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February 11, 2012

DARPA Nerve probe controls cyborg moth in flight

New Scientist - The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been running a programme to develop machine-insect interfaces for years but electrodes implanted to stimulate the brains or wing muscles of insects were not precise enough. Now Joel Voldman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues have designed a unique, flexible neural probe that can be attached directly to an insect's ventral nerve cord (VNC), which, along with the brain, makes up the central nervous system in insects.

Another reason previous attempts have not been entirely successful was because the impedance of the electrodes did not match that of the insect's tissue. This probe is made of a polyimide polymer coated with gold and carbon nanotubes, and its impedance is much closer to that of nerve tissue. One end of the probe is a ring that clamps around the VNC. The inside of the ring has five electrodes which stimulate distinct nerve bundles within the VNC.

Attached to the probe is a wireless stimulator, which contains a radio receiver, as well as a battery and a device to generate electrical pulses. The team implanted the device in the abdomen of a tobacco hawkmoth (Manduca sexta). As it weighs less than half a gram, it is easy for the moth to carry. "Their wingspan is the width of your hand," says Voldman. "These are big guys."


i-MAVs and FNP implantation. (a) Schematic of the FNP insertion process, showing how the split-ring can be opened to fit around the VNC. (b) Illustration of i-MAV including moth, FNP and wireless stimulator.

Journal of Neuroscience Methods - Insect-machine interface: A carbon nanotube-enhanced flexible neural probe

Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48

Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. She was a singer and movie star. She was married to Bobby Brown. She had drug problems

She died at a younger age than Michael Jackson.




Carnival of Nuclear Energy 91

Yes Vermont Yankee has the 91st Carnival of Nuclear Energy - the Vogtle Edition.

This is a great week for nuclear energy: the NRC issued the first license for a new generation of nuclear power plant. Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle site in Georgia now have a Construction and Operating License. These AP1000 reactors have an advanced design, based on the Westinghouse PWR, but with more passive safety features and less piping.


ANS Nuclear Cafe by Dan Yurman - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on February 9 in a 4-1 vote cleared the way for its Office of New Reactors to issue a combined construction and operating license (COL) to the Southern Nuclear Operating Company for two 1100-MW Westinghouse AP1000 model reactors to be built at the company’s Vogtle site, in Waynesboro, Ga. (NRC final order) NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko made the one dissenting vote.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told financial wire services that the agency will issue the COL immediately, which will kick off a huge construction boom in Georgia. The Shaw Group, which will be building the two units, announced plans to hire 3500 workers for the $14-billion construction phase that is expected to take until 2016 for the first unit and an additional year for the second.

Romney wins Maine Caucus with Ron Paul a close second

Romney won the Maine Republican caucus with 39% and Ron Paul came in second with 36%. Santorum was third with 18% and Gingrich last with 6%.

Billionaire owner of Anne Klein and Nine West provides $5 million for Missouri University Cold Fusion research

Columbia Tribune - Sidney Kimmel, founder and chairman of The Jones Group — which includes brands such as Anne Klein, Nine West and Gloria Vanderbilt — donated the money through his charitable foundation.

The money will be used to create the Sidney Kimmel Institute for Nuclear Renaissance, SKINR, which will involve researchers from the Missouri University Research Reactor and physics, engineering and chemistry departments.

Mostly, MU scientists will be trying to figure out why excess heat has been observed when hydrogen or deuterium interacts with materials such as palladium, nickel or platinum under extreme conditions. Researchers don’t know how the heat is created, nor can they duplicate the results on a consistent basis.

“It’s a chance to turn cold confusion to real understanding and opportunity,” said Rob Duncan, MU’s vice chancellor for research.

Air Pollution in Cigarettes per year and increased health risks

Myhealthbeijing has reported that the first official particulate matter 2.5 micron readings from Beijing have been 72 to 93 micrograms per cubic meter.

Converting micrograms per cubic meter of particulars in air into weight of particulates through lungs each year

Do not let the air pollution units confuse you. I will convert the micrograms per cubic meter in the air into pounds through your lungs each year.

In major cities there is between 20-370 micrograms of particulates (PM10 10 micron) per cubic meter of air.

Each day you take over 20,000 breaths and breathe about 35 pounds (15.9 kg) of air. At sea level and at 20 °C, dry air has a density of approximately 1.2 kg per m³ (cubic meter). So every day you are breathing 13.2 m³ of air. (Note - some use 18 cubic meters of air per day. the amount of air breathed depends upon elevation and other individual factors.) Therefore,

13.2 m³ • 20 micrograms = 265 μG (micrograms) = 0.265 mg (milligrams)
13.2 m³ • 370 micrograms = 4910 μG (micrograms) = 4.91 mg (milligrams)

So 0.2-4.9 mg of particulates enter into your lungs every day unless you live some of the particularly clean air areas.

In one year per the above statistics, 97-1800 mg (0.097 to 1.8 grams) of particulates enter your lungs. So in Beijing (with a very high average particulate load) over 1/8 ounce of particulates gets into each person's lungs each year. This may not sound like a lot, but the lungs don't have very effective mechanisms for expelling particulates that collect, so the effect is mostly accumulative.

The particulates from “smog” are not chemically and biologically inert either. They interact with the lungs, and from there the body, transferring their water and lymph soluble compounds directly to the blood stream. These in turn are well known to cause cardiovascular, pulmonary and hepatotoxic effects.


An average cigarette contains 12mg of inhaled PM2.5.

At 100 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter and 18 cubic meters breathed, that converts to 60 cigarettes per year. Three twenty cigarette packs per year. In Los Angeles, at about 15 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter it is about 10 cigarettes per year or half a pack.

The air pollution cigarettes are for everyone. Babies, children, senior citizens, non-smokers, asthmatics, people with heart and lung diseases etc...

Squad mission support systems in Afghanistan and reviewing all war robots and considering future warbots

1. This is a follow up on the Lockheed Martin’s (LM) Squad Mission Support System (SMSS). The system, which turns a six-wheeled amphibious ATV into a robotic packhorse and charging station, has been subjected to a variety of simulated warzone environments in both remote controlled and fully autonomous modes"

Defensetech.org - Army is sent four of the Lockheed’s Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) robot jeeps to Afghanistan where they’ll haul supplies for troops.

The 11-foot long trucks can carry a half a ton of supplies for up to 125 miles after being delivered to the field in a CH-47 or CH-53 helo.





DARPA mobile millimeter hotspot backhaul for cell tower performance without infrastructure and pervasive adhoc networks

1. DARPAs Mobile Hotspots program intends to develop and demonstrate a scalable, mobile, millimeter-wave communications backbone with the capacity and range needed to connect dismounted warfighters with forward-operating bases (FOBs), tactical operations centers (TOCs), intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, and fixed communications infrastructure. The backbone should also provide reliable end-to-end data delivery among the hotspots, as well as from ISR sources and command centers to the hotspot users. In essence, Mobile Hotspots seeks to provide cell-tower-class performance without the infrastructure.

The program envisions air, mobile and fixed assets, most of which are organic to the deployed unit, that provide a gigabit-per-second tactical backbone network extending to the lowest-echelon warfighters. To achieve this, the program seeks to develop advanced pointing, acquisition and tracking (PAT) technologies, not commercially available, needed to provide high connectivity to the forward-located mobile hotspots. Advanced PAT technology is key for connectivity to small UAVs, for example, enabling them to serve as flying nodes on the mobile high-speed backbone.

“While some advanced commercial millimeter-wave components can be leveraged for this program, the technical challenge is more complex given the infrastructure and terrain challenges of a forward-operating locations,” said Dick Ridgway, DARPA program manager. “Mobile Hotspots will require the development of steerable antennas, efficient millimeter-wave power amplifiers, and dynamic networking to establish and maintain the mobile data backhaul network. We anticipate using commercial radio protocols, such as WiFi, WiMax or LTE [Long Term Evolution], as a cost-effective demonstration of the high-capacity backbone. However, the millimeter-wave mobile backbone developed during this program will be compatible with other military radios and protocols.”

Additionally, the program seeks novel technologies to increase the transmission power to provide adequate ranges within the small size, weight, and power (SWAP) constraints required for company-level unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

February 10, 2012

Carnival of space 236

The Carnival of Space 236 is up at AstroSwanny

Discovery News - Guest contributor Pat Galea discusses how a starship may transmit signals across the light-years between the stars.

Urban Astronomer - JAXA have announced that they will be launching a successor to the embattled Hayabusa probe, with the same mission goals but hopefully using more reliable technology!

MSNBC Cosmiclog - Commercial space ventures are taking small steps toward giant achievements ranging from suborbital space flights to trips around the moon. Check out the Cosmic Log roundup.

Australian engineer says wiring errors may be responsible for alleged 'scam'

MSNBC is reporting an allegation that Rossi energy catalyzer fraud is enabled by power being supplied by a ground wire.

The MSNBC article is a reprint of an article by Life's Little Mysteries

In December, Rossi approached Dick Smith, an Australian entrepreneur, and asked him to invest $200,000 in the development of the E-Cat. Intrigued but skeptical, Smith asked Ian Bryce, an aeronautics engineer and member of the group Australian Skeptics (a group of which Smith is a patron) to help him investigate.

According to a report issued by the Australian Skeptics, Bryce found that in all six published tests of the E-Cat up to July — every test in which excess power production was directly measured — the setup was such that a misconnected earth lead (the wire that is usually grounded in an electric circuit ) could have been funneling up to 3 kilowatts of power into the machine's steam generator long after the other wires were turned off. Because there were no power meters measuring the flow of energy in the earth lead, all this energy would seem to be surplus, and would appear as if it were being generated by reactions within the E-Cat itself.

The scientists note that the miswiring could be inadvertent. "If one of the wires in the three-core power lead" — a lead with active, neutral and ground/earth wires, all of which flow to a different prong of a three-pin plug — "was accidentally misconnected, the actual measurements of current witnessed by two Swedish scientists would not be the total power going into the reactor, and there would be an apparent power gain. One of the scientists who observed an earlier test has now agreed this could be so," Smith said.

Lead Cooled fast Small modular reactor design could be a 'SUPERSTAR'

U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has designed a new small reactor cooled by lead—the Sustainable Proliferation-resistance Enhanced Refined Secure Transportable Autonomous Reactor, or SUPERSTAR for short.

Small modular reactors, or SMRs, are small-scale nuclear plants that are designed to be factory-manufactured and shipped as modules to be assembled at a site. They can be designed to operate without refueling for 15 to 30 years. The concept offers promising answers to many questions about nuclear power—including proliferation, waste, safety and start-up costs.

SUPERSTAR is an example of a so-called "fast reactor," a type fundamentally different from the light-water reactors common today. Light-water reactors use water both as a coolant and as a moderator to slow down neutrons created in the fuel as it fissions. Instead, fast reactors use materials that don't slow down neutrons—often a liquid metal, such as sodium or lead.

2 page abstract - SUPERSTAR: An Improved Natural Circulation, Lead-Cooled, Small Modular Fast Reactor for International Deployment

An improved about 120 MWe (300 MWt) Secure Transportable Autonomous Reactor (STAR) Pb-cooled, pool-type, small modular fast reactor named the SUstainable Proliferation-resistance Enhanced Refined Secure Transportable Autonomous Reactor (SUPERSTAR) is being developed at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) for international deployment or remote deployment on growing electrical grids incorporating lessons learned, innovations, and best features from the previous STAR-LM, SSTAR, and ELSY Lead-Cooled Fast Reactor (LFR) concepts.

Magnetized Inertial Fusion with energy gains of energy gains between 200 and 1,000 shown in simulations

Physical Review Letters - High-Gain Magnetized Inertial Fusion

Magnetized inertial fusion (MIF) could substantially ease the difficulty of reaching plasma conditions required for significant fusion yields, but it has been widely accepted that the gain is not sufficient for fusion energy. Numerical simulations are presented showing that high-gain MIF is possible in cylindrical liner implosions based on the MagLIF concept with the addition of a cryogenic layer of deuterium-tritium (DT). These simulations show that a burn wave propagates radially from the magnetized hot spot into the surrounding much denser cold DT given sufficient hot-spot areal density. For a drive current of 60 MA the simulated gain exceeds 100, which is more than adequate for fusion energy applications. The simulated gain exceeds 1000 for a drive current of 70 MA.

Ars Technica has coverage

Imec announces world-first 300mm-fab compatible directed self-assembly process line

At next week’s SPIE Advanced Lithography conference (San Jose, CA), imec announces the successful implementation of the world first 300mm fab-compatible Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) process line all-under-one-roof in imec’s 300mm cleanroom fab. The upgrade of an academic lab-scale DSA process flow to a fab-compatible flow was realized in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, AZ Electronic Materials and Tokyo Electron Ltd. Imec’s DSA collaboration aims to address the critical hurdles to take DSA from the academic lab-scale environment into high-volume manufacturing.

Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) is gaining momentum as a means for extending optical lithography beyond its current limits. DSA is an alternative patterning technology that enables frequency multiplication through the use of block copolymers. When used in conjunction with an appropriate pre-pattern that directs the orientation for patterning, DSA can reduce the pitch of the final printed structure. Moreover, DSA can be used to repair defects and repair uniformity in the original print. This repair feature is especially useful in combination with EUV lithography, which today is characterized by local variation in the CD (critical dimension), especially in case of small contacts.


Caption: 14nm polystyrene lines on 28nm pitch after PMMA removal fabricated by DSA using 193nm immersion based 84nm pitch pre-pattern (left) and demonstration of the ability to repair a 200nm gap in the pre-pattern (right).
Click on the picture to download the high-res version.


Iraq Oil production targets 500,000 barrel per day export increase by May

1. Reuters - Iraq aims to boost oil exports by 200,000 barrels per day next month after it opens up a new Gulf outlet, a senior Iraqi oil official said, freeing Baghdad to export all the extra barrels foreign oil companies are extracting from its giant fields.

If all goes to plan, exports from Iraq's southern oilfields will rise to 1.9 million bpd by March - pushing overall oil sales to 2.3 million bpd - a postwar record.

An average monthly increase of 100,000 bpd is expected from March until mid-year, when maximum rates of 2.2 million bpd are reached in the south. Shipments of northern Kirkuk crude are expected to remain steady at around 400,000 bpd.

"Our target is to reach overall exports of 2.6 million bpd by May, provided everything is working properly," the Iraqi official said asking that their name not be used in the run-up to the inaugeration of the SPM.

Celani Geneva LENR Presentation

22Passi an italian website covering LENR, cold fusion and the Rossi and Defaklion energy catalyzers has a 25 page presentation that Celani made at WSEC 2012 in January.

Progress, in the Condensed Matter Nuclear Science, on excess energy production: towards practical applications? by Francesco CELANI

Celani reviews his own work and the claims of others. Celani has not included the work at Brillouin Energy who claim to be getting hundreds of watts of excess heat and 210% energy gain. Brillouin is also using thin wires. Ahern has achieved better results than what Celani has listed.

Celani is getting up to 15% power gain and 26 watts using coated nanowires for 6 days at 900 degrees. He claims this is replicable, systematic and controllable.

In these weeks our group, working with long and thin wires having the surface coated with micro-nano-particles, get re-confirmation of a phenomenon, by us, seldom observed in some previous experiments: the specific alloy used (Cu-Ni), that usually has Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) of the resistance, if absorbs large amount of Hydrogen, changes to Negative TC. Such phenomenon is correlated to anomalous heat production and increases as the anomalous heat increases. If such key phenomenon will be kept under full control, because its behaviour can be observed with simple instrumentation, it can be open the door to systematic work, worldwide, to find the “optimal” material and operating point.

Celani has a colloquium at CERN. He will likely be presenting similar slides and work.

On the latest CERN announcement translated from 22passi

The official launch of the colloquium, which he (INFN Frascati) and Yogendra Srivastava (University of Perugia) held at CERN on March 22 next year, from 16.30 to 17.30, in order to provide the scientific community a "review of the major progress made ​​since March 1989 and through experimental studies / theory, abnormal thermal / nuclear interactions observed in the force of isotopes of hydrogen (H, D), in the non-equilibrium with pure or alloyed materials (primarily Palladium, Nickel).

Most of the experiments - the statement continued by CERN - have used electrolytic environments at moderate temperatures (20-50 ° C). More recently have been used environments with gas at higher temperatures (between 200-400 ° C and even between 500-900 ° C).

Specific nanostructures have begun to play a crucial role both in basic studies because, as recently argued, in technological applications / industries.

A plethora of theoretical models have been proposed to explain the various anomalies experienced in LENR. It will provide a short description of a model of weak interaction, which purports to explain almost ALL the anomalous effects observed so far. "

In the link you sent to us by Celani also added to the webcast which will be streaming the event



Progress = Robust Results
* Better Instrumentation, Calibration and Controls
* Some Systematics Found & Verified for Heat Generation Experiments
* Nuclear Ash Measured & Correlated with Heat Production
* Many New Experiments Performed
* More Attention to Materials
* Improved Inter-Lab Reproducibility
* Continuous Activity & International Conferences







The infinite gain in the Ahern work is because there is no power put into the system. Celani is getting up to 15% power gain and 26 watts using coated nanowires for 6 days at 900 degrees


If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

February 09, 2012

Biotech crops reach 160 million hectares and can help double food production and keep food affordable for the poor

Biotech crops reached 160 million hectares, up 12 million hectares on 8% growth, from 2010, as the global population reached a historical milestone of 7 billion on 31 October 2011.

11.5% of the total arable land is used for biotech crops.
3.3% of all agricultural land.

Wikipedia - In 2008, the world's total arable land amounted to 13,805,153 km² (1.38 billion hectares), whereas 48,836,976 km² (4.88 billion hectares) was classified as "agricultural land.

* 138 million hectares of perennial croplands
* 3,433 million hectares of pasture lands feeding the current population

The US continued to be the lead producer of biotech crops globally with 69.0 million hectares, (an average adoption rate of ~90% across its principal biotech crops) with particularly strong growth in maize and cotton in 2011 and the resumption of the planting of RR®alfalfa – alfalfa is the fourth largest hectarage crop in the US (~8 million hectares) after maize, soybean and wheat; RR®alfalfa currently occupies ~200,000 hectares and strong farmer-demand augers well for the future. Adoption could reach as high as 35% to 50% by around 2015 and higher thereafter. RR®sugarbeet, the fastest adopted biotech crop, continues to have a 95% adoption equivalent to ~475,000 hectares. Resistance to corn rootworm was reported in the US and collaborative studies to assess the event are underway. It is timely, to again stress that adherence to good farming practices including rotations and resistance management, are a must for biotech crops as they are for conventional crops. Finally, and importantly, from a regulatory viewpoint, virus resistant papaya from the US was approved for consumption as a fresh fruit/food in Japan effective 1 December 2011.

To put this into perspective, 148,460 hectares (1,485 km2) is an area roughly the size of Greater London (1,580 km2) or twice the size of New York City (789 km2), Tokyo (617 km2) and Singapore (701 km2).

New technology platform for molecule-based electronics

Eurekalert - Researchers at the Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen have developed a new nano-technology platform for the development of molecule-based electronic components using the wonder material graphene. At the same time, they have solved a problem that has challenged researchers from around world for ten years.

Since its discovery in 2004, graphene has been called a wonder material, in part because it is 200 times stronger than steel, a good electrical conductor and is just a single atom layer thick. With these properties, there are sky-high expectations for what graphene can be used for. That is why researchers around the world are working on developing methods to make and modify graphene. In a recently published article in the journal Advanced Materials, researchers in nano-chemistry at the Department of Chemistry describe how they are among the first in the world to be able to chemically produce large flakes of graphene.

Advanced Materials - Solution-Processed Ultrathin Chemically Derived Graphene Films as Soft Top Contacts for Solid-State Molecular Electronic Junctions

Dream influencing smartphone App from Japan

Gizmag - The Yumemiru app for iPhones and iPads can detect when you enter dream sleep and then plays a soundtrack to influence what happens in your dreams.

The app uses a timer and the Apple device's microphone to detect when a user has entered REM sleep, which is when they're most susceptible to dreaming. Then it begins to play a soundtrack for the specific type of dream that the user selects, which could include sound effects or voices directing their dream. The available dreams include walking through a forest, visiting the beach, flying, becoming rich, and even romances specified for both men and women.
The Yumemiru website in japanese.

Here is the google translate of the Yumemiru website


The available dreams in Yumemiru include walking through a forest, visiting the beach, flying, becoming rich, and even romances specified for both men and women

10,000 times more wear resistant nanomanufactured ultrasharp silicon carbide tip

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and IBM Research - Zurich have fabricated an ultrasharp silicon carbide tip possessing such high strength that it is thousands of times more wear-resistant at the nanoscale than previous designs. The new tip, which is 100,000 times smaller than the tip of a pencil, represents an important step towards nanomanufacturing for applications, including bio sensors for healthcare and the environment.

"The dream tip material for thermomechanical nanofabrication should have a high hardness, temperature stability, chemical inertness, and high thermal conductivity," said Dr. Mark Lantz, manager in storage research at IBM Research - Zurich. "With this novel tip we continue to deliver on IBM's vision of a smarter, instrumented world with microscopic sensors monitoring everything from water pollution to patient care."

Extending their previous successful collaboration, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and IBM Research - Zurich have developed a new, resistant nano-sized tip that wears away at the rate of less than one atom per millimeter of sliding on a substrate of silicon dioxide. This is much lower than the wear rate of conventional silicon tips and its hardness is 100 times greater than that of the previously state-of-the-art silicon oxide-doped diamond-like carbon tips developed by the same collaboration last year.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and IBM Research - Zurich have fabricated an ultrasharp silicon carbide tip possessing such high strength that it is thousands of times more wear-resistant at the nanoscale than previous designs. The new tip, which is 100,000 times smaller than the tip of a pencil, represents an important step towards nanomanufacturing for applications, including bio sensors for healthcare and the environment.

Advanced Functional Materials - Wear-Resistant Nanoscale Silicon Carbide Tips for Scanning Probe Applications

NRC approves two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia

World Nuclear News - American safety regulators gave the go-ahead today for the construction of two new nuclear power reactors.

It took just under 4 years from application to approval.

The vote by the five-member commission brought to an end a regulatory process lasting almost four years that confirmed the safety of building two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia. It is the first combined construction and operating license issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Once Southern is in possession of the actual license itself - likely within ten working days - it will be allowed to begin the pouring of concrete for structures related to nuclear safety and the reactors can be said to be officially under construction. The 1107 MWe pressurized water reactors are slated for start-up in 2016 and 2017.

The AP1000 is a modular design and assembly facilities at Vogtle have already made the containment vessel bottom head as well as the first containment vessel ring. They have also started on the biggest module of all, the 840 tonne CA-20, which creates spaces for used fuel storage, transmission, heat exchange and waste collection within the reactor building

Workers stand in the excavated and waterproofed space for Vogtle 3's reactor building (Image: Southern)

NASA Working on implanted Biocapsules for multi-year treatment on demand

Gizmodo - The NASA Biocapsule—made of carbon nanotubes—will be able to "diagnose" and instantly treat an astronaut without him or her even knowing there's something amiss. Dr. David Loftus is the man who invented the NASA Biocapsule and has been awarded a patent for it. Loftus said we could be using Biocapsule on Earth within 10 to 15 years

One of the primary threats in space is exposure to high levels of radiation. When astronauts travel beyond Low Earth Orbit (i.e., to the Moon or Mars), they are at risk of acute radiation exposure from "solar particle events," sudden releases of intense radiation from the sun, which can damage bone marrow and wipe out someone's immune system. That's where the NASA Biocapsule kicks in: It could be filled with cells that sense the increased levels of radiation and automatically disperse medicine to help the body compensate.

This isn't science fiction. We already use a hormone called G-CSF (Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor) to treat cancer patients who are receiving radiation treatment. So it was a very small jump to put these cells in a capsule. Without G-CSF, an astronaut's immune system might not recover; he or she could die of a massive infection.

February 08, 2012

Overview of Theoretical and Experimental Progress in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) at CERN

CERN will have a Colloquium on the topic - Overview of Theoretical and Experimental Progress in Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR)

An overview will be given on the main progress made –since March 1989- through experimental/theoretical studies on thermal/nuclear anomalies observed in forced interactions of Hydrogen isotopes (H, D), in non-equilibrium conditions, with pure or alloyed materials (mainly Palladium, Nickel).

Most of the experiments used electrolytic environments at moderate temperatures (20-50°C). More recently, gas environments have been used at higher temperatures (between 200-400°C and even temperatures between 500-900°C have been employed).

Specific nanostructures have begun to play a crucial role both in basic studies as well as in, recently claimed, technological/industrial applications.

A plethora of theoretical models have been proposed to explain several experimental anomalies in LENR. A brief description of a weak interaction model shall be presented that claims to explain almost ALL of the anomalous effects found so far.


Francesco Celani and Yogendra Srivastava are the presenters. Celani is a physicist with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, and Srivastave is an emeritus professor of physics at Indiana University.

Nextbigfuture has covered the work of Celani before.

In July 2011, Celani stated that he is researching on nanoparticles deposited on thin and long strings of Pd, in Deuterium atmosphere.

He states he is getting 400/W/g at 500°C with good reproducibility.
He has worked also with Ni strings in Hydrogen atmosphere and he is getting an efficiency of 1800W/g at 900°C, but with difficulties in reproducibility.

Quantum dots used for targeting stimulation of brain neurons

By harnessing quantum dots--tiny light-emitting semiconductor particles a few billionths of a meter across--researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a new and vastly more targeted way to stimulate neurons in the brain. Being able to switch neurons on and off and monitor how they communicate with one another is crucial for understanding--and, ultimately, treating--a host of brain disorders, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and even psychiatric disorders such as severe depression.

Biomedical Optics Express - Remote switching of cellular activity and cell signaling using light in conjunction with quantum dots

Stimulating cells by using light is a non-invasive technique that provides flexibility in probing different locations while minimizing unintended effects on the system. We propose a new way to make cells photosensitive without using genetic or chemical manipulation, which alters natural cells, in conjunction with Quantum Dots (QDs). Remote switching of cellular activity by optical QD excitation is demonstrated by integrating QDs with cells: CdTe QD films with prostate cancer (LnCap) cells, and CdSe QD films and probes with cortical neurons. Changes in membrane potential and ionic currents are recorded by using the patch-clamp method. Upon excitation, the ion channels in the cell membrane were activated, resulting in hyperpolarization or depolarization of the cell.

Quantum Dot solar cells could increase conversion efficiency over 25%

New quantum dot solar cells could increase the maximum efficiency of solar panels by over 25%, according to scientists from the University of Cambridge.

The Cambridge team, led by Professor Neil Greenham and Professor Sir Richard Friend, has developed a hybrid cell which absorbs red light and harnesses the extra energy of blue light to boost the electrical current. Typically, a solar cell generates a single electron for each photon captured. However, by adding pentacene, an organic semiconductor, the solar cells can generate two electrons for every photon from the blue light spectrum. This could enable the cells to capture 44% of the incoming solar energy.

Nanoletters - Singlet Exciton Fission-Sensitized Infrared Quantum Dot Solar Cells


Rand Simberg has the Speech that Newt Needs to Give to Follow up the Newt Moon Base Speech

PJMedia has Rand Simberg providing the speech that Newt needs to give now about objectives and vision in the US space program.

There has been a great deal of controversy in the last few days on a subject that, in this country, should have been fairly uncontroversial — the greatness of America and its ability to achieve great things. Ever since I gave a speech on my vision for America in space a couple weeks ago, it has been mocked and completely mischaracterized, either out of ignorance, malice, or both, and in doing so, those so mocking have only revealed their own small-minded pedestrian bean-counting lack of both vision for this nation, and their lack of knowledge of either the cost or benefits of opening up space to humanity. Mitt Romney has clearly never given this subject a moment’s thought. To the degree that his campaign has articulated a purpose for space at all, or provided a policy other than getting “top, men,” he has said that the purpose of human spaceflight is to address, quote: “the ‘existential’ objective of understanding the universe and its effects on the Earth, such as climate or the possibility of a ‘catastrophic event’; commercial; the health and well-being of citizens; and defense.”

Note that not a single one of those goals requires sending humans into space. The last three are so vague as to be meaningless in the context of a space program. What does the word “commercial” mean? Who can argue that “the health and well-being of citizens” isn’t a worthy goal, but how does humans in space play a role? And Governor Romney, Dwight Eisenhower established a civil space agency, separate from the Department of Defense, for a reason. We already have a program for defense in space — it is run by the Air Force and other defense agencies, which have as much money for it as NASA’s total budget, so that makes no sense as a purpose for the space agency.

South Korea is a leader in Nuclear power and Japan considers restarting and Germany temporarily restarts some reactors

1. South Korea's reactors are capable of giving technology powerhouses like the US and Japan a run for their money.

As of today, a total of 21 nuclear power plants have been built around the country, the sum of which provide South Korea with 18,716MW of power, accounting for nearly 23.9 per cent of its total energy capacity and 31 per cent of total electricity consumption.

The South Korean government expects this number to increase to 60 per cent by 2035, with the additional nuclear reactors currently under construction and 10 more in the pipeline.
A model of the nuclear power plant to be built in the UAE.

Construction of the first two of South Korea's home-grown Generation III APR1400 reactors — Shin Kori 3 and 4 — was authorised in 2006, with the first concrete on Unit 3 being poured in October 2008. It is the APR1400 which was selected by the UAE to serve as the basis of the Emirates' budding nuclear energy programme. When completed in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Shin Kori Units 3 and 4 will serve as the reference plant for the reactors under construction in the UAE. The Shin Ulchin 1 & 2 reactors, authorized by the government for construction in April 2009, are expected to be completed by 2016.

Magnetic Recording hundreds of times faster than current hard-drive technology

University of York - An international team of scientists has demonstrated a revolutionary new way of magnetic recording which will allow information to be processed hundreds of times faster than by current hard drive technology.

The researchers found they could record information using only heat – a previously unimaginable scenario. They believe this discovery will not only make future magnetic recording devices faster, but more energy-efficient too.
Experimental images showing the repeated deterministic switching of nano islands. Initially the two nano islands have different magnetic orientation (black and white respectively). After the application of a single pulse, the magnetic direction of both islands changes. Further pulses repeat the process, switching the magnetic state back and forth. (Credit: Johan Mentink and Alexey Kimel, Radboud University Nijmegen; Richard Evans, University of York)

The ultimate magnetic storage medium, consisting of many individual nanometer-sized magnetic grains with a density of 10 petabytes per square meter. The data is written to the device using an ultrafast heating process to drive the reversal at a data rate of 200Gb/s. Compared to today's hard drive technology this would allow 10 times the amount of storage capacity and 300 times the performance. (Credit: Richard Evans, University of York)

Nature Communications - Ultrafast heating as a sufficient stimulus for magnetization reversal in a ferrimagnet

Broader Unemployment rates going back to 1900

Nelson Andrews compared historical versions of unemployment statistics with the modern U3 and U6 versions, published as "Historical Unemployment in Relationship to Today".

Based on that research, he was able to generate a mathematical formula to calculate U3 and U6 unemployment for the entire period since 1900. He found that at the peak of the Great Depression, U3 was 25.2%. U6 was 37.6%.

Note - in the 1980s U6 peaked at about 20%. So this last recession peaked at 17.5%. This last recession had unemployment peak lower than the recession of the 1980s. If we are not calling the 1980s recession a depression then we are also not calling this one a depression. The most recent situation is bad but unemployment is not as bad in some measures versus the worst in the 1980s

How does this recession rank in history of US recessions and depressions since the 1920s

As Stephen Colbert might ask. Was this a very bad recession or the worst recession ?

Here we compare Recessions versus Depressions going back to the 1920s.
How bad was the unemployment and how much did the economy shrink in each economic downturn ?

This is to clarify the terminology, classifications and history of economic recessions and depression in the USA.

There is a separate graph of the broader unemployment rates going back to 1900

Wikipedia discusses the terminology of an economic depression.

Several Latin American countries had severe downturns in the 1980s: by the Kehoe and Prescott definition of a great depression as at least one year with output 20% below trend, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico experienced great depressions in the 1980s, and Argentina experienced another in 1998–2002.

This definition also includes the economic performance of New Zealand from 1974–1992 and Switzerland from 1973 to the present, although this designation for Switzerland has been controversial.

Over the period 1980–2000, Sub-Saharan Africa broadly suffered a fall in absolute income levels

There is a list of US recessions and depressions at wikipedia

Great Depression (1929-1933) Peak unemployment 24.9%, GDP decline -26.7

Recession of 1937, peak unemployment 19.0%, GDP decline 18.2%

I believe all of those figures are U3 unemployment.

Current recession
10.1% (U3 unemployment October 2009)
17.4% (U6 unemployment - includes discouraged and underemployed October 2009)

Other US Recessions had unemployment up to 10.8%. and GDP contraction mostly in the -.03% to -5 % range but one in 1945 had -12.5% GDP contraction.


North Dakota produced 534884 barrels of oil per day in December 2011

North Dakota ended 2011 with another record in oil production. They produce 534884 barrels of oil per day in December of 2011.

This was an increase from 510638 barrels of oil per day in November 2011

It was over 190,000 barrels of oil per day more than the beginning of the 2011.



Elon Musk talks about Spacex Reusable Rockets to Rand Simberg and lowering costs for space by 10 to 20 times

Rand Simberg has an article in Popular Mechanics about Elon Musk and details of the Spacex reusable rocket plans.
SpaceX is hard at work trying to design rocket parts that can fly themselves back to the launchpad for reuse. We talked to founder Elon Musk about how far the company’s designs have come.

Musk tweet this recently: "Design completed for bringing rocket back to launchpad using only thrusters. Yay. Wings r just dead weight in space."

In a press release a few months ago, SpaceX had shown an animated simulation of a Falcon 9 that returned both its first and second stages all the way to land vertically at a recovery site. Recently we spoke to Musk so he could elaborate on the design in more than 140 characters.

Elon Musk told Popular Mechanics SpaceX has come up with a solution to make both the lower and upper stages of the Falcon 9 reusable. (The Dragon capsule that will fly atop the rocket has already demonstrated that it can be recovered in the ocean after it splash-lands with a parachute, though SpaceX is building vertical-landing capability into that as well.)



Details about the Ten Times Energy Production from Cold Fusion Demo at MIT

The graph distributed at the JET Energy MIT open cold fusion/LANR demonstration of the NANOR CF/LANR technology (see 2nd graph below) actually quite clearly showed, and still shows, a thermal output power of the NANOR closer to 78 milliwatts than 18 milliwatts.

Steve Krivit's attacked the MIT demo. "Swartz Makes Misleading Claim of LENR Excess Heat". Steve Krivit misread the graph at claimed the peak power output was 18 milliWatts. However, Steve indicated that did not matter because the power levels are very low compared to claims by Rossi. Of course, Steve also says that Rossi claims are a scam.

February 07, 2012

Electrolysis Propulsion for CubeSat-Scale Spacecraft

The current NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck had a paper describing a way to give cubesats over 2000 miles per hour of velocity change from one kilogram of water to go to the moon or near earth asteroids.

Electrolysis Propulsion for CubeSat-Scale Spacecraft (7 pages)

One of the two authors is Mason Peck. Mason Peck was named NASA Chief Technologist in November of 2011.

As CubeSats grow in both numbers and capability, the need to extend their reach with integrated propulsion systems is becoming clear. A water-electrolysis propulsion system for 3U CubeSats is proposed that could fill the gap in the available propulsion systems at this scale. Combining the advantages of electric propulsion with those of chemical rockets, the system is safe both to handle and to launch; it is lightweight, and it is capable of providing roughly 1000 meter per second, enough delta V to reach lunar orbit from GTO. The efficiency of the proposed technology is at least 75% for Cornell’s prototype system, consisting of Ni electrodes and 0.5 M KOH as electrolyte. With over 1 km/s of ΔV from 1 kg of water as propellant, sample missions include compensating for drag, orbit raising and lunar exploration.


Electrolysis propulsion system for a 3U CubeSat. The water tanks (A) store propellant and generate H2 and O2 through electrolysis using power from solar cells (B). The gases are combusted in the chamber (C) and expanded through a nozzle (D) to generate thrust. The spacecraft spins passively about an axis parallel to the thrust direction. For clarity, some solar cells are shown only as outlines.

Rick Santorum will win Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri Primaries

Rick Santorum will win Minnesota and Missouri primaries with nearly half the votes

Ron Paul will come in second in Minnesota and Romney second in Missouri.

Colorado will be won by Santorum.

Iraq Says 2012 Oil Output to Reach 3.4 Million Barrels a Day and USA, Canada, Brazil, Kazakhstan and China will Lead non-Opec Oil Increase through 2013

1. Business Week - Iraq, the third-largest oil producer in OPEC, will boost output capacity this year to 3.4 million barrels a day and export capacity to 2.6 million barrels, Oil Minister Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi said.

Iraq oil output jumped in December to more than 3 million barrels a day, the highest level for at least 20 years, and exports rose last month to 2.2 million barrels a day

The first of four single-point mooring facilities planned off Iraq’s southern coast will begin operating next week, Luaibi said. Each of them will add 850,000 barrels a day in capacity for exports of crude. The second mooring unit will be in place within six months, the third by the end of 2012 and the fourth in 2013, Shahristani said.

IMF Downside Scenario for China is 4% GDP Growth but China could counter with Stimulus if Needed

IMF China Economic Outlook, Feb 6, 2012 (10 pages)

A storm emanating from Europe would hit China hard
* China’s growth rate would drop abruptly if the Euro area experiences a sharp recession
* But China has room for a countervailing fiscal response, and should use that space
* Unlike 2009–10, any stimulus should be executed through the budget rather than the banking system

A European depression would send China's GDP growth down to 4% in 2012 but China could stimulate and get GDP growth back to 7% in 2012-2013.

However, a track record of fiscal discipline has given China ample room to respond to such an external shock. A sizable fiscal stimulus could mitigate, but not fully offset, the decline in its output. In particular, a front-loaded fiscal stimulus of around 3 percent of GDP spread out over 2012–13 would limit the growth decline to around 1 percent, cushioning the adverse effects on employment and people’s livelihoods.

Without a major problem in Europe, the IMF expects China GDP growth to go back up to 8.8% in 2013

Wolfram Alpha Pro can decode pictures of graphs

ZDNet - Wolfram|Alpha is launching the Pro version of Wolfram Alpha.

The NY Times reports how the system could decode tables and some pictures.

The new version handles data and images. In a recent demonstration, Dr. Wolfram, using his computer mouse, dragged in a table of the gross domestic product figures for France for 1961 to 2010, and Wolfram Alpha produced on the Web page a color-coded bar chart, which could be downloaded in different document formats. He put in a table of campaign contributions to politicians over several years, and Wolfram Alpha generated a chart and brief summary, saying that House members received less on average than senators.

Dr. Wolfram dragged in a 3-D image and after a few seconds it rendered the image — a guitar — and reported the number of polygons (2,253), among other characteristics.

The Wolfram data-deciphering engine, however, was flummoxed by a table of occupational income figures plucked from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Web site. Dr. Wolfram suggested that it was confused by all the periods used to separate columns of numbers in the table.

The output features include:

* Being able to generate interactive output using CDF (computable document format)
* Support for downloading graphics in other forms (i.e. 3D geometry, vector graphics, formats for immediate use)
* The ability to customize the output of images that Wolfram|Alpha produces (i.e. changing the input, title, frame, size, color)
* Raw data downloads


NASA has some funding for Nuclear power and propulsion for space and will likely increase it

Nature - Fission power back on NASA’s agenda Michael Houts, nuclear-research manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, wants astronauts to ride a nuclear reactor to Mars. He is convinced that small amounts of uranium-235 — which has an energy density one million times greater than that of liquid fuels — could power rockets efficiently, using the heat of fission to accelerate small stores of lightweight hydrogen propellant. This year, he is leading a nuclear-propulsion project with a budget of US$3 million — minuscule in comparison with the $1.3 billion that NASA will spend on space-technology research and development in the 2012 fiscal year. (H/T Hobby Space)

The US National Research Council report (Feb 1, 2012) Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities is the first ever community-based document to set priorities for NASA’s space-technology division. Nuclear power and propulsion came high on the list.

Hafnium oxide with dielectric constant of 30 will enable smaller transistors and better optoelectronics

Cambridge University - A novel material developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge is opening up new possibilities for next generation electronic and optoelectronic devices, and paving the way for further component miniaturisation.

The material provides exceptionally high dielectric constant compared with currently existing forms of hafnium oxide, which is already a key material in the electronics industry.

Hafnium oxide forms in different crystalline and polycrystalline structures: monoclinic, cubic and orthorhombic. However, an amorphous form is preferable to polycrystalline forms due to the absence of grain boundaries, the point at which two crystals in a polycrystalline material meet. Grain boundaries act as conduction paths through thin films of the material. They not only reduce the resistivity, but lead to a non-uniformity in conductivity over a large area, which itself leads to spatial non-uniformity in device performance However, until now amorphous hafnium oxide has had a relatively low dielectric constant of around 20.

The form of hafnium oxide developed by Dr Flewitt has a dielectric constant higher than 30.

“Most people thought that all amorphous hafnium oxide had to exist in the monoclinic-like phase,” says Dr Flewitt. “What we’ve shown is that it can exist and does exist in a cubic-like phase. This is similar to amorphous carbon, where you can get diamond-like properties out of amorphous carbon material.”


iRobot's Warrior is strong enough to tow a car and dexterous enough to open its trunk

Technology Review - With the launch of the Warrior, a large wheeled robot with a hefty mechanical arm, military robots just got significantly larger and more adaptable. The robot rides on caterpillar tracks like a tank. It can climb stairs and cover rough terrain, and perform tasks ranging from the delicate (opening car doors) to the destructive (smashing car windows) with its two-meter-long mechanical arm.

Warrior is the latest invention from iRobot, the Bedford, Massachusetts, company best known for the Roomba robotic vacuum, and its line of remote-control PackBots, used by U.S. combat forces to disable improvised explosive devices and perform other dangerous tasks. The robot could be weaponized—in one test it launched a rocket that trailed explosives behind it to clear mines or other obstacles. Warrior, at just over 450 pounds, including its arm, is more than five times as heavy and much larger and stronger than a PackBot.


With the launch of the Warrior, a large wheeled robot with a hefty mechanical arm, military robots just got significantly larger and more adaptable. The robot rides on caterpillar tracks like a tank. It can climb stairs and cover rough terrain, and perform tasks ranging from the delicate (opening car doors) to the destructive (smashing car windows) with its two-meter-long mechanical arm.

Fracture putty to repair broken bone in days

Broken bones in humans and animals are painful and often take months to heal. Studies conducted in part by University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center researchers show promise to significantly shorten the healing time and revolutionize the course of fracture treatment. Fractures in rats have been healed in two weeks. They are trying to get consistent results with sheep. Even before this works on humans there would be a market for repairing the bones of thoroughbred horses.

There has also been recent progress in speeding the healing and repairing of severed nerves.

Researchers used plasmalemmal sealing and axonal repair by polyethylene glycol and methylene blue and microsutures to repair rat sciatic nerves in minutes and days instead of months and years.

Fracture putty

To start the bone regeneration process, the RBC used adult stem cells that produce a protein involved in bone healing and generation. They then incorporated them into a gel, combining the healing properties into something Stice calls "fracture putty."

With Peroni's assistance, the Houston-based team used a stabilizing device and inserted putty into fractures in rats. Video of the healed animals at two weeks shows the rats running around and standing on their hind legs with no evidence of injury. The RBC researchers are testing the material in pigs and sheep, too.

"The small-animal work has progressed, and we are making good progress in large animals," he said.

More work is needed to get to human medical trials, but the threat of losing federal funding for biomedical work through the DOD means they will have to find new ways to fund the project.

"Complex fractures are a major cause of amputation of limbs for U.S. military men and women," said Steve Stice, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, animal and dairy scientist in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director of the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center.

"For many young soldiers, their mental health becomes a real issue when they are confined to a bed for three to six months after an injury," he said. "This discovery may allow them to be up and moving as fast as days afterward."

Stice is working with Dr. John Peroni to develop a fast bone healing process. "This process addresses both human and veterinary orthopedic needs," said Peroni, an associate professor of large animal surgery in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the RBC.

Navy to Begin Tests on Electromagnetic Railgun Prototype Launcher

The Office of Naval Research (ONR)’s Electromagnetic (EM) Railgun program will take an important step forward in the coming weeks when the first industry railgun prototype launcher is tested at a facility in Dahlgren, Va., officials said Feb. 6.

“This is the next step toward a future tactical system that will be placed on board a ship some day,” said Roger Ellis, program manager of EM Railgun.

The EM Railgun launcher is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph.
BAE railgun prototype

Lithium Lorentz Force Accelerator

The Lithium Lorentz Force Accelerator (LiLFA) as one of the most promising candidates for planetary exploration and heavy payload orbit raising missions. Although initial experimental data on the LiLFA obtained at the Moscow Aviation Institute is promising , little is understood concerning the basic physics at play in such devices. Therefore, no systematic optimization of design or operating conditions has been achieved. While the extensive database on gas-fed magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters (MPDTs), the precursor to the LiLFA, offers a starting point, fundamental differences in cathode design, propellant type and injection, and current attachment in the LiLFA require new theoretical models to be developed and tested. As an initial step in this direction, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has proposed and begun work on the necessary testing facilities, the lithium feeding system, and the design of a 0.5 MWe thruster model


Nuclear thermal reusable rockets

Paul March looked at approaches for developing a Space Launcher Infrastructure that can provide for safe & rapid transport of up to 25 people to LEO AND provide low cost transport of bulk cargo to LEO for less than $100 per pound. (68 pages)

NOTE - Selenian Boondocks - Kirk Sorenson has written why he thinks single stage to orbit nuclear thermal rockets are a bad idea. With current materials and designs the thrust weight ratios are too low.

Paul March presented and discussed the possibilities of using Nuclear Energy in A Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) Cargo only Launcher System.

To lower costs for space access -

We need to increase the flight rate and technologies.
1) Add small one or two stage fully reusable vehicles optimized for putting ~25 people into orbit.

2) Add LARGE UNMANNED fully reusable cargo lifters that can drive the cost per pound below $100 per pound with the appropriate flight rate.

For the Nuclear approach, we should utilize a fully reusable SSTO, Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL), Lox Augmented-Nuclear Thermal Rocket (LA-NTR) launch system.

February 06, 2012

Nuclear thermal gaseous core reactor rockets

Nextbigfuture has covered nuclear thermal gaseous core reactor rockets before

We will review nuclear thermal gaseous core reactor rockets again in light of the new Bifrost project for nuclear thermal rockets. We had an interview with Tabitha Smith who is leading that project

A brief recap of the Liberty ship and then some information on Russian work on nuclear thermal rockets and then an embedded document that compares several advanced rocket concepts.




The liberty ship is a Gaseous Core Nuclear Reactor design, of the Nuclear Lightbulb subvariant. This design is from nuclearspace.com

It has an ISP of 3,060 and leverages existing technology to conservatively deliver 1000 tons to low earth orbit, 33% of its takeoff weight.

Fission rockets could open up the solar system


Although the nascent commercial space industry is focusing almost exclusively on chemical rockets, the inefficiency of chemical propulsion places serious limitations on orbital and extra-orbital activities. The most efficient liquid propellant combination, employing liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, requires cryogenic storage and large hydrogen fuel tanks. Fission rockets are substantially more efficient than chemical rockets, are safe to operate, and could be used to send humans to mars. In an interview with Sander Olson, fission propulsion advocate Tabitha Smith argues that fission rockets could be rapidly developed and become the enabling technology for opening up the solar system for human exploration.


Tabitha Smith


Question: The U.S. had a nuclear program in the 1960s called Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application (NERVA). Whatever happened to that program?

NERVA began in the early 1960s and continued until the program was cancelled in 1972. It met its goals and flight qualified the Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) but President Nixon decided to pull the funding using NTR for a Mars mission to put it into the Space Shuttle program, using the Shuttle to launch large classified spy satellites into orbit for the US Air Force and other such missions. Some of the original plans using an NTR called for using NERVA rockets to put a human on Mars by 1978 and a permanent lunar colony by 1981. People who study the concept of lunar colonies and Mars missions in depth invariably come to the conclusion that nuclear propulsion (either thermal or electric) and electric propulsion powered by nuclear becomes the only technologically feasible options for propulsion, that have reached a stage beyond “theoretical” and/or that has actually be tested and qualified on a large scale.


Question: You have just participated in the creation of a new company, General Propulsion Sciences, LLC , to develop new forms of space propulsion. How is that going?

GPS, in addition to NTR R&D, does electric and plasma propulsion and also manufacturers microthrusters for cubesats and other small spacecraft. The company is also expanding capabilities to include Hall Thrusters. The aim of GPS is to hasten the furtherance of advanced propulsion R&D in order to enhance the capabilities of spacecraft (from very small spacecraft to very large, man-rated space craft). Although nuclear propulsion won't garner any profits in the near term, we believe that NTRs offer the only viable way to get to Mars, and that they would be nearly ideal for any missions beyond near earth orbit.


Question: Various proposals for employing NTRs have been discussed. Which one do you support?

The simplest (and most “near term”) mission architecture involves using the NTR as a second stage rocket with a chemical first stage to leave the Earth's atmosphere; then the NTR, carrying the payload, would activate its engine to take it beyond orbit, off to the particular mission's destination. In our opinion, and according to research, this is the most logical method, using readily available technology, (rather than using the conventional chemical rockets of today) for sending large payloads (involving people and their habitats) to destinations beyond the Earth-Moon system


Question: Could an active NTR be used, to launch directly from Earth to space?

It could, but due to the expenses involved with open-air testing, expensive potential lawsuits from anti-nuclear activists, and other variables that would subtract money from the mission and force the dollars into the courts, , it is unlikely that a nuclear rocket to orbit will ever be built, at least in the United States. So the plans of the NTR community at large envision using a conventional chemical engine for the first stage, and launching the NTR and/or the parts for an NTR-driven spacecraft in the upper stage into space, away from Earth.


Question: Could you use the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket to deliver an NTR to space in its second stage?

Yes, our NTR can be assembled in orbit, using one or two Space-X Heavys to deliver the parts. Using a modified Falcon 9 Heavy using only chemical propellant, at most only 11 tons could reach the Mars surface, and that would take at least a year. By contrast, an NTR powered spacecraft (delivered to orbit using a Heavy-lift rocket, though ideally the Ares V or SLS) could deliver more payload to the surface of Mars more quickly - in approximately half a year or less. Expedited flight time is more humane – it's better for the health of astronauts, which depletes rapidly the longer they are exposed to the natural radiation of space, low gravity and bone loss, and psychological harm caused by long-term spaceflight in cramped quarters. Also, an NTR can deliver a larger payload to Mars which means a larger habitat module – so you're talking about a small capsule with relatively cramped quarters (like the one or two room Orion capsule) versus an actual habitat that an NTR could deliver – like a Bigelow module with three stories.


Question: Is Elon Musk amenable to putting an NTR on the second stage of a Falcon 9 Heavy?

No, at this point Mr. Musk does not currently appear to be amenable to the idea. The concept is clearly feasible from a technical standpoint, and an NTR would expedite Mr. Musk's dream of sending people to Mars. It is Musk's job to focus on Space-X's current goals of building their chemical rockets, in order to satisfy their customers in the space community and NASA's other immediate missions and needs in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). We (the NTR community) would welcome an opportunity to present a detailed proposal to Mr. Musk on a private-industry partnership mission to Mars, using our NTR engines and spacecraft designs.


Question: What sort of ISP (specific impulse) could an NTR achieve?

Specific impulse refers to the efficiency of a propellant. There are a number of different approaches that could be used for an NTR. In a closed-cycle gas core engine, An NTR could achieve a specific impulse as high as 2,000 seconds. The most efficient chemical fuel combination, liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen, has a specific impulse of about 450 seconds. It is this dramatic potential performance improvement of nuclear over chemical that justifies the investment.


Question: Some are worried about radioactivity issues with NTRs. Are such concerns justified?


I like to use the barbecue analogy to answer this question.

If you see a picture of an NTR engine compared to a large chemical engine (like the one you'd need to go to Mars), in relative size comparison you'd see the NTR engine looks like a BBQ grill full of coals (the Uranium) and the chemical engine is about the size of a boiler room full of toxic chemicals and a web of metal piping and pumps.

So in the event of an accident, what goes “boom” is the propellant tank – which is used in both cases (or in the chemical rocket's case, the oxidizer is also there to go “boom”, additionally) – liquid Hydrogen (LH2) is extremely explosive. The resultant explosion of tons of LH2 separates the engines from the failed spacecraft – the boiler room full of pipes, toxic stuff and hazardous chemicals will more readily break apart and rain down upon people, while the BBQ grill will more-than-likely (as the RTG during the Apollo 13 mission) return, intact, with the BBQ coals contained within.

Even if some of the BBQ coals (the Uranium) were to escape the grill (the engine), they wouldn't be “hot”, because NTRs aren't designed to begin cooking (the fission process) until they have reached space to begin their mission, off to Mars or wherever their destination may be. The fission process requires a highly orchestrated sequence of control drums, reflectors, and other nuclear instigators, and it's basically impossible to have criticality without them in the right positions.


Question: Some have argued that fusion rockets should be used to put payloads into orbit and beyond.

Fusion rockets are a theoretical concept that will inevitably be the next advancement in nuclear rocket technology after fission rockets, but any discussion of using fusion for space propulsion is premature. No one has demonstrated a working prototype of a fusion rocket. By contrast, fission rockets have operated successfully for several hours. We know the technology works, and we know how to build it.


Question: Now that the lunar colony has been cancelled, is there any mission for an NTR?

No, the Administration of the United States has not formally given NASA a mission to use NTRs, even though NASA has been directed to develop NTRs within the Advanced Exploration Systems program, and the National Research Council (in Feb. 2012) has deemed NTRs of highest research priority to extend human activities beyond LEO. The commercial space market lacks the profit incentive (due to international UN regulation, forbidding anybody from “claiming” space stuff) to develop a project such as an asteroid mission, a lunar colony, or a trip to Mars. The Government (in particular, the international community collectively) has the resources for a mission to use an NTR driven spacecraft(s) but currently lacks the motivation for necessary political coordination and will. I want to see humans land on Mars in the remaining lifetime of the NERVA and Apollo community, but this will only happen with an NTR.


Question: How much would it cost to develop a fully functional, flight qualified fission rocket prototype?

It depends on the mission, but on average (across the range of missions), an NTR using NERVA technology could be designed, constructed, and tested for a few billion dollars (ranging from several hundred million for a small engine and old NERVA technology to several billion for a modernized, larger spacecraft). Current design techniques make extensive use of computer simulations, which substantially reduces development time. We also have materials that weren't available in the 1970s for NERVA. I'm confident that with an increase in funding and a mission written on paper we would have an NTR ready to go within five to seven years. This would probably happen after NASA is finished preparing for the SLS and the Orion-focused missions, or if the private space community were able to anticipate the need and prepare ahead of time.


Question: Your company is doing a project called Bifrost for Icarus interstellar. What will Icarus use NTRs for?

NTRs can be used like small boats attached to large
sailing vessels on interstellar missions to scout ahead to a
potentially habitable planet, be used as "life rafts", or to go
forward to harvest materials for the crew from the surrounding space
environment. There are other nuclear technologies that Bifrost focuses
on, such as surface power and Orion-boost phase.
















Researchers develop method of directing stem cells to increase bone formation and bone strength

Eurekalert - A research team led by UC Davis Health System scientists has developed a novel technique to enhance bone growth by using a molecule which, when injected into the bloodstream, directs the body's stem cells to travel to the surface of bones. Once these cells are guided to the bone surface by this molecule, the stem cells differentiate into bone-forming cells and synthesize proteins to enhance bone growth. The study, which was published online today in Nature Medicine, used a mouse model of osteoporosis to demonstrate a unique treatment approach that increases bone density and prevents bone loss associated with aging and estrogen deficiency.

Successful testing in mice paves the way toward human trials for patients with osteoporosis. The authors noted that the potential use of this stem cell therapy is not limited to treating osteoporosis. They said it may prove invaluable for other disorders and conditions that could benefit from enhanced bone rebuilding, such as bone fractures, bone infections or cancer treatments.


Treatment with LLP2A-Ale prevents age-related trabecular bone loss. (a) Diagram of the study and treatment methods. (b) Trabecular bone area, osteoblast surface, mineralizing surface and bone formation rate over the total bone surface

Nature Medicine - Directing mesenchymal stem cells to bone to augment bone formation and increase bone mass

Brian Wang interviewed by Voice of Russia Last Week

Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture.com was interviewed by the Voice of Russia last week

Voice of Russia had a talk on February 3, 2012 more about the Florida Republican Primary and what would be happening afterward with myself Brian Wang, owner and primary writer for nextbigfuture.com, and Phil Jennerjahn, who is running for Congress in California.

In September, 2011, the Voice of Russia interviewed me about the trans-Siberian Bering Strait oil Pipeline. Therefore, I was in the US branch of the Voice of Russia's database of potential interviewees. They called my in the morning for a 15 minute interview over the phone at lunch time. Ask me if I could do this interview on this topic and I said sure. Why not. I have a detailed opinion.

The questions were about Newt Gingrich trying to get rules changed for Florida so that he would get proportional allocation. The answer was that was both meaningless and unlikely. They also asked about getting the rules for future primaries fixed. Again this is unlikely because the national election committees have not shown that they are likely to get more control of the committees in each state. There were also questions about what will happen in the rest of the Republican presidential race.

NOTE- yes this is a political topic. Why is a political topic on Nextbigfuture ? Because I was interviewed about it by for the internet and radio service of the Voice of Russia. The Voice of Russia is the Russian equivalent of the Voice of America.

More about the Interview

Looking forward I indicated that the only hope Gingrich has is if Santorum drops out and Gingrich can successfully take all of the Santorum support as the anti-Romney.

As happened in Nevada, I have indicated that the upcoming caucus primaries could see Santorum coming in fourth several times. Santorum is running out of money and several fourth place finishes could put an end to his campaign.

Realclearpolitics has the schedule of primaries and what type of primary they are (caucus, primary) an whether they are open or closed races and what type of race (winner take all or proportional.


The details of how the races are run effect how well candidates do. Ron Paul does better in caucuses and open races.

Rumors of an iPad - Macbook Air Hybrid and other future Apple iPad Variations

V3.co.uk - Following a meeting with Cook, Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner published a research note suggesting Apple may be about to redesign the iPad to meet the needs of those wanting an ARM-based hybrid device

It is possible that Apple could offer some form of tablet-laptop hybrid similar to the Asus Transformer Prime, given the limited things that it can do to refresh the current design.

CNET - iPad-like MacBook Air now unlikely?

The Citigroup comments counter a report back in May that said an ARM-based MacBook Air was a "done deal."

Supposedly, Apple wanted to move almost everything to its A series chips. That meant, of course, that Intel, for the most part, would be out of the picture.

But with Intel on track to bring out its first power-sipping system-on-a-chip for the mainstream laptop market in 2013, dubbed "Haswell"--just the kind of chip that would be at home in the Air--a move to ARM by Apple may be less of an imperative.