

Worlds First Spaceport opens in New Mexico

Spaceport America, New Mexico, had its official opening ceremony

With his usual flair, British billionaire Richard Branson rappelled from a balcony, shook up a big bottle of champagne and took a swig while christening the world's first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport. Branson's Virgin Galactic will stage its commercial space tourism venture from Spaceport America in a remote patch of desert in southern New Mexico.

He hopes enough powered test flights of Virgin Galactic's sleek spacecraft can be done by the end of 2012 to start commercial suborbital flights from the spaceport soon after.

More than 450 people have purchased tickets to fly with Virgin Galactic. About 150 of them attended the ceremony.

Before getting to enter the hangar, the crowd was treated to a flyover by WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership that one day will help take space tourists on suborbital flights.

The $209 million taxpayer-financed spaceport will be a launch station for people and payloads on the rocket ships being developed for Virgin Galactic.

Singularity Summit 2011 videos

The Singularity Summit 2011 was held on October 15 and 16th in New York. The Singularity Summit is the premier dialog on the Singularity. The Singularity (as defined by the Singularity Summit) represents an "event horizon" in the predictability of human technological development past which present models of the future may cease to give reliable answers, following the creation of strong AI or the enhancement of human intelligence.

There were twitter postings under the has tag #SS11 on the Singularity Summit 2011

Singularity Summit 2011

Technoverseblog has a summary of the Singularity Summit 2011

Peter Thiel (founder of PayPal, investor, and Singularity Institute board member) railed against the general public’s distrust and discomfort with technology.

And Steve Job’s making technology accessible and friendly? Said Thiel: “… a large part involves designing technology in order to hide it. And so the experience of iPad, iPhone is that it’s almost like magic. It fits the zeitgeist extremely well of a society which is actually not that technological and where it’s more a fashion statement.”

David Brin (scientist and sci-fi novelist) gave advice on how to convince a fundamentalist that the Bible is actually pro-science: Quoting Genesis, Brin pointed out that God asked Adam to name the animals. Adam therefore was the first taxonomist. QED.

Ray Kurzweil (inventor, restless genius, and author of The Singularity is Near) believes the law of accelerating returns (exponential performance improvements as far as the eye can see) will overcome all those pesky objections from AI contrarians. His use of the e-word in his talk was exponential.

Dimitry Itskov (founder of Russia 2045) is leading an effort to extend and improve life through cybernetics. And Itskov sees a day when humanity will have a choice of bodies to inhabit. Itskov has a campaign slogan for a future candidate: “Free and immortal should be a right”.

Stephen Badylak showed it’s possible to regrow muscles and an esophagus in human patients.

Brain controlled prosthetics + HULC Exoskeleton + Heartland Robotic Arms would be Real Life Doctor Octopus in 2015 to 2020

Several near term real life technologies in exoskeletons, affordable and dextrous robotic arms and brain computer interfaces to prosthetics will have big real world impact. These technologies also would have the amusing side effect of enabling real world analogs of Doctor Octopus (comic book villain who fights Spiderman and has four brain controlled robotic arms) or General Grievous from Star Wars (a mostly robotic cyborg who has up to four brain controlled robotic arms. There has already been a person controlling a wheel chair mounted robotic arm and moving it with brain interface. The other work indicates that this will become available to thousands by 2020.

The Walk Again Project's central goal is to develop and implement the first BMI (brain-machine interface) capable of restoring full mobility to patients suffering from a severe degree of paralysis. This lofty goal will be achieved by building a neuroprosthetic device that uses a BMI as its core, allowing the patients to capture and use their own voluntary brain activity to control the movements of a full-body prosthetic device. This “wearable robot,” also known as an “exoskeleton,” will be designed to sustain and carry the patient’s body according to his or her mental will. The specific Walk Again Project goal is that on the opening day of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, they hope to send a young quadriplegic striding out to midfield to open the games, suited up in the "prosthetic exoskeleton" they aim to build.

So around 2015-2020 there should be commercial availability of brain controlled prosthetics.

Lockheed HULC (lowerbody) exoskeleton Army’s field tests and trials, probably in 2014 or 2015, will be followed by widespread commercial production of powered exoskeletons. The Deployment of exoskeletons in commercial sectors will probably remain quite limited for another decade or so, due to their high cost (more than $25,000 per suit). There will be about 11,000 exoskeletons by 2020.

They help a soldier to life 200 pounds without strain, currently need about 1000 watts of power. The HULC can assist speed marching at up to 7 mph reduces this somewhat; a battery-draining "burst" at 10mph is the maximum speed. A soldier with a pack would normally go at 3 mph maximum and cover 10-12 miles in a day. A better power supply would allow the burst mode to be used more and speed to be 10 mph and coverage to be 200 miles in day. Soldiers could also carry lightweight foldable electric scooters on their exoskeleton that would enable 60-100 mph on roads. If the bike had motocross like capabilities it could still go about 30-60 mph on rougher terrain.

Heavy riot shields can be mounted on the HULC exoskeleton, so robotic arms could also be attached and they could have the brain computer interface.

Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) Systems for GRIDS

ARPA-E Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) for Grid-scale rampable intermittent dispatchable storage (21 pages) The ARPA-E project runs until 2013. Superpower inc is trying to prove that they can get the component performance needed for scaling superconducting magnetic energy storage to scale to the gigawatt level.

Being able to discharge and store power every second is needed because wind turbine power varies by the second.

Technology Advances (Revised, ARPA-E)
* Ultra-high field (25 Tesla) prototype magnet (20 kW, 3.2 MJ)
* 2G HTS wire with critical current over 600 A
* Modular, scalable converter concept for direct connection to medium voltage grid with high round trip efficiency (over 85%)

October 17, 2011

Spacex trying to get the Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office and NASA to open up launch competition

Spacex - Today the U.S. Air Force issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NRO and NASA that serves as a joint agreement on the process they will use to allow new companies to compete to provide launch services. The MOU will be followed by detailed guidance for prospective new entrants.

“SpaceX welcomes the opportunity to compete for Air Force launches. We are reviewing the MOU, and we expect to have a far better sense of our task after the detailed requirements are released in the coming weeks,” said Adam Harris, SpaceX Vice President of Government Affairs.

The U.S. Air Force is the largest launch customer in the world, but is currently served by a monopoly provider whose prices have consistently risen. Equitable criteria for new entrants, coupled with meaningful opportunities for competition, would save the American taxpayer billions.

Bloomberg - the U.S. Air Force is projected to spend 54 percent more on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program through fiscal 2016 than was forecasted last year.

The Air Force is proposing to award a bulk buy of 40 launches over five years to United Launch Alliance LLC, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. that is now the government’s sole provider of medium- and heavy-lift rockets for civilian and military satellites. The Air Force has budgeted about $10 billion for the program during that period. The government opening about 20 percent of its launch needs to competition while reserving the rest for a block buy.

“The money that ULA receives from the Defense Department is slated to be $2.5 billion to $3 billion a year,” Musk said. “For the same number of launches, SpaceX would be under a billion.”

Rye of ULA said the EELV forecast “reflects an increasing launch rate” and does not take into account the proposed improvements in buying practices.

The U.S. Air Force, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Oct. 14 their strategy for certifying commercial launch vehicles that could compete for future contracts for space launch missions to include Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV, class launches.

China's GDP for the 3rd quarter was 9.1 percet

China's GDP expanded 9.1 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of the year, the slowest pace since the third quarter of 2009. China's strong retail sales growth suggests that there is a shift to greater domestic demand. The slow moderation in GDP is indicating a softening of growth instead of a collapse.

The growth rate was down from 9.5 percent in the second quarter of this year and 9.7 percent in the first quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.

According to preliminary statistics, the country's GDP reached 32.07 trillion yuan (5.01 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first nine months, up 9.4 percent year-on-year.

China prior GDP update for the second quarter of 2011

New method of growing high-quality graphene promising for next-gen technology

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered a method to synthesize high quality graphene in a controlled manner that may pave the way for next-generation electronics application.

The discovery by UCSB researchers turns graphene production into an industry-friendly process by improving the quality and uniformity of graphene using efficient and reproducible methods. They were able to control the number of graphene layers produced – from mono-layer to bi-layer graphene – an important distinction for future applications in electronics and other technology.

"Intel has a keen interest in graphene due to many possibilities it holds for the next generation of energy- efficient computing, but there are many roadblocks along the way," added Intel Fellow, Shekhar Borkar. "The scalable synthesis technique developed by Professor Banerjee's group at UCSB is an important step forward."

Journal Carbon - Synthesis of high-quality monolayer and bilayer graphene on copper using chemical vapor deposition

Lasers and microfluidics will monitor C. elegans worms to detect neuron repair in real time from millions of drug

Technology developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin could significantly reduce the time and cost to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and help answer one of the greatest biological questions: why do we age ?

* They have a strain of C.Elegans worms that have engineered to develop Alzheimer's within 5 days of birth.
* They will develop lasers and microfluidics to monitor the worms in real time to instantly detect when one of millions of drugs is repairing neurons
* This will greatly speed up the search for drugs that may delay or prevent neurodegeneration in humans.
* It will also accelerate developing an improved understanding of aging.

A challenge to understanding aging and development of degenerative diseases is that new technology is needed to directly characterize how neuronal proteins are distributed across the entire nervous system over time, and how specific neurons degenerate and are malformed with age. A second huge barrier to preventing or treating diseases like Alzheimer's disease is the amount of time it takes to identify drugs that work effectively. Typically, drugs are tested on mice — a process that is expensive and requires one to two years for mice to age while testing just a few dozen drugs at a time.

With the NIH grant, Ben-Yakar, Pierce-Shimomura and a team of students aim to eliminate both hurdles by developing an automated system that rapidly reduces the time and cost of drug testing. Instead of mice, the researchers will use a short-lived, 1 mm-long worm, known as C. elegans, to test the effectiveness of millions of drugs.

Superstrong 10-20 centimeter long Carbon Nanotubes for Mechanical Energy Storage that is 8 times better than lithium batteries

NPG Asia Materials - Ultralong, defect-free carbon nanotubes could store mechanical energy at high energy densities for use in nano-devices.

Besides the energy storage the researchers are making 10 to 20 centimeter long carbon nanotubes that have no defects and have a strength of 200 GPa.

Wei Fei and colleagues from Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang have now succeeded in producing ultralong defect-free CNTs and demonstrating their potential for use in nanoscale mechanical energy storage.

“We set out to produce ‘perfect’ CNTs without defects,” says Wei. CNTs without defects are much more durable than lower-quality CNTs, and so can withstand repeated mechanical stress — a property that grants them an extraordinary capacity for storing mechanical energy. The researchers grew their ultralong CNTs using a recently developed technique that involved exposing iron catalyst particles on a specially designed silicon substrate to a stream of methane gas. The CNTs grew to lengths of 10–20 cm by a kite mechanism in the gas flow.

The researchers then investigated the mechanical properties of the CNTS by fixing them across a 750 μm-wide gap and exposing them to a high-speed flow of nitrogen gas (see image) and then sound from a loudspeaker. The behavior of the CNTs under these physical stresses was monitored by spraying the nanotubes with nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, which could be visualized easily by high-speed camera.

The tests revealed the CNTs to have remarkable mechanical durability with the ability to store mechanical energy at energy densities 5–8 times higher than that of lithium batteries, and 25,000 times that of steel springs. The stored energy could be used to power nano- and microelectromechanical systems.

The challenge now, Wei explains, is harnessing the storage power of CNTs. “We are now attempting to make a nano-electricity generator driven entirely by the mechanical energy stored in CNTs,” he says. The researchers also intend to refine their fabrication techniques to allow pure, long CNTs to be produced on a larger scales.

Microscopy image showing the TiO2-bearing carbon nanotube suspended across a 750 μm-wide gap and subjected to nitrogen gas flow at various speeds (yellow arrows)
© 2011 Wiley-VCH

IBM and EKZ Make Electric Vehicle Charging More Convenient with New Smartphone Application

IBM Research announced that it has teamed with EKZ, the electricity utility provider of the Canton of Zurich in Switzerland, on a new pilot project that will allow consumers to conveniently charge electric vehicles and monitor their energy costs, using mobile devices. This near real-time information will also help utility providers better manage power grid loads during peak charging times – a challenge that is set to grow as more electric vehicles are on the road.
The IBM app runs on most smartphones, tablets and Web browsers, and provides an integration point between the vehicle, the utility provider and the driver. Using a simple four-button interface the app shows the vehicle’s battery level, range of travel distance, vehicle location, charge schedule and current energy costs in real time.

Whether at home, in the office or thousands of miles away, electric vehicle owners can quickly consult their mobile device to check whether their car’s battery level is sufficient for its next use. Another advantage of the app is that it can be programmed to start battery charging at a future point in time, for example when rates are lowest or when a trip is planned.

The IBM app also allows vehicle owners to delegate the responsibility of recharging the battery to the utility provider, which can schedule charges based on the availability of renewable resources, such as sun and wind, allowing the utility to improve load balancing and prevent outages. EKZ believes this will be a value added service that will gain more significance as electric vehicles become prevalent.

Ron Paul publicizes a plan to reduce federal budget by $1 trillion in 2013 and balance the budget by 2015

Ron Paul has an 11 page budget plan to balance the US federal budget within 3 years.

Ron Paul's plan is to cut $1 trillion from the federal budget in the first year of his administration.

Ron Paul would eliminate five Cabinet-level agencies: Commerce, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development and Interior. He would also end the Transportation Security Administration and zero-out all foreign aid. He would pare back most other programs to 2006 spending levels (pre-financial crisis).

Clean Air Cocoon can reduce surgical infections by 84 percent

Nimbic Systems has an Air Barrier System (ABS) which delivers HEPA-filtered clean air immediately adjacent to the surgery site, creating an airflow layer directly over the surgical wound. A pilot trial on hip replacements showed the ABS reduced infection at the incision site by 84 percent. Further trials are planned for spinal and femoral procedures.

Many surgical procedures leave patients with a high risk of infection, especially after prosthesis implant operations like hip replacements. These can be life threatening and infections contracted in hospitals, such as Staphylococci and MRSA, are becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

With many resistant to antibiotics, infections also represent an enormous cost burden. Treating one patient for post surgery infection can cost up to US$100,000. Not to mention the patient's considerable physical, emotional, and economic hardships. Diabetics and the elderly are at greater postoperative risk and present even more of a challenge.

The ABS produces a clean air cocoon measuring 20" x 6" x 2" (Image: Nimbic Systems)

The simple mobile unit dispenses purified air through a flexible nozzle which can be fixed adjacent to the patient's incision. It then potentially shields the wound by producing a non turbulent flow of filtered air, controlling the environment and reducing the presence of infection causing microorganisms.

Muscling Toward a Longer Life - Active p38 Genes increase lifespan by 50 percent

Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have identified a set of genes that act in muscles to modulate aging and resistance to stress in fruit flies.

Scientists have previously found mutations that extend fruit fly lifespan, but this
group of genes is distinct because it acts specifically in muscles. The findings could help doctors better understand and treat muscle degeneration in human aging.

Fruit flies normally live about fifty days in Sanyal’s laboratory, depending on temperature and conditions. Some strains of fly that overproduce p38 MAP kinase live on average about 75 days, 50 percent longer than regular flies (green line in graph below). For this effect, it is sufficient that p38 is overproduced in muscles only.

Wearable Depth-Sensing Projection System Makes Any Surface Capable of Multitouch Interaction

OmniTouch, a wearable projection system developed by researchers at Microsoft Research and Carnegie Mellon University, enables users to turn pads of paper, walls or even their own hands, arms and legs into graphical, interactive surfaces.

OmniTouch employs a depth-sensing camera, similar to the Microsoft Kinect, to track the user's fingers on everyday surfaces. This allows users to control interactive applications by tapping or dragging their fingers, much as they would with touchscreens found on smartphones or tablet computers. The projector can superimpose keyboards, keypads and other controls onto any surface, automatically adjusting for the surface's shape and orientation to minimize distortion of the projected images.

OmniTouch: Wearable Multitouch Interaction Everywhere (10 pages)

Nano-channels for molecule delivery - and atomically precise 3D construction?

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology - Nano-channels for molecule delivery - and construction?

Chris Phoenix suggests extending recent research into a larger molecularly precise construction system.

Molecules can be delivered through a tiny channel templated by one strand of DNA.

Ohio State university uses electricity to “shoot” bits of therapeutic biomolecules through a tiny channel and into a cell in a fraction of a second.

Nature Nanotechnology - Nanochannel electroporation delivers precise amounts of biomolecules into living cells

The developers are using nanochannel elaporation to deliver precise amounts of chemicals through the membrane of individual cells. This is highly cool, with all sorts of research implications. And eventually, perhaps therapeutic implications - they're talking about scaling it up to process 100,000 cells at a time.

So I got to wondering: If someone loaded up these reservoirs with two kinds of molecules, that would stick to each other but not to themselves, could this be used as an ink-jet printer at the nanoscale?

Laser activated ablation propulsion could rescue astronauts and move space junk

New Scientist - In Sinko's original plan for removing space junk, spacecraft carry thrusters with two types of propellant, each responding to a different laser wavelength. To fire a thruster, a laser beam is shone on it, vaporising propellant to create thrust and so push the spacecraft onto a new course. The propellants fire in different directions, so the spacecraft can be steered.

Sinko and Schlecht say that if those space-junk thrusters were scaled down and fitted onto a spacesuit, with tubes to vent propellant away from the astronaut, you would have a way to retrieve a spacewalker who is spinning into the void. You could even apply small thrusters to astronauts' toolboxes - one was lost during a spacewalk in 2008.

Existing rescue systems - spring-loaded or gas-driven tethers that can be fired towards an astronaut - can't reach more than 100 metres. And astronauts venturing outside the International Space Station must wear a jet pack of nitrogen thrusters. But none of these safety measures can help an astronaut who is incapacitated. The laser activated system would work for incapacitated astronauts.

Journal of Propulsion and Power, vol 27 - Reversed-Thrust Laser Propulsion and Astronaut Retrieval

A lot of Nuclear energy could enable Ammonia as a sustainable fuel

Nuclear Ammonia - A Sustainable Nuclear Renaissance's 'Killer App' (114 pages, Darryl Siemer, Idaho
National Lab (retired), with Kirk Sorensen, FLiBe Energy, Bob Hargraves, Institute for Lifelong, Education at Dartmouth College, 8TH Annual NH3 Fuel Conference 19-21Sep11)

Ammonia could replace all fossil fuels

Ammonia can fuel vehicles requiring range and power that cannot be provided by batteries.
Ammonia fuel produced from sustainable nuclear energy would be cheap and “green”
Nuclear power generated ammonia fuel can replace the usage of all oil, natural gas and coal.

October 16, 2011

Inspections in Australia find 4% of rooftop solar installations were unsafe

Australian inspections of solar roof panels installed under the federal Australian government's renewable energy scheme have found 4 per cent of the systems were unsafe.

They had conducted 387 inspections by the end of September.

About 20 per cent of solar systems were found to be "sub-standard" while 4 per cent were deemed to be "unsafe".

"The ones that had an overall finding of unsafe would have been subject to a shutdown by the inspector ... and referred to the state regulator," acting renewable energy regulator Christopher Branson said.

Mr Branson said 387 inspections were not enough to draw conclusions about whether specific installers were dodgy.

Roof-top solar panels could be unsafe because of water getting into the system or wires being exposed.

The federal government is funding the inspections after its earlier roof insulation scheme was linked to four deaths and more than 200 house fires.

Previously Nextbigfuture had calculated that solar rooftop has the risk for significant deaths because of the risk that roof installers can fall off of roofs Nextbigfuture had also indicated that there was the increased fire risk of having added electrical systems. 4% unsafe solar roofing installations shows a very large electrical fire risk increase.

Debate on Quora whether faster and more aggressive treatment would have saved Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs' illness it's vital to be clear about one thing - he did not have pancreatic cancer he "had what is called a neuroendocrine tumor, more specifically an insulinoma." Not just my opinion, but that of University of Chicago Medical Center Transplant Center, J. Michael Millis, who was quoted in an article about Jobs in Scientific American.

If treated appropriately and in time, most people won't die from the cancer itself. In my series of patients, for many subtypes, the survival rate was as high as 100% over a decade.

Neuroendocrine tumors caught in time can be treated just by surgically removing the tumor.

This is a relatively low-risk treatment that -- especially compared to chemo and radiation -- has negligible disadvantages. In many cases, a simple enucleation (just cutting out the tumor with a safe margin around it) is enough and leaves no residual side-effects.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 74 - Fukushima Daiichi 1 is enclosed

The Carnival of nuclear energy 74 is up at at ANS Nuclear cafe

Atomic Power Review shows the now enclosed first reactor at Fukushima Daiichi.

TEPCO press photo showing the final roof panel unit being lowered.

Electricity used to “shoot” bits of biomolecules into cells for precision gene therapy

Ohio State University - For the first time, researchers have found a way to inject a precise dose of a gene therapy agent directly into a single living cell without a needle. The technique uses electricity to “shoot” bits of therapeutic biomolecules through a tiny channel and into a cell in a fraction of a second. They report successfully inserting specific doses of an anti-cancer gene into individual leukemia cells to kill them.

They have dubbed the method “nanochannel electroporation,” or NEP.

“NEP allows us to investigate how drugs and other biomolecules affect cell biology and genetic pathways at a level not achievable by any existing techniques,” said Lee, who is the Helen C. Kurtz Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a way to deposit gene therapy agents in living cells without the use of a needle. Images courtesy of Ohio State University. Above, two tiny reservoirs (measured in micrometers, or millionths of a meter) are connected by a nanometer- (billionth of a meter) sized channel, which is too small to be seen at this magnification.

Nature Nanotechnology - Nanochannel electroporation delivers precise amounts of biomolecules into living cells

Scientists develop new nanomaterial that ‘steers’ current in multiple dimensions

Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new nanomaterial that can "steer" electrical currents. The development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs.

As electronic devices are built smaller and smaller, the materials from which the circuits are constructed begin to lose their properties and begin to be controlled by quantum mechanical phenomena. Reaching this physical barrier, many scientists have begun building circuits into multiple dimensions, such as stacking components on top of one another.

Nature Nanotechnology - Dynamic internal gradients control and direct electric currents within nanostructured materials

a, Optical micrograph of a nanoparticle film located between six electrodes 1–6. Scale bar, 500 µm. b, Scheme illustrating polarization of the film, with potential applied between electrodes

Correction of Sickle Cell Disease in Adult Mice by Interference with Fetal Hemoglobin Silencing

Science - Correction of Sickle Cell Disease in Adult Mice by Interference with Fetal Hemoglobin Silencing

Harvard - flipping a single molecular switch can reverse illness in an animal model of sickle cell disease, according to a study by Harvard researchers. When a protein called BCL11A is turned off, the body is able to manufacture red blood cells with an alternate form of hemoglobin unaffected by the mutation that causes the debilitating illness.

The results provide strong evidence that BCL11A could be a powerful treatment target for a significant global health problem that affects between 75,000 and 100,000 people in the United States
and 3 million to 5 million people globally. It is most prevalent in people of African, Hispanic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent.

Switching off a single gene can help treat sickle cell disease by keeping the blood forever young. The illness is caused by a mutant form of adult haemoglobin, but not by fetal haemoglobin. Targeting BCL11A, the gene responsible for the body's switch-over from fetal to adult haemoglobin, effectively eliminates the condition in mice.

The mutant form of adult haemoglobin forms long sticky chains inside red blood cells. The cells containing these chains can clog small blood vessels, depriving organs of oxygen and causing pain. In severe cases, sickle cell disease can be fatal. Tricking the body into make fetal haemoglobin again can alleviate symptoms, though.

BigStock image - First described more than 100 years ago, sickle cell disease (or sickle cell anemia) is an inherited blood ailment caused by a single mutation in one of the components of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The mutation reduces the protein’s ability to carry oxygen, and forces the cells to curve into a distinctive crescent or sickle shape, causing them to accumulate painfully and break apart in small blood vessels.

Fertiliser tree systems can double agriculture yield in two thirds of cases in East Africa

BBC News - The nitrogen-fixing roots of certain trees provide valuable nutrients to resource-poor arable land Planting trees that improve soil quality can help boost crop yields for African farmers, an assessment shows.

Fertiliser tree systems (FTS) also help boost food security and play a role in "climate proofing" the region's arable land, the paper adds.

Researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre say poor soil fertility is one of the main obstacles to improving food production in Africa.

Some of the studies have shown that in TFS (Tree Fertiliser Systems) across Africa as a whole, yields are doubling or more in two-thirds of cases.

Nextbigfuture looked at fertiliser trees in articles in 2009 such as cities 2.0 in the reinventing farming section.

The Faidherbia tree - pending some further research on its impact on the water table - may now provide a natural and widespread fertilizer fix. According to the Agroforestry Centre, farmers in Malawi testify the tree is like a "fertilizer factory in the field", as it takes nitrogen from the air, fixes it in the leaves and subsequently incorporates it into the soil. The Agroforestry Centre's research showed that in Malawi maize yields increased by 280 per cent in the zone under the tree canopy compared with the zone outside the tree canopy. In Zambia, unfertilized maize yields in the vicinity of Faidherbia trees averaged 4.1 tonnes per hectare, compared to 1.3 tonnes nearby but beyond the tree canopy.