November 26, 2011

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 80

1. Idaho Samizdat - Concrete cracks up costs of restart at two reactors.

Progress Crystal River and First Energy Davis-Besse have very different problems, but similar concerns about restart. Progress is looking at several years of work while Davis-Besse told its investors in a letter it expects to restart the reactor by the end of the month.

2. Atomic Power Review - Will Davis responds to, and expands upon, a recent NRC blog post describing the history of PRA and adds his own observations about what this means to the average citizen and how relative risk should have been presented - and almost was presented.

Scientists discover secret of limb regeneration in Zebrafish

A team of researchers from the University of Konstanz in southern Germany claim they have solved the riddle after studying a master in the art of limb regeneration - the zebrafish.

Before the zebrafish’s fins regenerate, the wound is closed with multiple layers of tissue. The cells beneath the stump then lose their identity and form what is called blastema.

Researchers found that the fish uses a special genetic trick that allows the retinoic acid to control the formation of blastema, which means the animal is able to produce a store of cells that can rebuild the fin.

CO2 climate sensitivity 'overestimated'

Lead author Andreas Schmittner from Oregon State University, US, explained that by looking at surface temperatures during the most recent ice age - 21,000 years ago - when humans were having no impact on global temperatures, he, and his colleagues show that this period was not as cold as previous estimates suggest.
The new models predict that given a doubling in CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels, the Earth's surface temperatures will rise by 1.7C to 2.6C (3.1F to 4.7F).

That is a much tighter range than the one produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 report, which suggested a rise of between 2.0C to 4.5C.

The new analysis also reduces the expected rise in average surface temperatures to just over 2C, from 3C

Journal Science - Climate Sensitivity Estimated from Temperature Reconstructions of the Last Glacial Maximum

External costs fossil fuels, hydro, and nuclear

Many times in energy discussions there are claims about nuclear power having vulnerability to terrorism or other intentional damage and to the cost of nuclear power damage from other disasters (Japan tsunami and earthquake) or by nuclear power accidents (Chernobyl). Other energy also have high damage potential.

The Teton Dam was a federally built earthen dam on the Teton River in southeastern Idaho, set between Fremont and Madison counties, USA, which when filling for the first time suffered a catastrophic failure on June 5, 1976. The collapse of the dam resulted in the deaths of 11 people and 13,000 head of cattle. The dam cost about USD $100 million to build, and the federal government paid over $300 million in claims related to the dam failure. Total damage estimates have ranged up to $2 billion. There have been far larger dam breaks such as the Banqiao dam Those costs were not borne by the hydro dam operators. There is the latent risk of flooding from major dam breaks.

Flooding can be used as scorched earth policy through using water to render land unusable. It can also be used to prevent the movement of military personnel. During the Second Sino-Japanese War dykes on the Yellow and the Yangtze Rivers were breached to halt the advance of Japanese forces. Also during the Siege of Leiden in 1573 the dykes were breached to halt the advance of Spanish forces.

Air pollution costs from Industry costs europe 86 to 145 billion pounds

Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe (74 pages)

Air pollution continues to harm human health and our environment. One of the main findings of the EEA's (European Environment Agency) The European environment — state and outlook 2010 report (EEA, 2010) was that, despite past reductions in emissions, air quality needs to further improve. Concentrations of certain air pollutants still pose a threat to human health. In 2005, the European Union's Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) programme estimated that the cost to human health and the environment from emissions of regional air pollutants across all sectors of the EU-25 economy equalled EUR 280–794 billion in the year 2000.

ir pollution from industry costs Britain £3.4bn-£9.5bn a year in health and environmental damage, according to the European environment agency (EEA). When CO2 costs are included, the figure rises to £9.5bn-£15.5bn– more than the government spends a year on the arts, environment, transport and security and intelligence combined.

In a first attempt to link financial costs to emissions from large power stations, refineries, waste plants and factories, the Copenhagen-based agency calculates that air pollution from industry cost Europe £86.1bn-£145.5bn in 2009. It has used government figures and has arrived at the costs by factoring in population densities, health costs, building damage and crop losses from pollutants such as low-level ozone.

Emissions from power plants contributed the largest share of the damage costs, estimated at €66–112 billion (US$87–148 billion). Other significant contributions to the overall damage costs came from production processes (€23–28 billion) and manufacturing combustion (€8–21 billion). Sectors excluded from the EEA analysis include transport, households and most agricultural activities—if these were included the cost of pollution would be even higher.

Air pollution from the 10,000 largest polluting facilities in Europe cost citizens between €102–169 billion (US$135–224 billion) in 2009, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) which analyzed the costs of harm to health and the environment caused by air pollution. Half of the total damage cost (between €51–85 billion) was caused by just 191 facilities.

Germany, with its large industrial facilities and large power plants, is the biggest polluter Europewide – resulting in a cost of €21.5bn – €33.8bn of the overall €100-€169bn bill. Five of the top 10 emitters are German.

$500 million Red Dragon Spacex Mars mission details

Nature - NASA is working with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to plan a mission that would search for evidence of life buried in the ice of Martian dirt. The NASA science hardware would fly to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The "Red Dragon" mission, which could be ready to launch by 2018, would carry a cost of about $500 million or less.

Christopher McKay, principal investigator at Ames for the Mars proposal, called 'Icebreaker', says that the mission would target polar terrain where ice is present near the surface, similar to that probed by the Phoenix spacecraft in 2008. Capable of piercing Martian permafrost a metre thick, the robotic drill would retrieve samples for an onboard lab that would look for DNA and enzymes.

Supersized Mars Rover will arrive at Mars to find targets for future searches for life starting in 8.5 months

The car-size Curiosity rover blasted off atop its Atlas 5 rocket at 10:02 a.m. ET Saturday Curiosity is a beast of a rover. Weighing in at 1 ton, it's five times more massive than either of the last two rovers NASA sent to Mars, the golf-cart-size twins Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004 to search for signs of past water activity.

Curiosity has 10 scientific instruments, including a rock-zapping laser and equipment designed to identify organic compounds — carbon-based molecules that are the building blocks of life as we know it. Some of these instruments sit at the end of Curiosity's five-jointed, 7-foot-long (2.1-meter) robotic arm, which by itself is nearly half as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The arm also wields a 2-inch (5-centimeter) drill, allowing Curiosity to take samples from deep inside Martian rocks.

Curiosity isn't designed to search for Martian life. In fact, if the red dirt of Gale Crater does harbor microbes, the rover will almost certainly drive right over them unawares. But MSL is a key bridge to future efforts that could actively hunt down possible Martian life forms, researchers said. Curiosity's work should help later missions determine where — and when — to look.

NASA site on building Curiosity

November 25, 2011

Great Expectations: Can Artificial Molecular Machines Deliver on Their Promise ?

Northwestern University chemists recently teamed up with a University of Maine physicist to explore the question, "Can artificial molecular machines deliver on their promise?" Their provocative analysis provides a roadmap outlining future challenges that must be met before full realization of the extraordinary promise of synthetic molecular machines can be achieved.

Wireless transmission of 30 Gbps in 3-4 years

Rohm Japan - Electronics part supplier ROHM has announced that it has achieved a wireless data transmission speed of 1.5 gigabits per second in experiments conducted with Osaka University. The technology involved the use of terahertz frequencies at 300GHz, but current plans could result in speeds of up to 30Gbps.

ROHM's breakthrough involves the use of a new micro-antenna that integrates the oscillation device and the detection element onto the semiconductor baseplate. The company plans for mass production of the technology within the next 3-4 years. 30Gbps chips would require production using advanced lithographies, but would result in chip costs of less than $5.

Visual poster of financial information of government, wars, megaproject and more

There is a really big poster of financial information in graphical form. (H/T Eric Drexler at Metamodern)

The money dimensions of government, wars, megaprojects and a lot more.

Europe dollar funding costs near 2008 crisis levels

The euro/dollar one-year cross currency basis swap , which widens when lenders charge more for swapping euro interest payments on an underlying asset into dollars, was at -104 bps -- close to expensive levels of -115 bps in late 2008.

The deterioration in cross currency swaps has to do with the deepening of the sovereign crisis. Now we are entering into a new phase, where it is really moving to the core, so I think European banks ... will struggle more to get money," Alessandro Giansanti, strategist at ING.

Contagion has recently spread to triple-A rated debt such as that of Austria and the Netherlands. This week market pressure turned on Germany after one of its worst bond sales since the launch of the euro.

World’s First Proof of Single Atomic Layer Material with Zero Electrical Resistance

A research group at the NIMS International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) proved that the electrical resistance of a metal single atomic layer on a silicon surface becomes zero by superconductivity. The work was done at 2.8K.

Focusing on an indium single atomic layer arranged with a special structure on a silicon surface, the team led by Dr. Uchihashi observed for the first time in the world that the electrical resistance of this substance become zero, and the substance displays superconductivity, when cooled to a low temperature. Furthermore, when the current passing through this substance was increased, it was possible to pass a large current of 6.1X10^9 A/m2 (current density) at maximum. Based on the principle of superconductivity, it had been anticipated that a superconducting current (=current with zero resistance) would be difficult to pass through the extremely confined and disordered region at the surface of a solid. However, this research overturned that prospect.
Figure (Left) Temperature dependence of zero bias resistance measured by attaching electrodes to a solid surface substance comprising an indium single atomic layer. The inset shows changes in a wider temperature region. Resistance becomes zero at a temperature of 2.8K. (Right) Bias current–voltage characteristics measured while changing temperature. When the bias current reaches the critical current value (Ic), superconductivity is destroyed and the substance switches to a state having normal resistance. The inset plots Ic and the critical current density (J3D,C) obtained from Ic, as functions of temperature.

Europe Downgrades and Death Spirals

1. WSJ - Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Hungary overnight to non-investment grade category with a negative outlook, citing rising uncertainty about the government’s plans to reduce the budget deficit and public debt. Hungary is one notch from junk status at the other two major rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch, with a negative outlook.

“Moody’s did not mention the political situation in Hungary, but in our view the erratic behavior of the Hungarian government is a serious risk to the country’s credit rating and the government’s unorthodox and damaging economic-political measures are clearly scaring away international investors. In fact, we think that more rating agencies are likely to downgrade Hungary, citing the strongly interventionist and populist rhetoric and actions of the Hungarian government.”

Lars Christensen, chief analyst at Danske Bank

“Moody’s downgrade of Hungary to junk status is the clearest indication yet that the financial and economic vulnerabilities of central and eastern Europe are being magnified as the crisis in the euro zone escalates. The pressure points are high loan to deposit ratios, high exposure to trade in the euro zone and high levels of foreign currency-denominated debt. Hungary fares particularly badly in all three areas.”

Nicholas Spiro, managing director at Spiro Sovereign Strategy

Healthy neurons can integrate into diseased areas of mice brains

Neuron transplants have repaired brain circuitry and substantially normalized function in mice with a brain disorder, an advance indicating that key areas of the mammalian brain are more reparable than was widely believed.

Collaborators from Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) transplanted normally functioning embryonic neurons at a carefully selected stage of their development into the hypothalamus of mice unable to respond to leptin, a hormone that regulates metabolism and controls body weight. These mutant mice usually become morbidly obese, but the neuron transplants repaired defective brain circuits, enabling them to respond to leptin and thus experience substantially less weight gain.

Supersized. Experiments with mice suggest that transplanted neurons (green, inset) can help repair a genetic defect that causes obesity.
Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratories (mouse); C. Zhou et al., Science (neuron)

November 24, 2011

Soot mitigation is cheap and the World will back into it as India and other poor countries get richer

A paper in the journal Science talks about the need to mobilize $100 billion per year to mitigate climate change. Preparing to Manage Climate Change Financing" in the journal Science.

Soot mitigation is a far easier and faster method of reducing climate change than targeting CO2. The soot only stays in the air for a few weeks so once we reduce the generation of soot it will have immediate impacts.

Five hundred million Smoke free cookers could be acquired for $50 to 100 billion (one year of the budget your propose). This would save lives from reduced indoor air pollution and alleviate the equivalent of 9% of global CO2.

I recognize that the world will end up backing into this action as one of the main countries that uses the wrong cookers is India. Over the next 10 to 15 years as India's per capita income heads to two to four times higher, they will replace the cookers. This process could be accelerated and 1.9 million indoor pollution deaths/year could be prevented and global warming could be reduced sooner.

Open burning of forests and savanna (42% of the soot production from open burning) to get more farmland could also be reduced as nations become wealthier.

Rossi claims he will generate electricity from the Energy Catalyzer within one year

In the recent interview that Andrea Rossi gave on the Tom and Doug radio show, Andrea Rossi revealed that on November 11th he had made an important breakthrough with regards to the production of electrical power from the energy catalyzer.

Ecat World - Rossi said in the interview that production of electricity from the E-Cat has always been for him a major target and that “it will take, until the last week I said a couple of years, but today I can say one year because today, just today, (I don’t know because today is 11.11.11) we have resolved a very big problem which has made very short the time remaining to be able to produce also electric power, beside heat and cool with these apparatuses.”

Rossi provided no details about the nature of the breakthrough, but being able to make electricity efficiently would add a whole new dimension of usefulness of his invention, and would bring ever closer the dream that many people have of being able to have a complete power plant in ones home — heat, cooling, and electrical power from one unit. The revolutionary nature of such a technology is difficult to overstate, and if this could be achieved within a year, we could be looking at a very different world in the near future.

Unless Germany and the ECB move quickly, the Euro's collapse is looming

Economist Magazine - A euro break-up would cause a global bust worse even than the one in 2008-09. The world’s most financially integrated region would be ripped apart by defaults, bank failures and the imposition of capital controls (see article). The euro zone could shatter into different pieces, or a large block in the north and a fragmented south. Amid the recriminations and broken treaties after the failure of the European Union’s biggest economic project, wild currency swings between those in the core and those in the periphery would almost certainly bring the single market to a shuddering halt. The survival of the EU itself would be in doubt.

Yet the threat of a disaster does not always stop it from happening. The chances of the euro zone being smashed apart have risen alarmingly, thanks to financial panic, a rapidly weakening economic outlook and pigheaded brinkmanship. The odds of a safe landing are dwindling fast.

Wall Street Journal - Portugal suffered a double blow Thursday after Fitch Ratings downgraded its debt to junk, just as a nationwide strike shut public services due to growing discontent over austerity measures that are pushing the country into a deep recession.

Fitch, which matched Moody's Investors Service's move in July to place Portugal in junk territory, lowered its rating one notch, to BB+ from BBB-, and warned further downgrades were possible as a recession in the country will increase challenges for the government to comply with its austerity plans. It maintained a negative outlook.

Massachusetts state government meeting with Rossi and MIT for two days of meetings

According to Sen. Bruce Tarr, Andrea Rossi, "the Italian scientist who claims to have developed the world's first nuclear cold fusion reactor is coming to the State House tomorrow to explore the prospects of developing the device and producing it in Massachusetts." Tarr's office says Rossi plans to visit Tuesday morning for two days of meeting with government officials and representatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University Massachusetts and Northeastern University. "Mr. Rossi's reactor, if successfully proven and developed, has the potential to change the way the world deals with energy," Tarr said in a statement.

NASA Probe to Search for Pluto's Hidden Ocean

When NASA's New Horizons cruises by Pluto in 2015, the images it captures could help astronomers determine if an ocean is hiding under the frigid surface, opening the door to new possibilities for liquid water to exist on other bodies in the solar system. New research has not only concluded such an ocean is likely, but also has highlighted features the spacecraft could identify that could help confirm an ocean's existence.

The easiest feature to identify would appear if no ocean existed.

As spherical bodies spin, their angular momentum tends to push material towards the equator, forming a bulge. If Pluto boasts a liquid layer, the ice would flow, reducing such a protrusion. Thus, the appearance of a "frozen-in" primordial bulge, left over from when Pluto spun more rapidly, would signify a lack of ocean.

"If the bulge is present, it will be about 6 miles (10 km) high, so it should be readily detectable," Nimmo said.

First Implementation of 100 and 40Gbps Ultra-High-Speed Plug-and-Play Optical Communications

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation and NTT Communications Corporation have conducted 100 and 40Gbps transmission tests in real field environments using existing installed optical fiber, and have demonstrated for the first time, plug-and-play functionality that greatly reduces the setup time previously required for configuring optical signals. This was achieved using a new technology developed by NTT which is able to auto-configure 100 and 40 Gbps ultra-high-speed signals.

This research result enables 100 and 40 Gbps ultra-high-speed signals to be configured easily and automatically, similarly to the 1 Gbps-class signals used for fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). It has been difficult to configure such signals immediately till now. This type of ultra-high-speed plug-and-play functionality, operating in 50 ms or less, will simplify network operations and maintenance and dramatically improve the speed of optical signal recovery when faults occur.

World Fastest Internet connection will be 120 gigabits per second at Dreamhack conference

At Dreamhack in Sweden on November 24th to 27th Cisco and Telia are building the world’s fastest Internet connection with speeds of breathtaking 120 gigabits per second. DreamHack is expected to attract a record number of participants this year – about 20 000 people. With their help, the aim is to beat the world record in capacity utilization in the network – the starting point is at 16.30 on Thursday. The previous DreamHack-record was 20 gigabits.

Dwave Systems who make commercial quantum computers have a developer portal and develop tutorials

Dwave has sold a $10 million 128 qubit quantum computer systems and services to Lockheed and will also install another system at USC Currently the devPortal is being tested within D-Wave, however they are hoping to open it up to many developers in a staged way within the next year. Dwave should have 512 qubit systems by the end of 2012.

A few tutorials are already available for everyone on the portal. These are intended to give a simple background to programming the quantum systems in advance of the tools coming online. New tutorials will be added to this list over time. If you’d like to have a look you can find them here: Developer Tutorials

In the future we hope that we will be able to grow the community to include competitions and prizes, programming challenges, and large open source projects for people who are itching to make a contribution to the fun world of quantum computer programming.

Ink-Jet Printed Graphene Electronics

Arxiv - Ink-Jet Printed Graphene Electronics (12 pages)

We demonstrate ink-jet printing as a viable method for large area fabrication of graphene devices. We produce a graphene-based ink by liquid phase exfoliation of graphite in N-Methylpyrrolidone. We use it to print thin-film transistors, with mobilities up to about 95cm^2/V-s, as well as transparent and conductive patterns, with about 80 % transmittance and about 30kOhm/sq sheet resistance. This paves the way to all-printed, flexible and transparent graphene devices on arbitrary substrates

Technology Review - These guys have found a way to replace or augment the conducting polymers in these inks with graphene, the wonder-material of the moment. They've found a way to readily produced graphene by chemically chipping flakes off a block of graphite and filtering them to remove any that might clog the printer heads. They then add the flakes to a solvent called N-Methylpyrrolidone, or NMP, which minimises problems such as the coffee ring effect that can occur when some solvents evaporate. Finally they've put this stuff in their printers and printed out a few circuits and thin film transisters.

The results are promising. The graphene-based inks match or beat the performance of most other inks available today. That's pretty good for a first attempt since improvements will certainly follow.

World Economies in 2012

The Economist magazine has released their World in 2012 special issue.

GDP and PPP by Country
               GDP trillion    PPP          GDP per head   PPP per head
United States 15.6             15.6         $49340        $49340
China          8.13            12.3          $6120         $9280
Japan          6.41             4.5         $50830        $36000
Germany        3.49             3.2         $43740        $40280
France         2.73             2.3         $42930        $36220
UK             2.51             2.3         $39770        $36310
Brazil         2.50             2.4         $12850        $12500
India          2.37             5.1          $1940         $4170
Italy          2.20             2.0         $36100        $32700
Russia         1.93             2.5         $13650        $17750
Canada         1.79             1.5         $51530        $41860
Spain          1.54             1.5         $33180        $32140
Australia      1.40             1.0         $61040        $42130
South Korea    1.25             1.6         $25010        $31770 
Mexico         1.10             2.0          $9570        $17700
Indonesia      0.99             1.2          $3990         $4900

Wikipedia has IMF estimates for 2012 through 2016

In 2012, China's economy on a nominal GDP basis will be over half the size of the US economy. The last time that happened was 1987 to 1997 when Japan was over half of the size of the US economy. In 1993, Japan got as close as 65% of the size of the US economy.

November 23, 2011

U.S. Commercial Suborbital Industry

FAA - The U.S. Commercial Suborbital Industry: A Space Renaissance in the Making (44 pages) This report profiles six companies that have made significant progress in development of suborbital reusable launch vehicles (SRLVs). The suborbital service providers in this publication aim to reach or surpass the altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). Current concepts for suborbital vehicles either launch vertically like a traditional launch vehicle, at a high altitude from a carrier craft, or horizontally take off under rocket power from a runway. The vehicles then either use rockets or parachutes to assist landing vertically, or they use wings to land like a glider or conventional aircraft.

Thus far, Virgin Galactic has received over $55M in deposits from almost 440 customers, and XCOR has announced $40M in wet lease agreements.

Tiny Levers, Big Moves in Piezoelectric Sensors

A team of university researchers, aided by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have succeeded in integrating a new, highly efficient piezoelectric material into a silicon microelectromechanical system (MEMS).* This development could lead to significant advances in sensing, imaging and energy harvesting.

A piezoelectric material, such as quartz, expands slightly when fed electricity and, conversely, generates an electric charge when squeezed. Quartz watches take advantage of this property to keep time: electricity from the watch's battery causes a piece of quartz to expand and contract inside a small chamber at a specific frequency that circuitry in the watch translates into time.

Piezoelectric materials are also in sensors in sonar and ultrasound systems, which use the same principle in reverse to translate sound waves into images of, among other things, fetuses in utero and fish under the water.

Science - Giant Piezoelectricity on Si for Hyperactive MEMS

Cantilever structure of finite element simulation.

New Magnetic-Field-Sensitive Alloy Could Find Use in Novel Micromechanical Devices

Led by a group at the University of Maryland (UMd), a multi-institution team of researchers has combined modern materials research and an age-old metallurgy technique to produce an alloy that could be the basis for a new class of sensors and micromechanical devices controlled by magnetism.* The alloy, a combination of cobalt and iron, is notable, among other things, for not using rare-earth elements to achieve its properties. Materials scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) contributed precision measurements of the alloy's structure and mechanical properties to the project.

The alloy exhibits a phenomenon called "giant magnetostriction," an amplified change in dimensions when placed in a sufficiently strong magnetic field. The effect is analogous to the more familiar piezoelectric effect that causes certain materials, like quartz, to compress under an electric field. They can be used in a variety of ways, including as sensitive magnetic field detectors and tiny actuators for micromechanical devices. The latter is particularly interesting to engineers because, unlike piezoelectrics, magnetostrictive elements require no wires and can be controlled by an external magnetic field source

Nature Communications - Giant magnetostriction in annealed Co1−xFex thin-films

TEM (transmission electron microscope) image taken at NIST of an annealed cobalt iron alloy. The high magnetostriction seen in this alloy is due to the two-phase iron-rich (shaded blue) and cobalt-rich (shaded red) structure and the nanoscale segregation. Credit: Bendersky/NIST

George Monbiot urges Greens to purge themselves of Chris Busby

Chris Busby appears in a video broadcast on YouTube. In it he makes a number of wild allegations. Among them is a startling conspiracy theory: that the Japanese government is deliberately spreading radioactive material from Fukushima all over Japan. The reason, he says, is that when clusters of childhood cancer start appearing in Fukushima, the parents of the victims will want to sue the Japanese government. Busby produces no evidence to support this claim. Given that no radioactive waste has been removed from Fukushima prefecture, and there are no plans to do so, it is hard to see how he could.

Busby then goes on to promote expensive new pills and tests which, he says, will protect people in Japan from these alleged horrors. Scientists contacted by the Guardian describe these treatments as useless and baseless.

When Monbiot phoned Busby to ask him some questions about these issues, his responses were less than enlightening. He began as follows: “You can fuck off frankly.”

Those who oppose nuclear power often maintain that they have a moral duty to do so. But it seems to me that moral duties cut both ways.

We have a moral duty not to spread unnecessary and unfounded fears. If we persuade people that they or their children are likely to suffer from horrible and dangerous health problems, and if these fears are baseless, we cause great distress and anxiety, needlessly damaging the quality of people’s lives.

5000 support staff at Fukushima had no radiation contamination levels

1. PLoS ONE - Individual Radiation Exposure Dose Due to Support Activities at Safe Shelters in Fukushima Prefecture

Immediately after the accidents in the nuclear power stations in Fukushima on March 11, the Japanese Government ordered the evacuation of the residents within a 20-km radius from the station on March 12, and asked various institutions to monitor the contamination levels of the residents. Hirosaki University, which is located 355 km north of Fukushima City, decided to send support staff to Fukushima. This report summarizes the results of the exposure of 13 individual teams from March 15 to June 20. The support teams surveyed more than 5,000 people during this period. Almost all subjects had external contamination levels of less than 13 kcpm on Geiger-Müller (GM) survey meter, which is categorized as “no contamination level.” The 1st team showed the highest external exposure dose, but the 4th team onward showed no significant change. Subsequently, the internal radiation exposure was measured using a whole body counter that indicated undetectable levels in all staff members. Although the measured external radiation exposure dose cannot have serious biological effects on the health of an individual, a follow-up study of the residents in Fukushima and other regions where the radioactive material has spread will be required for a long time.

2. Big Think - a recent widely reported story found that broad public health study of the population affected by Fukushima probably won’t detect any cancers, because there will be too few to show up compared with the much higher general cancer rate. In other words, the number of cancer cases from Fukushima will probably be pretty low. The article usually had the headline “Future cancers from Fukushima plant may be hidden” but should have had the headline “Nuke disaster might cause few cancers”. The truth doesn’t sound all that bad, and might not attract as many readers as something more alarming

Buried down in graph 25, the story cites Japanese officials as saying “mental health problems caused by excessive fear of radiation are prevalent and posing a bigger problem than actual risk of cancer caused by radiation.” Excessive fear of radiation?! Hmmmm. I wonder where that might have come from?

That’s the point of this little critique. Risk reporting that overplays the scary and underplays the neutral or ameliorating can actually hurt people. Fear fueled by alarmist coverage that goes beyond the evidence of the actual danger can lead to unhealthy choices by individuals, and by society (fear of nukes has contributed to an energy policy that relies more on coal burning for electricity, the particulate emissions from which kills tens of thousands of people per year). Fear certainly adds to stress, which is bad for our health in all sorts of ways.

Of course some of the fearmongers such as Christopher Busby are trying to financially harm the Japanese people by selling overpriced and unneeded products and services.

MIT has diode for light which was the last component needed to enable all photonic chips

Researchers at MIT have filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle that could enable the creation of photonic chips on the standard silicon material that forms the basis for most of today’s electronics The new component is a “diode for light,” says Caroline Ross, the Toyota Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. It is analogous to an electronic diode, a device that allows an electric current to flow in one direction but blocks it from going the other way; in this case, it creates a one-way street for light, rather than electricity.

Fabrication process flow of a nonreciprocal racetrack resonator on SOI. The silicon racetrack resonator is initially fabricated by electron beam lithography on SOI. Atomic force microscopy was measured between step 1 and 2 to verify the exposure of silicon resonator surface. PLD: pulsed laser deposition, RTA: rapid thermal annealing.

Nature Photonics - On-chip optical isolation in monolithically integrated non-reciprocal optical resonators

Leaked ad shows Black Friday sale discounts for iPad 2 and other Apple products

9to5mac - Details on Apple’s Black Friday (November 25th) 2011 sale are revealed. The sale is very similar to Apple’s offerings in past years, but does give better discounts to higher capacities of the iPads and iPods.

* iPad 2 will go from $41-$61 discounts depending on capacity (16GB, 32GB, 64GB)
* iMacs will be $101 less
* iPod nano will shave off $11 for both 8GB and 16GB storage sizes
* iPod touch discounts will range from $21-$41

The biggest break is the base level MacBook Air which will now start at $898, a dollar less than MacConnection‘s current promo.
Best Buy currently has $200 Promo on the base 13″.

iPad 2 has several options ($30-100) for cases with wireless keyboards.

Nanocaviities for better thermoelectric materials

Thermoelectric materials are also currently used in the type of cooler bags that keep things cold without making use of their own cooling elements. These cooler bags are full of the elements Lead and Tellurium. Both of these substances are also toxic.

"We want to replace them with inexpensive and readily available substances. Moreover, there is not enough Tellurium to equip all of the cars in the world," says Ole Martin Løvvik, who is both an associate professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo and a senior scientist at SINTEF.

With the current technology, it is possible to recover scarcely ten per cent of the lost energy. Together with the team of scientists led by Professor Johan Taftø, Løvvik is now searching for pollution-free, inexpensive materials that can recover fifteen per cent of all energy losses. That is an improvement of fully fifty per cent.

"I think we will manage to solve this problem with nanotechnology. The technology is simple and flexible and is almost too good to be true. In the long run, the technology can utilise all heat sources, such as solar energy and geothermal energy. The only limits are in our imagination," states Løvvik.

The new technology will initially be put to use in thermoelectric generators in cars. Several major automobile manufacturers are already interested. Løvvik and his colleagues are currently discussing the situation with General Motors.

Replacing the expensive material should allow the process to eventually create thermoelectrics as cheap as paint. But that goal has not been reached yet

November 22, 2011

Apple Siri has Natural Language Understanding arrived ?

Siri grew out of a huge project inside the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), those people who previously gave you the internet and, more recently, a scheme to encourage people to develop driverless cars. Siri's parent project, called Calo (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes) had $200m of funding and was the US's largest-ever artificial intelligence project. In 2007 it was spun out into a separate business; Apple quietly acquired it in 2010, and incorporated it into its new phone.

CALO was an artificial intelligence project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under its Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program. Its five-year contract brought together 300+ researchers from 25 of the top university and commercial research institutions, with the goal of building a new generation of cognitive assistants that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience, and respond robustly to surprise

Fukushima reactors are nearing cold shutdown

Japan Times - Fukushima is nearing cold shutdown

The government will declare that the facility has achieved cold shutdown once it confirms the complex can maintain stability over the next several years even if it is hit by an earthquake or suffers malfunctions

The amount of radioactive substances currently leaking from the crippled reactors has further declined to a maximum of 60 million becquerels per hour, or around a one 13-millionth of the level seen in the early days of the crisis, which was triggered by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The estimate means someone standing in the crippled plant for one year, would be exposed to up to 0.1 millisieverts of radiation, far below the government-set limit of 1 millisievert per year.

The cold shutdown is the key goal of "Step 2" of the road map, with the government defining it as a situation in which the bottom part of a reactor pressure vessel at the plant is kept below around 100 degrees and exposure from the release of radioactive substances is significantly held down.
Most of the surrounding area was flattened by the tsunami

Temperatures recorded at the bottoms of the reactor vessels for units 2 and 3 are below 70ºC, while unit 1 is cooler still at 37ºC. Being below the landmark 100ºC, these basically fulfil the conditions for the declaration of cold shutdown although this has not been officially recognised by the government.

A complicating factor is the uncertainty over the melted core. Water leaking from holes in the bottoms of the reactor vessels, has lead to concerns that corium may have followed. But this theory is not supported by radiation readings from the drywell below, with the exception of unit 1 where a damaged sensor is fluctuating wildly. The drywells contain large pools of water at below 50ºC.

Soil radiation maps around Fukushima

Nature - Independent studies map Fukushima radiation hot spots

One of the radionuclides released was caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and poses a long-term health risk if absorbed by the soil in significant quantities.

At the end of August, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released a map (see 'Directly comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl') showing caesium-137 concentrations in the soil from measurements at more than 2,000 locations in and around Fukushima. The map is helping the government to determine which areas can be returned to farming, which need their topsoil removed and which should be declared unfit for food production or even left uninhabited.

Two studies have now used different methods to map the fallout over larger areas. One1, led by Teppei Yasunari of the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Maryland, maps caesium-137 concentrations throughout the nation.

In eastern Fukushima prefecture, caesium-137 concentrations exceeded the government limit of 2,500 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg), which the researchers say is enough to “severely impair” food production. In several neighbouring prefectures, levels exceeded 250 Bq/kg, enough to “partially impact” farming.

PNAS - Assessment of individual radionuclide distributions from the Fukushima nuclear accident covering central-east Japan

A tremendous amount of radioactivity was discharged because of the damage to cooling systems of nuclear reactors in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. Fukushima and its adjacent prefectures were contaminated with fission products from the accident. Here, we show a geographical distribution of radioactive iodine, tellurium, and cesium in the surface soils of central-east Japan as determined by gamma-ray spectrometry. Especially in Fukushima prefecture, contaminated area spreads around Iitate and Naka-Dori for all the radionuclides we measured. Distributions of the radionuclides were affected by the physical state of each nuclide as well as geographical features. Considering meteorological conditions, it is concluded that the radioactive material transported on March 15 was the major contributor to contamination in Fukushima prefecture, whereas the radioactive material transported on March 21 was the major source in Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, and Chiba prefectures and in Tokyo.

Simpler Approach to Making Plasmonic Materials With Silver Polyhedral Nanocrystals

Berkeley labs has a simpler approach for the fabrication of plasmonic materials by inducing polyhedral-shaped silver nanocrystals to self-assemble into three-dimensional supercrystals of the highest possible density.

Plasmonics is the phenomenon by which a beam of light is confined in ultra-cramped spaces allowing it to be manipulated into doing things a beam of light in open space cannot. This phenomenon holds great promise for superfast computers, microscopes that can see nanoscale objects with visible light, and even the creation of invisibility carpets. A major challenge for developing plasmonic technology, however, is the difficulty of fabricating metamaterials with nano-sized interfaces between noble metals and dielectrics.

On the left are micrographs of supercrystals of silver polyderal nanocrystals and on the right the corresponding diagrams of their densest known packings for (from top-down) cubes, truncated cubes and cuboctahedra. (Image courtesy of Berkeley Lab)

Nature Materials - Self-assembly of uniform polyhedral silver nanocrystals into densest packings and exotic superlattices

Carbon nanotube 'space camouflage' coating invented

Engineers from University of Michigan found they could be used to obscure objects so that they appeared to be nothing more than a flat black sheet. The team suggest "forests" of the material may one day be used to cloak spacecraft in deep space.

The group says the technology works because the nanotubes' "index of refraction [is] very close to that of air".

This means they slow down light to a similar degree.

As a result there is very little scattering of light as it passes from the air into the layer of nanotubes.

A tank etched out of silicon viewed without carbon nanotube coating (left) and with the coating

Applied Physics Letters - Low density carbon nanotube forest as an index-matched and near perfect absorption coating

Single pixel contact lens display

Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering - A single-pixel wireless contact lens display This is an advance on prior work in 2008

We (University of Washington researchers) present the design, construction and in vivo rabbit testing of a wirelessly powered contact lens display. The display consists of an antenna, a 500 × 500 µm2 silicon power harvesting and radio integrated circuit, metal interconnects, insulation layers and a 750 × 750 µm2 transparent sapphire chip containing a custom-designed micro-light emitting diode with peak emission at 475 nm, all integrated onto a contact lens. The display can be powered wirelessly from ~1 m in free space and ~2 cm in vivo on a rabbit. The display was tested on live, anesthetized rabbits with no observed adverse effect. In order to extend display capabilities, design and fabrication of micro-Fresnel lenses on a contact lens are presented to move toward a multipixel display that can be worn in the form of a contact lens. Contact lenses with integrated micro-Fresnel lenses were also tested on live rabbits and showed no adverse effect.

Prior work has demonstrated different types of contact lens functionalization. Contact lens mounted biosensors have been developed to measure eye movement, tear glucose concentration, corneal temperature, blood oxygen and intraocular pressure. Although it is not contact lens based, an implanted intraocular vision aid (IOVA) is similar in concept to this project in that it projects images onto the retina from a system of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and microlenses.

They previously investigated the fabrication and deployment of red LEDs on contact lenses. To move toward a full color display, we chose to fabricate blue micro-LEDs. GaN and its alloys were deemed suitable due to nontoxicity, high efficiency and appropriate achievable emission wavelength. The present micro-LED design, with peak intensity at ∼475 nm, is adequate to illuminate the retina.

Conceptual rendition of a multipixel contact lens display. (a) A contact lens display comprising a multipixel light emitting diode (LED) chip (1), power-harvesting/control circuitry (2), antenna (3), and interconnects (4). These subsystems are encapsulated in a transparent polymer (5), creating a system to project virtual images (6) perceivable by the eye of the wearer. (b) LED chip with 100 pixels. LED active layers can be grown atop a transparent substrate. Emitted light travels through the substrate and is reimaged using planar Fresnel lenses. (c) Magnified view with one pixel activated, showing Fresnel lenses opposite each LED pixel.

9 page pdf

Thermoelectric materials could become as cheap as paint and able to capture 15% of thermal energy

The UK Engineer describes cheap thermoelectric material.

(H/T New Energy and Fuel)

We use the same kind of mill they use to make paint, it’s a well-established technique, it can be upscaled and it’s cheap, so that’s important.

Calculations suggest it could recover around 15 per cent of all energy losses in a variety of scenarios – and commercial production potential looks probable. The team is already in talks with a major automotive manufacturer (GM in the U.S.) with a view to placing the material in the exhausts of cars.

Over half of all energy in the world is lost in useless waste heat. A car engine for example, only utilizes about 30 percent of the energy; the rest is lost as heat. Recovering 15% of the 70% earns back 10.5% for a total efficiency of 40.5%, a 33% improvement. Replacing the alternator in vehicles with a thermoelectric collector would also cut the load, saving even more. It would be like $3 gasoline getting $4 of work done.

UPDATE : Current costs and thermoelectric quality are still in development.

DARPA wants to use nanoparticles loaded with siRNA instead of antibiotics for bacterial infections

Wired - Darpa has several programs to improve how we deal with bacterial infections, viruses and bio-threats. The agency is already funding tobacco-based vaccine production, prescient viral infection detectors and insta-vaccines to inoculate against unknown pathogens.

Darpa wants researchers to use nanoparticles — tiny, autonomous drug delivery systems that can carry molecules of medication anywhere in the body, and get them right into a targeted cell. Darpa would like to see nanoparticles loaded with “small interfering RNA (siRNA)” — a class of molecules that can target and shut down specific genes. If siRNA could be reprogrammed “on-the-fly” and applied to different pathogens, then the nanoparticles could be loaded up with the right siRNA molecules and sent directly to cells responsible for the infection.

Various GDP Growth Predictions for India, China and the World

1. The Economist magazine World in 2012 predicts the world economy to expand by 3.3% in 2012 (on a purchasing-power-parity basis), down from 3.7% in 2011. But the risk of a global recession (world growth of less than 3%) is a very high 40%. China will again do much to lift global growth. The authorities will keep the economy humming ahead of a transfer of political leadership in late 2012. This will be welcome news for commodity exporters, but raises the risk of a “hard landing” in China in coming years.

Chinas flash PMI (preliminary purchasing managers’ index) indicated a 48. Numbers below 50 indicate a contraction for the month)

2. The World Bank predicts China gross domestic product will rise 8.4 percent next year and about that pace thereafter. China faces the risk of a “strong” impact from a real-estate correction.

In China, “the risk in the short term of any hard landing is very limited -- we believe that a soft landing will take place,” Hofman said. The World Bank predicted China’s GDP growth will ease next year from a 9.1 percent pace in 2011.

A real-estate bust would have a “strong impact on domestic demand and consumer sentiment” in China, according to the report. Even so, the government has “ample fiscal space and room for monetary policy normalization should such a need arise, more so now that inflation seems to be on the wane again,” the bank said.

Saudis plan for future of unconventional oil from oilsands and tight oil and more expensive Saudi oil

Financial Post - Global output of non-conventional oil is set to rise 3.4 million bpd by 2015, still dominated by oil sands, to 5.8 million bpd by 2025 and to 8.4 million bpd by 2035, when tight oil would be playing a much bigger role. By 2035, the United States and Canada will still be dominating unconventional oil production with 6.6 million bpd, the group forecasts. (H/T Instapundit)

Even as the world consumed nearly 30 billion barrels of oil last year, not only was the industry able to replace this production but global petroleum reserves actually increased by nearly seven billion barrels.

State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco is resigned to the fact that its influence will wane because of the massive unconventional fossil-fuel development underway in North America. As such, Saudi Arabia has no plans to raise its production output to 15 million barrels per day from 12 million, said Khalid Al-Falih, the powerful chief executive of Aramco.

Tunnel field-effect transistors are set for mass production and use 100 times less energy than transistors of today

Eurekalert - Electronics could be 100 times less energy-hungry thanks to a quantum phenomenon known as the tunnel effect - by 2017 in consumer electronics

By 2017, quantum physics will help reduce the energy consumption of our computers and cellular phones by up to a factor of 100. For research and industry, the power consumption of transistors is a key issue. The next revolution will likely come from tunnel-FET, a technology that takes advantage of a phenomenon referred to as "quantum tunneling." At the EPFL, but also in the laboratories of IBM Zurich and the CEA-Leti in France, research is well underway.

Nature - Tunnel field-effect transistors as energy-efficient electronic switches

Review of Autophagy - renovation of tissues and cells

Autophagy is the major intracellular degradation system by which cytoplasmic materials are delivered to and degraded in the lysosome. However, the purpose of autophagy is not the simple elimination of materials, but instead, autophagy serves as a dynamic recycling system that produces new building blocks and energy for cellular renovation and homeostasis. Here we provide a multidisciplinary review of our current understanding of autophagy's role in metabolic adaptation, intracellular quality control, and renovation during development and differentiation. We also explore how recent mouse models in combination with advances in human genetics are providing key insights into how the impairment or activation of autophagy contributes to pathogenesis of diverse diseases, from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson disease to inflammatory disorders such as Crohn disease.

Journal Cell - Autophagy: Renovation of Cells and Tissues

Different Types of Autophagy

Hopkins Scientists Turn on Fountain of Youth in Yeast and increase Hayflick limit from 25 to 38

Collaborations between Johns Hopkins and National Taiwan University researchers have successfully manipulated the life span of common, single-celled yeast organisms by figuring out how to remove and restore protein functions related to yeast aging.

“This control of longevity is independent of the type described previously in yeast which had to do with calorie restriction,” Boeke says. “We believe that for the first time, we have a biochemical route to youth and aging that has nothing to do with diet.” The chemical variation, known as acetylation because it adds an acetyl group to an existing molecule, is a kind of “decoration” that goes on and off a protein — in this case, the protein Sip2 — much like an ornament can be put on and taken off a Christmas tree, Boeke says. Acetylation can profoundly change protein function in order to help an organism or system adapt quickly to its environment. Until now, acetylation had not been directly implicated in the aging pathway, so this is an all-new role and potential target for prevention or treatment strategies, the researchers say.

The team showed that acetylation of the protein Sip2 affected longevity defined in terms of how many times a yeast cell can divide, or “replicative life span.” The normal replicative lifespan in natural yeast is 25. In the yeast genetically modified by researchers to restore the chemical modification, life span extended to 38, an increase of about 50 percent.

Journal Cell - Acetylation of Yeast AMPK Controls Intrinsic Aging Independently of Caloric Restriction

Park Systems claims NX10 is the most accurate atomic force microscope

Park Systems claims their new NX10 is the most accurate atomic force microscope

XY Scanner has

50 picometer resolution
0.3 nanometer position noise detection
less than one nanometer out of plane motion
scan range is 50 micron by 50 micron with 100 micron by 100 micron option

Z Scanner has
1 picometer resolution
15 micron range with 40 micron option
0.03 nanometer position noise detection

Fukushima likely to cause minimal long term health effects

So far, no radiation-linked death or sickness has been reported in either citizens or workers who are shutting down the Fukushima nuclear plants.

Michiaki Kai, professor of environmental health at Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences, said that based on tests he’s seen on people and their exposure levels, nobody in Fukushima except for some plant workers has been exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

Radiation generally raises cancer risk in proportion to its amount. At low-dose exposures, many experts and ‘regulators embrace the idea that this still holds true. But other experts say direct evidence for that is lacking, and that it’s not clear whether such small doses raise cancer risk at all.

If such low doses do produce cancers, they’d be too few to be detected against the backdrop of normal cancer rates, he said. The general population was told to evacuate areas that would expose them to more than 20 millisieverts a year. A millisievert measures radiation dose and 20 mSv is about seven times the average dose of background radiation Americans get in a year. A child exposed to 20 mSv for a year would face a calculated risk (if low dose no threshhold is correct) of about 1 in 400 of getting cancer someday as a result, says David Brenner of Columbia University. So that would add 0.25 percent onto the typical lifetime cancer risk of about 40 percent, he said. [or 0% of there are lower threshholds that are safe.

November 21, 2011

Dwave Founder named innovator of the year and a second 128 qubit Dwave system is to be installed at USC

Geordie Rose, chief technology officer of Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems, has been named "innovator of the year" by the Canadian Innovation Exchange.

D-Wave, founded in 1999, sold its first quantum computing system this past May to U.S.-based Lockheed Martin Corp., which specializes in defence, security and aerospace technology.

In October, D-Wave announced that another of its quantum computing systems would be launched at a commercial academic computing centre at the Marina del Rey campus of the University of Southern California, in partnership with Lockheed Martin.

Researchers propose that pulsars are cosmic permanent magnets with up to one trillion tesla fields

Technology Review - pulsars are rotating neutron stars emitting radiation from their magnetic poles. They appear to pulse because the magnetic axis is not aligned with the axis of rotation, so the pole comes in and out of view as the neutron star rotates. The conventional view is that their magnetic field arises from the movement of charged particles as they rotate. These charged particles ought to behave like a superfluid and so should end up becoming aligned with the axis of rotation. These kinds of superfluid currents are likely to be highly unstable, generating wobbles in the magnetic field. But pulsars are well known for being amazingly stable. How can this be?

Another problem is how pulsars end up with magnetic fields that are so strong. The conventional view is that the process of collapse during a supernova somehow concentrates the original star's field. However, a star loses much of its material when it explodes as a supernova and this presumably carries away much of its magnetic field too. But some pulsars have fields as high as one trillion Tesla, far more than can be explained by this process.

Now researchers suggest that neutron stars are giant permanent magnets. They point out that there is another way for magnetic fields to form, other than the movement of charged particles. This other process is by the alignment of the magnetic fields of the body's components, which is how ferromagnets form.

Their suggestion is that when a neutron star forms, the neutron magnetic moments become aligned because this is the lowest energy configuration of the nuclear forces between them. When this alignment takes place, a powerful magnetic field effectively becomes frozen in place.

Arxiv - Pulsars: Cosmic Permanent 'Neutromagnets'?

We argue that pulsars may be spin-polarized neutron stars, i.e. cosmic permanent magnets. This would simply explain several observational facts about pulsars, including the 'beacon effect' itself i.e. the static/stable misalignment of rotational and magnetic axes, the extreme temporal stability of the pulses and the existence of an upper limit for the magnetic field strength - coinciding with the one observed in "magnetars". Although our model admittedly is speculative, this latter fact seems to us unlikely to be pure coincidence.

Laser heating electrons heated to several billion degrees

Eurekalert - A new class of high power lasers can effectively accelerate particles like electrons and ions with very intense, short laser pulses. This has attracted the interest of researchers around the globe, working out the details of the acceleration process which occurs when a laser beam impinges on a thin foil to accelerate ions from the foil's rear surface to high energies. The electrons in the foil are heated by the laser pulse, thereby gaining energy. These electrons in turn give part of their energy to the ions, thereby converting laser pulse energy to ion energy. Physicists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have developed a new theoretical model for predicting the density and temperature of these hot electrons which surpasses existing models in accurately describing experimental results and simulations.

When a very intense laser pulse hits ion electron plasma (ions: orange, electrons: blue), electrons are heated to a couple of billion degrees. This initiates an explosive expansion of plasma ions which are then accelerated to very high energies. The distribution of the electron temperature during radiation bombardment is depicted in the background. Credit: HZDR

Physical Review Letters - Electron Temperature Scaling in Laser Interaction with Solids

Anti-nuclear Busby tries to ripoff Fukushima Victims with scaremongering and massively overcharged products and services

UK Guardian - Christopher Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster, is championing a series of expensive products and services which, he claims, will protect people in Japan from the effects of radiation. Among them are mineral supplements on sale for ¥5,800 (£48) a bottle, urine tests for radioactive contaminants for ¥98,000 (£808) and food tests for ¥108,000 (£891).

In a video on YouTube, Busby says that the calcium and magnesium pills will be supplied "at the cost of production". But the prices being charged by are far greater than those of other mineral supplements on sale in Japan. Chemists in Tokyo sell bottles of 200 pills containing similar combinations of ingredients for ¥1,029 (£8.49). James Ryan's website also charges a minimum shipping cost of ¥2,300 (£19).

The Japanese government already monitors human exposure to radiation and tests food and water, banning contaminated products from sale. It works to stricter radiation limits than the EU.

Nextbigfuture covered Busby before when he made absurd claims that 400,000 would die in Japan because of Fukushima radiation

Emerging Nuclear Innovations

Emerging Nuclear Innovations report by Kachan and company uses as one of its secondary sources.

The Kachan report profiles those with the most potential, after exclusive interviews with executives from organizations such as Flibe Energy, General Atomics, General Fusion, Helion Energy, Hyperion Power, ITER, Lightbridge (NASDAQ:LTBR), NuScale Power, Ottawa Valley Research, QPower, Radix Power and Energy, RARECO, Terra Power, Thor Energy, Thorium One, and others.

Almost all of the companies have been featured on Nextbigfuture saves you the $1295 charge to find out about emerging nuclear innovations.

We have featured Flibe Energy's liquid flouride thorium reactor

Flibe Energy will initially design, develop and demonstrate a small modular liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (SM-LFTR) for the US military.
* Desired first demonstration at a military site to be determined.
* Design power level of 20-50 MWe.

The SM-LFTR is the precursor to much larger, utility-class LFTRs operating at the 250-300 MWe power generation scale.

Nextbigfuture has several posts on General Fusion and their magnetized target fusion effort in Canada.

We covered the Lightbridge nuclear fuel which is being developed to enable superior power uprates of existing and new reactors. We have also covered the annular fuel work in South Korea and at MIT

QPower Pebble bed reactor company plans to have an initial product that is a modular (factory-built) 40 MWe/100 MWth pebble bed high temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) called the QP-100. It appears this company has emerged from the South African and German Pebble bed reactor work.

Time distribustion of exoplanet habitability

Overcoming Bias - if we can calculate the actual time distribution of habitable planets in our galaxy, we can then use Earth’s percentile rank in that time distribution to estimate the number of would-produce-human-level-life planets in our galaxy! Or at least the number of such planets times the chance that such a planet quickly expands to colonize the galaxy. If Earth has a low percentile rank, that suggests a good chance that our galaxy will eventually become colonized, even if Earth destroys itself or chooses not to expand. (An extremely low rank might even suggest we’ll encounter other aliens as we expand across the galaxy.) In contrast, if Earth has a middling rank, that suggests a low chance that anyone else would ever colonize the galaxy – it may be all up to us.

Current papers suggest that Earth is ranked between 5-30% in terms of how early it is in habitable planets in our galaxy.

A recent paper suggests that Earth is very early in habitability, but does not provide a percentile ranking. The paper is below.

Astrobiology - A Model of Habitability Within the Milky Way Galaxy
I believe the chart is saying that it is relatively rare for habitable planets to not have frequent reset (or extinction events)

New system would assess odds of life on other worlds

Within the next few years, the number of planets discovered in orbits around distant stars will likely reach several thousand or more. But even as our list of these newly discovered "exoplanets” grows ever-longer, the search for life beyond our solar system will likely focus much more narrowly on the relatively few of these new worlds which exhibit the most Earth-like of conditions.

For much of the scientific community, the search for alien life has long been
dominated by the notion that our own planet serves as the best model of conditions best suited to the emergence of life on other worlds. And while there’s an undeniable logic to seeking life in the same sort of conditions in which you already know it to be successful, there are scientists like Dirk Schulze-Makuch, an astrobiologist with the Washington State University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Abel Mendez, a modeling expert from the University of Puerto Rico at Aricebo, who also see such a model as the product of a potentially limiting form of earthling-biased thinking

Astrobiology - A Two-Tiered Approach to Assessing the Habitability of Exoplanets

Brian Josephson who supports cold fusion asks Rossi to do a scientific test wtih UK Energy Department

Brian Josephson, Nobel prize winner for physics in 1973, highlights the UK energy department (DECC) interest in Andrea Rossi's E-Cat and invites the inventor to reconsider the idea of a scientific test.

Previously in June, 2011, Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson who is Emeritus Professor of Physics, and Judith Driscoll Professor of Materials Science, both at Cambridge University provided support for Rossi's work in a video (which is below).

Dear Andrea,
It appears that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), unlike its US counterpart, has an open mind regarding your reactor, and acting upon Francesco Celani's suggestion from the Focus magazine's pages is likely to have a beneficial outcome by dispelling any doubts they may have. Is not the likelihood of endorsement from an institution such as the DECC of interest to you?
Regards, Brian Josephson

Injection lowers bad cholesterol by two thirds in preliminary human trial

Patients unable to control their cholesterol levels with medications may someday be able to lower their “bad” cholesterol with a shot, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011.

In its first preliminary human tests, the medicine in the new shot lowered low density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, in healthy volunteers who received the highest dose an average 64 percent more than those who received an inactive placebo injection.

The injected material — targeting a recently-identified cholesterol regulator — is a monoclonal antibody that’s a laboratory-made human protein. Monoclonal antibodies are already used to treat certain cancers and other medical conditions.

In the study, scientists created the monoclonal antibody AMG145 to disable the cholesterol regulator PCSK9, which interferes with the liver’s ability to remove bad cholesterol from the blood. Therefore, turning it off improves cholesterol levels.

Implanted neurons, grown in the lab, take charge of brain circuitry

A team of Wisconsin scientists reports that neurons, forged in the lab from blank slate human embryonic stem cells and implanted into the brains of mice, can successfully fuse with the brain's wiring and both send and receive signals.

Neurons are specialized, impulse conducting cells that are the most elementary functional unit of the central nervous system. The 100 billion or so neurons in the human brain are constantly sending and receiving the signals that govern everything from walking and talking to thinking. The work represents a crucial step toward deploying customized cells to repair damaged or diseased brains, the most complex human organ.

"The big question was can these cells integrate in a functional way," says Jason P. Weick, the lead author of the new study and a staff scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center. "We show for the first time that these transplanted cells can both listen and talk to surrounding neurons of the adult brain."

Discoveries of new quantum states of matter could change face of technology

University of Pittsburg researchers have been studying orbital degrees of freedom and nano-Kelvin cold atoms in optical lattices (a set of standing wave lasers) to better understand new quantum states of matter. From that research, a surprising topological semimetal has emerged. “We never expected a result like this based on previous studies,” said Liu. “We were surprised to find that such a simple system could reveal itself as a new type of topological state—an insulator that shares the same properties as a quantum Hall state in solid materials.”

“By studying these orbital degrees of freedom, we were able to discover liquid matter that had no origins within solid-state electronic materials,” said Liu.

Liu says this liquid matter could potentially lead toward topological quantum computers and new quantum devices for topological quantum telecommunication. Next, he and his team plan to measure quantities for a cold-atom system to check these predicted quantum-like properties.

Nature Physics - Topological semimetal in a fermionic optical lattice

The optical lattice shown in equation (S1) at different parameters. The darker (lighter) regions represent areas where the potential is low (high). The dashed line marks one unit cell of the lattice.

Swarm of tiny, collaborative Kilobot robots are coming from Harvard

Computer scientists and engineers at Harvard University have developed and licensed technology that will make it easy to test collective algorithms on hundreds, or even thousands, of tiny robots.

Called Kilobots, the quarter-sized bug-like devices scuttle around on three toothpick-like legs, interacting and coordinating their own behavior as a team. A June 2011 Harvard Technical Report demonstrated a collective of 25 machines implementing swarming behaviors such as foraging, formation control, and synchronization.

Once up and running, the machines are fully autonomous, meaning there is no need for a human to control their actions.

The Kilobots are an inexpensive system for testing synchronized and collaborative behavior in a very large swarm of robots. Photo courtesy of Michael Rubenstein.

Graphene nanoribbons can make spinvalves for Spintronics according to calculations

Calculations suggest that a combination of graphene nanoribbon structures could be used to create a spin valve for spintronics applications. Spin valves are one of the basic building blocks of spintronics, allowing a signal to be processed using magnetic spin properties rather than electronic charge. A theoretical study by Zhaoli Ma and Weidong Sheng from Fudan University in China now suggests that nanosized ribbons of graphene could potentially be used to create spin valves.
Calculated spin configurations in the on (upper) and off (lower) states of a graphene nanoribbon-based spin valve

Applied Physics Letters - A spin-valve device based on dumbbell-shaped graphene nanoislands

Shackleton Energy Company has a crowdsource funded attempt at space fuel depots and a lunar base by 2020

By 2020, Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) intends to become the world’s foremost space-based energy company providing rocket propellants, life support, consumables, and services in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and on the Moon to all spacefarers. The company will use a mix of industrial astronauts and advanced robotic systems to provide a strategically-assured, continuous supply of propellants to already-defined customers in space. Critical to the success of this operation is the prospecting for and mining of ice located within deep, inhospitable, ultra-cold craters at the polar regions of the Moon. NASA estimates the deposits contain billion of tons of ice free for mining under the Outer Space Treaty. Ice will be transformed into a variety of products the most lucrative and useful being liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants. Using this enormous supply, we will be able to realistically meet the propellant demand required by an expanding space economy in perpetuity.

So far they have raised $3655 of a $1.2 million first round. Space fuel depots and lunar supply of fuel makes technical sense but it will be interesting to see if this is the project and funding path to make it work.

November 20, 2011

Defkalion claims to have what they call final energy catalyzer products to be revealed in 15 days

Defkalion not only continued our [energy catalyzer] program but we are almost ready, with technology that is ahead of Rossi during a year. Specifically, within the next 15 days there will be announcements and initiated testing and certification by independent third parties. We will present the final product - not just a laboratory prototype - with all its subsystems to operate according to European safety standards. "

"And the catalyst? Isn't that supposed to be a Rossi secret ?"

All the technology used in devices Hyperion at the kilowatt level, and systems at 1 Megawatt to 5 megawatt are our own design. They different from those of Rossi" he replied. "As for the control, was already our own design and construction, and Mr. Rossi has signed acceptance certificate shows that it is ours. Even in the recent trial in October when he used some modules of our own design. However, the main and big difference in our device than that of Rossi is that our system is stable in performance, while that of Rossi or the last test failed to yield stable for more than five and a half hours. "

The evolution of 'Hyperion': From the experimental device, left in the model of expected 45KW generator with 9 reactors

There is less than one year of time available for effective intervening a nuclear Iran

Ehud Barak said Israel was focussed on the prospect of a nuclear Iran and what "should and could be done about it on time."

"It's true that it won't take three years, probably three quarters before no one can do anything practically about it because the Iranians are gradually, deliberately entering into what I call a zone of immunity, by widening the redundancy of their plan, making it spread over many more sites with many more hidden elements," he said

Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, said a report earlier this month by the U.N. nuclear watchdog that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research had had a sobering effect on world leaders and was driving urgent, intensive diplomacy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirmed long-standing concerns that Iran aims to build a nuclear weapon, which Israel sees as a threat to its existence. Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out possible air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites.